The Walls of Constantinople

I just watched a wonderful TED talk on the significance of the Walls of Constantinople to the West.  I enjoyed that this video is both concise and clear. The only criticism I have is that those fleeing Constantinople did not only go to Rome, but to many other major cities. It was not so much the crusaders who brought the culture and knowledge from Constantinople to the west as it was the Eastern Romans themselves. Most of our books call them Byzantines, but they knew themselves as Roman.

Go watch the video. Use it as part of your Church History or Ancient History unit studies.

Consider this: Constantine introduced the organ to the west, so Church music owes much to the Byzantine empire.  The Chants of Constantinople influenced church music and resulted in Gregorian chant and other chant forms in the West.

Let us be sure to teach history to our children so that they understand its importance, and that they know the truth of what occurred. The Eastern Roman Empire was the center of culture for nearly a millennium.  THEY built the libraries and cities of Byzantium, and it was their work that was co-opted by the Ottoman during the so-called golden age of islam. The Byzantines were creative and CHRISTIAN. They led their time in architecture and when someone points to a dome on a mosque– you tell them they got that technology from the Byzantine Christians.

Dear Lord, thank you for the Eastern Roman Empire’s role in protecting Christendom and making the Renaissance possible. Help us to learn history so that we understand its value.  +Amen.

Tidying my Office–Before

Post 2 on my struggles in housekeeping.  Today, I continue with step one in THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. My office is currently in our RV, which is also under renovation.  The good side of using the RV as my office is it gives me ample time to figure out what I want changed in here, and what things belong in here and which do not.

Right now my desk looks like this:

my desk photo

It is a bit cluttered. I like having the family photos on my desk. I feel good having them there. The only family member missing is my eldest who keeps ducking my request for a photo.  The icons are also very special to me.

Now, I hope to eventually have an AFTER for not only my desk, but for the entire office:

my office

The baby seat moves around a lot, but I had to put her somewhere while I took the pictures and that spot was easy.  Clearly, this is a cluttered working space. There are things here I love, and things here because I need them, but there are also things that I suspect do not belong in my office at all.

I certainly hope this book I am reading helps me to get rid of what is correct to remove, but keep what is correct to keep. I have this huge anxiety that I will somehow toss something essential and end up in a pickle because something I need is not there.

Like the pile of papers– what if I get rid of the wrong thing? How can I be sure I am finished with it? What to do with the papers I need to hold onto? What if I am wrong? What if later I discover that something that in the moment I decide is unneeded is actually important to keep?

I am a basket-case in many ways.

Now I would like to get rid of the old cork board. But I actually don’t know if it is covering a hole in the wall or not. It is a used RV and didn’t come with much history– only that it was a mobile office for a police force in a nearby city and somehow nobody but my husband bid on it(probably because it had five desks, a non-working refrigerator, and no real kitchen).  We have torn out some things, and there is a space for a two drawer refrigerator, and another space which will eventually have a two drawer freezer and some counter space. This will give a tiny but useful kitchen. The sort that would be perfect for my coffee pot!

So I sit and visualize how I want to live in this space. It is useful as preparation for the next step.

Dear Lord, please help me to get rid of all the right things, and to give away or sell anything that needs to go. Please help me over-come the anxiety connected to this effort. +Amen.


THE LIFE-CHANGING ART OF TIDYING UP is all about beauty. The ordinary beauty we make for ourselves in our homes. Yet in a culture that devalues beauty, attempts to define it down to function, and links the value of everything to the money it can produce, our lives are filled with clutter and ugliness.

Returning to my original discussion of the loss of beauty in our culture see how wrong the culture has this entire concept?

“What is beauty?” is a question that this culture is as ill-equipt to answer as Pilate was to answer his own, “What is Truth?” There is only one source of Love in all its perfection, only one source of Truth in its fullness, only one source of Beauty in its complete form–and that source is one source. God, the creator of everything out of nothingness, one being in three persons, a mystery beyond the human mind’s ability to grasp, is the origin of Beauty. The creator of beauty defines it.

So, what IS beauty? It is not, as I have shown in the past weeks, merely function. Good design, excellence of function, these are elements in beauty but not the entirety of it. Aesthetics plays a part. An object may have attributes not part of the function that increase the beauty.

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For example: a crock for making pickles, sauerkraut, or dilly carrots does not have to be beautiful to be functional. The paper plate does not need to be pretty to be functional. Yet, there is beauty that does nothing to improve the function, yet adds to my pleasure in using it.

Lack of beauty is ugliness. A meal that is not beautiful is ugly. A home that is not beautiful is ugly.

The loss to our quality of life is astounding when we neglect beauty and yet we do not fight our cultures insistence that we only develop those skills in our children that can make money.

I shall keep on seeking ordinary beauty. I seek beauty in the washing of the sink. I seek beauty in the doing of the laundry. I seek beauty when making sauerkraut from scratch. I seek beauty every time I practice the art of tidying up.

Dear Lord, please help each of us to change our attitudes about beauty. Help us to reject the false measure of a paycheck or the incomplete measure of functionality. Help us to recognize and embrace beauty and share it with the people around us. Help us to show love by creating beauty. +Amen.


Everyday Beauty VI: Revisiting my office

I am now thinking about the effects of beauty on my workspace. At this moment, my workspace is a mess. I have a number of things I love on this desk. However, it is difficult to enjoy them fully when the space is so cluttered. I “see” my office without the paper clutter. I see my office with shelves. I see the cupboards with bins in them that make pulling out what I need easier. As it stands now I have to struggle to get to what I need. If there were bins, then I could pull whatever bins I needed to get to what I need– of course that requires a clear categorization of the contents of each of the bins.

I think if I took the first aid cabinet and added two small bins to sit on the large one–then put the less often and extra first aid items in the larger bin, and set two small bins on top, one with oral medications (head-ache, stomach, etc) and the other one for cuts(bandaids and ointments or sprays for the skin) that would make that cabinet useful and easy–and remove the first aid stuff from my desk drawers!


I have need of some means of handling books that I must have at hand.  I have need of some means of handling the papers! I have sheet music, and printouts of articles for my research, and notebooks– all need to be close at hand, easily accessed, and NOT in a pile on my desk!

I honestly do not know how to do this.

I can honestly say that the icon, pencil holder, pictures, autoharp, colorful pots, each brings me joy. I can say that there are quite a few things on my desk that do not bring me joy at all.  I need the articles and sheet music, but I need them where I can get to them, where I can find them, and right now, well, it is not working efficiently and this clutter negatively effects my writing.

Dear Lord, please help me learn how to handle all my materials so that I can find them. Please help me keep my desk-top free of clutter and wonderful to use. +Amen.

Ordinary Beauty VI: health

Our culture does not value beauty beyond its relationship to function or earning power. Girls are taught to pursue careers and earn good money; they are taught to develop a career before they consider marriage and family. Men seek wives who can add a solid second paycheck; men used to seek wives who had the skills to create a beautiful home for a family. There was a time when the beauty created by home makers was valued. Girls were taught the skills and could expect to have those skills valued.  Those days are long gone.

Our culture glorifies the career by high value on earning ability and almost no value at all on the work of creating the ordinary beauty of a home that nurtures the health of a family.

IMG_1219(Salt brine fermentation of cabbage, carrots, diakon radish, and various fresh spices)

Health suffers for lack of beauty.

The skills of cooking from scratch, from natural, whole foods do not increase a paycheck. Meal creation is an art and a skill; meal creation produces ordinary beauty. Without the beauty of good cooking there is a decrease in health and an increase in obesity.

Sports are a form of beauty. Athleticism has become a spectator sport, rife with drugs and scandals. The skill of a batter, the skill of a pitcher, these were beautiful once. Playing team sports was something almost every child did– and they were active outside everyday.

Children and adults created a beautiful community when they came together to play games. Jumping rope taught cooperation and the drive for excellence. Jumping rope was beautiful. Baseball taught the beauty of working together to a goal and how to value the contributions of others. The competition taught the beauty of success and how to use failure as a stepping-stone to improvement.

Dance is a form of beauty that aided physical and social health. People gathered together to enjoy movement and music. Beautiful music that went with beautiful dances like Waltzes and Tangos.

IMG_1398(a folk instrument called an autoharp, with several colorful crocks of fermenting sauerkraut)

Music is a beauty that used to bring people together in an active way. People did not only listen to music but they MADE their own beauty with it. Fewer and fewer people play any instrument well enough to share it.

Our culture tells us that if we cannot make money with music, dance, sports, cooking, then we should not waste time learning to be good at it. We are telling our young people that beauty is only worth working at if we can turn it into a paycheck.

Dear God, please wake us up to the value of beauty. Teach us to love the work of becoming good at something that enhances quality of life, health, and community but will not ever make us any money. Teach us to love beauty enough to make it and share it with others. +Amen.


Everyday Beauty V: Tidiness is a result of aesthetics

An empty desk is functional but is it beautiful? A cup holding pens is functional, but a pen cup made from cut glass in a metal frame is beautiful beyond its function. So it is with all things pertaining to beauty including the art of tidying. Marie Kondo, in her book, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, writes of taking an object into one’s hands and asking, “Does this object bring me joy?”  That action is about aesthetics, not about function.  An object may be beautiful due to its function but what causes you joy is not merely function–it is aesthetics.


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The cut glass vase and the can have their own aesthetics, both do the job I need equally well. I find the glass vase pen holder more beautiful; the glass fits the over-all aesthetic of my desk.  That does not mean that the can would not be the better choice in another aesthetic!

I own several can openers. Two are of the older kind, functional, but not particularly comfortable in the hand. They work reliably. If beauty were merely in the purity of function, these are a good use of the materials and do the job at hand efficiently. BUT, I have another can opener that does the same job and is pleasing to the eye and feels good in my hand. If a can opener could bring me joy, I would have no difficulty choosing.  My husband argues that the beautiful one is also more comfortable to use and so it is the improved function that creates the beauty, but it did not need to be a nice matt-black finish against chrome. It could have been whatever color the plastic is before additives give it a particular color, the function would have been the same, but the beauty would not have been as great.

When a space is aesthetically pleasing as well as functional, a person finds it easier to keep it tidy. This suggests to me that functionality cannot be the sole arbiter of the beauty of a thing.

Another example relating to my desk are the pretty frames. Each frame is different, each is aesthetically pleasing, each is functional; I find them collectively and individually beautiful.  A group of simple black plastic or wood frames would be equally functional, but not beautiful in the same way this set of frames is beautiful. The set of plain black wood frames may have its own aesthetic, but the functional beauty would be exactly the same. Now, I was given a frame that has such a small opening that it fails to function as a frame is intended–I do not find that frame beautiful at all. An object must fulfill its function to be beautiful, but the two sets of frames show that beauty goes beyond function. That is important to know.

Dear Lord, help me to remember that beauty is more than function but that an object that fails to fulfill its function cannot be beautiful. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home V–The Living Room

I’m still blogging on my responses to the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. Today I wanted to think on my Living Room. My living room is a long room, a bit on the narrow side, with lots of but in shelves and cabinets. Storage is no problem there, but getting to the storage is! Too much stuff left over from the last move, sitting there, in boxes, and I cannot find what I need, and I suspect a lot of that needs to GO.

But today I am to be visualizing. So here I go.  I see sheer curtains on the tall windows. This room has a lot of natural light, but is a bit poor on artificial light. There is a long deep window seat that, given a nice mattress, could double as a bed, but then it would be too high to use for seating. It is wood, but serves nicely as a couch. I like sitting there. There are wall sconces that make good reading light on the window seats.

I see my project bins, clear plastic so I can see what is in each one, on the deep shelves. I can see my sewing machine set up at one end of the room, seat back to the type-writer cabinets. facing the length of the room. I’d like a lego table at the far end–maybe. Visualizing is not as easy as one might expect it to be!

I can see a desk and the type writer display cabinets separating the living room from the front entry. I see this bright sunny room as the perfect space for sewing. There is enough storage, and friends who come over are crafters, sewers, and costumers, so it is decorated perfectly well for social.

I would like a door added between the library and the living room. Wood with a cut glass or etched glass door. That would separate the bottom of the stairs from the living room, and help steer the children away from my sewing.

This room, with the deep shelves would also be wonderful for my musical instruments. And there is a wall for one more book case if we need it. Might be an idea, to put every book on clothing, fashion, sewing, and tailoring in that room.

I am starting to worry that my visualizing is boring.

Dear Lord, please help me to use my space effectively, get rid of excess, plan for the future and never return to clutter. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty IV: Aesthetics

Ayn Rand argued that mechanical function was in itself beautiful and that decoration did not make it more beautiful but less. In THE FOUNTAINHEAD, she uses architecture, which at the time often hid the functional aspects of a building behind a facade of classical motifs, to argue for function being beautiful in itself and that decoration was fake.  I do not disagree at all that functional things have their own inherent beauty, and that adding a fake exterior to hide the functional beauty does not add but may even detract from the true beauty of the object, but why must decorative elements always be wrong?

A tunnel may be beautiful, and it may be lined with tile. The functional curve of the tunnel is pleasing. This curve is beautiful. The material of the tile lining the tunnel is functional and pleasing to the eye. The tile is beautiful. Choosing carefully some colors for that tile adds an element that one may like or dislike. Thus the beauty of the tunnel goes beyond the functionality of the shape and materials used into the realm of the aesthetic. One may argue that the choice of color may have some function beyond the pleasure of color; this is true, a bright white may help keep the tunnel from becoming unpleasantly dark- but the addition of a bit of blue tile along the walls does not eliminate the function of the white for brightness, yet adds its own value in being pleasing to the eye.

I find myself so often disappointed in Ayn Rand. She conflates aesthetic function with mechanical function then calls it beauty when they are two distinct aspects of beauty.  Wasting resources to hide a perfectly beautiful building is not the same as selecting for its aesthetic value some detail that exists because it is pleasing.

Dear Lord, please help us to avoid wasting resources while never forgetting that beauty is more than merely the function of what we build. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home IV–The Library

Today I am moving my visualization to the center of our house, a roughly octagonal library space. I am continuing with the book THE LIFE-CHANING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo.  The library is my favorite part of this house, or would be if I could see it properly and walk through it. Due to lack of display cases for my beautiful collection of antique typewriters, they are in huge boxes with huge amounts of packing material, being safe, but also filling the entire middle of the Library with their presence.

I visualize the Library so very very differently.

I see the shelves, filled with beautiful books–my books rather than boxes of electrical supplies and machine manuals. There are all sorts of books for education. Literature, reference, and other sets of books that are lovely on the shelves. The glass book cases hold older books and a couple of small microscopes.  The right hand wall contains history and religion. The left hand wall is filled with literature and how-to books, the section closest to the kitchen holds the cook-books and books on nutrition.

The floor is completely clear. The lower cupboards below the shelves can be opened at any time without moving anything out of the way. Useful supplies are in the cupboards. School supplies and office supplies.

There is a round table in the center of the room. It is empty, waiting for a game to be played, or homework to be done. There are chairs surrounding this table, four of them, but two others are in use in the living room and can be retrieved when needed. A single piece of art sits in the center of the table, the center light of the library shining down on it, when the table is not otherwise in use.

Family pictures reside on several of the narrow shelves that back up against the library side of the staircase to the second floor. There are paperback books on this wall. All sorts of historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and other books the children may read when they are older. All by authors admired by their father and myself.

The door to the master bedroom, used as my husband’s office is closed.

The split door to the powder room is closed. Inside that split door is a small, oddly shaped powder room.  It is clean, and welcoming.

Dear Lord, Thank you for such a beautiful place to keep my books. Please help me to convince the entire family to help keep it the way it needs to be kept. +Amen.

Everyday Beauty III: Dreams of Beauty

I spent a fascinating hour discussing the function and definition of beauty with someone who is a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand. Now, I am an admirer of but no follower of Ayn Rand on the subject of Beauty, being that I am of the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, Saint Josemaria Escriva and Saint John Paul II.  I see beauty as the reflection of the creator, thus as a higher good. Ayn Rand’s is a view that true beauty has no aesthetic beyond the mechanical function; I argue that beauty is more than but includes that function.

My parents have a very old rocking chair. It is beautiful. The beauty is in how well it scribes a lovely slow arch when rocked, the color of the wood used, the patina of age, AND the carving.  It has a flat panel showing field workers socializing quietly over mugs of beer. I spent many a happy childhood hour sitting in that chair studying the carving.  My co-conversationalist claims the art is a waste of effort and that if the maker had made the panel, sold it, and put the money into two plain chairs of equal design but lacking the carving, he would have done better.  He argues that the true beauty of the chair is in its functionality and not in something unrelated to function.  Again, I have no disagreement with the view that the functionality of the chair is beautiful in itself, but I insist that the carving adds to that beauty in a way no less valuable.

Beauty is more than mechanical function.  The panel of carving on my parent’s old rocking chair is for beauty, interest, and pleasure, and this aesthetic function is as much a part of beauty as the mechanical function.

Dear Lord, please help us to recognize that beauty includes but is also more than the mechanical function of an object. +Amen.