Monday, February 28, 2011

the man speaks the truth

Adam, my husband: "We could finish listening to Harry Potter while we folded the laundry tonight."

Me: "We finished listening to it last night."

Adam: "Did we really?"

Me: "Yep, he went back to the Dursleys." Pause. "We could finish listening to the Iliad."

Adam: "Eh. I don't have, I mean . . . I've lost what I had of the Iliad."

Me (oh-so-helpfully): "Well, there's this battle in front of Troy-"

Adam (dryly): "Yes. I know. I mean, I've lost the desire to listen to the Iliad."

Me: "What? Spears piercing below the nipple! Blood soaking into the thirsty ground!"

Adam: "Eh."

Me: "Blood! Spears! What kind of a man are you?"

Adam: "Well, I fathered four kids." Pause. "In three tries."

Me: "Heh."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1)There is Easter candy on sale at the drug store. It is not even Lent yet.

2) Yes, I bought some. Like I said: it's not Lent yet.

3) Ever realize that Welsh accents and Indian accents sound sort of similar? . . . on that topic, ever wonder what your accent sounds like to other people? I'm kind of afraid to know.

4) One of my neighbors is a talented pianist. Sometimes we'll all be sitting in the living room, and suddenly we're treated to the sound of Bach coming through the walls. Are you jealous?

5) The previous item, btw, almost makes up for the fact that we used to live next to people who had drunken parties below our bedroom window late into the night. Still, probably everyone's lived next to folks like that sometime or other. I'm not sure everyone gets to live next to lovely pianists. I do realize my luck.

6) I thought today, being one of the first days in three weeks we did not either have to either A) go out of the house somewhere or B) deal with vomit, would be the day that I got the house entirely clean. I was wrong. Today I got the house entirely picked up. I forgot that the one must come before the other. Tomorrow will be the day I get the house clean (Lord willing).

#7 . . . written later in the evening. Well, I'm glad I ended #6 the way I did, because it turns out that I'm babysitting my four-month-old nephew tomorrow. Which is delightful (I haven't seen him in weeks because of the flu infesting our house and our desire NOT to pass it on to said nephew - and I miss my nephew), but which also probably means my house won't get that clean tomorrow! :)

Guess the Lord wills that I snuggle a sweet baby tomorrow and watch my kids snuggle a sweet baby and act pretty sweet themselves. At least, I hope that's the plan! But, again, we'll do what He wills. At least, as the liturgy says, we will with His help.

More Quick Takes found here.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Links: Christchurch, baptism, gluttony & more

I'm sure you've heard about the Christchurch earthquake. Here is an amazing (not in a good way) collection of pictures that give an idea of the aftermath. Please keep the people there in your prayers.

This was very timely for me; perhaps it might be for some of you too. Not sure I agree with every point, but a very thoughtful article on baptizing young children.

Unsurprisingly, over at bearing blog, the author continues to post excellent essays like this one about gluttony.

. . . also, she writes really funny ones like this on Decluttering . . . alcohol. :)

Author Patricia Wrede on "Sax and Violins". Informative as always.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is this a terrible parenting plan?

So, somewhere around Christmas, my eldest turned the corner in terms of her reading ability. Now, she'll sit on the couch for an hour at a time, completely silent, absorbed in a novel.

Which leaves me thinking, How soon can I teach the other three to read too? They could all be sitting quietly on the couch reading. QUIETLY. For an HOUR.

Does that make me a bad mom?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

why is writing work?

It's been said that the reason you pay someone to do a job is that the job is something you either can't do, or you don't want to do. This isn't a bad thing: if it was, people wouldn't have jobs. In sometimes roundabout ways, my husband and I pay people to farm, to fix my home, to build computers, to police our streets, to staff our libraries . . . and so much more. So, profitability consists in getting paid for doing something someone else wants done.

Anyway, the last time I heard this pointed out, I started wondering, What is it that we are paying authors to do? What is the thing that we want done?

When it comes to non-fiction authors, I think the question is pretty easily answered: we're paying for information. We're also paying to follow their thinking, i.e., we're paying them to hold our hands as they walk through the long answer to the question How does an expert in this field think about this subject? whether that subject be philosophy, theology, education, health, or something else entirely. We want to pick their brains. We want to be educated.

Then, you come to fiction. You come to novelists. To be perfectly honest, the way I first framed this question was: what is it people will be paying me for if I get published? What am I doing that they want done?

And part of the answer, I think, is that when people pay authors, they are paying for more. Most people, after all, daydream. Or tell themselves stories. Or ask, what if? when they hear about an odd situation, setting, or character. So when we buy novels, we are paying someone to do more of something we can already do ourselves. Much like a master craftsman might pay a partner a share of the profits - not to do something different than he's doing himself, just to do more of it.

I think also, at least for me, I'm paying for a different worldview. I'm paying to be let inside the author's head. Sayers sees the world in a way I can't see it unless I read her words. Czerneda introduces me to settings I never would have dreamed up on my own. Bujold shows me ways to think about relationships that enlighten me. All three of those women have a better imagination than mine, and I'm paying for a glimpse into it.

All of this is pretty obvious. We want more of what we already like and we want better and different than we already have. More stories! Better stories!

But, as I've hit the 60,00 word point in my current work-in-progress (which means I am much nearer to the end than the beginning, but not yet done), I'm realizing that we pay authors for something else. Even if this particular novel never sees publication - and it might not be good enough; I won't know till it's done and sent out - and even though it's not my first, it's taught me something about work. It is work to write a novel all the way to the end.

It's showed me that when I buy I book, one of the things I am paying the author for is perseverance. Daydreams are easy (the ease is what makes them attractive) - and short. And even the long ones, the ones I dream time and time again, always making them more elaborate, do not have the disciplined structure that is needed in a novel. My daydreams are delightful to me, but they wouldn't be to anyone else, because no one else would know where I started from or how I'm sure it will end well or why it matters. I could answer all of those questions, of course, but that would be taking the daydream from the leisure category and moving it into the work category. To take that daydream and nail it to the wall, to examine it and see if it has the nucleus that's needed to grow a full-fledged body, to make it start at the beginning and force it to walk all the long road to the end, never letting tension or heart flag . . . that's work. That's writing.

That's what I'm willing to pay someone else to do.

That's what I want to get paid for myself.

So, what are you paying an author for when you buy his or her work? I'm genuinely curious. These are my answers, but I'm sure they're neither sufficient nor unassailable. Let me know what it looks like from your perspective - yes, more imagination-borrowing, and without pay. Oh dear! :)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Couple Small Projects: Hair Clips & a Pillow

In between working on crochet projects, I've finished a few other small things here and there.

This week I organized my girls' hair stuff drawer (yes, a whole drawer - three girls, lots of hair) and I pulled out bows that had been worn till tarnished and dirty and flower clips with flowers falling off and the like.

The flower clips I repaired by adding some extra blossoms (forgive the busy newspaper print underneath the clips):

The dirty bows I pulled off and threw away, and then I hot-glued new flowers onto the still-useful clips (you can see the clip at the far left awaiting its blossoms):
I repaired a couple of headbands (gluing feathers and flowers back on) and then made a little something for me, perfect for sticking into one side of an updo (it's glued to a clear acrylic hair comb, which you can see under the flower if you look closely):

I love how quickly you can make something pretty with hot glue. Before I married my husband, I thought hot glue was fussy and more trouble than it was worth. But . . . I was wrong. He converted me! (Though, I don't think I've ever seen him use it to make hair things . . )

Also, since I had the sewing machine out for a larger project (that's still in process), I whipped up a quick throw pillow using a couple of large, pretty cloth napkins I'd bought on clearance, oh, a year ago? Here it is:

Forgive the bad light (it's been cloudy here), but isn't that embroidery lovely? Since the napkins already had that lovely, thick hemming job on them, I just cut the tags off and then traced the already existent-stitching with my sewing machine to sew the two together, right sides out, left a small hole, stuffed them with fiberfill, and stitched up the opening. Result: pillow!

It was so easy, I want to keep my eyes out for more pretty napkins at Marshall's!

It's nice to have some little things finished in the midst of bigger projects. Gives me the juice to keep going.

Speaking of bigger projects, because I so needed another one, I just started a cardigan in broomstick lace:

Yeah. I'm hopeless. :) Truth is, handiwork, I find, much like exercise and writing, fights the winter blues. Something about the tangible, actual, beauty of it makes me feel that life can't be as bad as I'm sometimes tempted to think. It's as if producing order in the work between the tips of my fingers restores the order in my emotions and my mind. It's a very great gift, work. Praise God for it. Amen.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Links: Vikings, good timing, prayer & more!

Lars Walker, an amateur Viking scholar (and, I have to add, a great fantasy author), analyzes the latest trailer for the new Thor movie. (You have to scroll down the embedded trailer to get to his analysis.) His musings on how a Christian (or even post-Christian) society assumes that any all-powerful deity must be all-good are very interesting.

Check out Learning As We Go's short-but-awesome post on how Timing Is Everything.

I liked this post on Teaching Our Children Through Prayer.

I also really like Catholic Icing's printable Lenten calendar for kids. I'm planning on printing it out and using it in our house. I think it'll help our kids visualize what we're doing. (It's really almost like an Advent calendar for Easter!)

This might be the best post on birth control I've ever read.

In my searching around the internet looking for Lenten information last week, I stumbled across the Pope's Lenten message for 2010. Great reading.

Have a good weekend, folks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

oh dear, I can't stop

This is the problem with favorite books. I went searching for that last quotation (the "overmastering" one) and found this:

". . . Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable, either in themselves or in others. If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it - still more, because of it - that liking has very great value, because it is perfectly sincere, and because, with that person, you will never need be anything but sincere yourself."

"That is probably very true," said Harriet, "but what makes you say it?"

"Not any desire to offend you, believe me. But I imagine you come across a number of people who are disconcerted by the difference between what you do feel and what they fancy you ought to feel. It is fatal to pay the smallest attention to them."

"Yes," said Harriet, "but I am one of them. I disconcert myself very much. I never know what I do feel."

"I don't think that matters, provided one doesn't try to persuade one's self into appropriate feelings."

It'd be unfair to Sayers' genius to say that Miss de Vine comes across as anything less than a fully-realized character in the book. However, I think she really does play the part of Shakespeare's Fool or a the Greek Chorus, telling you what you are to make of the story - or at least where you ought to start. Almost all the magnificent pronouncements of the story seem to come from her.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

ETA: fwiw, I find myself myself much closer to Harriet's "I disconcert myself very much" than to the divine peace of Miss, um, de Vine.

addition to my last post

I should say that I only copied out the section I did because it was the section I happened to listen to today. If I were to pull out one quotation to sum up the book, it should be this one:

"But one has to make some sort of choice," said Harriert. "And between one desire and another, how is one to know which things are really of overmastering importance?"

"We can only know that," said Miss de Vine, "when they have overmastered us."

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

fundamental mistakes

Today I was sorting through my twins' clothes - taking out the too-small, putting in the slightly too-big - and listening to Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, my favorite novel.

Why is it my favorite? Well because of dialogues like this:

"I quite agree with you," said Miss de Vine, "about the difficulty of combining intellectual and emotional interests . . "

"But suppose one doesn't quite know which one wants to put first. Suppose," said Harriet, falling back on words which were not her own, "suppose one is cursed with both a heart and a brain?"

"You can usually tell," said Miss de Vine, "by seeing what kind of mistakes you make. I'm quite sure that one never makes fundamental mistakes about the thing one really wants to do. Fundamental mistakes arise out of lack of genuine interest. In my opinion, that is."

"I made a very big mistake once," said Harriet, "as I expect you know. I don't think it arose out of a lack of interest. It seemed at the time the most important thing in the world."

"And yet you made the mistake. Were you really giving all your mind to it? Your mind? Were you really being as cautious and exacting about it as you would be about writing a passage of fine prose?"

"That's rather a difficult sort of comparison. One can't, surely, deal with emotional excitements in that detached spirit."

"Isn't the writing of a good prose an emotional excitement?"

"Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it's dead right, there's no excitement like it. It's marvelous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day - for a bit, anyhow."

"Well, that's what I mean. You expend the trouble and you don't make any mistakes - and then you experience the ecstasy. But if there's any subject in which you're content with the second-rate, then it isn't really your subject."

Then, later in the conversation, Miss de Vine asks Harriet, "You'd lie cheerfully, I expect, about anything except - what?"

"Oh, anything!" said Harriet, laughing. "Except saying that somebody's beastly book is good when it isn't. I can't do that. It makes me a lot of enemies, but I can't do it."

"No, one can't," said Miss de Vine. "However painful it is, there's always one thing one has to deal with sincerely, if there's any root to one's mind at all."

Later yet, discussing their "one thing", Miss de Vine points out that some people have another person as their job, and how difficult this can be. Harriet says, "I suppose one oughtn't to marry anybody, unless one's prepared to make him a full-time job."

And Miss de Vine replies, "Probably not; though there are a few rare people, I believe, who don't look on themselves as jobs but as fellow creatures."

I have to say, my husband is one of those "few rare people."

Anyway, I've loved this book for a long time, but this time through, it's striking me that it might as well be called the manifesto of the INFJ. Both heart and brain. It makes me curious - I know INFJ's are more likely to be found in profusion online than in real life - any other INFJ's who feel like this book perfectly depicts the cry of their heart?

Equally, I'm interested in knowing if this book produces that response in any other personality types, and, if so, which. Please speak up in the comment box!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, February 14, 2011

beginning to think about Lent

and in my searching 'round the web, I found a blogger (and, sadly, I closed the tab and can't remember where I read it, so I can't give proper credit) who commented that Lent is marked by prayer, which is justice towards God, and by fasting, which is justice towards self, and by almsgiving, which is justice towards others.
I'm just chewing on that right now, and thought I'd pass it on in case you wanted to add it to the thoughts you're mulling also.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


This is a very short links post, but I'm publishing it today because the second link is timely. :)

Interesting article about an American who makes his living playing an American . . . in Chinese movies and television.

Best Valentine's Day activity for kids EVER. (You figure out if I'm kidding.)

This blog post illuminating the structure of Matthew's gospel was educational (and I mean that in a good way).

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crochet Works-in-Progress and Works-in-Hibernation

After my discovery of Ravelry, I spent a bit of time cataloging my works-in-progress with their Notebook feature. And I discovered that I am definitely not a one-project-at-a-time sort of crafter. In fact, I have started yet another project since uploading these pictures.

Here they are. First, the start of one of my daughters' Easter dresses:

I'm planning on a dress for each girl and a vest (orange, by request) for my son, for Easter.

Next, a hat for my husband, inspired by a very bad haircut that I gave him:

The haircut already looks okay and the hat isn't even done yet. I'm making it using self-striping sock yarn though, and I like how it's turning out.

Next is a hibernating project (i.e., I have no idea when or even if I will finish it; I'm not currently working on it), the beginning of an intarsia blanket. The part you see in the picture is the bottom of a crescent moon:

Next is the beginning of a rug, crocheted with a large Q hook:

It's waiting for the next stained t-shirt, since it's made out of scrap jersey fabric. I'll work on it as I have material.

This next is one of my favorites, a log-cabin scrapghan:

This is made with small balls of yarn left over from other projects. It took me awhile to figure out how to use the scraps so that they look pretty and not chaotic, but once I started thinking about patchwork quilts - those triumphs of frugality and beauty - my path became clear.

Once the balls of yarn are too small to even be used on the logcabin scrapghan, they go to this scrapghan, a simple ripple blanket:

Spacing the scraps with white seems to give them enough order that the variety of colors looks cheery instead of messy.

Any bits too small even for that go to Bess so that she can make embroidered pictures on plastic canvas. Waste not, want not.

This is a Boteh scarf, destined for a friend this Christmas. I love the geometric feel of the shapes curving towards each other:

Next is my first lace project, a starry scarf from Crochet So Fine. Crochet is really lace-making at its heart, so I wanted to try a project that embraced that:

It looks all furry and squiggly now, but it'll have sharp points and definition after it's blocked and pressed.

Finally, one more work-in-hibernation, more intarsia, this time a Celtic knot:

I hope to finish this one at some point, but I'm not working on it now. Intarsia takes so much picky concentration, and all that single-crochet, ugh! But I do like the results.

Next time, I'm posting a finished object. I really do have one! Promise! :) But, I'm curious, am I the only one that has more than one craft project going at a time? And, if you do have more than one craft project going at a time, do you also read more than one book at a time? I'm curious if there's any correlation.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, February 11, 2011

links: 66 books, adoption, yarn recycling, and more!

I'll start with this cool video of each of the books of the Bible as a word cloud. Who the whole thing's about really does jump out at you (and the transition you see from the OT to NT most-frequent word is kinda cool):

Hat tip to

Fred Sanders reviews a new book on the theology of adoption.

Here's a post on recycling yarn, i.e., buying sweaters made of yummy fibers at thrift stores and frogging them for the yarn. Apparently it's a cheap way to get things like cashmere and merino wool. Can I just say, what an awesome idea? The linked post has lots of details about the tricks involved in successfully deconstructing a sweater.

Another craft-related link, if you can stand it: a review of the latest issue of Vogue Knitting. Now, I'm not a knitter, but I'm learning a lot about how to read a pattern picture from reading this blogger's analysis of VK. Plus, it's funny.

Over at bearing blog, a post on "The Demon that Feeds on Fasting". How's that for a provocative title? My favorite part:

I am thankful for obedience, which relieves the heart of some of its responsibility to ferret apart good and bad intentions.

That insight struck me because many has been the time when I have stood, stymied, confused about what I should do because I couldn't figure out if I wanted to do it out of a good motive or a bad. However, she's right: we can always just obey. Some things are always right, and when we focus on obeying out of love for Christ, i.e., obeying the commandment because He told us to and He is Himself and we are His, that can cut through a lot of the crap. The topic might be lust or sloth or (as in her post) gluttony, and we can have layers and layers of hang-ups about whatever it is, but we can always just obey, and concentrate on the obedience instead of the sin. I like that idea.

-Princess-to-be Kate Middleton surely can wear a hat. Wow! I hope she succeeds in bringing them back into fashion.

I've found the "Goal/Conflict/Disaster or Reaction/Dilemma/Decision" model of scene-building incredibly useful (though I, sadly, can't remember where I read about it first), but I'm going to have to add Patricia Wrede's "Plot/Background/Characterization" analysis to my toolbox. Great, useful blogpost for any fellow writers out there.

Since we started with a cool video, we'll end with a silly one (watch out, it might get stuck in your head):

Have a great weekend, folks!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, February 10, 2011

curing the flu blues by making a Harry Potter t-shirt (Or: How nerdy is too nerdy?)

Since our homeschool is lax enough that we give puking first-graders a sick day instead of forcing them to do school, I've had a bit of extra time on my hands today. (Well, not really, but I'm pretending.)

In which I produced this:

In case you can't tell in the picture, yes, the letters DO sparkle. IIRC, I first saw this phrase on a t-shirt on Craftster (though I've seen it elsewhere since, so I don't know who came up with it first) and it made me laugh so hard that I became sure I should have such a t-shirt too.

This is my first time making something with iron-on letters, and I have to say that as a crafting experience, using them comes pretty close to instant gratification. Which is a good thing, because as you can see in the background of this picture, there's a laundry basket full of freshly-washed-linens-that-probably-won't-stay-fresh-for-long waiting for me to fold them and put them away so they can be used again tonight when the vomiting recommences:

Hey, I may not be optimistic, but I am pretty happy. This is one cool shirt. And it just makes me laugh every time I look down at it. Now all I need is a Harry Potter movie opening to go to . . . what? You say there's a while to wait? Hey! I'm finally early for something!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Up to my elbows in vomit and poo

Welcome to a mothering blog! Where our post titles are much too close to literalism for anyone's comfort!

Sorry. We've been wading through it (that part's not literal) lately.

Happily, I've just been feeling nauseous and carrying on.

The children, on the other hand, being at the concrete stage, have been acting on their nausea.

Every time we think we're done, we're woken up (again) by the tell-tale cough that proceeds the barfing.

And it's always the middle of the night. Which I should be grateful for, because it means the kids aren't getting dehydrated and miserable, because they can eat (and keep it down) during the day.

But you know it's bad when you decide what to make for supper based on what you think you can stomach seeing again at three in the morning.

Ick. Ook. Ack.

On the plus side, I'm reminded once again that I married a hero. Any man that spends 3 am to 4:30 am lying on a makeshift bed on the floor with his puking toddler and helping her get it in the bowl each time and soothing her through her distress because she's too little to understand why she's so miserable and THEN gets up a few hours later and goes to work in order to support his family? That's a hero.

So. All the homeschooling, writing, exercise and housekeeping resolutions I'd been working on? They're on hiatus while we recuperate. Sometimes you've just got to stop and attend to the situation on the ground.

And on the bed. And the blankets. And the pillows.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, February 4, 2011

Help, I'm falling in love with Ravelry

Of course, I should have joined long ago. My friend Becca told me about this awesome website, a sort of Facebook/organizer for knitters and crocheters. But I, ever fearful of the virtual timesuck, stayed away for a long, long time. (And I'm still staying away from Facebook. I hear it's evil.)
But this Christmas, as I fell back into my annual love of fiber arts (brought on by the return of - can't say cold exactly, but - not hot weather), I decided to try Ravelry.
Wow. What a lovely, lovely place. Patterns, yarn, forums about patterns and yarn . . . and all the lovely, lovely pictures.
Is it a virtual timesuck? Yes. Yes, it is.
But it's also useful. I'm able to organize all my yarns, patterns, current projects and projected projects. They're all in one place. They're not floating around in my head anymore, driving me crazy like a little, imaginary cloud of gnats*.
I love organization. I may sometimes be a frustrated J, but I'm such a J. I love organization. I'm just bad at showing that loves sometime.
But today, I'm having fun getting my Ravelry notebook in order and dreaming about all the lovely things that might come from it. (Nevermind that I have about 5 WIPs going already - crochet projects are like books to me: if reading one at a time is fun, reading five at a time must be better.)
So, if you're on Ravelry, let me know. We could be friends. :)
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell
*"Gnats" is a word that makes me laugh today, because today I taught my first-grader the "silent G before N" rule, and there's nothing to bring up the giggles like hearing your six-year-old read about the gnats that make the gnomes gnash their teeth. Especially when she still isn't quite remembering to leave off the "G" sound each time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


So I asked a friend today if she listened to the music I posted on my blog yesterday and she said, "um, well, you know, you didn't make it sound that good."

Right. Sorry. "Little Lion Man" is a great song, with amazing music. Just like me to go philosophizing when what I should have said was: "Awesomest. Banjo-playing. Ever."*

Sorry. :)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*And then I probably still would have said, "um, vulgarity warning", just because that seems like the polite thing to do. Oh well. I'll never be totally non-long-winded.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"wasted on fixing all the problems you made in your own head"

I am loving this song. It sounds like the offspring of rock and bluegrass (as all good music should). And the sentiments are so recognizable - who hasn't been here? It's not where you want to live, but, wow, have they got that state of mind nailed - the frustration of self, the utter anger and wounded pride you have when you realize, once again, that you screwed up, it was all your fault, and you aren't the hero you thought you were. (And this is when we go to confession and repent and beg for God's grace.)
There is a prominent vulgarity in here, so you probably don't want to listen to it with kids around (though they might miss it in the accent, if they're young enough). Aside from the lyrics, the music is just amazing. I listen and can't help but think this is EXACTLY what ought to be done with guitar and piano (and all the rest). These men are treating their instruments right:

Wow. Love it.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell