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; Feb. 4, 2017

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

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

 

Antiquing for Dummies by Ron Zoglin & Deborah Shouse –

Report: 24 pages this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Archimandrite Tikhon –

Report: 27 pages this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading Challenge; Jan. 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.

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/