Reading Challenge; Jan. 14, 2017

As I said in Side Note, I have been unable to prepare a post for this week of the same ilk as before; however, I have found some very interesting articles on my chosen subjects of study. The links are as follows:

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/79009.htm (Eastern Orthodox Christian Article; An immensely helpful guide to the Jesus Prayer)

http://entertainmentguide.local.com/decide-kinds-antiques-collect-9226.html (Antiquing Article; What sort of antiques should you collect?)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piaget’s_theory_of_cognitive_development#Sensorimotor_stage (Child Development Article; Jean Piaget’s Stages explained)

 

Side Note

My family was here visiting me all of this week; so I haven’t been able to prepare a post like I normally would (for the reading challenge, nor the poetry post). In it’s stead I’m posting some articles that are relevant to each topic and that I found delightful.

Happy Week!

 

Reading Challenge; Jan. 7th, 2017 (Part 1)

Sunday, January 1, 2017; 364 Hours to go per Subject this Year

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: In my first hour of reading I covered only 22 pages. My goal is to cover at least 50 pages an hour in this book.

Reflection: I’m only a chapter into this book and, I must say, I’m really enjoying it.

It begins with a brief history of Archimandrite Tikhon’s journey to Orthodoxy and his becoming a monk. It is a truly inspiring story that reaffirms my belief in works of art (in this case, specifically writings) that are deeply theological, but not obviously so. For these are the works that will remain as a guiding light to the lost, despite the world’s best efforts to eradicate Truth. As his story proves, these will remain even when the obviously Christian works have been destroyed, because the world will not correctly identify them.

This is true because those who are blind to light have chosen to be so; and thus, do not, in reality, expend any internal effort to find it. They do this because if they looked for more than the obvious they would have to open themselves up to the Truth, becoming vulnerable to it, causing conviction and the drive to put forth effort in favor of their souls. Something that they do not want to do.

The following is an excerpt from this lovely first chapter that stood out to me (Archimandrite Tikhon has just related to us the story of his first visit to a monastery and is now talking about the events and thoughts that immediately followed): “Indeed, everything was different now. I didn’t know what had happened to me, but suddenly the world had lost all its attractions, and ceased to be interesting. All that yesterday had seemed desirable and valuable to me was now revealed to be not worthless (I certainly wouldn’t dare to say that) but irredeemably alien. I didn’t recognize myself. And my friends didn’t recognize me either.

When I came home to Moscow, suddenly I realized with surprise that throughout all those past ten days, not only had I not smoked, but I had not even thought about my incurable habit of many years. And this was despite the fact that until that time I had normally smoked not less than two packs of cigarettes a day.

Now the only place where I felt normal was in church. Neither my friends, nor my pastimes, nor the work I had once so strived for – none of it touched my heart any longer. Even my books, even my beloved Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, somehow no longer held my attention. I understood that I had completely changed, and that in fact I was now hopelessly lost to this world that had once been so dear to me. Another life beckoned me, next to which all my prior experience of twenty-four years paled in comparison.

Of course, I did love that past world, and I was sad for it and felt compassion for it from the bottom of my heart! But that was just the point – my heart! It already belonged not to my old world and to my old goals, but to a new world that had mysteriously and unexpectedly revealed itself to me, a world devoted not to fleeting things, but to an unbreakable covenant between man and God.”

I believe this passage truck me so because it was so poignant to my current attitude. I have had many opportunities, even in my short life, to change the disposition of my heart as Archimandrite Tikhon did, and I have said no. Indeed, after leaving monasteries, or meeting an enlightened person I have felt the call strongly and have turned away. There have even been times when I move my heart to the proper disposition for a few hours, or even a day, only to talk myself out of it.

The horrible truth is that I don’t want to change. I don’t want to take that chance on God, not really; because I’m afraid of being bored and I have a hatred for work. Even though I have seen and experienced the grace and joy that God gives to those who wear down their physical bodies and minds in His name and pursuit, I deliberately turn away.

I must change, and since God never gives us more than we can handle, I know it’s possible. I just have to want it…but how do I make myself want it?

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 25 pages in the hour.

Reflection: Firstly I’d like to stress that I am not blogging about EVERYTHING I read in the books I’m using for the challenge. That would mean that you, the reader of my blog, wouldn’t have to buy the book yourself if you were interested, and I am in no way trying to hurt the Authors’ royalties. If you find what I’m blogging about interesting, know that the books contain FAR MORE information; and it would be a benefit to your interest if you were to purchase them to read yourself.

My intention is that this blog be a place of reflection and discussion. That said, let us continue.

Antiquing for Dummies covers SO MUCH information. It’s wonderful and insane all at the same time. When they tell you about the different eras of furniture making, for example, they detail what woods were used, how they were commonly finished, and the methods and materials used to assemble them. It all feel terribly overwhelming.

But then, I’m finding Antiquing to be rather overwhelming. Not in a bad way, I’m still terribly fascinated. Indeed, that seems to be the trouble. There is an incomprehensible amount of categories, and genres to be interested in! It seems every page I turn I see a new category that I crave to know EVERYTHING about. I’m even picking up on such things in my everyday life! For example, after only just starting this book, I was listening to the song Sleigh Ride; one of the lines goes, “It’ll nearly be like a picture print from Currier and Ives”.

I have listened to this song at least 200 times in my l life, I know the lyrics essentially by heart, and up until reading this book, my brain completely passed over that line as if it were gibberish. But now…now my interest is peaked! Who are Currier and Ives? What do their prints look like? What price do they sell for? How do you appraise quality? Are there prints that are worth more than others? Why so?

To add to the overwhelmed feeling is the fact that Antiquing is truly subjective. This is a point that irritates me to no end. My interest in antiquing started because you have the potential to not just buy a piece of furniture to use and then eventually discard, but to have a piece that is truly worth something, and that is even appreciating! Something that is truly worth passing on to the kiddos. A legacy of functional taste, if you will. But the truth is that that isn’t entirely how antiquing works. As I said before, it is terribly subjective. Something that was worth $100 yesterday could suddenly sell at Christie’s Auction House for $1000 today or vice versa.

And it’s not even that straightforward! So let’s say that the item was a vase, and that vase has been appraised at $250 and is being auctioned off at Sotheby’s. Some person wins it for $2000. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the value of the item has actually gone up. It could simply mean that there were a couple inexperienced bidders there, who don’t know what to look for in an antique vase of that period, and thought it was worth more than it was, so they drove the price up! But their lack of knowledge will not necessarily change the value of other vases from that time up.

It’s all about supply and demand. That may sound obvious to you, and, indeed now, I chuckle at myself for having thought otherwise; but before starting this book I really did think that a renaissance vase in pristine condition had a (relatively) set value.

If your head is spinning, I totally understand, and I’m right there with you. I’m reading so many new words and having many more merely eluded to, that I wonder how I could possibly ever keep even the most basic in my mind. At the moment I am consoling myself with the thought that after seven years of reading about this field of study, I will know something. Some number of terms will mean something to me for forever. I don’t yet know how many that will be, but by the end I feel I will certainly be able to tell you thoroughly about one period of furniture styles; from the woods they commonly used, to the method of assembly.

Today, I learned something about Dovetail Joints. This may sound a very mundane topic, but bear with me. I truly enjoyed it. You see, there are many things you have to know in order to date a piece properly, and most of them are not only complicated, but also highly subjective. Meaning that what you’re looking for can be faked. But the dovetail joints are simpler method, it seems to me, in comparison. The book defines them as, “the corner joint that brings two perpendicular pieces of wood together.”

It is not guaranteed, but rather, widely accepted that the less dovetails used in a joint, the older the piece (Of course you have to employ many other methods of age assessment to be sure, but this is the one that is sticking in my brain for the moment). As time went on furniture making techniques changed, and so, in pieces made a little later on you will see more dovetails in a joint. The book says roughly 3 to 5. The key here, is that you are looking for dovetails that are irregular, because this proves they were carved by hand, and can indicate age.

Later furniture that was/is made with a machine, has a greater number of dovetails, and they are more uniform.dovetail-joint

Example Sketch of a Dovetail Joint

The Psychology of the Child by Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder –

Report: I have read roughly 4 hours of this book this week. I was supposed to read 6 but for various reasons was unable. I predict I will finish this book by Tuesday, January 10, 2017 as it is only 150 pages long.

Reflection: It is important to note that this book is written in Scientific Essay format. Meaning that it is written by scientists, for other scientists. As a result, I am finding it a difficult read; so my notes will be different than what I wrote for the others. Mainly, I will write this one entry about portions of the entire week, instead of hour by hour. The book is a terribly good one, chock full of information. But such an intense volume of data can be wearing on an unaccustomed mind, so I find myself needing more breaks than with the other books, as my brain becomes extremely fatigued.

There are a couple main ideas that I was struck with.

First, I have heard many people (and it annoys me to no end), say that their children, some as young as a couple months old, are trying to manipulate them. This distresses me from an emotional stand-point since the vast majority of parents in our society are neglecting their children’s emotional needs. In another book, it is presented that children need loving contact with at least one of their parents (and it must be their parents or guardian, not a sitter, other relative, friend, or sibling) once every interval of minutes equaling their age; i.e. a four year old needs to have loving contact with one of their parents every 4 minutes to keep their love tank full, and a 16 year old needs it every 16 minutes.

Obviously you can let time elapse, but know that children’s love tanks (yes that is the technical term) empty quickly (the younger they are, the faster it empties), and that is when you see behavioral issues. So if you are away from your child for an hour, you need to expect that their little emotional tanks are empty and they will act up if you don’t fill them. People don’t give their kids enough grace. I have witnessed parents make the change to this method, and, as magic, the problems disappear, because the child feels loved.

All this to say, when I hear people say their kids are being manipulative trying to get their attention, my heart bleeds for the child. This is because it isn’t the child’s fault. It’s the parents. If the parents were loving their children the way that God intended, and yes He intended for it to take up ALL of your time and emotional energy, then the child would not be behaving this way.

Now, through reading The Psychology of the Child, I have found out that not only is it wrong, emotionally speaking, to accuse your poor children of this, but it is wholly ignorant from a psychological standpoint!

You see, babies actually lack the comprehension to be manipulative. In other words IT’S IMPOSSIBLE for your baby to think, “Hm, I want mommy. So I’m going to cry even though I don’t need anything, so that she’ll come running.” This statement is false on so many levels! To begin with, if your child wants you, no matter what age, no matter how often, then they NEED you. It doesn’t matter if you think they should or not, the fact is that God gave you kids so that you would change, not the other way around.

Furthermore, if a person has children that are no longer babies, and thus have the mental ability to be “manipulative”, so what? If their child is trying to “manipulate” them it means that they are not giving their child what it needs. God never gives people more than they can handle, which means that every need or wound that child gets, He has given the parents the ability to, not crush or get rid of the need or wound, but to fill and or heal it. People need to approach their children with complete humility and shameless love.

There are 3 analogies I am very fond of that illustrate my point:

Our lives are like roads on which we ride bicycles. When we are born, the road before us is straight, and God has given our parents the ability to pave them through love and humility. But, they also have the ability to tear them apart, filling them with potholes and ruts. A child whose parents destroy their road will have a hard time riding their bike without going into the holes and ruts; it is possible, but ridiculously improbable. So at the end of times, who will answer for these falls? The parents or the child? Would it not be the parents? They were the ones charged with paving the roads, and indeed they were given every ability, but instead they chose to destroy it.

There is a man on an elevator. The elevator breaks, leaving the man stuck. First he looks around, stunned. Then he calmly calls, “Hello? Anyone there?” When no answer is received he tries again, “Hello? Can anyone hear me? I’m stuck!” The next time he calls he becomes louder, and, when there is no response, louder still; until he is in a panicking, fuming, fit. When we see children that are “out of control”, we ought to feel badly for them. They are stuck in an elevator, their parents are the only ones who can get them out, and they are refusing; turning their backs and leaving them helpless.

A woman is with her toddler, who is afraid of heights. They are outside of a skyscraper, on the ground. At the top of the skyscraper is something that the woman NEEDS to get. The woman knows the building. It is a sound building. If they go inside, nothing bad is going to happen. She kneels down and explains to the child why they need to go to the top and that it is quite safe. The child begins to cry, they are afraid. The woman thinks for a moment…there is no one she can have watch the child while she goes to the top; so, she picks up the child and carries them kicking and screaming into the building, all the way to the top floor. Is she a good mother?

No, she isn’t. What she did was horribly wicked and selfish. For starters, she asserted her own needs over her child’s. For though the fear was unfounded in her eyes, that is beside the point. In taking her child where the child is horribly afraid she has told the child she doesn’t care about it. She has damaged their trust. It is not for her to decide how her child should feel, it is for her to accept and love. Lastly, her “need” that was at the top of the tower, was only a “need” because she decided it should be. As I’ve said before, God never gives us more than we can handle, which means that even if there is something that a parent desperately, direly thinks is necessary to life, if their child needs the opposite, then God will either show the parent how their “need” was fictional, or give them another way to fill it.

When people conceive children they enter into a promise. A promise that starts the moment of conception. It is the promise that the child comes first. That they will, from that second forward, deny themselves every desire and apparent need, to fulfill the needs of their child.

This all probably sounds very bleak and impossible, but the good news is that children don’t need perfect parents. If that were true God wouldn’t give them to any of us. But they need humble parents, who are willing to be merciless with themselves, repenting and taking complete responsibility for EVERY hole and rut they create. It is humility that fills holes. It is love that paves them. God gives everybody who conceives the chance to have plenty of both. He never sets us up for failure. We choose that ourselves.

Second, play is important to a child’s development. And as I type that I’m aware how obvious it sounds, but let me elaborate; it is generally agreed that play is vital to a child. However, it is not as universally accepted/known that it is not vital because the child desires it, but rather because the child’s brain needs it. And it doesn’t need it simply as a diversion, either. It NEEDS it to process the world. According to the book, children are learning to cope and understand the world around them by playing.

I bring this point because it is so misunderstood. How often have I seen parents chastising their children for the way they are playing? By that I do not mean when they correct a selfish or violent act, but rather a benign act that, because they don’t understand it, bothers them. There is an example that the authors give, of one of the children they observed during the study. This child imitated both a church bell, standing there “gonging”, as well as a dead duck that they had had for dinner.

The parent of the child became annoyed at her “gonging” because he was trying to work and she was doing it right beside him. But she was merely developing her brain and understanding of the world. She NEEDED to play the bell and she NEEDED her father to participate in this learning experience.

Similarly, when she was playing the dead duck; I know parents, who, if they saw their child lying on the sofa playing a dead duck, would “correct” them, saying that that’s morbid and we don’t play that way or some such. They have just shut down their child’s learning process because it makes them “uncomfortable”.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not advocating for a world without propriety. But playing a dead duck hurts nothing and illustrates a need to understand. To stop the child’s play, when it isn’t hurting them or anyone else, is sending a message that they have done something wrong when they haven’t, and it stunts their understanding.

A child’s development is not done by the clock, nor by an adult’s sensibilities. By that I mean that it happens exactly when it needs to and how it needs to, whether it’s convenient or not. And parents are called to drop everything to do what’s necessary. That is part of the conception promise.

Third, during their studies, the authors conducted experiments in which they asked children of different age groups to do the same tasks. The younger group, whose brains were, naturally, not yet as developed, completed the assignment in a very different manner than the older group. So the presiding scientist showed the children what method was expected of them, versus what they had done. The children did it again, this time how he had just shown them, however, in further testing it was discovered that they had done so, not because of a new understanding, but rather because he had made them.

In other words, when a young child is doing something in a way that doesn’t make sense to their parents, and the parents “correct” it (i.e. show them how to draw properly or color inside the lines), and then INSIST upon it, the child will do as they are being forced. But the parent should make no mistake, they have not “educated” their child, they have simply forced them into outwardly performing. Their brain and way of thinking about that particular activity has not changed. So would it not be better to let them continue in their own way?

Monday, January 2, 2017; 363 Hours to go per Subject this Year

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: In my second hour of reading I still only covered 22 pages.

Reflection: The second chapter of this book is about Archimandrite John Krestiankin, Archimandrite Tikhon’s Spiritual Father. I’m going to do some research, in the hopes that he has written something that has been translated to English. From what I read, he sounds a true inspiration and motivator.

He was known for his unerring wisdom and compassion. The chapter was full of examples of this. The interactions he had with all were so touchingly beautiful. But one story seemed the best to write about (Archimandrite Tikhon is relating a time when Archimandrite John is crossing with courtyard of the monastery with a parade of pilgrims, seeking his advice, on his heels): “ …Suddenly a woman in tears, holding a three-year-old baby, threw herself across his path.

‘Father, bless my baby before his operation – the doctors demand that it be done immediately in Moscow.’

Father John stopped and told the woman something that utterly shocked the pilgrims from Moscow: ‘Under no circumstances! He’ll die on the operating table. Pray, and take loving care of him, but do not do the operation under any circumstances. He will get well.’”

Archimandrite goes on to say that the woman followed Archimandrite John’s instructions and all went well, just as he said it would.

This story strikes me so much because of what he says. He doesn’t just tell her not to let her son be operated on, but he instructs her to pray and love him so that all will be well. To me, this makes a very striking point that I see most of our Society missing from their lives.

The first is the instruction to pray. In order to pray, truly pray, we need to be humble. The second is the instruction to love. How often, when we see others in pain, instead of seeing how our selfish denial to give them the love of God has created these problems in them, do we look for other Earthly causes for their problems? This is especially true with our own children. I don’t know the backstory to this antidote, so I don’t know what was wrong with the boy or what condition his relationship with his parents was in. However, it puts me in mind of a lot of other situations that look similar (a parent frantic over an “ill” child) and merely require the parents to exercise humility and Godly love to make everything ok again.

Instead of wanting the easy way out, instead of wanting there to be something really wrong with our child that requires a doctor, why don’t we take responsibility for the fact that our pride and lack of love are what have forced our children into this corner, and actually change??seeker-of-the-lost

Archimandrite John’s “beloved” Icon of The Mother of God: Seeker of the Lost

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 25 pages in the Hour.

Reflection: There seems to be information that you have to know before you can even start learning about Antiques. Like, there’s a safe with just the basics, but you have to have the combination first. Thankfully, this book gives you the key code so that you can open the safe. Now, the safe, it appears, is usually a person, and you have to know the right manner and verbiage with which to approach them in order to get the answers you need.

As far as I can tell from my reading, you want to go out antiquing, without actually buying anything, A LOT. And you want to go to a variety of places, i.e. antique shops, flea markets, auctions, estate sales, garage sales, etc.

But before you can even go into these places there is some basic etiquette, “Don’t bring in food or drink…Don’t smoke…” You don’t want the establishment to deem you a hazard to antiquity before you even get into the door.

Once inside, look for the owner or manager of the establishment. Be honest and straightforward with them that you are new to antiquing and wanting to learn. This seems counterintuitive to me because they are there to do business, right? So why would they want to talk to me if I’ve just said that I’m just looking; and not only just looking, but I’m asking them to essentially “donate” their time and knowledge?

That part I’m just going to trust them on and do no matter what.

Now, just a few more tips for while you are perusing. “Don’t open a closed display case…Ask for help before you handle fragile items…Pay attention to any Do Not Touch and Fragile signs…Don’t pick anything up by its top or handle alone…Ask permission before taking photographs…Ask for permission and help when using your antique sleuthing skills.”

The last thing I’m going to leave you with here is a phrase that I found most intriguing and potentially useful; when you see an item you like, whether you know anything about it or not, you can ask the dealer, “Can you explain the price on this _____?” Not only could they tell you much about that piece and why it’s worth what it is, but they could potentially sidetrack into telling you about the genre as a whole.

 

Truth’s Joy; A Poem Revisited (Part 1)

I had promised Truth’s Joy rewritten and posted today; however, I have been unable to complete it. So, I will post what I have so far, and the rest later.

Truth’s Joy

I wandered around the Earth;                                     7a

Searching for light in Night’s girth.                            7a

I rode on the wind ’til it blew nary more;                   11b

In a pursuit of things that true brilliance bore.            11b

I walked ’til my feet turned dust;                               7c

Longing for a beauty, just.                                          7c

I swam through the deepest sea;                                 7d

Chasing after Wonder’s glee.                                     7d

 

Night had long tainted my sight;                                7e

So I saw nary but blight.                                             7e

And, wandering, grew weary,                                                7f

‘Til I was limp and dreary.                                          7f

When I found myself ‘neath humble stars of blue;    11g

In dampened caverns they’d sparkled, ever true.       11g

Though small, they shone with valor,                         7h

And mocked my faithless pallor.                                7h

 

Convicted, I traveled North;                                      7i

With the Wind bearing me forth.                                7i

While, below, Isle changed to Shore;                         7j

Youthful Seas turned bitter hoar.                               7j

And I was let down ‘pon ice;                                     7k

Forsook to my own device.                                        7k

 

In the original poem that you read before, I wrote about the darkness of the Earth, and then contrasted that with the truth of it’s light. I’m still not sure that I’m happy removing that dark portion, but I’m running with it for the moment.

Then too there is the third stanza, which, as you can see, is not completed…I lingered too long I think at the beginning of it. I should have had the lines move more quickly. But I can’t make up my mind.

Thoughts?

Reading Challenge; Jan. 7th, 2017 (Part 2)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017; 362 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: I read 31 pages in the hour.

Reflection: There was a Schema-Igumen Monk, Father Melchisedek, whose story really made me think. To preface, a Schema-Igumen Monk is a monk whose entire job and purpose is prayer. Before taking the schema-vows, Father Melchisedek worked in the monastery making furniture, frames, etc. The following is an excerpt, in which is related his first experience with death (and by that, I mean he actually died for a moment): “He said that he had suddenly seen himself standing in the midst of a giant green field. Then he had walked on through this field, continuing straight but not knowing where he was going, until his path was blocked by a gigantic moat. There, amidst thick mud and clumps of earth, he saw a multitude of icon frames, church lecterns, and metal overlays for icons. There he also saw crooked tables, broken chairs, and strange wardrobes. As he looked at them, he recognized his own carpentry work. He stood looking at his own work both recognizing it and yet utterly surprised by it – and suddenly he had the feeling that somebody was standing over his shoulder…He lifted up his eyes and saw that it was the Mother of God She gazed with melancholy at all his work of many years. And then she spoke: “You’re a monk…And all we wanted from you was just one thing, the main thing: repentance and prayer. Instead of that, you gave us this woodwork…”

This story is so meaningful to me because it poses, in my mind, a very serious question: What is God asking of me that I am not giving? And why am I not giving it?

Do I not want to do what is asked of me because it is “too hard”? But I know that God never gives us more than we can handle! So…either I don’t really believe that, or He’s just asking more than my laziness wishes He were.

Am I offering Him something other than what He asks because I don’t know what He is asking of me? But God never sets us up to fail, so He cannot be asking something of me and not making it clear. So why am I not hearing it? Am I making myself too busy? Why? To avoid?

Am I afraid of what He is asking? Do I really think that it is easier to give Him something He doesn’t want versus whatever it is that He truly wants from me??

But I know from experience that my avoidance and vain offers of whatever He isn’t asking for only cause me distress, anxiety, depression, and pain! I know that, though what I’m wanting Him to accept appears easier to give, it isn’t in the end. It’s not what’s best. It’s not what’s fulfilling. So why do I fight so hard not to hear, not to see, not to GIVE what He is asking of me?

This brings to mind a struggle I’ve had. My husband expresses in a million and one different ways what he needs from me to feel loved, and a spotless house is not one of those things. Nor, do I in fact have the energy to keep up a spotless house. So why have I been so hell bent on maintaining a spotless house? All it does is exhaust me, make me anxious and angry. It doesn’t please my husband either. And then spiteful, passive aggressive I becomes wicked and hurtful. I lash out, “punishing” those around me as well as myself. I’m an emotional nightmare! So why do it? Why not simply love my husband the way he asks me to love him?

I’ve started working on this this past week, and there is serene happiness in our house now.

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 27 pages in the hour.

Reflection: How to find an antique mall: “Signs on the road…Yellow Pages…Antique Shops…The Internet”

How to prepare before you go: “Divest yourself of purses and backpacks…You may want a pen and paper, a tape measure, and your flashlight.

When you enter the mall…Here are some questions you might ask: Do you offer discounts? If I want to get into a showcase, do you have people around to help me? Is there a restaurant or snack bar? How many floors are there? Anything else I need to know?”

If you have time, here is a good method to see everything and zero in on what really interests you: “Simply walk quickly through, letting anything catch your eye. Then walk more slowly and deliberately. Be sure to look under tables for merchandise that is kept on the floor.”

Another one of their helpful tips was to write down where things of interest are located during your first walk through.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017; 361 Hours to go per Subject this Year

                                    

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon

Report: I read 29 pages in the Hour

Reflection: What I read today was mostly concerned with obedience. The obedience of a person to their Spiritual Father. In the Orthodox Church we have confession and seek advice on how to better ourselves. It is most encouraged for individuals to seek out a Priest, Monk, or Nun who they see has Godly wisdom, and ask them to become their Spiritual Parent. In this way the individual becomes obedient to this person, giving them trust.

I know, to many, outside of the Orthodox Faith this probably sounds unintelligent, insecure, or unnecessary. I can assure you that this is not the case; the thoughts you are probably having are off, most probably, for lack of knowledge on the topic (I won’t go further into it here).

Pride, I believe, is one of the worst sins we can commit, because it closes off roads to healing. Yet we commit it every day, usually, without consciously realizing it. It is insidious and crafty. It crawls through us and inhabits every cell.

When reading about obedience, indeed, the complete obedience a novice should have to their Abbott/Abbess, I was struck by the immense pride I carry. Could I have unflinching obedience to someone? I haven’t yet…But it is in obedience that humility lives. And humility is life-giving.

I believe that for someone to be obedient there must be trust. Trust in the person, but ultimately Trust in God. As a wife, I am called to obey my husband (This may upset you, the reader, to read. But the anger, or fear you have at seeing these words, it is from pain, not truth). I have been very blessed to not only marry the man I love, but to love a man whom I can trust. God has made my task very easy. I am not given over to a tyrant (If I had married a tyrant it would be my own sin, for I have grown up in a place where I am free to choose who I marry, which means that I am wholly responsible for that choice), or a man who sees the world differently than I; so when I am a disobedient wife….what excuse do I have?

Obedience is not meant to be a burden, but a blessing.

Another passage that truly touched me was the following, “I will not tell stories about our many ‘ascetical feats’ while we were in Pechory Monastery. I do not want to run the risk of making fun of this even in a good way, because I believe that the Lord accepted and blessed even these unfinished and naïve spiritual labors of ours. After all, God looks into the heart of a man and perceives his inner intentions. And the intentions that we young novices had were pure and sincere.”

I can’t help but as the question, “When God looks into my heart, what does He see?” As I said above, pride is insidious…so even when I tell myself that I did such and such with a pure and sincere intent….how often am I deluding myself, and refusing to see the deep motive of self-preservation/vanity in it?

Further on, Archimandrite Tikhon writes about how God waits so patiently for us to pay attention to Him. And how He never forces Himself on us. It puts me in mind of something that my Spiritual Father has said in sermon: He said that it is as if each of us is sitting beneath a fruit tree, and God has placed the fruit just where all we need do is reach our hand up and take it.

But we have to reach. We can’t pull a Newton.

I see our actions in this life as us either reaching, or not. It is said that if you force our bodies to do an act, our hearts will follow. In the child psychology book I am reading, the authors talk about how as babies we learn a lot not by first thinking, but doing. It gives examples of how babies’ accidental physical movements actually develop connections in our brain. So why should it not be true of the heart?

I have seen this a lot in my own life. If I force my physical self to pray, or prostrate, or to stand still, or give to the poor, my heart is not far behind in a deeper understanding of virtue; if only for a moment.

My mother often said that your actions will always betray the position of your heart. It is true. If your heart is in a humble place, close to God, you will find it difficult to sin. But if your heart is full of self- importance, it cannot be close to God, and you will find it easy to act accordingly. That’s why I think it is a blessing that God made it so that through physical obedience we could move our hearts.

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I read 23 pages in the Hour

Reflection: Today I read about glassware: What’s the best kind. How to tell old from new. As well as a fair bit about mold-blown glass, pressed glass, cut glass, Victorian era art glass, and Art Nouveau era glass.

It is very difficult to accurately determine the manufacturer of glass. Especially old glass. Apparently manufacturers often didn’t label their pieces. And even if they did, in today’s world, it’s not hard to fake.

For example, some manufacturers used acid to etch their signature into their work. But today, anyone with a laser pen can sign a piece.

The very first thing to determine, when you’ve found some glass you like, is whether or not it is in fact old. So here are some things to look for:

“Flake off:…you can often find flaking around the rim of antique glass. A flake is a small flat piece without much depth…

Signs of wear: Old glass typically has scratches on the bottom. Hold the glass up to the light and look at it in different angles. No fine lines, no slight signs of wear, is a strong clue that the piece may not be antique. Use a loupe (a jeweler’s magnification tool) to look at the scratch marks. Old glass has marks in many different sizes going in many directions. With ‘faked’ age, the lines go only in a few directions and are often similar in size.”

After you’ve determined it is old, it is time for further inspection to attempt to ID the piece:

“Tradekmark: Is the glass signed or marked?

Technology: How is the glass made – Blown, molded, or pressed?

Style: What stile is the glass in? What period do you think it is from? This helps you date the glass.

Pattern: What is the pattern (if the glass is pressed or cut)? This helps you figure out the company and helps you date and value the glass.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017; 360 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon

Report: I read 26 pages in the Hour

Reflection: We’ll start with an excerpt: “It is only…through mysterious humility incomprehensible to the world, that a true Christian comes to one of the two greatest revelations in life. The first of these revelations is that one must discover the truth about oneself, and see oneself as one truly is. You must meet your own self. And believe me it’s the most important acquaintance. A vast number of people live their lives never even bothering to discover themselves at all. Sometimes we only we only have the vaguest notions or fantasies of who we are, and so depending upon our own vanity, pride, resentments, and ambitions we see nothing. But the truth, however bitter it might seem to s, is that we are ‘wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.’…Remember that verse from Revelations? And this truth only comes to us through scriptural and ruthlessly honest examination of oneself. Through true humility. True humility does not humiliate a man. On the contrary, anyone who survives this ordeal, this bitterest and harshest of truths becomes a saint….”

“But what is the second revelation?” we asked. “He said that there are two main revelations in a person’s life. The first is to become acquainted with one’s own self. But what is the second?”

“The second?” The monk smiled. “You know the second revelation not one bit less than I. It is the truth that our Church patiently reminds us of in every single Divine Service without exception: ‘May Christ, our true God, through the intercessions of His most pure Mother and of all the saints, have mercy upon us and save us, for He is good and lovest mankind.” (End of Excerpt)

I think that I know myself…but part of knowing yourself is accepting what you are (by that I don’t mean that you become stagnant, but rather that you be humbled and feel peace with knowing you are nothing, and that only through God you grow), and if I have truly accepted what I am, then why is there so much that I have done that I am trying to forget, excuse, or repress? It is my pride that is keeping me from the humility of accepting my filth.

And without accepting it I cannot truly relinquish it to God.

The second revelation written above is such a blessing. But there is a reason that it is the second revelation. Because I would be all too happy to make excuses for myself, that God loves me by virtue of me being His creation (Which is absolutely true), and never make any strives forward. How easy it would be to justify my wretchedness, and indeed my soul, away.

I do allow myself to take comfort in the knowledge that God never gives me more than we can handle. And we know that Christ, whom we are called to emulate, never sinned. We would not be called to this if it were impossible.

I often see the hard things in my life as nuisances. And, in my foolishness, I feel that I am closest to God when things are easy. But when things are easy, how often do we forget God?

“Then I asked him, ‘Your grace, Bishop Gabriel! You have lived a remarkable and interesting life. You were a young novice in the Monastery of Odessa, at the time when the great elder, Father Kuksha, labored there. You also lived in the Holy Land working as a secretary of the Russian Mission in Jerusalem. For many years you were our abbot in the Pskov Caves Monastery, associating every day with our wisest elders, whose names are too many to count. Then you created a diocese in the Far East. Now you are the Bishop of Blagoveshchensk. What was the very happiest time of your life?’

The bishop grew thoughtful and at length answered, “The very happiest times of my life were the years when I was suspended and disgraced. Never before or since in my life was the Lord as close to me as back then. It might surprise you to hear this, but, believe me, it is the truth…’

He fell silent again and then added: ‘My brothers, have no fear of the punishments of the Lord! For He does not punish us as criminals, but as His own children!’”

It puts me in mind of that story, where the man dies and sees his life as footprints on a beach. He observes that there are 2 sets of footprints side by side, God’s and his. But then he notices something else; that at the hardest times during his life, the footprints change from 2 sets, to just one. He turns to God and asks Him why He abandoned him during his darkest hours? And God replies, “My son, during those times, I carried you.”

That story never fails to bring tears to my eyes. God loves us so much, but we are as spoiled children. He never stops loving us, but when times are good, we do not notice his abundance. So he allows either outside calamities, or our own stupid decisions to shade our lives. For it is like a drawing. You can only see the light in contrast to the shadow. We can only know the true goodness, and benevolence of God in contrast to difficulty.

And, in His benevolence, He never gives us more than we can handle.

“The Lord does not like cowardice. This spiritual law was once revealed to me by Father Raphael, but in turn that law had been passed to him by Father Alipius. In one of his sermons Father Alipius preached: ‘During the war I was a witness to how certain soldiers were so worried they might die of hunger that they would carry little bags of crumbs on their back. So worried were some about their little bags of bread crumbs, so eager were they to prolong their life rather than fight the enemy, that these people were invariably the first to be cut down by enemy fire. They perished along with their bread crumbs. But those who were willing to strip their backs if need be, and to die to fight the enemy – those were the ones who survived.’”

The above observation is an analogy for the spiritual life. When we are created, whether we desire/believe it or not, we become part of the war between God and the enemy. Make no mistake, God will be victorious, but who of us will be left standing with Him? I see the breadcrumbs as our earthly cares, and I do believe that is what Father Alipius had in mind.

One of my breadcrumbs that I have carried with me for a longtime, is guilt…I was once told that the proper amount of guilt is not so little that you remain unchanged, and not so much that you lose hope, but rather just enough to keep you moving (or rather, fighting). But how often do I wish to wallow? Instead of humbly accepting God’s forgiveness, and fighting on, in pride I choose to punish myself and not forget.

This is one of the reasons God gave us confession. That we might have just the proper amount of guilt. A priest should be able to guide you to the proper frame of mind, so that you will accept your absolution. But so often I receive God’s absolution, and in my sinful arrogance I think I should be punished more.

I somehow delude myself into thinking that God doesn’t really know when I should be forgiven, but rather lets me off the hook undeservingly, and that I can somehow, myself, atone properly.

But it is arrogance to think that a human being could ever make themselves worthy.

The truth is that there is nothing I can do that will make up for what I have done, and I need to humble myself to accept God’s undeserved forgiveness. It is pride for me to insist that there is a way for me to deserve it. And this pride that keeps me punishing myself, wallowing, it is what leaves me defenseless on the battlefield of the spirit. For in so doing I have dropped my weapons and my guard. Even going so far as to turn my back upon the enemy.

A saint is humble. They accept God’s forgiveness after they have fallen. And, instead of staying on the ground and wallowing, thus sinning further, they immediately jump up and keep fighting. Never breaking their stride.

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: I only read 17 pages in the hour. :/

Reflection: As I’ve mentioned previously, antiquing is terribly subjective. What’s in one moment can be out the next, and some never even get their 15 moments of fame. In this section, I read about Tiffany. Not the famous jewelry company, but the famous artist who gave the world the chance to literally illuminate their homes with art.

Evidently, his work was not appreciated in his time; and there are cases where pieces were even destroyed in order to repurpose the materials they consisted of.

The following is the story of a woman whose taste, beyond reproach, saved the legacy of Tiffany: “When Lillian Nassau opened her antique shop in New York in 1945, her merchandise was mostly European eighteenth and nineteenth century porcelain, glass, and objets d’art. In the late 1950s, Lillian bought her first Tiffany lamp, a Wisteria, for $200.00. Intrigued by its beauty, she began buying other works of the Tiffany Studios, and added other objects from the Art Nouveau period. Within a few years, she completely changed her shop’s inventory. Her passion for the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany sparked an interest in decorative art collectors. Gradually, the handmade lamps and hand-blown glass regained favor with the collecting public. Gone were the days when Tiffany lamps were smashed on the sidewalk so the copper leading could be gathered and sold as scrap metal. Today you can view a resplendent collection of Tiffany at the New York shop that bears her name.”

Now, I don’t think there are many people today who could look at a Tiffany antique, and not find it beautiful. Even if they didn’t think it fit their personal taste, I think most would find his works beyond judgement.

What I want is to cultivate my taste, and improve it to the standard of Lillian Nassau’s. This woman had such incredible taste, that she singlehandedly (from what I’ve read) brought an artist’s creations into favor.

And not just a little bit of favor! Tiffany antiques sell for enormous sums! They are truly desired for their beauty.

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but clearly there are things that transcend that, for the most part. And I want to refine my taste to that point.

It is true that some people are born with an inane sense of taste/style, and that some are not. But I don’t see that that means that those things cannot be learned. One just has to know how to go about it. I think that is why antiques fascinate me so. They are things that society as decided have some intrinsic value.

I’d like my judgement to have intrinsic value too.

What’s really caught my attention, from this section, is Amberina. Isn’t that a pretty word? Amberina. I think it would be prettier if it were just Amberine, but I digress. Amberina is a heat-sensitive glass (that means its color changes with heat) that contains gold. Because of the method used to make Amberina pieces, the top of the piece is a red that fades as it goes down, becoming a lovely amber/yellow at the base of the piece.

When looking at an Amberina piece, it is important to note the hues and their depth. In a good piece, the red will be a deep wine, and the yellow should be a true amber (this indicates age).

The following images of Amberina Pieces are from Kovels.com. An antique pricing guide that I stumbled upon:

amberina-1amberina-2

Friday, January 6, 2017; 359 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: Read 17 pages in the hour.

Reflection: Today we will talk about paperweights! Below are some popular types:

“Millefiori: A mosaic pattern, bringing together pieces of glass of different colors and heating them until they are welded without the colors bleeding. These…weights are made of ‘canes’ (drawn rods of glass), all bundled together.

Flowers: Either a single flower or a bouquet of flowers.

Sulphides: Cameo-type white clay figures inclusions in the weight. These generally feature historic figures, such as Napoleon and Queen Victoria.

Fauna: Snakes or lizards or butterflies or other types of insects.

Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables tend to be fairly realistic miniatures, often displayed against a latticework background.”

How to determine the age of the weight:

“The old are heavier, because the glass has more lead content.

By studying the canes in the weights, you can determine the different factories and eras.

Old paperweights have more bubbles, because the artists didn’t have as much control over heat as modern artists do. Unless bubbles are intentional, they are not desirable.

Check for scratches on the bottoms of old weights. There should be marks!

Check the top rounded surface in different lights and angles for surface scratches. Scratches are common and, if minor, they detract very little from the value of the paperweight.

Old weights are seldom artist signed. The modern weights done by artists are often signed and many are also numbered editions as well.”baccarat-paperweight

Image is from TheGlassGallery.com “Rare magnum antique Baccarat ‘B 1848’ scattered millefiori and Gridel canes paperweight.” The “Gridel canes” refers to the canes with the animal silhouettes.

After some exploring I think I can safely say that I like the cane paperweights best…possibly…

The Arts; A Journey

As a melancholy, my heart hears the call of many artistic masters. At the moment, however, I have narrowed down my goals to just 3:

  1. Have my poetry published.
  2. Start an Etsy Stationary business to further my art
  3. Take my oil painting to the professional level.

This page is dedicated to the journey I will take in pursuit of these goals.

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. – Robert Frost

Poetry is the art of expressing simple thoughts elaborately, and elaborate thoughts simply. – Eliza Rashke

I have found our culture sorely lacking in art that inspires and uplifts. It would seem that every “artist” among us today is so wrought with pain that they cannot even raise their heads from the mire of their own dysfunctions; let alone elevate society with their contributions. That is not to say that expressing pain is wrong; for it is through an Artist honestly expressing their pain, and offering Truth’s solution as healing, that the rest of Society may progress.

The fact is, if a Society fails to produce artists that awaken the population to Truth, good as well as painful, then the Society is not one worth participating in. As it stands now our “Artists” are not merely failing to point out happy truths but even painful ones. They are so enwrapped in their own neurosis, unwilling to truly examine them and heal, that they are only producing lies. Lies about themselves, lies about pain, and lies about our Society. And we, the people, are enabling them.

Every time we look at their work and do not call out the lie, we are encouraging them to continue in their needless suffering, and to continue producing false works. We do this because we prefer the pain of lies to the hard work of healing. But that’s the beauty of art, it can be so poignant when it sheds light on the truth; and is powerful only when it does so.

I am currently working towards having my poems published. At the moment, I am not only producing new works, but also editing old ones. Below I’ve posted one such poem:

Truth’s Joy

I wandered around the Earth;                                                    7a

Searching for light in Night’s girth.                                            7a

I rode on the wind ’til it blew nary more;                               11b

In a pursuit of things that true brilliance bore.                     11b

I walked ’til my feet turned dust;                                              7c

Longing for a beauty, just.                                                           7c

I swam through the deepest sea;                                             7c

Chasing after Wonder’s glee.                                                     7c

This world is one distorted.                                                         7d

A world that’s buried its soul.                                                     7e

This is a world in severe agony.                                                  10f

A world that is crucifying its talents.                                         11g

This is a world of fancy.                                                                 7c

One ignoring its nature.                                                                7h

This world is ever changing;                                                         7i

Never stopping to check course.                                                               7j

I wandered a great while,                                                            6k

From land, to sea and isle;                                                           6k

I strayed through the Caves of Waitomo;                              9l

And saw the stars, fixed to stone, aglow.                              9l

With such a rare beauty they shone;                                       8m

One that said, “We’re never alone.”                                       8m

Mine eyes filled with bright tears                                             7n

A soft leaving of fears.                                                                   6n

When the wind let its sails slack,                                               7o

I was left in heav’nly peace.                                                        7p

I slumped to the earth, fatiqued;                                              7q

And tipped my face to the sky.                                                  7r

I cried out at the great sight;                                                       7s

There were colors dancing ‘bout,                                             7t

Weaving  ‘cross the frigid sky.                                                    7r

And a truest love warmed me.                                                  7c

When I could carry my weight no more,                                9b

And my aching legs were all but wor’;                                     9b

I found land uncrossed.                                                                5u

A place time had lost.                                                                     5u

I was as in a dream on Aogashima;                                           11v

Finding the peace desired by my anima.                                                11v

I reveled in solitude, inhuman,                                                  10w

Learning an ancient ordained acumen.                                   10w

My arms grew wearied within the water;                             10x

I let myself sink in trust, and faith.                                            9y

Bubbles ascended through tinted light,                                 9z

And all about me hushed and stilled.                                      8A

I perceived a most gentle carress.                                            9B

Letting myself fall ‘way to slumber;                                         9C

I dreamt of a world beyond our own.                                     9m

A world only seen through the silence.                                  9D

‘wak’ning to life I knew new height.                                        8z

This world is a world of foresight;                                             8z

Of created unknowns.                                                                   6E

This is a world of reverent tones.                                              8E

A small world most intricate;                                                       7F

Of a grandest design witt.                                                            7F

I will walk all my days in bliss;                                                      8G

A joy that only comes from this.                                                                8G

Good Art should have a true message, of course, which the above does; however, Good Art should also follow the rules set down for that particular medium, which the above does not. As you can see, the meter runs rampant and irregular, and the rhyme refuses to flow. As a result, when you read this poem, you become agitated and disoriented. I am revising the above to allow it to blossom into a good work of art.

Today, our Society’s “Artists” produce works like the one above and present them as fully complete. After all, who needs rhyme and meter? Oh wait…THEY DO! If it doesn’t follow rhyme or meter, 999 times out of 1000, it isn’t a poem. So why do we let them get away with this? Ignorance of poetry? Perhaps. I’d say, more often than not, it is because our Society, at present, values giving everyone a “Participation” trophy, over encouraging gifted people to produce life sustaining truth.

You see, our Society is AFRAID of success; AFRAID of the extraordinary. Let us not be these people. Let us demand excellence and perfection. It is not unattainable. To that end, I will be re-posting the revised version of this poem next Friday at midnight.

Please feel free to comment with critiques and/or thoughts. I encourage discussion.

Becoming an Expert; A Reading Challenge

Recently, I read that if you read about one subject, for one hour each day, in seven years you will know enough on that topic to be considered an international expert.

This New Year I have given myself a challenge: To start this process in not just one area of study, but three. Heaven only knows how far I will get, but, as incentive, I’ve chosen to blog about the subjects as I go.

An hour a day means that I will be devoting 7 hours a week to each chosen field of study. I plan to post, every Friday at midnight, my notes/thoughts from each hour of reading that week.

It wasn’t easy choosing my three subjects; for I have MANY interests. All of which I’d love to know about expertly. However, there were a couple that stood out, and one that simply fell into my lap.

My first choice was Child Development. My husband and I are hoping to have children very soon and a well-informed (humble) parent is a good parent. To kick off the New Year, I’m starting with The Psychology of the Child, by Jean Piaget.

My second choice was Orthodox Christianity. I have been Orthodox since age 6; and while there is much that I know of the church, the older I get, the more I realize what a small piece of its theological grandeur that is. My starting book will be Everyday Saints and Other Stories, by Achimandrite Tikhon.

The third topic is Antiquing. There are a couple reasons for this; firstly, because it is a subject of great interest to me. And, secondly, because I already owned the book I will be starting with. And that is money conscientious (I’m going to be reading roughly 1000 books, in total, and that gets expensive). The book is called Antiquing for Dummies, by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse.

Before beginning, I thought it would be prudent to find out just what my reading speed actually is; because, obviously, the faster I am, the more I can read in an hour (My eventual goal is to get down to one book a week).

According to the Staples test, I read 167 words per minute. That made Me 33% slower than the national average. However, after some practice, roughly 20 minutes in total, I took another reading test by ReadingSoft. According to it, I am up to reading 320 words per minute, however my comprehension is only 55%.

Throughout this challenge I shall be working to improve both my speed and comprehension. Some of this will happen naturally but I’m hoping that by being mindful of it while reading, I will increase my rate of improvement.

The websites I used for research and testing, and the books I’m starting with:

 

Child Development (365 HRS/YR for 7 YRS) – The Psychology of the Child

by Jean Piaget  

Religion  (365 HRS/YR for 7 YRS) – Everyday Saints and Other Stories

by Archimandrite Tikhon

Antiquing (365 HRS/YR for 7 YRS) – Antiquing for Dummies

by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

 

The article about speed reading in general; http://www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/04/do-you-read-fast-enough-to-be-successful/#5520cec158f7

The first and second tests I took;   http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/technology-researchcenters/ereaders/speed-reader/                                                                 http://fourhourworkweek.com/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-learning/

Happy New Year!

Be always at War with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you, a better person.Benjamin Franklin

Every December 31st people make lists; lists of dreams, lists of hopes, lists of resolutions. Well this blog is an integral part of mine. The concept for FreeFall to Fabulous is not a new one; I’ve had it for years, and have even made attempts at it in various ways during that time. However, this year I’m approaching it differently than I ever have before. This year, I am using this blog to propel me forward in all of the other resolutions that I’ve had for years.

So, on the pages of this blog you will find not only my dreams and hopes, but also the journey I’m taking to fulfill my resolutions.

Please feel free to comment on or critique anything that you see here, or in these pages. I’m always ready for a discussion.

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope yours will be as productive as I’m planning for mine to be.