Reading Challenge; Feb. 4, 2017

I didn’t read as much this week as I should have, so this post will be shorter than the previous. But, rest-assured, I have not given up on reading every day, I’m just finding my stride.

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel –

Report: I read 13 pages this week. I know…that’s abysmal.

Reflection: There really wasn’t anything I found worth comment on or thinking about further….I know this is a best seller and that most women LOVE it, but frankly I find it extremely dull and alarmist. Some of the advice they give feels to me like they are advocating the philosophy, “look until you find the problem, regardless of whether you have cause.” However, I feel that that is a HORRIFIC philosophy for really anything health related because I think, like a lot of things in life, if you look hard enough YOU WILL FIND A PROBLEM. Whereas, if you don’t have symptoms, then I think, if there is a problem, it will usually straighten itself out. Not to mention the problems that the medical field “finds” that aren’t actually there….I mean, that’s no way to live your life, in constant fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in, when you have strange symptoms, getting to the bottom of them. But going around digging for problems for no reason is just stupid.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 24 pages this week.

Reflection: The following are some tips for buying antique beds: “Use your sleuthing skills to check out age, construction, and condition. Beds are usually sold without the mattress, so you have everything framed out for you. Look for the usual signs of wear….

Measure the height of a canopy or tester bed to make sure that it is not too tall to fit into your home (be sure to measure your home’s ceiling before you shop for beds). You can almost always remove the canopy, if you want.

Measure the space for the mattress. If the bed won’t take a modern size mattress, you can usually change the side rails to make the bed longer. Altering the rails can compromise the value of your antique, so consult a qualified restoration specialist. Keep the original side rails, in case you want to sell the bed.”

I wouldn’t mind having an antique bed. I think it would add a lot to a room while not being nearly as much work to maintain as an antique rug.

I’ve always thought that “Armoire” sounded suspiciously like ‘Armory”, and it turns out that that is in fact not a coincidence. Originally an armoire was used to store weapons and related gear.

They found new life when the French government decided to implement a room tax; which meant that home-owners paid more the more rooms they had, and each closet was considered a room. That is when the armoire began being used for clothing storage.

An antique armoire is another piece, like the antique bed, that could greatly enhance a room while not requiring exhaustive maintenance.

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 27 pages this week.

Reflection: There were so many beautiful accounts in this section. I don’t know where to begin…it feels as though all I can do is post the words already written, but I don’t want to deprive anyone of the joy of discovering these stories from the book, themselves.

There was a thought that struck me, however, that I can share. In one of the stories, Archimandrite Tikhon related, a priest had a young girl come to him in distress. She was possessed by a demon and wanted him to help rid her of it. The whole tale is remarkable and worth reading, but I just want to talk about one portion.

After he exorcises the demon, he is “happy for the girl because the child had truly ceased to be tortured and suffer for the sins of her parents.” She was possessed, not because of sins she had committed, but because of sins her parents had committed.

We see so much suffering in this world, especially among young people. Often we condemn them for their actions, or criticize them as being young and stupid. But we don’t think about how they must be suffering inside, and, if we do, we don’t think about how that probably didn’t start with them; it started with their parents heaping it upon them.

Human beings come into this world innocent and helpless. God made parents to cultivate the child’s pure heart, and to defend them while they are helpless; but too often, almost everywhere you look, the parent is neither a cultivator, nor a guardian, but rather a pillager and assailant.

May we choose humility, being honest with ourselves about our actions and words while raising our children; so that they may not bear the burden of our corruption. For it is the not God who passes such a burden from one generation to the next, but rather selfish, and fearful parents.

Reading Challenge; Jan. 28, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017; Roughly 359 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel –

Report: 28 pages

Reflection: After finishing The Psychology of the Child, I thought I would read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. After all, my ulterior motive for choosing this as one of my reading subjects, is to be ready for this next step in my life. A step that I can’t wait to take; but while I’m waiting, there are some other steps that I can take that will make the pregnancy step even easier.

The first chapter of the book is all about what you can do to prepare for pregnancy. The authors suggest having a female check-up, if you don’t normally already, to make sure that everything is in fact healthy and functioning the way that it should. I think this is good advice too because I’ve seen a lot of women concerned with “how long it is taking them to get pregnant”. Instead of thinking that it is actually taking normal amount of time, they immediately worry that something is wrong physically. If you have already had a check-up and, thus, know that everything is functioning properly, then I think you are less likely to jump to that worry.

It seems to me that since the invention of birth-control our society seems to think that if you aren’t using contraception then you will automatically get pregnant. This is a fallacy, and one that I think is propagated by the contraceptive companies to encourage use. While I have no issue with them doing this as it makes perfect marketing sense, I find it funny that people can’t seem to let go of the notion. Even when properly educated about how the female reproductive system works.

I think this is a big part of why many women think they should be getting pregnant faster than they are. They know in their brain that they are in fact not fertile every single day (and the book says that it takes a NORMAL woman an average of six months to get pregnant. Now, I think that has to do with what kind of birth-control you were previously using, however my point still stands); but they don’t then disregard the idea that if you aren’t using contraceptive, you WILL get pregnant.

They also suggested looking for a prenatal practitioner before conception, if possible.

The next suggestion surprised me, a dental visit. “A visit to the dentist before you get pregnant is almost as important as a visit to the doctor. That’s because your future pregnancy can affect your mouth – and your mouth can possibly affect your future pregnancy.” They go on to say that pregnancy hormones can really mess with your gums and teeth; aggravating existing problems.

In a similar vein, they mention looking into your family tree, i.e. what health problems might your children inherit? I’m not sure how I feel about this one…I mean, no matter what is or could be wrong with my baby, it is still my baby. I feel like this suggestion is a slippery slope, and I think we as a society have already seen the ugly bottom of that slope, aborting babies because they are not “normal”, or will not be able to live a “normal life”.

Of course, there is the argument that there are a lot of preventative or healing medical measures that can be taken during pregnancy, so not knowing is “irresponsible”. But I don’t think I agree with this either. There is that verse in the bible that talks about babies being made in secret. I think that was referring to the womb, and certainly any of these medical measures are invasive or require monitoring and I’m not sure that’s right.

They also suggest looking at your pregnancy history, if you have one. I think that falls in line with the doctor’s visit very nicely. After all, if you know you have had trouble in the past then obviously you need to know what’s happening with you physically before you try again.

The next suggestions are all doctor visit related: “Seek genetic screening…” (The aim is similar to when you look back into your family medical history, just more in depth). “Get Tested…Hemoglobin or hematocrit,…Rh factor,…Rubella titer,…Varicella titer,…Tuberculosis…Hepatitis B…Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies,…Toxoplasmosis titer,…Thyroid function…Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)…Get treated…Update your immunizations.”(Another controversial suggestion…I haven’t decided what I think.)

Get chronic illnesses under control…Get ready to toss your birth control…Improve your diet…Take a prenatal vitamin. Even if you’re eating plenty of foods high in folic acid, it’s still recommended that you take a pregnancy supplement containing 400 mcg of the vitamin, preferably beginning two months before you try to conceive…Research indicates that women who take a daily multivitamin containing at least 10 mg of vitamin B6 before becoming pregnant or during the first weeks of pregnancy experience fewer episodes of vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. The supplement should also contain 15 mg of zinc, which may improve fertility…Get your weight in check. Being over-weight or very underweight not only reduces the chances of conception, but, if you do conceive, weight problems can increase the risk of pregnancy complications…Shape up [work out]…Check your medicine cabinet. Some…medications are considered unsafe for use during pregnancy…Cut back on caffeine…Cut down on alcohol…Quit smoking…Just say no to illegal drugs…Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation…Avoid environmental hazards…Get fiscally fit…Work out those work issues. Find out everything you can about your work rights when pregnant…Start keeping track. Become familiar with your monthly cycle and learn the signs of ovulation…Give it time. Keep in mind that it takes an average of six months for a normal, healthy 25-year-old woman to conceive, and longer for women who are older…Relax…getting uptight about conception could prevent you from conceiving [also good advice because studies show that anxiety transmits to the baby through the umbilical cord, which is of course unhealthy; so you don’t want to be stressed while trying to conceive on the off chance that you do conceive and start spreading that anxiety hormone].

Chapter 2 was devoted to knowing if you were pregnant or not. I was most interested in the part about chemical pregnancies. I’d never heard of them before now. They are a type of miscarriage. What happens is the egg is fertilized but doesn’t fully implant in the uterus, causing the woman to miscarry. But the the thing is that these pregnancies were unheard of before the early accuracy home pregnancy tests. Because the pregnancy ends just as it starts there are not symptoms (outside of the added hormones in the bloodstream and urine), so women throughout history have had them and never known!

The book says that you can call your doctor as soon as you know you are pregnant, but it depends on the practice as to whether or not you get an appointment immediately. It said that it isn’t uncommon for a doctor not see an expectant mother until she is roughly 6 to 8 weeks along.

Then they gave a list of birthing options, i.e. all of the different professionals who can deliver your baby, and where and how they can deliver them. They talked about the different kinds of doctors, nurses, and midwifes, as well as birthing rooms, birthing centers, and home births. They also discussed Leboyer births which is a “theory of childbirth without violence”. Apparently parts his, Frederick Leboyer, theory are now fairly common practice; I’m very intrigued and want to learn more about it.

 

Saturday, January 21, 2017; 358 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 14 pages read.

Reflection: Do you know how beer steins were invented? Evidently, way back when, bugs and gross things would fall into your beer as you were drinking it; so the German government made a health law stating that all mugs had to have lids. This was so that unhealthy things couldn’t get in. Too bad the Victorians didn’t grab hold of this idea, we could have had tea cups with lids…though maybe then it’s just a misappropriated sugar bowl…hmmm….

One of my favorite items from the reading today is the Tantalus. A tantalus is an elegant liquor bottle holder. But that’s not even the best part. THEY LOCK! And not only in a common way, “…many have their own unique ways of opening. Some have pullout or push-in pieces of wood or metal fittings that release…” Isn’t that great? I want one. Below are a few examples:

So we’ve all seen those little condiment caddies at restaurants, and some of people even have them at home. Those are actually called Caster Sets, and the antique ones are really lovely. I think we’ve found another item for the must-have list.

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel –

                Report: 17 pages. I’m just not really into this book!

Reflection: This week the book talked a lot about pregnancy health and comfort. How normal and/or pleasant your pregnancy is, is largely dictated by factors that are outside of your control (i.e. genetic predisposition, etc.). However, that doesn’t mean that all of them (the factors) are. The following is a list of the factors that are in your control: “General Health. Being in good all-around physical condition gives you a better shot at having a comfortable pregnancy. Weight Gain. Gaining weight at a steady rate and keeping the gain within the recommended guidelines…Diet…eating well improves every pregnant woman’s chances of having a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy. Fitness. Getting enough and the right kind of exercise can help improve your general well-being. Lifestyle pace. Leading a harried and frenetic life…can aggravate or even trigger…morning sickness…fatigue, headache, backache, and indigestion. Other children. Some pregnant women with other children at home find that keeping up with their offspring keeps them so busy that they barely have time to notice pregnancy discomforts, major or minor…”

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon

Report: 25 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: “A well-known father confessor [a priest who hears confession] in Russia was asked how he had performed the Divine Liturgy [an Orthodox service during which Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, is received] during his long years of imprisonment. The elder answered:

‘Many priests knew the text of the Liturgy by heart. We could find bread even if it wasn’t wheat bread, usually without difficulty. We had no choice but to replace the wine with the cranberry juice. Instead of the altar with the relics of the martyr [a saint who died for the faith] on which Church rules require us to serve the Liturgy, we would get the fellow convict-priest among us who had the broadest shoulders to help us. He would strip to his waist, lie down, and then we would say the Divine Liturgy upon his chest. Everyone in the concentration camps of the Gulag was a martyr liable at any moment to die for Christ.’

‘Tell us, Father, how did you make the water holy during the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord? After all, the prayers during this service for the sanctification of the water are read only once a year, and they are very long indeed.’

‘But we had no need to remember all those prayers by heart. For if in just one place in the Universe, the rite of the sanctification of the waters is performed in an Orthodox Church, then through the aid of the Holy Church ‘the nature of all the waters’ – all the water in the world is thereby made baptismal and holy. In that day we would take water from any source, and it was incorruptible, blessed, Theophany [it is what we call the day of the Baptism of Christ] water. And like all Theophany water, it would keep and not go bad for many years.

Specialists in anti-religious propaganda recently asserted that the reason why Theophany holy water does not go bad is that the priests secretly place bits of silver, either in strips or coins, or crosses. Ecclesiastical wits have responded to this by a riddle:

How many ions of silver are there in one liter of Theophany water if its sanctification took place in a hole dug through the ice in the middle of the Volga River at a place where the width of the river is one kilometer, its depth is seven meters, and its flow rate is five kilometers per hour, and if the cross dipped by the village priest into the water, due to penury of the church in which he serves, is made of wood?’”

God is good.

 

Monday, January 23, 2017; 357 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

                Reflection: I have thought for a while now that I would like to own an antique rug. My husband and I had discussed it and we both thought that having an antique rug in the master bedroom would be really fun and wonderful….this chapter changed those ideas.

So, for starters, judging whether a rug is antique or not for someone just starting out, like me, is not a simple thing; and, at the moment, all I want is simple. I don’t want to buy a lovely antique, only to discover it isn’t one.

Then there is the maintenance. It’s insane! Here is what the book says about keeping up your antique rug: “The sooner you take care of any problems or repairs your rug needs, the better. Don’t underestimate the power of the fringe element: When you see uneven fringe on your rug, have it repaired; otherwise, it can continue to unravel.

Limit the rug’s exposure to bright sunlight or room spotlights. Even older rugs with natural dyes will fade with too much light.

Rotate the rug so that it wears evenly.

Keep the rug clean. Every six months, or depending on use, turn the rug backside up, slowly vacuum it, then turn the rug pile up and vacuum it again. Keep the vacuum cleaner away from the fringe. The rug doesn’t need too much suction, so use the vacuum sparingly. Use only the brush attachment and vacuum with the pile. Use a hand sweeper between times. If you do this, you may not need to wash the rug as often.

Take your rug to a qualified Oriental rug cleaner. It’s important to get the deepest part of the rug clean If they wash the rug without first vacuuming it and getting the dirt out of the base of the rug, the remaining sand and dirt act like a saw, and over time cause a weakening of the foundation

Before storing your rug, have it cleaned and mothproofed.

Do not store your rug in an uncarpeted basement or on concrete. Concrete can create moisture and rot the bottom part of the rug.

Never put the rug in plastic; the moisture will cause damage. If you store your rug, open it up once or twice a year.

Don’t fold your rug: the fibers can break. Roll up the rug.”

See? Isn’t that insane? It’s expensive and a ton of work! Instead of remaining a lovely piece of furniture, a rug, as it ages, becomes more like a pet or plant, needing lots of tlc and attention! And if you don’t do these things you’ve thrown away your money, because it’s depreciating with each tiny light particle shown on it by the sun!

I want an antique I can buy and not worry about. Like a silver vase. Other than polishing it every once in a while, it requires NOTHING; and it’s lovely, solid, and NOT DEPRECIATING IN VALUE JUST SITTING THERE.

Now that I’ve gotten that indignant rant out of my system, let’s move on.

Do you know the evolution of the couch? Well  here it is!

Originally the term “couch” referred to one of these: greek-couch

They were used for reclining during the day, and were very popular in ancient Greece.

However…I don’t gather that this attributed too much to the evolution of the modern couch.

For that we look back to the “settle”:  settle

As you can see the settle was very stiff, with no cushions.

Next came the “settee” in the 18th century: settee

“…the settee usually seats two to three. The chair backs are individualized, and any upholstery was usually just on the seat.”

Then the French came up with the “canape” which is a synonym to the word “sofa”, which is also French but with Arabic origins: canape

Now the book didn’t specify whether all of these had all-over upholstery or not, but all of the pictures I found, they did. So I’m guessing that the canape was known for having all over upholstery, a cushioned back as well as seat, and was characterized by its excess of legs, they often had more than 4 legs. As you can see, the above has 7 or 8 (I don’t know if there is another center one hiding back there).

There was also the “confidante”. “A large French sofa with a triangular seat extending from the arms (so that admirers could sit comfortably near you or friends could sit close to gossip)”. Leave it to the French to design a piece of furniture around gossip (no pun intended). confidante

Then there was the “divan”: divan

Which is really just a Greek “couch” with cushioned backs.

In the late 18th century the word “couch” took on a new definition, “…a daybed. With a back at one end and a ‘mattress’ and pillows,..” Don’t ask me how that’s different from the divans above. I couldn’t even find a picture that sounded like what they were describing and didn’t look like either a divan, Greek couch, or daybed with 2 backs.

Finally we have the emergence of the sofa, as we know it today, “Fully upholstered furniture seating three or more,..”, and the modern “love seat”, which, as we all know, seats 2.

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 28 pages. As you can probably tell, this is my favorite book to read.

Reading Challenge; Jan. 21, 2017

Reading Challenge:

 

Thursday, January 19, 2017; Roughly 360 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 42 pages read.

Reflection: I find many people, Orthodox or not, have a misconception about monastics and the lives they lead. Often they think that monastics lead unhappy, dreary lives. Since their existence looks so different from the rest of the world’s, and they do give up so much, I find it hard to explain to people that the aforementioned belief is inaccurate. That’s why I was so excited to come across this interchange in the book, “Once a group of tourists-faithful Soviet believers of Communism-stopped Father Alipius by the threshold of one of the churches. In indignant tones they demanded that he tell them the whole truth about the exploitation by high-level clerics of the simple monks and novices, about their physical humiliations, and in general tell them everything about all the horrors of monastic life about which they had already read plenty of newspaper articles. In response to their question, Father Alipius only answered mildly; ‘Can you hear?’

‘Can we hear what?’

‘Can you hear anything at all?’

‘Yeah. A bunch of monks singing…’

‘Exactly! Now do you really think that, if they were actually so miserable in their lives, they would sing with such obvious joy?’”

It’s funny, people, myself included, after a long day of hard physical labor, eating sparingly/healthily, engage in deep self-reflection, and/or intense acts of charity, etc., will often make remarks about how happy they feel. How much better their outlook on life is. How light their heart has become. How the depression, the anxiety, and the inundation of thoughts have ceased; yet, when they see people, i.e. monastics, living that way every day, they feel pity for them, or wonder about their mental state.

But if any person can feel better through these works, how much more so if you have intentionally done them in God’s name? Will it not change you all the more? Will it not lift and elevate all the more?

The truth is that the acts themselves can make us feel momentarily better, but it is when we connect these actions to God, that we see real change in ourselves. A true elevation.

If a person came to their friend and told them that they wanted to try one or more of these actions because they have heard that it promotes mental/physical health and boosts the spirit, the friend would encourage them to, by all means, do it! But when a person comes to their friend and says they want to be a monastic…the response is utterly different. Why?

I think it’s because God changes people. And if that person becomes changed, then we, as their friend, have that much more exposure to God, and we don’t want that. We don’t want to know what we don’t know. And we are afraid. We can’t imagine that our hearts could experience any more happiness than the most happiness we’ve seen on this Earth. And that is the lie that we tell ourselves.

But they can, and Godly people prove that. The Bible says that faith without works is dead; that’s because the works themselves open us up to God (because the works themselves are imbued with love, and God is Love. When we show others love, unearthly sacrificial love, and we have love shown to us, we experience God), and when we then choose to continue those works in His name, that is what changes us entirely; because we let God in. So we see that we can believe all of the right and true things, but if we don’t do the works, then, at the very least, we have cut a part of ourselves off from God, if not all of ourselves.

Earthly happiness is not inherently evil or wrong, but it is not the happiest we can be. The happiest we can be is when we are wholly filled with unearthly love. And monastics are simply people, like you and I, who have chosen to dedicate their entire lives, purely, to that unearthly love, that ethereal happiness.

Doesn’t sound so crazy or depressing now, does it?

I’m so happy that I’m reading this book. It is such an inspiration, full of wisdom. I often have a hard time accepting the advice of other people because I worry that it’s tainted by their pain. I see in my own life, as well as in others, decisions made that were “logical”, but only because the decider insisted upon “sanctioning” their pain and forcing their world view to accommodate it. I don’t feel that when reading this book. And I’m hoping that I will one day be able to view God and His will for us from such an emotionally healthy stand point.

The following is a quote from the book (Father Alipius is speaking about his path to monasticism), I feel the second part illustrates the truth of what a human being actually is beautifully: “…Imagine the German tanks charging our front lines, their machine guns firing, cannon shells blazing, just cutting us down, sweeping away almost everyone in their path, and suddenly in the midst of this utter hell I saw how our battlefield commissar tore off his helmet, even as the bullets were flying around him, and fell to his knees, and began to pray…yes, indeed, somehow this ‘Communist’ was able to mutter the half-forgotten words of the prayers he used to know as a child, begging the Almighty to spare us. And He did. That’s when I realized: God lives inside of all of us, and one day He will make His appearance to us, some way or other…”

Whether we choose to believe the Truth or not, it doesn’t change. The Truth doesn’t need us, we need the Truth. And no matter what wicked choices we make, no matter how often or violently we turn our backs on God, we can’t escape the fact that He is a part of us; that’s what was meant in Genesis when it said He breathed life into us. There is no person on this earth who is without God. They may distance themselves, and cast themselves into turmoil, but they can’t escape that they have an immortal soul.

And if we could just fill ourselves with enough unearthly love, we could see each other the way that God sees us, and we would see at least a tiny piece of Him in everyone.

“’Love,’ said the Great Abbot, ‘is the very highest form of prayer. If prayer is the queen of the virtues, then Christian love is God, for God is love. If you just look at the world only through the prism of love, all your problems will disappear, and within yourself you will see the kingdom of Heaven, within the human being you will find the Icon, and within the earthly beauty you will see the shade of Paradise. You may object to me that it is impossible to love your enemies. But remember what Jesus Christ told us: ‘Whatever you have done unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me…’ Inscribe these words in golden letter upon the tablets of your heart, and inscribe them and hang them together with an icon, and read them to yourself every day.’”

He isn’t preaching the prosperity Gospel. He’s not saying that if you are a Christian your life will be a success from the World’s viewpoint. What I believe he means, is that the more unearthly love that you are filled with, the more changed you are by God, the more you will see your problems as what they really are, meaningless. Our problems on this Earth are insignificant. We should strive to be so full of love that we could go even through torture, and still stay focused on God.

That’s what joy is. Joy is seeing every trial on this earth as passing. Every slight, every inconvenience, they are fleeting. And once we see this world through God’s eyes, suddenly earthly success or failure is irrelevant. What matters is that we are filled to the brim with God, and that we are reflecting that back on everyone we know.

God is love, which means God is relational. Which means that if you die having lived a “boring” or “sad” life, penniless and uneducated, but you showed true, Godly love to everyone, then you have lived a successful life.

“How easy it is to live with You, O Lord!

How easy it is to believe in You.

When my spirit sinks

or scatters in confusion,

and the very smartest people

cannot see further than this evening,

and do not know what to do tomorrow,

You send down clear certainty to me that You exist and that You care,

and will ensure that not all the paths of goodness will be blocked.

On the peak of earthly glory

I look back in surprise on the path I have taken

which I would never have been able to invent for myself,

an incredible path

through hopelessness

from which I was yet able

to send humanity a reflection of Your rays of light.

And for as long as it is necessary that I keep reflecting them,

You will let me do so.

And what I do not finish–well then,

You have assigned others the task.”

I think it is of the utmost importance that human beings remember that they have God-given freewill; but that doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we like with our lives without consequence. It means that we are not forced into a relationship with God, but rather have the opportunity to choose it. As human beings we feel the need to have relationships with each other where both parties involved are willing participants. That’s what God wants for us. He didn’t have to make us with free-will, but He did, I think because He didn’t want to force us into a relationship with Him. He wants to know He’s chosen.

I want to end this entry with another quote from the book. It answers the question of what this Earthly life is for.

“The ancient evil that always dwells within us will always haunt us, and will never quit trying to steal in upon us in order to accomplish the Devil’s main goal – to steal our soul. Only ceaseless courageous battle with evil, solely for the remarkable goal that is incomprehensible to many – the purity of our soul – will justify us before God. But if Christ does not see this struggle within us, He turns away from us, from that priest, monk, or layperson who has turned from Him, leaving him alone with what he has chosen for himself. And that choice is the same as it always was – insatiable pride and desire for the pleasures of this world. As time passes, sooner or later these passions will subvert or even pervert someone who has forgotten about God. Then these passions reveal their true horrible dangers.

Then the Sea of Galilee will rise up, and from its abyss the enraged swine who were drowned long ago will race ashore and hurl themselves on the unfortunate who thought there could be any compromise between them and God. When the evil spirit leaves the man, it wanders through the arid places, seeking rest but not finding it. And then it says: ‘I will come home to the place from which I left.’ And if it comes back and fins the place empty, swept out and neat, ready for visitors. Then it will go and get seven other demons, even more evil than it is, and when they come there, the evil will be worse than before.”

I know it can feel like that isn’t a choice at all…I feel that way quite often. But the truth is that our lives are filled with options, most of them unpleasant, and so we don’t choose them; but that doesn’t change what they are, options.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: 22 pages in the hour.

Reflection: In antiquing there are no absolutes. What I mean by that, in this case, is, not only is an item’s value subjective, but how that value is even determined is as well. For example, one item of a particular type might be considered valuable because it is in pristine condition, but another item of a different type is valuable for the opposite reason.

In the book I come across this when they are talking about an antique and they say that the factory rejects are worth more than even those in pristine condition, purely because they are rare. But, as we know, just because an item is rare, doesn’t universally make it valuable.

During my reading this week I learned about 19th century, decorative plates. It seems that during this time, scenes of “Americana” were very desirable. So pottery companies began putting them on their products. So in demand were these plates, that even British pottery companies began making them.

The funny thing is that these potters, not being experts on “Americana”, “…frequently made mistakes in depicting American heritage. Historical figures are sometimes misidentified…” And wouldn’t you know it? Those “misidentified” pieces are the most desirable today.

So what’s the distinction? Where is that line between valuable and devaluing mistake? I think the pattern that I’m seeing during my reading, is that mistakes that were made by the original manufacturer are often desirable, and those made elsewhere are undesirable. That may sound like a really obvious distinction, but when you consider that not every factory reject is valuable, you can begin understand my confusion.

The following are some tips on “Spotting a pot: How to look at Art Pottery

Shape. Know the types of shapes your manufacturer created.

Glaze. Glaze is a melted mineral mixture that can produce a glass-like substance or can be opaque or textured. If the glaze doesn’t melt, the piece can feel sandy or rough to the touch. You might see places where oil or grease on the pot caused the glaze to miss a spot. Many companies marked these glazed goofs as seconds.

Mold. When you assess a piece of production-line pottery,, remember that they made hundreds of pots from one mold. There is a marked difference between the first pot and the hundredth pot from the mold. Sometimes on the later pots from the mold, the detail is soft around the edges. Crisp detail is more desirable.

Authenticity. At some Art Pottery shows, you see a display of fakes versus the real thing. Study the real and the fake. With Art Pottery, the differences are sometimes subtle. A mark or signature is no guarantee of authenticity because these too can be copied.

Condition. Look for signs of repair. Watch for hairline cracks. If the dealer says he has found no signs of repair, ask for a written guarantee stating he is selling the piece as perfect. If he says, ‘There is not guarantee,’ use your best judgment. Flaking or chipping also reduces the value.”

Until I started reading this book I never had even an inkling that there was more to antiques than their own value. I always thought that antiques were valuable because they had better craftsmanship and were no longer being made the same way today as they were originally, if they are being reproduced at all. But that isn’t the case. There are antiques that have value because of the part of history they preserve. And by that I’m talking about more than just the appearance of the object (i.e. I don’t just mean that a given piece shows what people found aesthetically pleasing at the time; nor what bygone necessities it met); indeed, I’m even talking about more than who originally owned the antique.

There are antiques that preserve a special memory; a very human and touching piece of the past that connects us all. The following are two separate passages from the book that discuss some of the items I’m talking about, and they will illustrate what I mean.

“From about 1885 to 1925, ladies circles painted porcelain planks from many factories. Similar to those shops today where you choose a ceramic piece to decorate, ladies circles were often art classes where women learned the art of painting on ceramics. You can still find these plates, boxes, vases, and other pieces. Some of them look quite amateurish; some are very well-done. Some of the ladies signed their pieces; others will probably remain forever anonymous. The subject matter usually hovers around roses, violets, and poppies – the less complex flowers. Look for signs of these women’s work at shows, auctions, and of course, in your own family’s attic or basement. And note, china painting enjoyed a resurgence in the mid-20th century.”

“You’ve seen the scene in the movies: patients in various types of recovery programs sitting around doing arts and crafts. Marblehead Pottery was born at one of those therapeutic institutions. Patients were to decorate pottery as part of their rehabilitation and healing. Although this was the initial inspiration, early on, the potter Arthur Baggs took over the studio and turned it into a professional plant.

Marblehead focused on making simple shapes, such as vases and jardinieres with gray, brown, blue, green, pink, and yellow glazes. Marblehead products are hand thrown except for tiles and some pitchers, which were molded. Incised geometric, floral, or marine motifs decorate about five percent of Marblehead’s ware. A deep blue is the most common color, and prices go up for unusual colors. You can find small and simple Marblehead pieces in the low hundreds of dollars.”

How cool is it to think that you could own something that not only has intrinsic value because of its age, quality, and aesthetic, but also because of its meaning to the maker? Each piece made in a Ladies Circle meant something special to the woman making it. It meant a chance to not only stretch her artistic muscles, but to also have encouragement/inspiration from and comradery with other women of like minds. Similarly, each of the very first pieces to be later labeled Marblehead, represent a very special piece of their creators, and a precious snapshot of a formative time in their life. It was a conduit and a symbol of the patient’s healing, a picture of a mind or body on the mend. How wonderful to be able to hold dear something that someone generations before held precious as well.

Ever wondered how to be discerning when looking at old silver? I want to end this entry with a few pointers from the book: “Has it been repaired? Look at handles to make sure that they are not damaged or broken. Look at places that can easily break off, such as finials (a finial is the ornamental knob on top of a lid). Look at the feet. Sometimes people plunk down a piece too hard and that presses the feet in.

Is it dented or pitted? With sterling, a silversmith can usually polish out and repair dents and pits. Silver plate is harder to repair, and sometimes requires resilvering. Resilvering can be costly. Avoid silver plate with deep cuts. Watch out for plated pieces with pits, which are small holes that look like black dots and feel rough to the touch. The cost of replating can be greater than the value of the piece. If silver is black, or the tarnish is very deep, sometimes discoloration has ‘eaten into’ the silver Avoid these pieces unless an expert says you can totally remove the tarnish.

Is it genuine? Fakers can transfer an important hallmark from a broken silver piece and put it on a less valuable piece that’s in good condition. Or they replace a mark on a great piece whose mark is degraded. Fakers can cut a hallmarked bottom out of one object and apply it to another piece, to make that piece more valuable. On pairs, such as candlesticks, make sure that both marks are the same.

Breathe hard on the hallmarks if you’re having doubts that they are original to the piece. If someone has added hallmarks to make the piece seem more valuable, you should see the hallmarks’ outline.

Is it monogrammed? If so, are the initials the same as yours? If not, do you like them? Many collectors prefer their silver in its original condition and keep the monogram. Depending on the depth and location of the monogram, its removal can really downgrade the piece because the silversmith has to buff away some of the silver. If you want to remove the monogram and don’t know whether that will cause problems, ask if you can take the piece on approval to a silversmith to analyze it.

Does the type of decoration make sense with the purported age of the piece? You can often place the piece in a general time period by analyzing the types of decoration. Sometimes a plain piece of silver is decorated at a much later date.”

 

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

Report: 30 pages in the hour.

Reflection:  While I was reading Piaget’s research and theories about Causality and Chance, I was struck by the genius of his methods. The following is the excerpt that struck me so:

“After three or thereabouts, the child begins asking himself and those around him questions, of which the most frequently noticed are the ‘why’ questions. By studying what the child asks ‘why’ about one can begin to see what kind of answers or solutions the child expects to receive. It is obviously necessary to use the same or similar questions to interrogate other children.”

The part that fascinated me so, was the last sentence. I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to ask my children questions in the same fashion/verbal structure as they do. It makes perfect sense, as the child will then both understand your meaning more clearly, as well feel better understood by their parents, and thus more secure.

Then, too, I wouldn’t have thought to reflect the question back to my child. But to do so would be so helpful in parenting. Not only would it help you answer (because you will have ascertained exactly what answer is required and what depth of answer), but the child’s answer would tell you what level of understanding they already have about a given or related subject, what level of logic or reason they have reached, as well as explain other things they have said/done or will say/do that you otherwise may have been completely baffled by and respond(ed) poorly to.

I know that as a parent it is always important to ask your child why they did or said something the way they did before deciding upon your response, but I hadn’t thought of asking questions in this fashion or area of communication.

Once again good parenting comes down to humility. The humility to not assume anything bad about your child, but to ask questions; which, once answered, shows you their true motives and thus, their heart.

 

Friday, January 20, 2017; Roughly 359 Hours to go per Subject this Year

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 33 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: The Tale of the prayer and the Little Fox: In Egypt, in whose ancient Christian past there had once been many grand monasteries, there once lived a monk who befriended an uneducated and simple peasant farmer. One day this peasant said to the monk, ‘I too respect God who created this world! Every evening I pour out a bowl of goat’s milk and leave it out under a palm tree. In the evening God comes and drinks up my milk! He’s very fond of it! There’s never once been a time when even a drop of milk is left in the bowl.’

Hearing these words, the monk could not help smiling. He kindly and logically explained to his friend that God doesn’t need a bowl of goat’s milk. But the peasant so stubbornly insisted that he was right that the monk then suggested that the next night they secretly watch to see what happened after the bowl of milk was left under the palm tree.

No sooner said than done. When night fell, the monk and the peasant hid themselves some distance from the tree, and soon in the moonlight they saw how a little fox crept up to the bowl and lapped up all the milk till the bowl was empty.

‘Indeed!’ the peasant sighed disappointedly. ‘Now I can see that it wasn’t God!’

The monk tried to comfort the peasant and explained that God is a spirit, that God is something completely beyond our poor ability to comprehend in our world, and that people comprehend His presence each in their own unique way. But the peasant merely stood hanging his head sadly. Then he wept and went back home to his hovel.

The monk also went back to his cell, but when he got there he was amazed to see an angel blocking his path. Utterly terrified, the monk fell to his knew, but the angel said to him:

‘That simple fellow had neither education nor wisdom nor book-learning enough to be able to comprehend God otherwise. Then you with your wisdom and book learning took away what little he had! You will say that doubtless you reasoned correctly. But there’s one thing that you don’t know, oh learned man: God, seeing the sincerity and true heart of this good peasant, every night sent the little fox to that palm tree to comfort him and accept his sacrifice.’”

This story moves me to tears. How arrogant are we? We the educated, we of “normal” IQ. We have such arrogance. Such sin. God is for everyone, and He wishes to meet everyone on a level that they understand.

Yet we deem ourselves better. Better than the children, whose minds have not fully formed, Better than those with lesser IQs, or those who are disabled. We actually think that one who is “well-informed” and/or of “normal” or “unusually high” intelligence is best equipped to understand God and this earthly life. How foolish.

Does God create imperfect things? Certainly not. For that would imply that He makes mistakes, and we know He does not. So if He does not make mistakes…then those whose brains are not fully developed, or whose IQs are not “normal”…they are not imperfect in their natural state.

It is pride that keeps us from truly believing this, is it not? We want to believe that there is an earthly standard of perfection. But there isn’t. We forget that this is a fallen world, which means that we ourselves are not perfect.

Indeed, I find that the more educated a person, the more “intelligent”, myself included, commit greater sins. For is it not easier to believe in and experience God when you accept Him on His terms, and not on your own worldly ideas? But the more ideas you have, the more you want Him to fit into them. You want all of your earthly ideas to translate to God, and they don’t. They never will. God is meant to be a mystery, and knowledge, for all of its benefits, unchecked, begets arrogance. Because if you know how everything works then somehow you think that you know how things SHOULD work.

Children and those whose minds are simpler accept God on His terms. They make no grand attempts to understand; neither do they sin the way the rest of us do. Their hearts are purer, and thus, closer to God. And we know that God reveals Himself to those close to Him.

So why when a child or a person of lesser intelligence comes to us with stories of God’s work in their lives do we dismiss it? How often when we hear these stories do we smile tolerantly and nod, hoping to disguise what we are actually thinking? Is it because we think that if we ourselves, who are normal, have not experienced such things, then certainly they have not? It is wicked for us not to believe them whole heartedly. For not only is it arrogance that makes us think that God should certainly have manifest Himself to us if He has manifest Himself to them, but also for us to think that He hasn’t!

God is the only way part of this planet is still living today. Which means that every moment of every day He is manifesting Himself; and if another person has experienced Him more than we, then perhaps it is because they didn’t explain away every manifestation in earthly terms. God wants to see us believe, and He knows just exactly how much of Himself to give us, so as not to damage our salvation with either too much exposure, or too little.

So perhaps if we weren’t so busy pointing out all of the earthly reasons that something is happening, like explaining that a wild animal could be drinking the milk, we might remember that, not only couldn’t that little animal be alive at this moment to do such a thing without God, but without it being God’s will, it wouldn’t.

Why would God reveal Himself to us further, if we won’t even accept the first attempt? He will not give us solid food until we can stomach it.

I think the person who has seen much of God, explains away little.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse

Report: 23 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: I think my favorite part of the reading section was what I’ve read so far of the Basic Decorating: Bringing the Past into Your Present chapter. It covered:

“Discovering what you like

Choosing your design style

Marrying old and new

Cross-training your antiques”

and,

“Understanding how designers work”

There was tons of much needed advice that was greatly appreciated. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m finding it difficult to settle on what to collect. I knew I wanted to buy antiques that I could live with, functionally, in my home (i.e. vases I could use, dining chairs, desks, beds, etc.) But I know that I don’t want every item in my house to be an antique (my current goal is to have one antique in a room). So where does one start? Here are some tips: “The first rule of decorating with antiques is to buy what you like. You need to create a mixture that makes you feel comfortable and at home.

Shelter for the Spirit by Victoria Moran (published by HarperCollins) is a great way to get in touch with your inner decorating self. Antiques at Home, by Barara Milo Ohrbach (published by Clarkson Potter), is a rich and fascinating guide to creating your own marvelous milieu.

The first part of incorporating antiques into your home is figuring out what look and feel you like. Here are some quick ways to find out:

Notice how you feel when you walk into a room filled with old things. Do you prefer being surrounded by history, or do you like just a splash of the past? What kinds of antiques make you feel comfortable and at home?

Look through some home decorating magazines and mark or tear out the rooms you like. Keep a folder with pictures you like. Or keep them in a photo album (the sticky kind). Collecting these pictures lets you spot common themes in your like and dislikes, and helps you hone your own style.

Focus on colors you like. If you despise green and look terrible in it, chances are you won’t be happy in that green upholstered Victorian love seat you’re thinking about. Of course, if you must have it, just add in the price of re-upholstering.

Size up the situation. If your rooms are small, you might gravitate toward smaller scale pieces. However, a piece that’s grand in size, color, or scale can always make a statement.

Think about your living style. Do you want comfort? Do you want elegance? Do you want antiques that are safe around curious children and frisky pets?

Designing between the lines

There’s an art to ‘designing between the lines.’ Horizontal lines are restful and inviting. Vertical lines give a feeling of majesty or dignity (such as a tall case or grandfather clock). Curved lines give you a feeling of growth and gracefulness. If a piece has been crudely painted, but it has great lines, it may still be a worthy piece of décor and a good buy even after you factor in the costs of stripping and refinishing.

You can take away the home-like feeling when you let one antique overpower a room. You want to design the setting so people notice and appreciate your things, but you don’t want the antiques to overwhelm or distract people.

Your design attitude: The tuxedo or the khaki

Symmetry gives you a formal look, and asymmetry makes things more casual. The way you place things affects the feel of your room.

Suppose that you want to display an antique clock and a couple of candlesticks. For a formal look, use symmetrical balance: the clock in the middle and a candlestick on each side. For a more casual look, create an uneven balance. Push the clock to the left and put both candlesticks on the right. Raise one of them a few inches with a block of marble or wood to carry the casualness one step further.

Pay attention to ornamentation. For example, if you have an ornate Victorian sideboard, heavy with intricate carvings, your other dining room pieces may be carved, but less ornately. Combining pieces this way gives you similar ornamentation, but still lets you play off and high-light the sideboard.

Use antiques to set the tone for the room or to dress up the room. An English antique chest and a well-placed piece of Meissen or Dresden porcelain can dress up a comfortable living room.

Think about the purpose of the room. For rooms where you want calm and relaxation, choose neutral colors and furniture with simple, clean lines. For lively rooms, choose brighter and diverse colors and objects that invite conversation.”

Very helpful, no?

The following chapter was about various kitchen and dining room antiquities. Among those discussed was the butcher block. The authors remarked that butcher blocks were made the thick and sturdy way that they are because they needed to withstand repeated punishment from the cleaver. They then said that that is where the phrase “Leave it to cleaver” comes from.

Now, I have never heard that phrase, but it put to mind the phrase, and title of the oh-so wonderful television show, “Leave it to Beaver”. Not only do these phrases bear a remarkable enough resemblance for one to call the other to mind, but their connection to each other only grows when we remember Beaver’s last name. Cleaver. Coincidence? I think not.

After this very fun realization I moved on to reading about The Windsor Chair. Apparently this is a chair that has seen not only indoors, as well as the out, but also virtually every the home of members from every level of society. It is very versatile, not only because of its structure, but also because of its varied aesthetic designs. Here are some that I find pleasing:

Do you know why pie safes were invented? I just found out! I knew that it was for storing pies, and if I asked I probably would have said that they were used for cooling them as well…but I didn’t know why. Why couldn’t it just sit on the sill? What happened to make that a bad idea? Well…the answer is rather obvious, but I never thought of it: “…long before screens and storm windows, pies could on window ledges where cats and birds and bugs could take a bite.” It’s so obvious it makes me laugh. Living in this modern world, we forget all of the little inconveniences that our ancestors suffered.

Another example is from the Victorian Era. It was a time when tea time was heavily observed, and when there was a unique utensil for EVERYTHING. So, did you know that they had a special tea time spoon for scooping bugs and leaves and things out that may have fallen into their tea cups? I didn’t, and it blows my mind that I never for a second (in this age of bug deterring candles and screened in porches) even thought about the impact that bugs and natural debris would have on afternoon tea in the garden.

Among their acutely use oriented objects, the Victorians had Chocolate Sets. They are like tea sets but for hot chocolate. I find that terribly refined and romantic. I’d love to have one someday.

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)

 

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.

 

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/