Thursday, March 31, 2011

the dilemma of the good public library

How do you read them all before they're due?

And if you've got all that yummy-looking stuff checked out, how do you make time for all the yummy-looking stuff you already own?

I've never read a how-to post or time-management article that adequately address the problem of good books. I don't think there's any satisfactory answer other than: grin and dig in. ("Throw yourself on that unexploded cream puff for the emperor, boy!"*)

Praise God for books.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*five points to anyone who can tag that quotation!

Book Review: Scripture by Heart: Devotional Practices for Memorizing God's Word by Joshua Choonmin Kang

I found this book while searching on Amazon for stuff by Dallas Willard. I was puzzled when that search brought up something by Joshua Choonmin Kang, who I'd never heard of, but then saw that Dr. Willard had written the forward. I have to say: what a helpful search feature for Amazon to have! It's not a jump to suppose that a buyer would be interested in books that their favorite authors approve of. And in this case, I was very interested indeed, because I've been trying for some time to make scripture memorization a bigger part of my life.
Upon receiving this book, I found that it's half instructional manual and half devotional: some of the chapters teach you how to memorize scripture and some of them inspire you with reasons to memorize. Most of them are a mix of the two, both encouraging and equipping you at the same time. Though I read most of this book on retreat, I think it's perfectly suited for a nightstand: it's the sort of book that will give you the push you need to keep going when you're halfway through the long slog of memorizing a chapter or a book of the Bible. Most of the chapters are only a few pages long, but densely packed with jewels like this:
"Memorized Scripture verses make it just that much easier for the Holy Spirit to communicate with us, to guide and instruct us."
"Please note, when the bible uses the word success, it refers to accomplishing something God has entrusted to us."
"Receiving the Word of God is tantamount to welcoming Jesus into our heart."
Pastor Kang's words have been immensely helpful to me in my quest to memorize scripture because he doesn't just urge you to do it, he tells you why you should, and his reasons are compelling. He says, "Love and learning have always been relative to each other." In other words, when we love someone, we want to know him. So, loving God implies that we will learn about him.
In the end though, it's that first quotation that seems to me to be the heart of the book: "Memorized Scripture verses make it just that much easier for the Holy Spirit to communicate with us". I want my mind to be shaped by God's words, so that when he has something to say to me, it will be easy for me to receive it. In the words of the old Arch Bible story book The Seeds that Grew to Be a Hundred:
Now, some people listen, but others don't.
So the meaning of the story is clear.
Don't be like ground where seeds can't grow.
Open your ears and hear.
This is the message of Pastor Kang's book: hide God's word in your heart and that word will shape your heart. It will shape it so that it is like Jesus'.

I highly recommend this book.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lucy's Easter dress! (modeled over ladybug leggings)

One down, three to go!

links! - trusting God, playing the violin, and much, much more

These Little Pieces is posting regularly to her blog again, and she's started with a bang. Check out this post on how to celebrate the Annunciation with your children (I love the idea of supporting a crisis pregnancy center in honor of the occasion) and also check out her giveaway from her Etsy shop!

Conversion Diary's post Trust School is excellent, and, for me at least, came right when I needed to hear the message it offers.

And on the funny/awesome side, I love, love, love my friend Katie's post about her New Trick. :D

Bethany writes about what keeps us from being happy, and about her need (and many of ours, I think) for time alone. This line especially makes me think: "Just because we need something doesn't mean that we demand it from others." Go read the whole thing here.

Jen left me a comment today on my post about how hard it is to find sympathy cards that are neither sticky-sweet nor theologically bad, pointing me towards these beautiful, serene, appropriate cards from Conciliar Press. I don't think I've ever seen anything better.

I always have trouble summarizing Anne Kennedy's posts, but read this one and you'll understand why I read her blog. Let's just say that she has read, marked, and inwardly digested everything that P. G. Wodehouse had to teach her.

I have not read much of this blog yet. I just found it. But it's called "Shrinking Violets: Marketing Promotions for Introverts". That's enough for me to keep the tab open for quite awhile.

Rachelle Gardner has a thorough, helpful post on what fiction editors are looking for when it comes to a novel's characters.

Smithical does a great job of collecting quotations pertinent to the big creation/evolution/homeschool conference kerfluffle.

"A Neutral Education?" by Susan Wise Bauer helped me find a missing piece in my continual ponderings about homeschooling and the nature of education. She writes:

The church of Christ, not textbook writers, should be responsible for providing the central Christian story that must inform all true education. When I wrote in Chapter Twenty of The Well-Trained Mind, “When you’re instructing your own child, you have two tasks with regard to religion: to teach your own convictions with honesty and diligence, and to study the ways in which other faiths have changed the human landscape. Only you and your religious community can do the first,” I was not attempting to maintain neutrality. Rather, I was asserting that a Christian education can only be provided by a Christian community — parents, in obedience to and in faithful relationship with their local church.

Now I am trying to figure out how that fits in with what has bothered me so frequently about Christian homeschooling organizations, i.e. that they frequently put character above academics when they are ostensibly academic organizations. I thought it bothered me because they were trying to make ordinary Christian parenting the end-all and be-all of education. But maybe part of it is that they are trying to take the place of the church? (Still just thinking out loud here, folks - not coming to any conclusions yet. Feel free to join in conversation in the comment section!)

Finally, what's a link post without some music? Probably most of you have heard this, but whether you have or not, it's still a nice evening treat. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crocheted FOs: Pretty Potholders, Part II

I finished a pair of potholders from this pattern a few weeks ago; this is the second pair, so that I can have one pair out and one in the wash. I'm hoping that strategy will keep these from looking shabby for awhile!

The color pooling on these is slightly psychedelic, but I'm digging it!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Crocheted Finished Object: the Orphan Scarf

The name of this scarf, designed by Doris Chan, comes from that fact that you can make it from an "orphaned" ball of sock yarn. I actually wanted a short scarf, and so I used even less than that.

This is another one of those clever-but-simple patterns: it's just single crochet, the easiest stitch there is. But you work the single crochet with, how can I put this? negative tension? Basically, you make it as loose as possible, and then, when it's finished, stretch it as hard as you can. And you end up with this:

I think this will be a good scarf for summer, because it's so lightweight and lacy. Also a nice little project if you have a bit of leftover yarn. I have a tiny bit of laceweight leftover from my mossy spiral scarf, and I think I might use it to make another one of these, probably a little narrower.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Crocheted Finished Objects: another snood and a cabled headband

I finished the actual crochet-work on both of these projects awhile ago, but they both needed some finishing in order to be useful. These days, most of my craft-time is going towards finishing the girls' Easter dresses and the boy's Easter vest, but on Sundays I indulge myself by working on projects for myself.

I made the first project from a hat pattern in this book, but I wanted to use it as a snood, so today I sewed a circle of elastic around the inside edge:

And here's how it looks from the back:

The next one is a cabled headband (my first time making crocheted cables). I used the pattern for a hat brim from this book, and then shortened it and sewed it closed in order to make a headband:

Both of these were made of a pretty yarn that a friend gave me for Christmas a year ago. I really like them both!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


from an old, old episode of The Cosby Show:
Claire: "Why did we have four children?"
Cliff: pause. Then, "Because we did not want five."
See, I'm sick. It's just a cold, but it's the kind of cold where half the time I'd rather be lying down with my eyes closed than lying down and reading, so . . . it's a cold.
The Cosby Show? Perfect. I may be sick, but I'm sick and giggling.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 19, 2011


First up, James M. Kushiner's post "Discretionary Saving" is about what it means to be a saint, and it's good reading for Lent. He says,
Since holy means “set apart” for God, it follows that our thoughts and actions that are negotiable, or what we describe in monetary terms as “discretionary spending,” should be given over to divine things. You could say that our discretionary time should be spent “laying up treasures in heaven,” or what we might call “discretionary saving.”
He goes on to talk about what those "divine things" are: not just prayer and Bible study (though certainly those), but also "corporeal works of mercy", like feeding the poor, and he talks about why those acts of mercy are part of becoming a saint.

It's a very good and challenging post.

And then, more on holiness, is Quotidian Moments' post "Duties of My State in Life". After pointing out that introverts might be tempted to escape their duties not by doing a million outside activities but rather by reading and writing and praying too much (ouch!), she says,
Every once in a while, I used to search online to find exactly WHAT were the duties of my state in life. But the answer is simple -- it is my husband and children, my parents, and more generally, the practice of a Christian married life. I think I was probably searching to find the minimum so I could check off "duties done for the day." I suppose I was also looking for a way to feel good about myself -- sort of a grading scale. I did that and that and that, which adds up to holiness! But it's not so easy, when St Augustin says quite clearly the Church's teaching that we don't "earn" God's help nor can we expect to please Him by trying to get by with a passing grade.
The rest of the post can be found here.

Speaking of daily duties, one of the ways I find good books to read to the kids is by haunting the blogs of children's book authors, because they're always one top of the latest buzz in what is, after all, their own business. My favorite for this purpose is Melissa Wiley. She writes posts like this and all of the sudden we have our library list for the week. (I keep her post open in one tab and my library's website open in the other and flip back and forth, requesting, requesting, requesting.) From that specific post, I can definitely vouch for "Chalk", "Shark Vs. Train", and "Flora's Very Windy Day".
And, speaking of books, Semicolon's weekly book review linky is up, and it's a great way to find many, many things to add to your own TBR pile.
And through Semicolon's link, I found this excellent post, "The Truth About Homeschooling, Part I". An excerpt:
Socialization is probably the most hot button word in the homeschooling world. Just mention the word and homeschoolers immediately become defensive. First you’ll hear the argument that socialization and socializing are different. That is true. It’s also true that most people who bring up socialization really mean socializing but we know what they mean and we don’t win any points by splitting hairs over definitions. Then you’ll hear homeschoolers categorically deny that either of these is an issue. Type in “socialization and homeschoolers” on Google and you’ll get a bunch of articles and blogs and reports that all spout statistics showing that neither socialization or socializing or anything of the sort is, has ever been, or ever will be an issue for homeschooled kids.

The truth?

Socialization and socializing are issues for homeschoolers.

Reading something like that makes me give a slight sigh, Ah, and go on to read the rest, relieved to know I'm hearing a truth deeper than the party line, and yet something that's not depressed, but just clear-headed. Instead of saying, "This isn't an issue," this post says, "this is an issue, but if you don't ignore it, it's not an issue that lacks a satisfactory solution." Very helpful, to me at least.

I just want to say

. . . that my husband is celebrating St. Joseph's Day by doing some woodworking. With his son.

He's so cool. :)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

Though Moon visits an old world of hers in this book, it feels very much like a new series. I enjoyed her Paksennarion books years ago; I think I enjoyed this one even more.

Oath of Fealty has a slow start, and doesn't really pick up until thirty or forty pages in. But in a close to five-hundred-page-long fantasy epic, that's forgivable, and there's really very little else to dislike about this book. Once it gets going, it really goes, following three main characters: a newly-crowned king who only recently learned about his royal heritage, a mercenary who has suddenly inherited that king's old military command, and, most compellingly, a noblewoman who has been commanded to go and restore order to her treasonous family's duchy.

This is definitely swords-and-sorcery stuff, but unlike some fantasy, the evil beings aren't nearly as compelling as the strong and good gods or the imperfect humans who sacrificially serve them. This is good fantasy, and while it doesn't have quite the theological bent of Bujold's Chalion books, it's in that mold.

At one point, the noblewoman, Dorrin, when speaking of her first few weeks trying to undo the harm her wicked family has done to their land and people, complains, "[The people's] gratitude is too great for the little I have done so far. It is all undoing - undoing curses, unsetting traps - before I can do anything real". Though it's pointed out to her in the same conversation that she has been able to do positive good, I have to say that that's what I really hope to see out of the next few books of the series: I want to see what these characters build in their new realms of responsibility. I'm sure those volumes will involve more fights with evil dukes, evil bandits, evil armies - that's where the fun of the story is, after all - but Moon's an author that seems to have a good grip on, well, good, and I'm hoping that in the later volumes of this series we'll get to see Dorrin and the rest not just destroy the enemy, but build up their new homelands. It should be interesting.

One note: though Moon isn't at all a writer that terrifies for the sake of terrifying (this isn't horror), her bad guys are really bad, and so this isn't for young readers, because it does contain some disturbing elements of violence and, well, creepiness. I think that it makes good reading precisely because the bad guys are really bad and the good guys really good, but fair warning that some of it is hard going.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Very Orange Cake for the Birthday Boy

My son wanted a carrot cake, and a carrot cake he got. But it wasn't quite your normal, run-of-the-mill carrot cake. Oh no. What does every five year old with a deep and abiding love of the color orange need?

A volcano cake!


Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, March 14, 2011

first post up on the Dante blog

Hello! I just wanted to point you towards the A Lenten Ascent blog, where I and some friends are blogging through Dante's Purgatorio. I just posted my observations on Cantos 1-3 here. Please go read, feel free to comment, and if you want to join in and read through with us, it's not too late! Just let me know if you want to be part of the project.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 13, 2011

links - just four! Sugar&swearing, a bracelet, the bright spots in mothering, and the man who won't be king

Jen's post at Conversion Diary for last week's Quick Takes (#3 on her list) explains well why it can be good to give up something good for Lent and not just something bad. It has to do with sugar and swearing, but I won't spoil it further than that.

I want to try to make this bracelet. It's so cute!

A post from John Mark Reynolds about Newt Gingrich's chances of actually becoming president. A sample (extra points for the Jeeves and Wooster refrence*):

In his quest for the next job, Newt has managed to hit on the one powerful job he will never hold, but that he can imagine will be his. UN Secretary General? Too American. Supreme Court? Wrong era for non-judges. Pope? Married a few times too many. Which brings us to the major reason that Newt will never be President: my Republican wife runs out of the room with profanity when he appears on the screen.

It has not been possible to win a presidential election without women’s votes for most of the last century and has never been possible in this one. If there is a candidate with less appeal to women, he is already dictator of Libya. On top of this nobody has ever been President who reminds the reading public of Gussie Finknottle.

I don't think I have the words to explain why this next post is so good, but it is.

And that's it! Since it's so short, I'll add a music video:

And now that's really it. Hope you all had a good first half week of Lent!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*There are always extra points for a Jeeves and Wooster reference.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

7 Quick Takes

Quick takes!

1. I listened to an old Proclaimers cd this week, and heard this great line (addressed to God): "I'm not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of you." Wow.*

2. Weirdest parenting admonition out of my mouth this week, "Stop it! We don't salt the piano!"

3. Collard greens taste almost exactly like grass smells.**

4. Our house regressed in its de-baby-proofing this week. My make-up is not "paint", toothpaste should only be applied to ONE area of the body and even if you're potty-training, you're not old enough to manage it by yourself if some of the products of pottying (and not the nice one of the two) ends up on the floor. Doorknob guards back on the upstairs bathroom door. Yep.

5. Does it count as a science lesson if we carefully examine the progress of the decomposition of a lizard corpse every time we pass it on the way to the mailboxes?***

6. Best line from The Big Bang Theory this week: "They're having fun wrong." (From Sheldon, of course.)

7. I'm seven verses in to my attempt to memorize John 14-17. The truth is, I memorized most of chapter 14 back in college, so I'm finding it pretty easy so far. It's all coming back. Buuuuut . . . I'm a little worried that I won't be able to keep up the pace I want to once I get past the part that's already laid down somewhere in the back of my mind, but I'm hoping that there's some sort of memorization muscle in the brain that will be well warmed up by then.

Truth to tell, the thing I keep telling myself when I feel like I was nuts to take this one is, "People memorize Hamlet." (And thanks to Ken Branagh, we all know how long that is.) Why do we take it for granted that memorization is almost impossible when there's a whole profession (acting) that depends on the ability?

Of course, they're professionals, which brings me back to the memorization muscle idea. I think those actors might have buff memories.****

More Quick Takes can be found here.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*Okay, so after I started this blog entry and before I posted it, I ended up using that line as a blog post title. Sorry, folks. Redundancy is inevitable around here.

**This isn't a bad thing. It's just an observation. I actually liked it.

***The process is taking a lot longer than I would have guessed. No wonder people make alligator shoes. You could probably get a pair that lasted even if you skipped the tanning stage.

****Though, really, here's what I want to want to say when I memorize Scripture. I want to say: "Write here. I want your words in this place. This place I would otherwise fill with something less worthy."

This Lent, I want to put Christ's words in the middle of my waking thoughts, and I want to let His words crowd out the things that are less worthy.

links - household systems, Dante, knitting, Lent, and more!

Quotidian Moments writes about updating her household systems - not replacing, updating. I like this; it's what I always think of as tweaking. Her musing on this process is thoughtful and interesting. A sample:

Update doesn't have to imply "total change" -- it implies revision, tailoring, starting with the old thing and adjusting it to fit or even to look newer. Remember how young ladies in straitened circumstances would take last season's bonnet and take off the old lace, add some new flowers, so they could enjoy wearing something that looked somewhat fresh even though it wasn't exactly? Like that.

Kerry sent me a link that goes along well with our Lenten read-through of Dante's Purgatorio. It's a blog where the (very educated!) authors are also reading through the poem!

Here's another Lenten post that talks about the idea not just of giving things up, but of taking good things on. Though his conclusion, explaining why we fast, is perfect: "That's the point of denying ourselves during Lent. We want to forget our own power (or the illusion of it) and rely on Christ Jesus, our Savior and King." Yep. Fasting takes away the illusion that we have awesome self-control and that's why everything is going so swimmingly. Nope. It's not us.

Another great Lenten link, Kelly talks about how, in some seasons of life, simplicity is a good Lenten resolution.

Also a bit late, but not too late to use during the season, Kerry's post on a Lenten self-examination.

Katie does two really cool things in this post: she reviews some groovy old knitting books, and she mentions her Lenten resolution - one that I wish I'd thought of before Lent started!

Smithical also has a good Lenten post up . . . I find her reminder that we in the west normally eat like royalty pretty humbling.

You know how they say that Christians divorce as often as the general population? Turns out that's not entirely true . . .

It's not a secret that I'm a fan of Touchstone magazine, but nonetheless, I have to agree with this post. Their March/April issue does look really good.

More wonderfulness from Patricia Wrede, this time on writing "The Big Finish". She talks about what makes a good conclusion to a novel good, including making sure that the biggest climatic scene involves the main plotline, and not one of the subplots. A sample:

But the center of the battle is still defeating the Evil Overlord, and this is what determines the way most readers will see the book. If the Evil Overlord wins, or dies but takes the Main Character with him, then even if the hostage rescue, happy romance, and psychological healing are all wildly successful, the book will still generally be considered a tragedy. If the Main Character wins and survives, then several unsuccessful subplot endings will only make the book “gritty” or maybe “dark” or “realistic,” rather than a tragedy.

FO - pretty potholders

My old potholders had grown old and oil-stained, so I took out some cotton yarn and made these:

When I started, I was afraid that they might be too thin to really work as potholders, but the clever pattern leads to a double-thick cloth, and since crochet is already, by its structure, double-thick in itself, that's really a quadruple-thick cloth. (Click through the link, btw, if you're at all interested. The pattern's very simple, but it's got a nifty geometrical trick for turning a spiral into a square.)

I'm hoping to make another pair soon, so that I can have a pair out and a pair in the laundry. These work up in less than a day, so it shouldn't take too long.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Lenten Ascent through Purgatory

Three other people want to read through the Purgatorio this Lent, so I went ahead and started the blog. (Heather and Lasselanta, would you email me your addresses, so I can add you as blog authors? jessica *dot* snell *at* gmail *dot* com) You can see the blog here.

For those interested in reading along but not posting, feel free to just read and/or comment as you please. If you decide at some point you want to join, just let me know.

If you're thinking about it but hesitating, let me encourage you to join. We'll only be doing 5 cantos a week, which adds up to, oh, less than 30 pages of reading per week? I think? and it's short little bits of verse, not page-edge-to-page-edge reading. And you don't have to post a long reaction or essay. You can even just post the quotations that stood out to you the most that week. Email me or comment if you want to be added to the blog.

Anyway, this project has it's own blog, but I'll probably cross-post every week or so with the interesting bits. :)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

a couple of quotations

From Fr. Reardon's commentary on the week's reading in Proverbs 19:

"When swift action is called for in circumstances that do not permit the taking of adequate counsel, such action will be more safely and prudently taken by the man who normally does not act precipitously. That is to say, a person who normally takes adequate counsel before acting on his decisions is the one most likely to react wisely when he does not have opportunity to take counsel. He is the one who will not lose his head under pressure. He will keep his emotions at bay and not act on the basis of them (verse 11), knowing that acting on passion tends to become a habit (verse 19)."

And, in preparation of tomorrow's fast, a few words from Pope Benedict (from his Lenten 2009 sermon):

“Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

And again: “From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person.”

I don't know about you, but those last two feel like marching orders for the next forty days. I'm grateful for the direction.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crochet FO - mossy spiral scarf

This is my first finished laceweight project. The yarn is Shimmer from Knitpicks in Bayou (making this also my first project with Knitpicks yarn - I like!). And the pattern can be found here.

It's really simple, but I love all the ruffles. I'm not normally a ruffles person, but around my neck, this just feels like a very luxurious, feminine version of a cravat.

It's really long too. In the picture above, it's looped around in almost two circles and then trails down. Which is pretty much how I wear it.

I finished this a month or two ago (the Knitpicks order was my Christmas gift from my husband), and I've been wearing it a lot. I have a green velvet jacket that I bought (back in college?) that this goes beautifully with.

Definitely one of my favorite FO's. (I'm also thinking that a version of this in their favorite colors might make a good gift for friends and family members. What do you think?)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

last-minute Lenten reading group?

Okay, this is totally last minute, but I was just journaling through my Lenten intentions, and as I was trying to answer the question, "Which virtue do I want to particularly work on?" I went and looked up the traditional vice/virtue pairings.

Which of course made me think of Dante. And I thought, "you know what would really help me think through all this? Rereading the Purgatorio."

So . . . is there anyone out there who'd be interested in an online Lenten read-through of the Purgatorio, that great Christian explication of the seven virtues?

It's probably a deficiency in me, but the Purgatorio always been my favorite part of the Divine Comedy, simply because it seems to be the part that correlates best with our life here on Earth, as we look towards Jesus, and try to follow in his footsteps, letting him take away our sins and help us learn how to walk righteously. Basically, as we ask him to "fit us for heaven to live with Thee there."

It's so meaty, but it's pretty short, really, and very beautiful (especially if you go with Dorothy Sayers' masterly translation). And oh-so-perfect for Lent.

If two or three of you were interested, I could start up a separate group blog for it (anyone participating would be added as a member, so we could all post), and we could make up a loose reading schedule (divide the number of cantos by the days in Lent, I guess - more details when my twins wake up and I can snag my copy from the bookshelf in the bedroom) and we could all post our reflections on each section as we finish them. Nothing more formal than that, I think, since everyone's pretty busy.

Ooh, now I really want to do it. If you're interested, leave me a note in the comments. The women (and men? I'm not sure there are any men, actually) who comment on this blog are so sharp, I know reading your reactions as you read through Dante would be just amazing.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Daybook - March 7

I love it when Kerry posts these, so I thought I'd try one of my own:

outside my window . . . It's sunny and there's a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds.

I am listening to . . . Michael Card's Joy in the Journey. Resonating in my mind is the line, "to look into your judge's face/and see a savior there." Perfect listening for right before Lent.

I am wearing . . . the tie-dye dress I wore when I went to tell my now-husband that yes, actually, I did like him, and was he still interested, even though it was almost five months ago that he asked? (He was.) And leggings. It's still March, after all, and the time for sundresses alone is not yet.

I am so grateful for . . . the sunshine. And green leaves to see it through.

I'm pondering . . . Lent, mostly. Hammering down exactly what my intentions are. It's a good thing.

I am reading . . . Dallas Willard's Hearing God. And the epilogue of Joshua Choonmin Kang's Scripture by Heart.

I am creating . . . the first of three crocheted Easter dresses (one for each girl). The crochet-work is done, but I still need to sew it a lining, and then piece it together. (The boy isn't left out, btw, he's getting a vest in his beloved orange.)

around the house . . . the bathrooms are getting scrubbed down today. Boring, but so very lovely and necessary to have done.

from the kitchen . . . turnips tonight! The exclamation point is because they're beautiful, tiny, sweet spring turnips. I'm going to boil the greens and steam the turnips and toss them with butter, salt and pepper. Mmm, my mouth is watering already. Seriously, these are so good.

real education in our home . . . Just plugging away. But in the good, solid, reading-writing-arithmetic kind of a way. Beginning to think about curricula for next year. Solidly into thinking about activities for next year. Realizing that I really am the type of homeschooling mom who likes being home. (Versus running around to a million activities.)

the church year in our home . . . getting ready for Lent!

recent milestones . . . I finished frogging my first thrift-store sweater for the yarn. Frogged the sweater, wound the yarn into hanks, measured what I had, and washed the hanks. I know have ten and a half hanks of a wool/mohair/acrylic blend drying from hangers. I got 1200+ yards out of a $7 sweater dress. Now that's a bargain!

Here's a close-up that shows the real color of the yarn:

There's a couple of shawls in there - or an afghan - or . . . something. I don't know. But I had such fun processing the yarn!

the week ahead. . . This week we have the Ash Wednesday service coming up, and we've also got Gamgee's birthday on the way. Present is ordered, now I just need to negotiate with him on the cake. He wants carrot cake. I think carrot cake is an abomination. But he's the birthday boy, so he'll probably win.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Lenten Links

For those of us in the west, Lent begins this Wednesday. I've spent the last few weeks collecting some links related to Lent, and I'm posting them now so that you'll have a chance to read them before the season actually starts!

Here's a meditation from James M. Kushiner over at Touchstone, which includes such excellence as this:

For that reason each Lent with its various stages can be viewed as part of a whole year, and each year part of a long life of turning, and returning, toward the light of the Gospel. The "Good Thief" turned toward that Light, even at the eleventh hour. It is never too late to begin, nor is it ever too early to start. Every season, every day, every hour, Jesus welcomes us on the Road. "Come, take up your cross, and follow Me! My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. And find rest for your souls." Tired? Tired of the same old sin? There is rest and strength at hand for the weary who put their trust in Him. The dawn is here, and sunrise is at hand. Turn and return, again. It does not matter how many times we've fallen. Time to get up!

bearing blog talks about deciding her fast by first thinking about what virtue she needs most to work on, and then choosing a fast that will support the growth of that virtue. I really like this idea.

This one's just practical, I'm afraid, it's my last year's list of vegetarian recipes, for the use of those giving up meat during Lent.

Ann has an idea on candlelight for the last week of Lent that I find intriguing.

This one isn't ostensibly Lenten, but bearing blog's post on how to use St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life would be great pre-Lenten reading, especially if you're at all interested in using de Sales' writings as a guide to prayer during Lent.

I like the Erin Manning's observation that, "One of the soberly funny facts of life is that Lent is much easier when you've been backsliding."

And here is an Orthodox take on Lent.

I hope some or all of these are helpful to you as you prepare for the Great Fast!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 3, 2011

links! - Augustine, parenting . . . and a vase.

Wow. What a gracious post on parenting and discipline and, at the same time, what a blessing of a meditation on how God deals with us, His children.

My husband shared this with me. It made me laugh out loud, and I bet you'll have the same reaction.

I like Shannon Hale anyway (The Actor and the Housewife, need I say more?), but I really like her post on breastfeeding twins. Or, as she puts it, "Boobs as Udders."

Ooh, ooh! New books from Peace Hill Press!

Fun knitting blogs are easy to find; fun crochet blogs rather less so. But this one seems pretty good.

We're big Mo Willems fans in this house, and so I enjoyed both the news that one of his books won a CYBIL and the cartoon he drew of Elephant and Piggie's reaction, found here.

Fred Sanders' post on "What Augustine Confessed" is sort of hilarious (as well as being insightful, of course). I really like this summary:

i. Thesis: At one point in my adolescence, I ran wild in the shadowy jungle of erotic adventures.

ii. Clouds of muddy carnal concupiscence filled the air; The bubbling impulses of puberty befogged and obscured my heart; I couldn’t tell the difference between lust and love.

iii. At age 16, my family ran out of money and I took a year off of school. I had too much time on my hands. I made a bad set of friends. There was no family discipline to hold me back from doing what I wanted.

iv. I stole some pears!

It hardly takes a Freudian to perceive that Augustine isn’t talking about pears when he talks about pears.

I'm not usually a fan of vlogs, but this one cracked me up, maybe because this mom's discovery of her twin pregnancy so closely paralleled mine.

This review of The Organized Heart intrigues me. The title alone intrigues me!

This is, well, it's a post about a vase. But it's fascinating. And it's not about Wedgewood, but it is about what inspired Wedgewood and . . . and it's fascinating. I didn't even know anyone carved glass.

of course, life's not all bad . . .

. . . my husband makes a mean black and tan!

And, yes, I'm tagging this "crafts". :)

A Midwinter's Rant

ARRRRGH. I’m so sick of me. I haven’t been this sick of me since I was a teenager.


I really didn’t need to be haunted by the ghost of my teenage self this year. But, boy, that’s what it feels like. All of that, “you really are crap; people really do hate you; nothing you touch will ever turn out right; throw the towel in now, but no you CAN’T can you? Can’t even give up properly, you idiot . . .” Yeah. That. I didn’t miss that.

And the weird, bizarre thing about it is that stream of abuse runs in perfect counterpoint to my rational, optimistic mind. I can see that life’s not a disaster. I can see that my loved ones don’t hate me. I can see all of the good things in my life and appreciate them and enjoy them. I can even live in my rational, optimistic mind for the majority of my days. It’s just that there is this constant, flowing stream of hate and despair in my heart, running right along beside it. Where does it come from? Is this just part of living in, as my daughter once called it, "a fallen, whiny world"?

I don’t know what to make of it. I really don’t. Is this sin? Is it depression? Is it temptation? (Is it the truth?) Does what it is vary from moment to moment, depending on how I respond to it? I don’t know. Up till a year ago, I would have said that it was adolescence, left behind long ago, unmourned and unmissed.

I know I can ignore it for hours on end – sometimes even days at a time. But I also know that it can suck me in for days at a time and I have to struggle to make my way out. Sometimes I even have to struggle to struggle, if that makes sense.

Wow. I do know that it hampers me. It wraps around my legs and trips me up.

I know that music and prayer and exercise and writing keep it at bay.

(I know that I am tired. I know that I feel I don't deserve to feel tired.)

I know that it keeps me constantly second-guessing myself.

That’s why music and prayer and exercise and writing help, I think. Those are things that I’m sure about, things I don’t second-guess. Because I’m sure that music is beautiful. And I’m sure about the One I pray to. I know that exercise is good for me. I know that I’m a writer.

Loving my kids and my husband: that helps too. Another thing I’m sure about. They’re mine and I’m theirs, and I am to love them.

It’s very good to have things I don’t doubt, even if I sometimes doubt if I’m doing them well. The difference between being thirteen and being thirty is that I know that doing the right thing is better than doing the wrong thing, even if I’m not doing the right thing as well as it can be done. Huh. But, yes, I think that’s maturity. Because I used to be so scared of screwing up that I’d never even start. Now, more often than not, at least I start. I’ve learned to say, “Help me, Lord. I’m going in,” instead of, “Help me, Lord, I can’t.”

But, really? The, “doom, doom, doom” beat that sounds in my ears whenever anything goes the slightest bit wrong? I just hate it. The feeling that it’s all a loss and I might as well stop trying, that feeling of hopelessness that shows up whenever I make a small mistake? The one that’s completely out of proportion to reality? I could live without that. I really could.

I really, really, really could.

I wish it weren’t winter anymore.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“I'm not afraid of dying/but I am afraid of you.” –the Proclaimers

I just had the weirdest experience. I was working on my novel, writing a scene that's either a conversion scene or the prequel to one. Now, I've no idea how to write a conversion scene, and I don't particularly want to, but it's what happens in the story, and as I'm the author of this particular story, well, it's down to me to write the scene. It fits. It's good. Plot-wise, it's earned. It's just intimidating.

My hero has just had an experience that's violently changed his worldview, though he hasn't put it in so many words yet. In fact, if it ever is "put in so many words" I just might have failed as an author. But I know that it's happened, and my audience needs to know too.

So, I'm writing about this poor, shaken fellow, who thinks that he's shaken up because of what's happening to him physically, when really what's going on inside his head and his heart is much more drastic, but I'm writing about what's happening to him physically. And, as I'm writing about what's happening to him physically, and the choice he's facing about which way to go (which will, one way or another, decide his fate), I realized, "Hey! It's a metaphor!" and I became quite foolishly delighted.

Because a metaphor is exactly what I needed, but a forced one would have been no good at all. Finding myself in the middle of one however . . . gosh. I really should stop cackling. It's not at all dignified.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crocheted FO's: bad-haircut beanie and Marian's Hood

I gave my husband a bad haircut. Since he has very short hair, the badness of the haircut ceased to be apparent within about two days. But I'd already decided that I owed him a hat, so several weeks after the hair cut in question, I presented him with this:

(The trimming of the fine mustache and beard, happily, I have nothing to do with.)

I'm very pleased with the hat (so is he). I used a self-striping sock yarn - first time using one! The striping of the yarn made this otherwise boring pattern (made it up myself: it's just a slowly-increasing single crochet circle, worked even once it was wide enough to fit around the sides of his head) fun to work. The yarn is a bamboo-wool mix, making it bright & warm.

Then, I finished a project for myself. I have fairly thick hair, which I wear up most of the time, usually in pinned braids or some sort of chignon. This - along with the fact that I (don't laugh!) have a big head (no, literally!) - means that it's hard to find hats that fit. And, even if they fit, shoving them over my hair usually messes up whatever hairstyle I've got going. So when I saw this project in Interweave Crochet, I thought, ah-ha! a solution! (Forgive my sober expression - it's hard to take pictures of yourself!)

It's a crocheted hood, like the hood on a jacket, but just all by itself, and buttoned at the neck. It has fun cables down the side and I used a pretty green yarn made of wool and mohair. I really like how it turned out. And, yes, it fits over my hair without disarranging it too much. Yay!

(Look, see? This picture shows how I actually feel about how it turned out.)

It's so fun to work on projects like this. I'm having way too much fun with yarn these days. :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell