Monday, January 31, 2011

recent crochet projects: some dishcloths . . . and a SNOOD!

It seems it takes cold weather for me to get interested in fiber arts again. It's a yearly cycle. Somehow, having a slowly-growing cuddly blanket growing under my fingers isn't that exciting when it's 100 degrees outside. But in the middle of the winter? Lovely! Goes well with the cup of steaming tea on the side-table.

I've got two blankets going now, but they're both scrapghans and slow-going.

But, here are a few projects I've finished recently. First, a set of dishcloths in my favorite pattern, as a Christmas gift for some friends:

Then, a snood, for me:

I'm particularly happy with the snood. I made it from a 1940's pattern, and stitched it over a headband hotglued to elastic (the elastic goes under my hair, the headband on top) on the final round.

It holds all of my hair and . . . it's the easiest hair-do ever. No pins, no muss, no fuss. Just put it on, and my hair's done for the day. Lovely!

And it sparkles. :)

Anyone else on a winter fiber kick? (Besides momco3. :) )

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, January 30, 2011

assuming the best

I've been reading a lot about marriage lately, and it's got me pondering.

Truthfully, I've been reading a lot about problems in people's marriages, and it has me running the other direction and thinking about solutions in marriages.

I've been thinking about what works in my own marriage, and one of the big things, I think, is that my husband and I have a sort of standing policy of assuming the best of each other. This eases a lot of our misunderstandings.

My husband and I are exact opposites on the Myers-Briggs. This means that we complement each other beautifully, but we surely don't think about things the same way. We often reach the same conclusions, but we get there by vastly different paths. So when we're working our way through some problem, there's lots of room for misunderstanding.

But we've developed the habit of assuming the best of each other instead of jumping to the conclusion that what was said was meant to hurt. From my perspective, this means that when Adam says something that hurts me, I remind myself that I know he loves me, and I ask him if what I heard was what he meant.

It usually isn't. I'll find that he actually meant something good; his thought processes are just so different than mine; I need it explained.

It's taken me awhile to learn, this waiting to get angry instead of getting angry right away.

Or, sometimes, this arresting myself mid-fume, and reminding myself that what I heard probably wasn't what he meant.

But I like this part of our marriage. It feels courteous. It makes me feel like I can begin to understand St. Paul's comment that love is "slow to anger". Sometimes if you slow yourself down on the road to anger, you never get to anger at all, because you have time to see that there's nothing to be angry about.

That's my experience anyway. And it's a skill I'm trying to apply to my other relationships, but it's really something I think I learned in marriage. So, I'm wondering if it's a personality-specific thing, or if this is something other folks out there find themselves doing. Or, do you find yourself doing something similar, but you'd describe it differently?

I admit, this is really just about feeding my endless curiosity about human relationships. So don't feel obliged, but if you have something to say, I'd love to read it in the comments.

I'm finding that the older I get, the more fun it is to talk about what does work, as opposed to what doesn't. :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Over Christmas, I got out of the habit of doing links posts. But I love them (there's so much good writing and videos and pictures and audio on the web!), so here you go:

Over at Brandywine Books, they post a long quotation from John Wesley, part of which reads:

Would you judge of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure; of the innocence or malignity of actions? Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.

It's worth going and reading the whole thing.

There's an interview with Susan Wise Bauer here (scroll down till you see her name) that I enjoyed listening to. It covers writing, homeschooling, vocation, history and many other interesting things.

Mike Rowe (of "Dirty Jobs" - which, along with "Mythbusters", is one of the two shows on Discovery that are really worth watching with your kids) plays "Not My Job" on NPR, which is just sort of epic.

This post on "The Problem with Genre" talks about Sturgeon's Law, which I'd never heard of but which rings entirely true to me, as a lover of the genres both of space opera and of the Regency romance. If you're a genre-lover of any kind, you'll probably enjoy his analysis.

And, hat tip to my brother, the real meanings of philosophical terms. A sample:

2. Hermeneutics: What I mean

3. Logic: Why I’m right

4. Apologetics: Why you’re wrong

5. Fallacy: Why you don’t even know you’re wrong

6. Epistemology: How I know I’m right and you’re wrong

7. Existential: Don’t feel bad: everyone is wrong

It goes on. It's hilarious. Enjoy!

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Reading "In Memoriam A. H. H."

Strong Son of God, immortal Love . . .

Thus begins Alfred, Lord Tennyson's famous poem of grief. This preface, which is addressed to Christ, was probably the last-composed part of the poem he took 17 years to write, but he placed it at the beginning, as an apology for all that followed.

"Strong" is the first word of the preface and "strong" remains the best adjective for the whole thing. It presents his case strongly ("Thou madest man, he knows not why/He thinks he was not made to die") and his faith in God just as strongly ("And thou has made him: thou art just.").

To that problem of sorrow Tennyson gives an answer that is, in one way, the answer of Job, "I had spoken of thee, but now I have seen thee, and I repent in dust and ashes." Or, in Tennyson's words:

Our little systems have their day;

They have their day and cease to be:

They are but broken lights of thee,

And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

But it's more than the answer of Job, because it's the answer of a Christian, of a man who believes that God became incarnate, and is thus a God who knows our sorrows intimately. Tennyson again:

Thou seemest human and divine,

The highest, holiest manhood, thou:

Our wills are ours, we know not how;

Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

(That "seemest", by the by, does mean "appears", but not, I think, "appears to be but isn't really". Just "appears and is".)

Yet his faith never stops him from describing death and sorrow in their bleakest terms:

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;

Thou madest Life in man and brute;

Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot

Is on the skull which thou has made.

This is where we find ourselves. Which brings me to, why am I reading this? Well, because it is beautiful, and I have long loved Tennyson and long loved the preface. But more than that: because it was said, in Victorian times, that in this poem Tennyson taught England how to mourn. And the longer I live, the more clearly I see that either I am going to die or I am going to be mourning those who've died. And I'd like to read this now, before I am faced with the death of a loved one, so that I might have some words for my grief when it comes.

(I've had the experience before of reading things that didn't apply to me at the time, but being so glad I had them in my heart and head later on, when I needed them. I expect this will happen again. And again, and again. Isn't that why we memorize Scripture?)

And because I'm already mourning some smaller things, and I want to understand what's going on in my own heart.

And because, due to the preface, I already trust Tennyson. I know where he ended up, and it's where I want to end up too:

Forgive my grief for one remoed,

Thy creature, whom I found so fair.

I trust he lives in thee, and there

I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,

Confusions of a wasted youth;

Forgive them where they fail in truth

And in thy wisdom make me wise.

As I said, this preface has long been one of my favorite poems, but I've never read the longer poem (133 cantos) in its entirety. I'm deep into it now, and often wishing both to stop and to go on, because it is so hard to read and yet so beautiful and good. But as the proverb says, it is better to enter the house of mourning than the house of feasting, and the wise take it to heart.

Though, honestly . . . I don't know why exactly I'm doing this, despite all of the reasons I just wrote about. It's probably more true to say, "I just want to, and so I am." I want to, and so I'm making up reasons that make sense. We'll see. Even if it never helps me understand grief, or mourn properly, or any of that nonsense, I don't think I'll be hurt by letting my thoughts follow the thoughts of this great poet. I'll let you know how it goes.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I should be done by now

I'm working on my novel right now, and I just opened up a couple of plotting/planning word documents, looking for the name of my heroine's sister, which I know I wrote down somewhere as I was, well, planning and plotting. I still haven't found the name, but the word count of those documents caught my eye.

Now, I'm over two thirds of the way through writing this story (hoorah! also: crawl, crawl, crawl), but I just realized that I have over 30,000 words about this story in documents other than the word document that contains novel itself.

If only those counted! I could be done by now!

(Okay, not really. I know. Nothing is story but the story. Still. I didn't realize I'd done quite so much writing around the story.)

Ha! I just found it! My heroine's little sister's name is Hannah. Huh. I wonder why I decided that?

(I wonder if Hannah needs a story of her own next? I have a dashing Captain Williams leftover from a story I wrote a couple of years ago. I bet they'd hit it off . . . no! Down! Bad imagination! Finish this one first!)

Right. By now, the discerning among my readers will have recognized that I'm procrastinating. I'd better go now. :)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, January 17, 2011

Books Read in 2010

Here's my list of books read in 2010. There were eighty-nine in total, and I really should have reviewed more of them here on the blog (I'm trying to remedy that this year). Of course, some of them I didn't review because I wanted to give them as Christmas gifts to people who read this blog. :) Christmas being over, here's the list, alphabetically by author:

The Holy Bible

Feed – Anderson, M. T.

The Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle

A Chance Encounter – Balogh, Mary

Waistland: The (R)Evolutionary Science Behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis – Barrett, Deirdre

Lucifer’s Champion – Blyth, Juliet

The Parfit Knight – Blyth, Juliet

Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter’s Uncommon Year – Brodie, Laura

The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way – Bryson, Bill

Cryoburn – Bujold, Lois McMaster Bujold

Winterfair Gifts – Bujold, Lois McMaster

Manalive - Chesterton, G. K.

Boundaries with Kids: When to say YES, When to Say NO, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives – Cloud, Dr. Henry and Townsend, Dr. John

Mockingjay – Collins, Suzanne

Beholder’s Eye: Web Shifters #1 – Czerneda, Julie E.

Changing Vision (Webshifters #2) – Czerneda, Julie E.

Reap the Wild Wind: Stratification #1 – Czerneda, Julie E.

Riders of the Storm: Stratification #2 – Czerneda, Julie E.

Rift In the Sky: Stratification #3 – Czerneda, Julie E.

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter – Davies, Russell T., and Cook, Benjamin

Finding God’s Will For You – de Sales, St. Francis

Living by Fiction – Dillard, Annie

The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas, Alexandre

Ice – Durst, Sarah Beth

Knight’s Castle – Eager, Edward

How to Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and On Your Own –Farber, Barry

American On Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot – Ferguson, Craig

The Kitchen Madonna – Godden, Rumer

The Accessible Aunt – Gray, Vanessa

The Red Queen – Gregory, Philippa

Secrets – Gunn, Robin Jones

Princess Academy – Hale, Shannon

Chosen – Hoffman, Chandra

Juliet, Naked – Hornby, Nick

Mirabile – Kagan, Janet

Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids – Katz, Christina

The Admiral’s Penniless Bride – Kelly, Carla

Marrying the Captain – Kelly, Carla

Marrying the Royal Marine – Kelly, Carla

-A Devilish Dilemma – Lansdowne, Judith

Learning How to Pray for Our Children

Fledgling – Lee, Sharon and Miller, Steve

The Four Loves – Lewis, C. S.

Out of the Silent Planet – Lewis, C. S.

Perelandra – Lewis, C. S.

The Problem of Pain – Lewis, C. S.

The Screwtape Letters – Lewis, C. S.

The World’s Last Night and Other Essays – Lewis, C. S.

The British Museum is Falling Down – Lodge, David

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

Open Heart – Open Home – Mains, Karen Burton

Reduced Shakespeare: The Attention-Impaired Reader's Guide to the World's Best Playwright – Martin, Reed and Tichenor, Austin

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School – Medina, John

The Shape of Mercy – Meissner, Susan

The Host – Meyer, Stephanie

Our Village – Mitford, Mary Russell

Nanny by Chance – Neels, Betty

Bachelorette #1 – O’Connell, Jennifer

-El Dorado: Further Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel – Orczy, Baroness

The No-Cry Potty Training Solution – Pantley, Elizabeth

Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life – Peterson, Margaret Kim

-One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular – Pogrebin, Abigail

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Like Them – Prose, Francine

Rapture Ready! Adventure in the Parallel World of Christian Pop Culture – Radosh, Daniel

A Scandalous Marriage – Raleigh, Debbie

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling, J. K.

Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal – Rowling, J. K.

Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams – Sellers, Heather

There Shines Forth Christ – Stead, Dom Julian

-7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child – Steiner, Naomi, M.D., with Hayes, Susan L.

Hooked for Life: Adventures of a Crochet Zealot – Temple, Mary Beth

-The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkien, J. R. R.

The Return of the King – Tolkien, J. R. R.

The Two Towers – Tolkien, J. R. R.

Stardoc – Viehl, S. L.

“What Shall I Say?” A Guide to Letter Writing for Ladies

Memories of the Future, Volume I – Wheaton, Wil

Family Worship – Whitney, Donald S.

Farmer Boy – Wilder, Laura Ingalls

The Divine Conspiracy – Willard, Dallas

Carry On, Jeeves – Wodehouse, P. G.

Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit – Wodehouse, P. G.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman – Wollstonecraft, Mary

The Hundred Year Diet: America’s Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight – Yager, Susan

Some Short Book Reviews

Strange to be starting a new books-read list for 2011. This year I'm hoping to write a mini-review for most of them here on the blog, mostly because lots of the books I read I find via other folks' blogs, and I want to pass on the favor.
First up: Sweater Quest, My Year of Knitting Dangerously, by Adrienne Martini. I'm pretty sure I heard about this one from my friend Katie, of The Good, the Plaid and the Snuggly. Like her, I found myself disagreeing with a lot of her viewpoints, but still enjoying the ride, especially because of all the interesting interviews she managed to snag in the course of writing the book.
Next, The Breach, by Patrick Lee. This is a page-turner, but it left a bit of a sour feeling by the time I was done. A near-future sci-fi thriller, this does keep the action moving and it keeps you guessing. I love the way the author led you around one corner after another, always revealing an interesting new plot point. Loved the way he dealt with the grandfather paradox. But, in the end, it was kind of hard to root for the hero or the heroine. Both of them commit pretty gruesome murders. In both cases, the motivations are understandable (revenge, in both cases), but there's never even the slightest bit of regret later - or even any thoughts of - and then rejection of - regret. The murders are just there, and I find that troubling. Heroes that make mistakes? That's the stuff of story. Heroes that never ever (even in the middle of a thriller) do any self-examination? Not so much, I don't think. But, great plot, great action. So . . . I'm ambiguous about this one.
Then, Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches, by Cynthia Sass. So, one of my favorite things to do when I'm trying to remind myself that I actually like being in shape is to read diet and/or fitness books. Even if I don't end up agreeing with them, I enjoy the new perspective and I can argue (in my head) with the author. This one? Not much to argue with. Is it exactly how I'm going to eat from now on? Nope. (For one thing? I like red meat.) But it was surprisingly sane, very encouraging, and included lots of interesting information from various research studies. She also does a great job of explaining why she makes her various recommendations; in other words, she doesn't just order, she educates. I appreciate that. Finally, the recipes look really good, and she also includes a section that teaches you how to make up similar recipes on your own.

That's it for now! Hope you're reading something good yourself. :)
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

duty vs. desire

Right now, my son is being a watchdog who is guarding all three sisters in their cabin, and there is much going up and down of the stairs, and there is also somehow goblin hunting and a birthday party involved ("Yay for our eighteen-year-old puppy!") . . .

. . . and I am having real trouble making myself break it all up in order to put the twins down for their afternoon nap.


The Iliad

My husband and I (having finished That Hideous Strength) are now listening through The Iliad during our evening chores. I thought I'd write up my impressions on it since it's been (wow) over ten years since I last read it. Note: some of these impressions are of the story, some strictly of this particular audio version. Also, this is just of the first section of the story (we're not that far along yet).

-When I heard Zeus called "the almighty" by the narrator, I thought, "well, sort of." Seriously, it comes across kind of unbelievable after all these years of studying the Bible and following Jesus. Calling Zeus "almighty" in the context of, well, reality, is laughable. Somehow, this hadn't really struck me before.

Which got me thinking: I see now, with this contrast between Zeus and God, why it's a necessity that the Almighty is also the All-Good. Looking at Zeus, you see that his weaknesses are all moral weaknesses . . . it's his pettiness, his lust, his changeableness that lead to his lack of real power. If he did not have these vices, he might be able to really have a will that is, as the poet says, "never thwarted". As it is . . . nah.

But I'm grateful for the insight that contrast gives me into the real God: I see now that you could not have someone who was all-powerful without him also being all-good. The very, very comforting off-shoot of this realization? Given the actual existence of the All-Good, you're never going have a final triumph of evil. Because an evil power would never be able to be have or maintain absolute power . . . its vices would eventually be its downfall. Moral weakness is real weakness.

-For a very long time, I wondered why the narrator was calling Apollo "Shutefar". I finally figured out that it's "Apollo Shoot-Afar". Ah.

-I hadn't actually forgotten this but . . . The Iliad is very gory. Wow. If the violence in the Bible ever surprised you when you finally got around to reading all the Old Testament, be assured that it's actually very restrained compared to other ancient texts.

-Actually, to me, as a Christian who's been reading the Bible for a couple of decades, one of the most interesting things about reading The Iliad is that it gives me a contemporary text to compare the Bible to. (Well, contemporary to some parts.) It's interesting to see what's similar because of culture and time, and what's very different because of theology or philosophy or culture (yes, culture falls on both sides).

-I also am immature enough that the poet's constant use of "the nipple" as a geographic landmark (as a sort of reference so you know exactly where the spear went in before "the darkness closed over his eyes") makes me giggle.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell