Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Links! Choosing, Chastity, and more!

This book is about how our culture influences how we perceive the role of personal choice in our lives looks utterly fascinating. In her interview, the author talks about how Americans program their children from birth to be independent. Then she says:

By contrast, in Japan, you don’t sleep alone until maybe 8 or 9 or 10. You often take a bath with your mom until elementary school, and, as for asking a child what they want to be when they grow up, you wouldn’t think a child would be equipped to answer that question. 

Amy, at Fumbling Towards Grace, has a post up about chastity being at odds with consumer culture, because chastity is an exercise in denying your desires (for sex) and consumer culture constantly urges you to give into your desires (for stuff). The idea is that chaste people are used to viewing their desires with suspicion, and not assuming automatically that desires exist to be fulfilled. Since we are in the habit of examining our desires, rather than merely giving into them, we're less susceptible to advertisement. Or so the theory goes. (I think it's probably right.) Anyway, go on over and add your opinion to the conversation at Amy's place!

I like this list of ten rules for writers. I think my husband would like her Rule 4 best:

4. It's doubtful that any fiction worth reading has been produced on a computer running Windows Vista.

Speaking of writers: Susan Wise Bauer has a blog! Why did I not know this? And for posts like this (not to mention her significant body of work), she is quickly becoming one of my literary heroines (up there with Bujold and Mathewes-Green).

This looks like a great opportunity for any other romance writer out there who might read this. Someone's actually publishing short (800 word) romances. For money, no less!  If nothing else, working on one of these would be a GREAT way to practice cutting the fluff from your writing. With 800 words to work with, you've got to trim ALLLL the fat.

I'm a bit late to do this this year, but this is the coolest Easter craft I've ever seen. Bookmarking it for next year.

The folks over at NPR's media blog are doing a group read of Twilight. Yes. NPR and Twilight. Cognitive dissonance much? It leads to conversations like this:

Marc: ... Also, in an incident that damns both Meyer and her editor, there is a line about "dust moats" floating in the light. ...Moats. Of dust. 

Ah, here it is: "I ate breakfast cheerily, watching the dust moats stirring in the sunlight that streamed in the back window." I think she was going for "mote": "a small particle; speck."

Linda: Dust moats! Dusty moats! Moaty dust!

Marc: Keeping out the dust barbarians!

Linda: "If you want my daughter, the princess, you shall have to cross this MOAT OF DUST!"

Marc: "Lower the lint drawbridge!"

Linda: "Sic the bunnies!" Hee hee, "moats."

Marc: RIGHT?

Linda: "Stay outta the castle!"

Marc: "Or fear the wrath of my poor housekeeping!"

Linda: And like I said, I don't understand why parts of it are written like Ye Olde Magick Tale, like it's written by an ancient professor. But the content is still very immature. It's like, "Nigh on two weeks ago, yea did I have pizza." There's no distance from teenagerhood in perspective, but there is in tone.

Marc: Maybe it's meant to be a direct analog with Edward. Maybe the only way it wouldn't be creepy for him to have a century-old mind in a teenager's body, she has to have the same.

Linda: Wow, that is ... a good observation. If she talked like any kind of credible teenager, it would seem way weirder that he's a hundred years old.

Marc: Holy [bleep], did I just stumble into actual analysis of this thing?

And, finally, from the Onion, an article on the increasing number of parents who are School-Homing their children:

According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home.

Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller said that many parents who school-home find U.S. households to be frightening, overwhelming environments for their children, and feel that they are just not conducive to producing well-rounded members of society.

Hmmm . . .

the tenth doctor's jacket

Forgive me a fluff post. I've got a lot on my mind, but to distract myself, I'm thinking about a project Adam and I are planning together.
We want to make him a facsimile of the Tenth Doctor's jacket.
It's really a very long trench with an inverted pleat running down the back seam, from shoulder to ankle. (Which is impossible to find a picture of online, though you can see it if you watch the show.) The pleat is stitched closed at the back of the waist, so that it falls straight when the wearer is standing still.  But the inverted pleat means that the jacket has a lot of extra fabric, which make for great movement when the wearer is running or walking.
Isn't that a cool jacket? I don't know if we can make it, but we're using a basic trench pattern, and just altering it to add the back pleat. I have an old sewing book that I'm using to guide me in the alteration. (This, if we complete it, will probably end up being my husband's birthday present. This is how we usually end up doing birthdays in our house: not as surprises, but as collaborative projects.)
And if it goes well, I might make one for me too (my birthday?). Though I might make the back pleat more like this pattern (ignore the sleeves), open only from the waist down, with the front looking more like your basic trench.  Or maybe what I really want is an ankle-length redingote. (Made by me; I'm just putting that link in as an illustration. Though don't they do beautiful work?)
Okay, so that's what's distracting me these days, when I don't want to think about more stressful realities. Anyone else want a new jacket now too? :)
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, March 26, 2010

saved us an ER trip with the nose trick!

It works!

My son, who is four years old and should know better, stuck a foam sticker waaaaaay up his nose. 

I have done a doctor trip (same son, peanut) and an ER trip (oldest daughter, pea) for the same thing before. I really didn't want to do it again.

But last time we had a something-up-the-nose incident, our twins were in the NICU. And when I went to visit them, I told their nurses about it. And one of them shared a trick with me, one she'd learned from a paramedic. Here it is: plug the unclogged nostril with your finger, and then cover your child's mouth with yours and blow short and swift into his mouth. The aim is to blow the obstruction out of the uncovered nostril.

So I just tried it. And guess what? That sticker flew right out! That slimy, slimy sticker.

I'm so chuffed that trick actually works!

(I have to say though: this is not medical advice, and I'm not a doctor. I'm sharing an anecdote.)

It worked, it worked and we're not going to the ER today! (I hope.)

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

synesthesia and the perception of time

You probably know that there are some people who see colors when they see specific letters or numbers. Or hear certain sounds. This is a condition known as synesthesia, and I read an article about it a couple of months ago in an old issue of the Smithsonian. (I think this was the article I read, but I'm not sure, because the link is just to an abstract.)

It was a fascinating article, but it became personal when they noted, off-handedly, that some synesthetes perceived time in a concrete fashion. They had a picture for the way years looked, or weeks or days. An idiosyncratic chart of time.

That pulled me up short. I thought, Well, I have that. And I thought it was strange that they should mention it. So I asked my husband if he had a specific picture when he thought about time. And he said no. And after that, I asked around some more.

Turns out most people don't see time when they think about time. But I do. I always have. As far back as I can remember knowing about years and months and days and weeks, I can remember seeing them. From what I've read, that's part of what makes it true synesthesia: you've always seen it that way. Apparently it's really common to spend years not knowing you have synesthesia for the simple reason that it never occurs to you that other people don't see the same thing you see. Now, I never thought people saw the same chart I saw, but I assumed they saw something. It's still very weird to me that that's not true.

What do I see? Well, years hang like an ovoid loop, suspended from December 31 and January 1. Sort of a teardrop shape. Right now we're going down the loop of the year. By about September, we'll start going up. Years string together in a sort-of L-shape scroll, from as far back as history goes, extending out towards the future. Out and up. At a specific angle.  Weeks look like telephone lines, suspended by Sundays and dipping lowest around Wednesdays. I can view it from the side, or I can sit on top of it and swoop up and down the curve of it. Days themselves are a loop, very similar to the loop of the year. And I can zoom in or out along this picture, down to the minute and out to the century. It all strings together.

Apparently this isn't normal.

But, I'm curious, do any of you reading see time when you think of time? I guess it's called number-form synesthesia or spacial-sequence synesthesia. I get now that not most people see things when they think of time, but I always have, and I can't imagine how you would think about it if you couldn't see it. I see numbers along a specifically-shaped line too, come to think of it. They head straight up to 100, and then veer off sharply to the left. Negative numbers are down. I do better thinking of them if I look at them from the left instead of from the right. Like tilting your paper a bit so your handwriting slants the right way; it just makes things easier.

Again, I now get that this isn't normal. Most people don't shift their position in regard to the numbers they're studying in their head so that they can see and understand them better. But I do. Always have. (Okay, now that I think of it, I have to shift to look at them from the left, because then I can read them forwards instead of backwards, because after zero, the numbers start to go from left to right instead of up and down. Well, they go down, but they are next to each other rather than on top of each other like the positive numbers are. Huh. Never realized that's why I did that.)

If you don't see a picture when you think of time, how do you conceptualize it? Do you conceptualize it? Or is it just something that exists, without needing to exist in any tangible form?

Truly, the brain is an odd organ. But if I have to have an odd twist to my brain, I think I'm glad I have this one. It's not a hindrance to me, I don't think - though it may explain some of the trouble I had when I hit the higher maths. I couldn't ever fold my number line in a way that made calculus make sense. But there you are. I'm not sorry for it. Like I said: I can't imagine seeing time and numbers any other way.

But I'm still curious how others see it, if they see it at all.   

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, March 22, 2010

Top 100 Classic Poems at Semicolon

I've recently found and begun enjoying Semicolon (it's mostly books, with a bit of parenting and school), and she's running a poetry survey, trying to make a list of her reader's top 100 favorite classic poems (in English, so no Purgatorio). You can check out the survey here. I'm participating, and am really interested to see what the results are (it's running through the end of March; sounds like the results will be out around Easter).

My top ten:

1) "Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward" by John Donne

2) The preface to In Memoriam A. H. H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson ("Strong Son of God, immortal Love . . .")

3) "To All Angels and Saints" by George Herbert

4) "At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners" (Holy Sonnet 7) by John Donne

5) "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

6) "Easter" by George Herbert ("Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen . . .")

7) "The Sun Rising" by John Donne ("Busy old fool, unruly Sun . . .")

8) "A Birthday" by Christina Rossetti

9) "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell

10) "Elegy XIX; To His Mistress Going to Bed" by John Donne

If you're wondering: yes, I love the metaphysical poets, yes, especially John Donne, and yes, I seem to think the only things worth writing poetry about are love and theology, and preferably both together.

If you're interested, here are the Hon. Mentions (these are what I had to cut from the list):

-"Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

--The end of Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffery Chaucer (from "Swich fyn hath, lo, this Troilus for love!" to "For love of mayde and moder thyn benigne!")

-"Terence, this is stupid stuff" by A. E. Housman

"To the Virgins to Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick

"A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne

"The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson

"The Dream of the Rood"

And these were out of the running from the get-go because they're too new (i.e., might still be under copyright):

-"The Silken Tent" by Robert Frost 

-"Ash Wednesday" by T. S. Eliot 

-"Love is not all" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I hope you all participate too, and if you do, I'd love to hear what your top ten are!

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 18, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1. I spent last weekend learning to kill people with my bare hands. No, I'm not kidding. My dad took me to a weekend seminar put on by these guys. I'm going to write about it more later, but right now I'm still pondering what I learned. I do though, already, think it's training everyone ought to have. They're very sensible and very well-educated on their subject, and very good teachers. Useful stuff I hope I never have to use.  But I'm glad I know it.

2. My oldest two kids have developed an interest in all things Robin Hood, so I've started reading them Knight's Castle by Edward Eager. We aren't very far into the magic bit yet, or the yeomanly deeds of valor, but the set-up for the story is lovely in its own right. I liked this part:

And sometimes when Roger would start picking on Ann because she was a girl, and younger, their mother would get really cross, and say that there would be none of that in this house! Their mother said she knew just how Ann felt because she had been a girl once, too, and the youngest of four children, and what she had endured worms wouldn't believe!

But other times she talked about what fun she and her sisters and brother had had; so Roger decided she couldn't have suffered so very much. and when he asked his Uncle Mark about it, his Uncle Mark said their mother had been a terror to cats and ruled the household with a rod of iron. And when he asked his Aunt Katharine, his Aunt Katharine said their mother had been a dear little baby, but went through a difficult phase as she grew older. He couldn't ask his Aunt Jane, because she was hardly ever there, being usually occupied hunting big game in darkest Africa or touring the English countryside on a bicycle.

But he decided their mother's childhood had probably been very much like their own, partly good and partly bad, but mostly very good indeed.

That last paragraph is pretty much what I'm hoping for my kids' childhoods.

3. I had a conversation in Spanish this week - a real one! I was so geekily excited afterwards. I know it's not much to be able to have a short chat with the lady in front of me in line about our kids (she had twins too), but it was a real conversation, I followed most of what she said, and I was able to respond in my second language rather than my first! 

Okay, I'm still excited about it.

4. I figured out why listening to the "Ave Maria" helps when I'm slightly depressed. I think (for me), that sort of depression happens when I feel overwhelmed. I start hating myself because all I can see is A) what I'm failing to do and B) what I'm doing that I shouldn't. Just failure and sin, all over the place.

   The Ave Maria though, is a breathtaking account of one concrete time in human history when a woman got it exactly right. She responded to God's call with a simple "yes", and was right within His will. That that sort of obedience is even possible lifts my heart every single time. And it takes my eyes off of myself. It's good all around.

5. Did you know you can buy Nutella on Amazon? In bulk? Yes, I am an enabler.

6. I entered the Genesis contest again this year. I got great feedback on it last year ("great" meaning "it was helpful", not meaning "they thought I'd be a bestseller"), and I think my entry this year is stronger. I'll be glad to get some objective opinions on whether I've gotten better or not, and on what I need to work on some more. There's still time to enter, if you're interested. It's a great contest, well-run, with good judges.

7. Related to #2, I have the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood on request at the library. Ostensibly, it's for the kids. But to be honest, I'm really looking forward to watching it again, in all its Technicolor glory. Anyone else like those old swashbuckling movies? 

For more Quick Takes, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

It wasn't entirely our fault

So, among the many blessings of my life, I have a very cool brother, Josh. He's six years younger than me, but since we've stayed in the same city as each other in our adulthood, we've been able to develop a peer relationship over the last few years.
Which is not to say that we can't be kind of juvenile sometimes.
Anyway, there's a dollar theater in my city, and my brother and I hatched a plan. We decided to go and see a certain popular movie aimed mostly at tween-teen girls (I won't name it here, because I don't want its fans discovering my blog via Google alerts and hating on me, but this particular installment rhymes with Why Fight: Glue Soon) solely for the purpose of laughing at it.
We weren't planning on being jerks; we knew some folks take this thing very seriously. But our honest emotional reaction to the franchise has largely been laughter, and so we thought if we kept our snickers very quiet and waited to see it till it was at the second-run, cheap theater, we wouldn't really ruin any fan's experience of it.
Though we did joke about how annoyed the fangirls might be at us.
Anyway, it eventually did come to the dollar theater, and my brother and I kissed our respective indulgent spouses goodbye and bought our tickets and settled in for a (quiet) laugh-fest.
It was pretty clear from the start that we weren't the only people in the theater that thought there was more humor than pathos in the story. The guy behind us was snickering too. Sadly, our muffled laughs seemed to encourage him. It didn't take long for our side of the theater to be shushed.
So we shushed. We nudged each other occasionally, when the melodrama got just too soaring to resist, but we were pretty quiet.
Then it happened. During the most (intended-to-be) harrowing part in the drama - when the hero is telling the heroine that he's leaving, like, 4-EVARS - my brother reached for some candy from his bag and . . . the bag spilled.
This wouldn't be so bad, except that he was eating Gobstoppers. And we were sitting towards the back of the theater. So they had a loooooooong way to roll. And they hit every seat post on the way down. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk. Over and over and over. Think of marbles rolling downhill through obstacles over a concrete flooor. It was very noisy.
We froze. Goodness. Not a happy accident. Okay. It'll be okay. They've almost stopped rolling. They have to reach the bottom soon.
And then, into the shocked silence, comes the voice of the fellow behind us. Loudly, irrepressibly, and with great glee, he declares: "That was AWESOME!"
And the sore oppressed teen in front of us stood up, turned around and said, "Can we WATCH the movie, PLEASE?"
It didn't help matters that his voice cracked. (His. I know. What was he doing there? Hopefully trying to impress a girl.)
Josh and I sunk down into our seats, abashed.
And a few moments later, after a whispered conference, that whole group of people left. Obviously, they wanted to see the movie with a crowd that took Ella and Bedward's pain seriously, as it should be taken.
It sort of ruined it for us. We felt badly for them. But the candy wasn't our fault. Nor was the guy behind us. We really had intended to have our honest emotional reactions without being jerks. But it didn't work out that way.
Still, it was a very, very funny movie. And we did laugh long, loud and hard . . . AFTER we left the theater.
I love my brother.
And, sadly, I'm not sure we've learned our lesson. I, at least, am looking forward to going with my brother to WHY FIGHT: EAT CHIPS.
But only once it's been out long enough to only cost me a buck.
And this time, we'll eat gummy worms.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Books Read So Far in 2010

Books in italics were not read in their entirety.

-A Mother’s Rule of Life  – Pierlot, Holly - I reread most of this at the beginning of the year, when I was thinking through my New Year's Resolutions. It was helpful. You can read a short quotation from it here

-Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon’s Grande Armee – Elting, John - I read only about half of this book That might sound pitiful, but the book is almost 800 pages long.  This was novel research for me, and the most fun research I did, I think. Elting peppers his history of Napoleon's army with anecdotes about individual officers, and didn't mind giving his opinion either, though, as a good historian, he made it clear what was opinion and what was fact. This was a fascinating book, and I'd be glad to go back and finish it sometime.  I think anyone interested in the era, the military, or just the oddities of human behavior would quite enjoy it.

-Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual – Pollan, Michael - This was short, but couldn't hold my attention, because there wasn't much in here that wasn't in In Defense of Food, which I'd recently read (and enjoyed).

-One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular – Pogrebin, Abigail - This book was splendid. I'd been looking for over two years now for a book about parenting identical twins, and this is the best I've found so far, even though that's not its aim. Most books about twins seem to assume that you have fraternals (probably because they're the most common), and while they can be helpful in teaching you logistics (e.g., what do you do when they're both hungry at once?), they don't address the question of how you parent two children who are genetically identical.  (They all say: make sure you treat them as two separate people. To which all of us parents of identical twins say: well, duh. Thanks a lot, Captain Obvious.) This book helped answer my questions just by exploring the question, "What does it mean to be an identical twin?"  

I came away with the impression that being an identical twin means you have a primary relationship that most people don't have. A relationship that's as strong as the parent-child or husband-wife relationship, and that can be just as good or just as detrimental as those two types of relationships can be, depending on how it's approached. It was good to be confirmed in my suspicion that having an identical twin could be a great treasure for my two youngest daughters, and also good to be reminded that there were pitfalls to watch out for as well.  It's an extra relationship, a rare one, one most people don't have . . . but it's a relationship like any other: it can be good or bad, and there's probably a lot I can do as a parent to help get it off on good footing.

-The Holy Bible - This I started last year, and finished early this year, so it goes here.

-The Fellowship of the Ring  – Tolkien, J. R. R. - This I listened to with my husband as we did the evening chores, after the kids were in bed. It's still so good.

-El Dorado: Further Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel – Orczy, Baroness - Oh! this book amazed me. It is about the Scarlet Pimpernel, that is, about Sir Percy Blakeney. But Orczy doesn't bring him on stage till almost a third of the way through the book!  Okay, maybe a fourth. But still! I was so glad when he showed up. It was hard work getting to his entrance. But when he did show up, I was carried away into the adventure. How can you not love Sir Percy?

-A Devilish Dilemma  – Lansdowne, Judith - Lansdowne is fun. This was fun. It's a little ornate, but fun.

-7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child  – Steiner, Naomi, M.D., with Hayes, Susan L. - This was informative, but it was aimed much more at parents who are themselves bilingual than at those (like me) who are trying to learn alongside their children.

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School – Macaulay, Susan Schaeffer

Marrying the Captain  – Kelly, Carla - I like Carla Kelly so much. I like how her characters fall in love in such an "oh, of course" sort of a way. They recognize that they fit well together, and after that - though the plot leads them through many external obstacles - there isn't a lot of doubt that the love between them exists. I like this so much more than the sorts of stories where the hero and heroine hate each other in the beginning, but I think it's a lot harder to pull off. Kelly pulls it off well. (If you want to read this, I should warn you that it does have one explicit scene, but it is A) easily skipped and B) takes place after the hero and heroine are married.)

Perfectly Fitted: Creating Personalized Patterns for a Limitless Wardrobe – Garner, Lynne - I didn't read every word of this, but I'm looking forward to trying out this method for making clothes exactly my size. What a concept!

Saturday Review of Books

Here's a Mr. Linky thing that's new to me: the Saturday Review of Books over at Semicolon. It's a collection of book reviews from around the web. What a cool idea, eh? Fuel for that TBR pile!

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

I am a mean writer

MEEEEEEEEEAN.  I swear I am. I am about to do something horrible to my main characters. In fact, I've already started. Seriously, the scene is about 500 words from done. 

But why is it taking me such a long time to actually pull the trigger? I swear, I am cruel enough to do it. I am.  They're going to suffer, and I'm the one who's going to make it happen. Suffering. Loss. Sadness. As soon as I can make myself type out the words. 

In other (possibly unrelated) news, why is it that even though I'm not Catholic, when I'm slightly depressed all I want to do is listen to "Ave Maria" on repeat? It lifts me out of the depression. It does. As long as it's still on. 

I don't get it. Anyway, here's a beautiful rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria. I like Josh Groban's best, but Bocelli's is also lovely.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson

I just finished reading Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, by Margaret Kim Peterson. I liked it very much, and thought I'd share a bit from it.

Her thesis is that keeping people clothed and fed is something that Jesus endorsed as a worthwhile activity (she quotes the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25), and so it is an honorable activity that can be engaged in for the love of Christ.  She says, 

"There is undoubtedly more to the merciful service that Jesus describes in Matthew 25 than caring for the daily needs of the members of our own households. Housework is a beginning, not an end. But it is a beginning - not a sidetrack, not a distraction, but a beginning, and an essential one at that - in the properly Christian work of, among other things, meeting the everyday needs of others . . ."

That's why I like this book so much. It doesn't, like some I've read, exalt housekeeping as a glorious, high thing. It's not. But it is necessary, and produces real goods, and so ought not either to be despised.  This book does a great job of placing it in its actual place, and honestly, it was a relief to read someone who got its place so exactly right. As a women who spends hours every day doing exactly the sort of things she talks about (cooking, cleaning, cleaning up after), it was encouraging to read a short, lovely treatise that affirmed that what I do is good and worth doing, and why.

I disagree with a few of her points here and there - occasionally the tone feels a wee bit snobby - but overall, this is a book that does an excellent job in having a real opinion, but also showing grace to those who might be in different circumstances than the author, and so might have to make adjustments she does not have to make.

Here are a couple passages that really stood out to me. She talked about how people sometimes view housework as divided  into two cateogories: the creative (e.g., sewing pretty curtains) and the janitorial (e.g., scrubbing the toilet). She says:

"On the contrary, all of housework is creative, including the so-called janitorial part of it. When God created the heavens and the earth, he started with chaos and ended with a finely differentiated and beautiful universe. Housework is all about bringing order out of chaos. that heap of damply repulsive clothes on the bathroom floor turns into stacks of neatly folded laundry in a matter of hours; a dining table piled high with junk mail, school papers, and forgotten socks turns into a table neatly set for a meal; a sack of potatoes, properly peeled, boiled, riced, and seasoned, turns into a dish of mashed potatoes that the individuals assembled around the table are happy to eat."

Isn't that beautiful? And so true. A little later, when observing that after creation, God continued to be involved in the universe he made - not just creating, but sustaining - she says,

"Housework and gardening and God's providence itself are exercises not in futility, but in faithfulness."

I think that's my new housekeeping mantra: "This is not futility; this is faithfulness."

And the book is full of observations like this, the kind that feel absolutely familiar when you read them, but that you know you've never been able to say so well yourself:

"But if there are places to put things and it is simple and convenient to put them there, then picking up the house becomes a kind of active meditation, like putting a favorite puzzle together and seeing the familiar picture - the tidy house - appear anew."

And I'll end with my favorite part:

"The good news of the gospel is that the longing for home need not be merely nostalgic. Home is not just a real or imagined memory. Home is also a promise made by god to his people . . . The Christian community is not a spiritual club; it is a household, God's own household (Ephesians 2:19), whose very sacraments are physical acts evocative of home: a bath and a meal.

       "A well-kept house thus possesses a kind of sacramental quality. It is no substitute for either the kingdom of God or the church. But it is a kind of foretaste of the kingdom. A nuturing and hospitable home can be a reminder that god has always been in the business of making a home for people, that God desires that people should have the food and clothing and shelter associated with home, that one day our tattered and partial provision of these things for one another will be gloriously supplanted by God's perfect provision of shining robes and a sumptuous feast in God's own house."

This is a very good book, and well worth reading and - I'm guessing - rereading. 

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

hair toys on Etsy

So, my hair is still growing . . . but it's too short for a lot of the prettier hair toys (which is good, 'cause boy they're expensive!). But I still can't help browsing Etsy and dreaming of someday having the waist length hair needed to do justice to a gorgeous hammered copper chignon or a pair of wicked-looking hair swords like these.

Etsy is just way too much fun. I like it so much better than most online stores, because there's such a variety of interesting things, and because it almost always inspires me to try making something myself, too.

These now, these I could conceivably use. And there are fun things like this that I'd like to try doing myself (thrift-store costume jewelry + superglue + plastic haircomb, I'm guessing). My hair's long enough for a proper Gibson tuck now, and it's fun to have something pretty to stick into the fold of that hair style.

I actually ended up ordering a few decorative combs for the purpose, and now I'm impatiently awaiting them so that I can try them out. I'm also wondering about whittling myself a hair fork. I think I could do it if I got my husband to make the cuts with his saw first. I don't think it would look quite as good as that, but I think it'd be fun to try.

I'm fascinated by the vintage hair toys on Etsy too. This is the stuff women used before they had elastic, you know? And a lot of the stuff can't be used unless you have longer hair. It makes me wonder what they did for little girls, whose hair was still growing. Or women who had been sick. I suppose that's what ribbons and head scarfs were for? You can also find things like Amish hair pins. It's not like this stuff is never used anymore. (Though I'm guessing the ones the Amish actually use aren't decorated like that.)

Anyone else find something lovely on Etsy recently? Or have any experience using hair forks? Are they as easy and pretty as they look?

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, March 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes


I have a cast-iron skillet that I use regularly, but I was having a horrible time keeping it nicely seasoned. Even though I did all the good wash-with-water-0nly-and-heat-till-dry-and-oil thing. 

But then I stopped oiling it with vegetable shortening and start oiling it with real lard. My skillet? Is now staying beautifully seasoned.

Only downside is the faint aroma of too-hot pig fat.


I think the spam-bots would have more luck with me if they stopped addressing their emails to "Mr. Jessica Snell".


As I keep trying to study Spanish, I'm amazed at the difference between my receptive language facilities and my productive language facilities. For instance, here's a sentence I read recently that I had no trouble understanding (forgive my lack of accent marks; I haven't yet learned the keystrokes for them):

-Veo que eres idiota, ademas de ser lo que seas-

Could I understand it? Sure. Could I come up with it myself? Not even close to possible. The first part maybe, but if I had tried to say "whatever else you may be", I wouldn't have been able to even come up with "ademas" and there's no way I would have come up with "of to be it that you might be" (which is the literal translation - as far as I can tell - of "de ser lo que seas"). Nope.  

Man! I have such a long way to go.


I'm checking out a local umbrella school as a homeschool option next year. It would let me school Bess at home four days a week, and then one day a week she would get to go to school and do P.E. and music and stuff like that. It'd also give us an opportunity for field trips and other extracurriculars with other homeschoolers. I'm kind of excited about this and hope it works out! Anyone out there have experience with something similar?


Yesterday, I was working on my novel and my hero did something completely unexpected, proving himself much more heroic than even I thought he was. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. It's been over twenty-four hours and I'm still tickled pink. This is why I love writing: because as awesome as it is to read a book that picks you up and carries you away, it's even more awesome to read a story that does that same thing but that came straight out of your own fingertips. The fact that it can still pick you up and carry you away, still surprise you and leave you baffled . . . I don't know. It's just a high like no other. 


When in doubt about how to occupy your kids, give them each a wet rag and let them loose in the kitchen. You'll have to go in afterwards with towels, but it's amazing how clean it'll get and how happy they'll be.


Um, seven, seven . . . um, here! Something funny! ("I'm sorry, are you speaking Scottish now?")

For  more quick takes, go visit Conversion Diary.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The blog post I'm really not writing

“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”
-J. R. R. Tolkien
This blog is about where we ended up at, and how I feel about it. This post is about where our old church ended up.
But not how I feel about it. I’m not sure how to write that post. I’m not sure I should. I tried, and it ended up really long and meandering – all about hurt and anger and conscience.
I really don’t think it’s post-able. I sure don’t want to read it again! It's the sort of thing you write and then throw away, not write and post. So, I’m leaving you with a quotation instead, because it's really what's resonating in my head now that I'm done writing about all this. And because they're better words than mine were.  Here you go: a passage from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers:
'Tell me, lord,' he said, 'what brings you here?...What doom do you bring out of the North?'
'The doom of choice,' said Aragorn. 'You may say this to Théoden son of Thengel: open war lies before him, with Sauron or against him. None may live now as they have lived, and few shall keep what they call their own ...”
And that’s it. Now I’m done. Finally.*
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell
*Well, you know, as much as you can be done when you’ve only had six months to mourn a ten-year’s loss. I know this will all be with me for a long time. But I’m done with the rough work of figuring out how I’m going to think about it. And that’s better place to be than I was before. I don't think I was really able to think through it till we'd found a safe place to land.

The other post I'm not writing

I wrote about the new church we’re attending here. I thought I should close off by letting you know what happened at our old church, Blessed Sacrament, since I wrote so much about what was happening when we were leaving.

Our old parish’s idea of being a “diversified parish” has undergone some changes since we left. They dropped the Roman Catholic option; I gather most of the Catholics decided to actually go and attend Catholic churches, which makes sense to me.

They did end up with a diversified parish though. There is a small group that’s formed a church plant under an ACNA bishop. They are officially a church plant, but they still attend Blessed Sacrament’s services. What I’ve been told is that they have the same preaching, the same Sunday schools, the same coffee hour, the same choir, the same mass, the same ministries.  (This is all my understanding from afar, I should point out. I'm not part of it, so I'm sure I'm missing some details.) 

So, that’s what’s happened, as far as I can gather. I still think it’s a bad idea. Which some would say means that I still just don’t get it. :) But I still hope, for my friends’ sake, that it all works out somehow. I remember being in the Episcopal Church, and all the stress and hardship that goes with being at serious odds with the people who are supposed to be shepherding you, and my friends are still in the midst of that mess (or at least connected to it), so I still hope they find their way clear of it, one way or another. The way out for me might not be the way out for them. But I hope still hope it ends well for them. We don't agree about how the battle should be fought, but we're certainly on the same side.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

The blog post I'm not writing

So, every time I sit down to blog, I think about the blog I’m not writing. That would be the one about church stuff.

We left our church home of almost ten years last year. We’ve floated around for about six months, and I think we’ve finally found a new place to attend.

The good parts? It’s only five minutes away, it’s got amazing Sunday school programs, the teaching is Biblically solid and theologically robust, it’s very welcoming, we already know a lot of the people there, and did I mention that it’s five minutes away?

The bad parts? Well, it’s not Anglican. And we still miss our old church.

We did try to find another Anglican church. There was the one that was a smallish start-up that then went on hiatus.  There was the beautiful, wonderful one . . . that was very far away. Far enough on a Sunday when there was no traffic and way, way too far at any other time of the week, as the road there is made up of super-cloggy freeways. There was no way we could go there and become part of parish life; it was hard to be part of parish life at our old church because of distance, and this one was even further away.

So, are we still Anglican? Well, yes, theologically. I still believe that the theology in the Book of Common Prayer is the truest depiction of Christian dogma I’ve ever found. Are we still going to celebrate the church year? Yep. I still love the way it tells my children the gospel every year through fast and feast. Are we hoping to go to an Anglican church in the future? Yep. I’m hoping ACNA takes off and that someday we can be part of an Anglican church plant near our home. If the Lord wills. (Though if we really become a part of this new church, that may never happen for us, and I know that.)

But right now, the reality is that there is no orthodox Anglican church nearby. And there is a wonderful, welcoming, orthodox evangelical church nearby, where my children can learn about Jesus every Sunday, and where my husband and I can worship God with fellow believers. So we’re going to go there. Because it is good to go to the house of the Lord.

It’s funny. I think the sacraments are important. I also think Bible teaching is important. I think the one leads you to the other, and vice versa. But we have spent ten years at a sacrament-heavy, teaching-light church. Maybe it’s really hard to get that balance right, and what we need now is to be part of a church that’s the opposite. (Both churches do teach the Bible and practice the sacraments – don’t mistake me. The emphasis in both is just very pronounced . . . and opposite.)

I don’t know. I don’t know all the whys. I do know that I’m finally (finally) at peace about where we’re attending. I do know I’m very grateful to the people at this new church who are doing such a faithful job of preaching the gospel, and who are so very welcoming.

I feel like a refugee that’s found a place that’s offering showers, bed, and a hot meal. So it’s not my favorite meal. So what? It’s wholesome and I’m hungry, and I’m not going to complain. I’m just grateful to be fed.

And the people offering it are offering it in the Lord’s name; it’s been evident in all our interactions with people at this new church that they love the Lord Jesus, and that the kindness they’re extending to us is the kindness they themselves have received at His hands. They understand the part in the Bible about hospitality to strangers. It’s really beautiful.

I know it’s corny, but what keeps going through my head is, “You can’t always get what you wa-ant. You can’t always get what you wa-ant. But if you try sometimes, you might find . . . you get what you need.”

I think the Lord’s giving us what we need. And I am so glad.

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Speaking of Shakespeare . . .

There's a version of Hamlet starring David Tennant! (and Patrick Stewart!) Did anyone else know this? It's releasing here in May (on DVD), and I very much want to see it. 

But watching the clip below reminds me of writing about Shakespeare a few weeks ago. What did I do when I felt like reading some Shakespeare again? Did I read it? No. I went back to a performance of it that I loved. (Actually, to be honest,  at first I just went back to the soundtrack. And now I'm listening to it on audiobook.)

There's something about how seeing it played or listening to it read can make all the difference in understanding it. If a good actor does a good job with the lines, you'll get things out of it that you never have before, even if you've read it dozens of times. For instance, in watching Tennant in this clip, I realized that Hamlet's attitude towards death is the exact opposite of the Christian martyrs. Hamlet is driven to cowardice because of his doubt about what lies beyond death, whereas the martyrs were inspired to courageous acts because of their surety of what lay beyond death.  I knew that the speech was about suicide and cowardice, but somehow I'd never really understood how his doubt was linked to his fear before (how could I have missed this? I don't know, but I did).

And I'm still thinking about the idea that we humans would usually rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of . . . I know that often describes me. 

Anyway, without more ado, David Tennant as Hamlet:

Anyone else looking forward to seeing the whole thing now? 

peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell