Reading Challenge

Saturday, February 11, 2017

               

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 21 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: Archimandrite Tikhon related an account in which he and Father Raphael were in a car accident. Very late one snowy evening they were racing homeward from visiting a friend when their car swerved off the road and into a deep wall of snow. After they managed to clamber out of the car, the following conversation was had: “’Father!’ I [Archimandrite Tikhon, he was not an Archimandrite at the time.] exclaimed, shivering throughout from fear as well as from the bitter cold. ‘How could it be? We will die like this! Maybe we ought to pray somehow? But what should we ask for? Lord, help us drag our car from the snow? Somehow it doesn’t sound right!’

Father Raphael suddenly looked at me so severely that for a second I forgot about the cold. ‘Shame on you, Georgiy Alexandrovich!’ he said indignantly (Father Raphael always called me by my secular first name and patronymic, my name before ordination). ‘How can you possibly doubt that the Lord will not aid us in such a moment? Pray for help at once!’”

How often is it that I fail to pray to God for something because I am embarrassed, or I believe it to be petty/trivial, or I think it doesn’t sound right? Is this not a lack of faith? An absence of understanding about the depth to which God loves each and every soul?

I believe it is also a product of dysfunctional upbringing. I am afraid of Him saying no, because I fear that means I have angered Him or made Him not love me anymore. As a child I feared upsetting my parents, whether it be angering or saddening them, because I was taught by their words and actions that their disapproval meant they didn’t love me anymore, and that I was somehow responsible for that.

That isn’t who God is. We may ask anything of Him! The important thing is that we are always open and desiring His will, even if it is in opposition to what we ask. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking Him for what you want or making plans, as long as you remain open to them changing to His desires and plans for you.

As a child I learned not to trust, not to talk, and not to feel. That isn’t what God wants for any of us. He wants us to trust Him, to talk to Him, and to feel our emotions. No matter how much I have been hurt and learned not to trust, I know in my head that He is not the one who hurt me, nor did He desire me to be wounded the way that I was. Humanity can TRUST Him. He truly only wants our benefit. Now I just need to get my heart to truly feel that.

 

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: This is the final post about this book, as, sadly, I have finished it. I am looking forward to starting Wounded by Love very soon.

Reflection: On the final page of this magnificent book there is a paragraph that I would like to share; it is a wakeup call, I feel, to just how much God is involved in our lives:

“One ascetic monk once told me that every Orthodox Christian could relate his own Gospels, his own Glad Tidings about coming to know God. Of course, no one would compare such testimony to the books of the Apostles, who saw the Son of God alive on Earth with their own eyes. Yet still, though we are frail and feeble sinners, we remain His disciples, and there is truly nothing more beautiful in this world than the contemplation of the remarkable unfolding of the Providence of our Savior in His divine will for the salvation of the world.”

We could not last millionth of a second without God. The entirety of creation would collapse and be no more if He took His hand from us for even a blink of the eye.

No one on Earth has not experienced God. It is an impossibility, for if they had never encountered Him, they would never have been. When I look at my life I see many extraordinary things, many miracles and graces. Yet in ordinary moments I somehow feel alone.

This is not because God is not with me, for, as I said above, if He weren’t then I would be no more. But rather because I want to believe I’m alone. I feel horribly embarrassed and awkward for hours every time I realize there is a Guardian Angel with me 24/7, let alone the Almighty!

He is watching humanity, every second of every day, and we need Him too. One day, I hope to be a healthy enough person to not feel that as a burden, but rather a blessing.

I think, this too, goes back to my childhood. I spent the vast majority of it on pins and needles around my parents, terrified of doing anything to upset them in the slightest. Scared to feel rejected for being myself, or for innocently making a mistake. As a result, I am having to learn that God is not my parents. That His watchfulness is not reproachful.

I believe God gave humanity parents so that each person could grow up with an earthly, tangible example of His unfailing love and acceptance. He wanted us to learn that when we err we are not lost, but that we can always return; and, when we return with humble repentance, there is nothing but love awaiting us.

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

 

Antiques at Home by Barbara Milo Ohrbach –

Report: 12 pages read in the hour; not sure I made it a whole hour.

Reflection: “It is the loveliness of little things that imparts life to a room,…” Isn’t that a wonderful thought? So poetic and beautiful. It inspires me.

That was the first half of the first line of the first chapter in this book, which was all about ceramics. I now know the difference between pottery and porcelain. Though, when you say one of those words it calls to mind a different image than if you say the other, I wouldn’t before been able to verbally define the differences. Now I can.

Pottery is formations of baked clay. They are heated in kilns or sundried and, without glazing, are porous. The color achieved after baking is due to the makeup of the clay. I believe earthenware describes pottery of a reddish/brown hue, stoneware describes pottery of a grey color, and creamware describes “cream” colored pottery.

earthenware

Turkish Earthenware

stoneware

Stoneware Churn

creamware

English Creamware Shallow Form Chestnut Dish and Cover

Porcelain/China is often made of kaolin. It is not porous, is very hardy, and comes in two kinds: hard paste and soft paste. Hard paste porcelain has been produced in China for centuries. Once it became popular in Europe, European manufacturers began producing porcelain. However, they didn’t yet know the correct formula so their creations were very fragile, thus called soft paste porcelain. Eventually they got it right, and Europe was able to produce its own hard paste porcelain.

hard paste porcelain Z&K Antiques; 18th Century Bow Musican Triangle Figure Hard Paste Porcelain

Soft paste porcelain

Fine Spode Antique English Soft Paste Porcelain China Teapot Blue Willow Gilding; based off of my past reading, I would venture a guess that the Orient inspired design on this teapot was chosen to mimic the designs of the imported porcelain that was selling so well.

 

A Piaget Primer How a Child Thinks by Dorothy G. Singer and Tracey A. Revenson –

 

I’m thoroughly enjoying this book. It’s not written in Scientific Journalism style so it is much easier to get through and understand than the previous Child Development book I read about Piaget’s theories.

I find his approach to his experiments very pleasing. I feel as though many scientists approach their research in a very dry manor, but, at least based off of what I’ve read, Piaget approached his work much more realistically. His experiments have a very real-life, organic, and empathetic feel to them. By that I mean to say that I feel him caring about people when I read his experiments and the theories they spawned.

“Believing that children’s spontaneous comments provide valuable clues to understanding their thinking, he sought a less-structured method for collecting answers to intelligence test questions than a formal test allows. Using a standard question or set of questions as a starting point, he followed the child’s train of thought and allowed the questioning to be flexible. If a child was confused, Piaget could repeat or rephrase the question; if a response was incorrect but intriguing, he could pursue the point further…Piaget was not concerned with whether a child gave the right or wrong answer, but rather what forms of logic and reasoning he used.”

I feel so convicted when I read his studies. How often do parents worry more about the answer than why the child gave it? Inflexibility is so selfish and therefore, unloving. I’m not saying I don’t believe in the value of structure, but structure for structure’s sake can be so sinful. When we have children and we become rigid because it makes US feel more in control and thus comfortable, we are not loving but rather hating our children!

Parenthood is SUPPOSED to be fall on your face, dead from emotional and physical exhaustion hard. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. I think many people create structure in their lives, which is really an excuse not to bare the God-given cross of parenthood, and excuse it saying that the children really do benefit from it somehow. But they DON’T! Not if the only reason for the structure is that it makes Daddy and Mommy feel better.

The irony is, it actually makes the parent’s life harder. This is because structure is not love, so the child who is being forced into a structure so that they don’t “upset” Daddy and Mommy does not feel loved, but rather rejected. And when a child feels rejection they act out, and then Daddy and Mommy have to either ignore the child completely, or spend even more time trying to untangle their mess than they would have if they had allowed themselves to be uncomfortable and not made the tangled mess in the first place.

It really makes sense when you think about it. We are called to live in love, because that is God’s way; and God purposely designed the parent-child relationship to break down the parent completely. He wants us to shed all of our sinfulness, all of our selfishness, all of our pride, so He gave us children.

How often is it that we look at God’s way and  we think to ourselves, usually subconsciously, “That’s too hard; but it’s what God wants of me so I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it the way I think is best.” That’s what structure for structure’s sake is. A parent looks at the task before them, the LOVING rearing of a child, and they think, “That’s a lot, I don’t have that much to give and I will be depleted at the end. So I’m going to make structure to give myself the illusion of control and ease.”

We must always remember that God never gives us more than we can handle. This means that we have no excuse but to live the way HE wants us to, because He knows where the real end-of-our-rope is, and if we are truly living in love, He won’t let us reach it (that isn’t to say that if we are insistent upon our own will He won’t let us have our way and get ourselves into more than we can handle).

That means giving ALL of ourselves to our children; especially their freedom that makes us so uncomfortable. Freedom to ask any question and demand an honest answer. Freedom to express pain and anger and expect comfort, support, and protection. Freedom to feel secure in the knowledge that their parents will NEVER deny them their time, emotional connection, energy, and/or physical assistance because they are “tired” or “working”. Freedom to demand their parents ACTUALLY CHANGE WHO THEY ARE.

Having empty inflexibility is just the parent selfishly withholding a piece of themselves. We know that when we sin it affects EVERYONE on the planet because of the Spiritual Life. So when we are selfish, if it reverberates around the world, how much more does it shake, and ultimately tear down, those closest to us?

 

Piaget’s 4 Stages of Child Development are as follows:

Birth to 2 YRs, Sensory-Motor Stage

2 YRs to 7 YRs, Preoperational Stage

7 YRs to 11 YRs, Concrete Operations Stage

11 YRs to 16 YRs, Formal Operations Stage

 

Reading Challenge; Feb. 11, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

 

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

Report: I am no longer reading this book. As I have said previously, I find the authors to be alarmist and I believe that performing every test available is just an excuse to abort more babies. This week, during my reading, I was very shocked and saddened to see that they actually blatantly advocated extensive testing for the purpose of deciding to kill the child (I bolded the specific sentence from the offending section): “CVS is performed between the 10th and 13th weeks of pregnancy. Its main advantage is the fact that it can be performed in the first trimester and it can give results . . . earlier in pregnancy than amniocentesis, which is usually performed after the 16th week. The earlier diagnosis is particularly helpful for those who might consider a therapeutic pregnancy termination if something is seriously wrong, since an earlier abortion is less complicated and traumatic.

How wicked is that? For starters, why are we concerned about the comfort level of a person committing murder? Secondly, this proves my point about the actual reasons these extensive tests are being promoted. Many of my family and friends want to believe that these tests are there purely to help the mother and the baby, and that the abortions spurred by them were not part of the original plan, nor do they happen often. I contest that if authors of a “pregnancy help” book (i.e. this is a book that is marketed as pro-childbearing, yet they were not afraid of scandalizing or offending their readers with this bold statement) are willing to blatantly state this as a reason for testing, then it is not as rare an occurrence as people choose to believe.

Furthermore, at the time of this addition, the CVS test had a miscarriage rate of 1 in 370 babies….I’ll let that sink in, 1 in 370 babies. Not only were they encouraging people to get this test, but this is what they said about its safety, “CVS is safe and reliable, carrying a miscarriage rate of about 1 in 370.”

How is 1 in 370 considered SAFE??? They aren’t just saying this is a good test for if you don’t want your baby, because this is a test they are saying you should use to determine that; rather, they are saying that a woman should risk her baby’s life to determine if it is “abnormal” or not.

Lord have mercy.

I have ordered another child development book to replace this one, it should be here sometime this next week. It is focused firmly on the psychological development of children, specifically Piaget’s theories expounded upon, so I don’t anticipate it being a disappointment.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 26 pages

Reflection: The first, and largest part of my reading had to do with Asian antiquities. The first discussed was Japanese prints: “Japanese prints give you a lot of information you don’t find in most antiques, including the artist’s signature. Many also include the title of the print and if it’s from a series, the name of the series as well. Often you find publisher’s marks, and sometimes date and censor seals. All this information gives you a chance to research your artist and your print.”

Now, I have never been a real fan of Asian art, but I have to say, when you are just starting out in antiquing, you probably couldn’t ask for a better jumping off point. Since the Japanese were meticulous about keeping track of every conceivable detail about a piece, it strikes me that it may prove easier to say with confidence whether the piece you are looking at is indeed an antique or not.

Here are a couple more tips from the book, with regards to Japanese prints: “When the blocks are new, the details of the print are often fine and crisp. As the blocks get worn from use, the details can suffer. This impacts the value of the print. The finer and crisper the detail, the more desirable the print.

You can still find wonderful woodblock prints at affordable prices. You can also find old reproductions of some of the more famous prints. Sometimes, only a true specialist can figure out that these are reproductions. If you have your heart set on original wood block prints, find some knowledgeable dealers who can show you the real thing.

You can find quantities of lovely Japanese woodblock prints whose prices never reached the level that made them worth reproducing.”

I have a couple thoughts about this: One, it isn’t smart to make the goal of your first foray into collecting Japanese prints, to get a well-known print. Two, if you want a print that will increase in value rather quickly, it would seem that buying one of the “lovely…woodblock prints whose prices never…made them worth reproducing”, would be the way to go. As I’ve stated in earlier posts, one of the factors that determines an antiques value is its abundance, or rather, lack thereof. And, it would appear from the above excerpt from the book, that the prints that were less-valuable in their day are less abundant now, and therefore, could rise in value as people lose interest or are unable to obtain the more renowned prints.

Below is an example of Japanese Woodblock Print that I do find hauntingly beautiful:lovers-walking-in-the-snow

(I believe this print was on The Met’s website.)

The following are common subject matter, for this art-form, from the 1600’s:

Actors

Long before Modern Screen and People, Japanese artists captured the actors in woodblock prints. The earlier prints had just the actors; later prints developed a background and then scenes.

Courtesans

The courtesans of the day were exceptionally talented, literary, smart, and beautiful…woodblock prints captured these courtesans and also served as a historic record of the clothing styles of the day. Utamaro is one of the most famous and inventive artists of the ‘beautiful women’ prints.

Landscapes

There was an edict against travel, so most people didn’t even know what their country looked like. Hiroshige traveled throughout the land, sketching as he went. He traveled the Tokaido Trail from the old to the new capital and drew every one of the 53 way stations…Several generations later, these landscapes are some of the most appealing to the western eye.

Literature and mythology

In the 19th century, Japanese woodblock print artists loved creating prints to illustrate one of the world’s earliest novels, The Tale of Genji, which was written by a woman in the 12th century. The artists also created prints about all kinds of mythological subjects.

The ordinary

Scenes of birds and flowers became a popular subject for Japanese prints. The earlier prints are often simpler, and the later prints get busier. Folks hanging around and enjoying themselves is another genre of Japanese print-making. You can see picnickers by the banks of a river, revelers watching fireworks at a New Year’s celebration, and pleasure-seekers whiling away the hours in the Yoshiwara, the pleasure quarters of Edo.

All other things being equal, such as condition, certain subject matters are often considered especially desirable. Some of these include snow scenes, rain scenes, and night scenes.”

 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 23 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: This book never fails to uplift and enlighten. I enjoy every hour of reading it. Today I learned that there is a “Prayer Rule for Lost Things.” In the past when I have lost something I knew I could entreat St. Phanourios, and then bake a cake in his mother’s name, give it to someone, and ask them to pray for her soul. I have never seen this fail. I did not know, however, that there was a prayer rule that could be said for the same purpose.

You pray the 50th Psalm (the 51st if you have a King James Bible), then the Creed, and then you will find what you are looking for.

God is so good, and He never fails us.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 16 pages in the hour.

Reflection: Imari is a hard paste porcelain from the Imari port in Japan. “Early Imari is blue and white; later they spiced it up with shades of reddish-orange, almost a paprika color; a little green; and sometimes a touch of other colors…

…Imari varies in quality and in timeframe. People are still creating Imari…Here are some tips for recognizing the true…thing:

Flaws: Look for signs that the piece is hand painted..If the work looks too perfect, it’s probably been printed. Some modern Imari is also hand painted.

The pits: Older Imari was fired in small, wood-burning kilns…Little specks of ash can fall into the glaze during firing, creating little dark pits…These specks are assurances of age. Bumps also indicate age.

The Gilded Ones: Newer gilding is shinier and more reflective than the old gilt…

Dirty Feet: Old foot rims have some brownness; the newer foot rims are generally icy white.

Spur Marks: Spurs held up the large pieces in the kiln; the smaller pieces may have one or none. Large plates always have some spur marks. A bowl may not…

Undulating Glaze: Look at the bottom of the piece in raking light (hold the piece at an angle so that the light reveals he imperfections). You’ll see an undulation or unevenness in the glaze of older pieces.

Gray tint: In the old days, they didn’t try to cover up that gray. The older glazes have a blue gray tint; the newer tend to have pure white look.”

Kovels Imari Jars 1890.jpg

Imary Jars from the 1890s, courtesy of Kovels.com

 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 22 pages in the hour.

Reflection: There is a story from my reading today that I want to share. It is such a touching and deeply convicting story about just what God can accomplish with our obedience. But first, some back story: Father Vladimir Rodzyanko was a widowed priest who had endured much suffering in his life, escaped communism, and started his own radio program on the BBC; which brought Orthodoxy back to the millions of people deprived of its theology in communist countries. He was so prolific and holy that he was known the world over; and the Church in the United States requested that the Metropolitan make him a bishop and send him to serve their congregations.

When Father Vladimir met with the Metropolitan, to be made a monk and then a bishop, he asked him, “…instead of starting me out as a simple monk, you’re immediately making me a bishop. In other words, instead of being a novice and obeying the commands of others, my job will mean that I’m the one who will have to command and make decisions. How then do I fulfill the vow of obedience? To whom will I be a novice? Whom will I obey?”

The Metropolitan replied, “You will be in obedience to everyone and anyone whom you meet on your journey through life. As long as that person’s request will be within your power to grant it, and not in contradiction with the Scriptures.”

The book relates many wonderful and remarkable things about the life of Father Vladimir (who, when he took his monastic vows and was ordained bishop, became Bishop Basil), but I want to share just the one as related by Archimandrite Tikhon, who was with him at the time: Once when the Bishop was visiting Moscow he was approached by a young priest and asked to come serve in his parish. Even though the parish was a very long and difficult journey away, Bishop Basil took up his obedience joyfully and went with the priest in his car.

“The trip to his [the young priest] village, however, truly was long and arduous, and we, his travel companions, were soon thoroughly worn out.

But then our car suddenly came to halt. Literally a few minutes ago there had been an accident on the road: a truck had run head-on into a motorcycle. There was a dead man lying right in the dust of the road. Standing over him, numbed with grief, stood a young man. Nearby, the truck driver listlessly stood smoking a cigarette.

The bishop and his companions hurriedly got out of the car. There was already nothing that could be done to help…

The young motorcyclist, clutching his helmet in his hands, was weeping. The dead man had been his father. The bishop embraced the young man and said: ‘I am a priest. If your father was a believer, I can say the necessary prayers for him.’

‘Yes, yes!’ The young man began to recover from shock. ‘Please do whatever is needed! My father was an Orthodox believer. Although…he never used to go to church. They got rid of all the churches around here. But he used to say that he did have a spiritual father. So please, do whatever is required!’

They were already taking the necessary ecclesiastical vestments out of the car. The bishop could not restrain himself and gently asked the young man, ‘How did it happen that your father never went to church, and yet had a spiritual father?’

‘It just happened that way…For many years my father used to listen to religious broadcasts from London. They were made by some priest named Rodzyanko. And my father considered this priest his spiritual father, even though he never saw him once in his life.’

The bishop sobbed and wept and got down on his knees before his spiritual son who had just died.”

Isn’t that remarkable? If Bishop Basil hadn’t been obedient to the young priest asking him to abandon his busy and important schedule to travel a long and exhausting journey to a tiny parish in the middle of nowhere, he wouldn’t have been able to pray for the newly departed soul of his unknown spiritual son!

What obedience is God asking of me that I am ignoring, either deliberately or subconsciously?

I could be a changed person in the blink of an eye, if I only said yes.

 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Reflection: During my reading it struck me how I am called to love everyone. I know that’s not a new idea for anyone even remotely familiar with Christianity, and it’s a concept I always think I understand, but then, when I look deeper, it’s obvious that I don’t.

Love is wanting the best for a person’s immortal soul. And it is not inherently absent from anger or sorrow. Just like it isn’t inherently present in happiness.

Love can look like a lot of things, and only God knows which appearance is necessary for a soul.

I don’t know where I’m going with this…except…I believe I struggle with separating the sin from the sinner. And for that I am heartily sorry.

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 24 pages read in the hour.

Reflection: If you want to sell your antique(s) or merely know their value, here are some helpful tips on finding an appraiser and evaluating their expertise:

“You want an appraiser who is qualified. You may want to select an appraiser who belongs to one or more of the appraisers’ organizations. Some of the national appraisal organizations that certify their members are:

ISA, International Society of Appraisers…

ASA, American Society of Appraisers…

AAA, Appraisers Association of America…

…When you talk to an appraiser, here are some questions to ask:

What qualifies you to appraise my property? It’s a plus to have someone who has taken the courses from the appraisal societies and who knows the proper form and substance of the appraisal report…

Have you been tested? The test for certification should include ethics and the details of creating appraisal reports as well as testing on the appraiser’s specialties…

Do you take continuing education? You want an appraiser who is up-to-date on appraisal standards and procedures, which are subject to change..

How do you handle items outside of your specialty? No matter how competent appraisers are, they won’t have seen it all. They need to know how to describe, measure, photograph, and research antiques. They need to know other specialists in their field so that they can reach out for help when they have questions.

What is your fee? On what basis do you charge? Major appraisal organizations feel that charging a percentage of the appraised price is unethical. Charging on a percentage basis disqualifies the appraisal for use by the IRS. Most appraisers charge either per item or by the hour or on a total fee for the entire job…”

The following are tips for selling your antiques online:

Email online auction houses and find out their rules…

Get clear pictures of the item you want to sell from every angle..

Write a complete accurate description of the piece, including the way it looks and a full disclosure of its condition.

Write out a return policy…

Check your e-mail daily in order to respond promptly to potential customers.

Be prepared to change the item’s category listing if you get few or no responses…

Make arrangements with a reliable packing and shipping company to wrap the item or learn how to pack fragile items…”

That wraps it up for Antiquing for Dummies! I’ll be starting another antiquing book this coming week.

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.

 

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…

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/