Friday, November 30, 2012

Special Announcement: Return of the Native Synchro-Read

Join me tomorrow morning (December 1) on Facebook as I start the "Return of the Native Synchro-Read". My plan is to read two chapters per day and finish before the end of the year! The more the merrier! If you're not planning to read along, you're still welcome to stop by and cheer us on. (And while you're there, don't forget to "like" Classical Quest.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

I'm doing something a little different today -- linking up to "pretty, happy, funny, real", hosted by Like Mother Like Daughter. Auntie Leila had surgery over Thanksgiving weekend and is home recovering now. LMLD has been a huge inspiration to me as a mother/homemaker. I often search through the archives for advice when I need it. The tagline: "Because it's important to maintain the collective memory." So true!

This is my "Auntie Leila" teapot. I think it's really pretty. 

Auntie, I hope this warm cup of cyber tea makes you happy!


I heard this joke last week and it made me think of the kind of jokes that kids make up on the spot. You know -- the kind we parents have to fake laugh for over and over again, until suddenly the whole scene IS funny and the laughter turns from forced to real!

MATH PROBLEM: If you have 4 pencils and I have 7 apples, how many pancakes will fit on the roof? 

ANSWER: Purple -- because aliens don't wear hats!


I really hope you get well soon.
And THANK YOU for inspiring me to capture the context of contentment in everyday life!

Love and prayers,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Quest Notes

{My weekly Classical Quest status update}

A gift from my husband...just because.
✒ Finished Anna Karenina this past week -- and I loved it. Now I'm busy chipping away at the  final inquiry post. (Although it will still be a while before I finish all of my Anna Karenina themed posts.)
✒ I've been thinking more about establishing excellent habits since I wrote this post. I'm working on an "Excellent Habits" page to challenge myself to be more disciplined in various areas of life. Love this post -- "How to Cultivate the Habit of an Age of Distraction", by Ann Voskamp.

✒ My heart and mind is turning toward Advent which begins Sunday, December 2nd. I was not raised with the Advent tradition. When my oldest kids were babies I brought home a wooden Advent calendar and chocked it full of treats. Of course the tradition stuck -- they wouldn't let me forget! However, with each passing year I find that the spiritual significance of Advent has struck a deeper chord in my heart. This year, I'm hoping for a tender spiritual event to strengthen my love for God and to increase our feeling of anticipation for the message of Christmas. I plan to memorize this passage over the coming weeks.

✒  Working on my own version of  "The Road to Bethlehem", inspired by Godly Play. This is a once a week (Sunday) activity so we'll definitely have time for another fun idea -- A Literary Countdown! 

✒ I saw this at The Modern Mrs. Darcy today: wrap one holiday book for each day of Advent and place them under the Christmas tree! I found seventeen books that will work on my bookshelf. A trip to the public library should easily get us to twenty-five! A couple of our chapter books like A Year Down Yonder and Little House in the Big Woods have excellent Christmas chapters which could be read as excerpts.

✒ "Blush: Part Two" should be up Wednesday. And yes, there will be a Blush: Part Three. I've counted eighty-one pages from Anna Karenina with the words "blushed", "flushed", "reddened", or "crimsoned" on them.

✒ Trying to avoid stores as much as possible this year! I'm thinking hard about what to buy online for each my five kids. I'm going for a "less is more" theme. I hope to find some timeless classics that they will come back to again and again.

✒ Auntie Leila from Like Mother Like Daughter had surgery last Tuesday. This blog has been a huge inspiration to me as a mother/homemaker. This coming Thursday I'm going to participate in the "Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real" link-up with a special post to say, "Get well soon Auntie Leila!".

 I'm planning a tight synchro-reading of The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy. I think I may need some hand holding through this one! I will start putting up comments chapter by chapter on my Classical Quest Facebook page starting December 1. (If you haven't visited the Classical Quest FB page yet, jump over and check it out. While you're there, click "like" and make my day!)

✒ Not sure yet if I'll go see Anna Karenina, the movie in the theater. (We almost never pay full price for a movie out. Dinner + movie +  baby sitting for five kids = "Why not have a nice date-night-in?") I was expecting it to be a another film which glorifies lust and carnality -- a liberty which  film adaptations of classic novels often take, leaving the viewers with a utterly different impression of the story than the author intended (i.e. The Scarlet Letter). However, after listening to this interview by screen play writer Tom Stoppard, I admit -- I'm intrigued.

✒ But first: the inquiry...

Perhaps you would like to start your own "excellence habits list". What sort of habits would you like to cultivate?

What are some of your all time favorite Christmas gifts for kids under age ten?

Have you seen Anna Karenina, the movie? If so -- thumbs up or down?

Would you like to join me for a "The Return of the Native Synchro-Read" on Facebook?

(Answer any or all or none! If you want -- just peek your head in and say hi! Blessings, friends!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We Blog to Know We're Not Alone

Dear friends,

This past week I read The No Brainer Blog, by Hayley Morgan. I fully expected it to be an ebook full of practical tips (and it is), but I did not expect to discover something soul stirring, something to articulate this whole blogging experience which many of us can't seem to get enough of:
"People want to know that they are not alone, and writing is our way to serve a lonely world."
I've been trying to find the words to explain my drive for blogging. Partly, I want to challenge myself to strive for excellence. I've written about this yearning here and here and most recently here. But I have also come to recognize that I need to be part of a tribe. I need to share my heart and sometimes I need to soak up what's on your heart.

Because we need each other.

C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we're not alone." I can't stop reading epic tomes because within them I find timeless companions in worlds I could never enter otherwise. My hunger for this is absolutely insatiable.

Nearing the end of Anna Karenina, I've started to feel the equivalent of a "runner's high".

I'm thinking, Leo Tolstoy you crazy, wonderful, Russian nutcase! I love your mind!

His writing makes me feel validated. It makes me feel like I'm not the only person in the world who notices stuff. It makes me feel like I'm not the only person who has attempted to plumb the depths of the human soul in a desire to empathize with others more fully.

Someone recently asked me how I can read a 900+ page classic novel. "Isn't it boring?"

My answer: "How can I not read it? I'm feeling drawn to it right now, because there's conversations going on in there. Things are happening!" The mysteries of the universe are being pondered at this very moment!"

Back to Hayley's words:

"...writing is our way to serve a lonely world."

This is true. But I have to warn you: put on your crash helmet. In order to speak to the heart of a lonely world, first you have to endure suffering. It is not until you suffer that you find you have something to sayYou must take the ugly mess you've been handed and knead it, form it, and  sculpt it carefully with both hands -- by the grace of God! Then you must give it give back to the world with an aching, humble heart. It's your gift to give.

How can I write about betrayal if I have never been betrayed? How can I write about loneliness or loss without going through some years in the wilderness? How can I fully empathize with injustice if I have always been treated fairly? How can I assist others in overcoming a social stigma, if I have never had a social stigma to overcome?

Thank you dear blog friends for re-shaping your ugly messes into gifts which aid me in my journey.

May your day of Thanksgiving be blessed beyond compare!

Love to all,


Monday, November 19, 2012

Quest Notes (A Weekly Classical Quest Status Update)

(Yes, I know it's just two intersecting vapor trails from a couple of airplanes, but this morning I needed to see a cross.  Maybe you need to see a cross in the sky today too.)

Welcome to "Quest Notes"  -- my new weekly status update!  ✒  I have three chapters left of Anna Karenina! I'm hoping to finish today. It's been a busy weekend with no real time for reading, but I'm SO close. (And this book it SO good!)

✒ Lots of cleaning, cooking, and muttering of prayers going on as I prepare for Thanksgiving Day!

✒ I've decided to write the questions for the Anna Karenina Wrap-up & Inquiry on Post-It notes and place them all around my house. This way I can ponder them as I bustle about preparing for company.

✒ Read The No Brainer Blog last week. If you are new to blogging or if you need a blog-revamp, check it out! I am looking forward to exploring more of Hayley Morgan's blog, The Tiny Twig. I love her concept of "less fuss, so that we can have more time for the things we are passionate about".

✒ I wrote a post recently about the importance of cultivating excellent habits because -- as Aristotle as put it -- "We are what we repeatedly do." For the past several months I've been making the challenging transition from "night owl" to "morning person". I think I've finally accomplished this because for the past several weeks my eyes have been popping open at 4:49 a.m. (even when I go to bed too late, which means I end up feeling tired all day, but still).

✒ As I was out walking yesterday, I asked my son why he thinks it is that I am infinitely more passionate about reading through the WEM list than I am about getting in shape and -- though he couldn't even begin to answer that for me -- he offered to be my personal trainer! He's a first born, so he LOVES to be in charge and tell people what to do. This is perfect because I love nothing more than encouraging him! So I have orders to jog a mile with him when he gets home from school!!! Love it. (By the way -- he said, "Mom, you are already beautiful, I just want you to feel stronger. Wasn't that sweet?) So now that I have the early rising thing down, my next task is to stay consistent to jogging. I already take a walk almost every day, but it's usually a slow meander with the stroller and camera in hand.

✒ Slowly reading and digesting Walking on Water, by Madeline L'Engle.  She is such a wise soul, and so likable, so real. She's helping me define what making art really means for me.

✒ I've started a new list that I LOVE! I'm calling the list "Blink" because it's inspired by some interesting stuff I learned last year when I read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink. More about that to come . . .

✒ Working on my "Blushing & Flushing" list from Anna Karenina. So much "blushing", "flushing", "reddening" and "crimsoning" happens in Anna Karenina that I think it's going to take three blog-posts to list it all!

✒ I've been thinking about something Anne Bogel mentioned in a recent post at the Modern Mrs. Darcy, 
"The future of the internet? I humbly suggest to you that the future of the internet is offline."
I love how the internet serves as a tool to connect people of similar interests. I'm excited about future opportunities to enjoy friends in person through conferences and blog-jams.

Recently enjoyed a blog-jam with my friend Krista from "Teaching Mommy to Pray"

✒ I'm excited about starting the next book on the WEM list soon -- The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy.

✒ I want to remind anyone who is planning to see the new Anna Karenina film which opens this weekend: "NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS MOVIE!"

So, what have you been up to lately? Cultivating any new/excellent habits?

How's your holiday prep-work coming? 

Would you like to join me for a Return of the Native synchro-read starting December 1st?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Quote that Changed my Life (An Autumn Ramble)

by Adriana

When walking with a friend I've always found it's easier for me to share the deepest parts of myself -- the mistakes I've made, my strengths, my weaknesses, the things I'm most grateful for, my fears,

and my dreams for the future.

You have a dream too. I know you do. (We all do.)

If you were walking by my side over these hills and through these autumn meadows, what would you share with me? What kind of person are you striving to be? 

Nearly a year ago, I read a quote that changed me. I'd like to share it with you because maybe it's just what you need too.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

The first time I read that, something connected deep within me. I thought, Am I going to spend the rest of my life talking about what I want to do? Reading about it? Day dreaming? No! 

That was the day I started Classical Quest. I've been writing something pretty much every day since -- somedays I write a blog post, often it's just a summary which I jot with a pencil at the end of a chapter of classic literature -- but something!  Recently, I referred to my self as a writer. It came out naturally. I didn't feel awkward about saying it because writing is what I do. A writer is who I am.

What do you do repeatedly? Are you engaged in an excellent habit? It is our habits which define us. They give us a name. They make us who we are.

Here's how I would describe myself based on the positive habits I engage in repeatedly:

giver of affection, advocate for the misunderstood, life-sustainer, memory-maker, vision-caster, mood-setter, self-educator, walker/jogger, photographer, face-reader, deep thinker, person of prayer (How do I say that? Pray-er? Supplicant?) quote-collector, reader, writer

(I'm not going to share my negative habits today!)

The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness ...

The artist cannot hold back; it is impossible, because writing, or any other discipline of art, involves participation in suffering, in the ills and the occasional stabbing joys that come from being part of the human drama. ~ Madeline L'Engle

Some of you are hurting. Some of you don't feel whole. There is a nagging ache in your heart because you know there is something you should be doing with your life. I want to encourage you  to set your excellent habit into motion. Don't say, "I don't have time."  --  Our great-grandmothers didn't have time, because they had to churn their own butter and sew their own clothes, but most of us do have time. Turn off the television, shut down your Facebook account -- do whatever you have to do. Life is fleeting. Begin today in some small way. If you are not sure how to begin, feel free to email me at Perhaps I can point you in the direction of a blogger who is on a similar journey.

Do you agree that excellence is a habit?

What new habit do you want to cultivate?

I've shared my positive habits with you. I hope you will share yours with me. I am so inspired by my readers and I want to get to know each of you better. 

How would you describe yourself based on the excellent habits you engage in repeatedly?

(If this post was an encouragement to you, please "like" Classical Quest on Facebook. Thank you!)