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 An antique pricing guide that I stumbled upon:


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 “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;

The first and second tests I took;