Wednesday, June 29, 2011

how the yarn dying turned out

I wrote here about dying my own yarn. Here's how it looked when I worked it up:

I got the striping I want, but the colors aren't as strong as I hoped. I read up a bit, and thought that perhaps I hadn't used enough dye for the yardage.

I frogged the cloth tried redying the yarn, and got the same result again, and finally figured out that it was actually the fiber content that was keeping the color so light (it's not 100% natural fiber). So I scrapped the project. But at least I know that the striping idea I had works!

It's certainly something I want to try again.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gamgee's baptism

Lest you think I asked my son to turn his face away from the camera so that I could have a blog-worthy picture, let me assure you that all of them look like this:
The ceremony itself was wonderful, and Gamgee did a beautiful job - he even walked up and down the aisle with the bishop so that everyone could see him - and my favorite part was when he came back and said excitedly, "I get to take communion now!"

But though we talked to him about everything that went along with the baptism himself, and he obediently did everything he'd been told to do, we forgot to mention there would be pictures afterwards, and after a three-hour ceremony that started before dawn, well, it was just too much:

It was a wonderful morning though. And he perked up again at the post-church-service brunch. :D

Adam and I are on the left in these pictures, btw, and the handsome couple on the right is my brother and his wife, the proud godparents. I'll leave you to figure out who the guy in the funny hat is.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Review: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Bumped is another YA sci-fi, and I found it much more satisfying than the last one I read ("Delirium"), if still falling far short of books like Feed or The Hunger Games.
In "Bumped", everyone over the age of 18-20 is infertile, which leaves the entire burden of propagating the human race on the shoulders of . . . the teenagers. Talk about your nightmare scenarios.
Its creative premise is the first thing that "Bumped" has going for it, and the second thing is all the interesting details that McCafferty uses to fill out her near-future world - most of it slightly advanced versions of technology like smart phones and social networking sites.
The third thing that really makes this novel work is that McCafferty chooses an interesting person for her heroine: the first girl to go pro as a surrogate. Making her heroine one of the leaders of social change (even though it's her parents who push their entrepreneurial vision on her) is what pushes the plot forward and allows for an ending that both feels like an ending and that promises interesting developments in the next book. Throw in an estranged identical twin who was raised in a repressive religious compound and you've got a story that ticks over nicely from chapter to chapter.
The religious twin is probably my least favorite part of the novel: at one point she ends up equating the physical perfection of the prize stud (teenage boys as well as girls are caught up in the reproduction-for-profit business) with her vision of Jesus, and I wasn't able to get any useful social commentary from that; it seemed like the author was just having fun with the girl's naiveté in a way that struck me as irreverent.
But overall this was a good read that followed through on its fascinating "what-if" speculative premise, and I'm curious to see where the series goes from here.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, June 23, 2011

while looking at Netflix suggestions

A: "hey, they have Strictly Ballroom on instant-watch now."
J: "That's a good movie." pause. "I don't want to watch it."
A: "Oh. That kind of good movie. ... Hey, what would you rate Sorcerer's Apprentice?"
J: "The Disney one?"
A: "Yes. As a 2 or a 3?"
J: "Oh, low. Low, low, low."
A: "Really? With Nick Cage and all?"
J: "Oh! THAT one. No, that one has to be a 5, just for Nick Cage's hair."
A: "Right. I'm rating it a four."
J: "What? No! I wasn't serious!"
A: (firmly) "I am rating it a four for Nick Cage's hair."
J: "Man, we're going to get all kinds of weird recommendations based on that one."
A: "We already get all kinds of weird suggestions."

Decluttering report

The kid's play-space under the stairs is done. Completely done. There are some empty Sterlite containers in there that will eventually go to holding other items in other places in the house, but they can live peacefully in the corner till I need them.

I decluttered my cookbook shelf, getting rid of a few that I never use - I think I only have four or five books there now. The Tupperware and dishcloths live there too, and I tossed a bunch of Tupperware - some of it grotty and old, and some of it just stuff that I never reach for because it's never the right shape or size. The dishcloths and dish towels are now separated into two containers instead of one, which will make them easier both to find and to put away.

That shelf now has real, live, actual empty space on it. It's pretty appealing, visually.

The kids' room is done, minus the top bunk of the smaller bunk bed. No one sleeps there now; instead, that's where all the toys-with-small-pieces are living - Legos, magnet dolls, Tinkertoys, etc. - so that they can be played with one at a time, as handed down by a parent. But I need to go through it all and make sure everything that's there ought to be there (probably most of it is - no one in this house is going to toss Legos), and is in a decent container. I'd like to actually get it cleared off and all of those toys put on a high shelf in the closet instead, because though no one's sleeping on that bunk now, someone will need to sleep there someday.

We have a corner cupboard in our living room, and it's not done yet, but the floor in front of it (which is hidden from easy sight, due to its position in between two perpendicularly-arranged couches) is cleared. This is a spot where various crafting items (my crochet stuff, my husband's rope-tying stuff) often accumulated. Now I just have to do the cupboard behind that nice, clear floor space.

It's weird . . . I am experiencing a lot of positive emotion from this decluttering, but I'm experiencing a bit of the negative too. It's the right thing to do - we are a lot of people in a small space, and we spend too much time picking up our stuff instead of using our stuff - but it's still hard to toss stuff.

Less hard to give it away. Though even that's a problem, because I find myself wondering what in the world I was doing with all this stuff in the first place. Who am I that I should have enough stuff that I can afford to get rid of so much of it?

The anxious part of me reminds me that I don't really know if I can afford to get rid of it. Can't tell the future - there might be a disaster lurking around the corner that will make me wish that I kept it. (Worrying is a sin, I remember. The Lord specifically exhorted us not to worry.)

But I try to be wise, and not wasteful, to pray through the process and to trust the Lord for the outcome. The praying part is what makes it okay, because if it's real prayer, and I really offer my actions to Him . . . well, I can trust Him. And so I do.

Also, I remember that neither it would be good stewardship to let the stuff pile to the ceiling.

And sometimes there's a good answer to the question of why we had it and yet don't need it anymore. Often the stuff is stuff that was useful - was sometimes even needed - was sometimes a gift - was sometimes things we never could have afforded on our own - sometimes all of those things together, and now we have passed that stage. Things have changed, the children have grown. When it's that, then passing it on to someone else is just sharing the blessing with which we have been blessed. Lots of good stuff lasts through several families that way, and I'm glad of it.

Life is already easier, just with those few spaces done. Clean-up takes less time and the mess isn't so bad, and if anything the children are even more creative in their play than they were before, now that they have more space to play in, and now that the toys they have are easier to see, easier to get to.

Weird though. I expected this to be an entirely happy process, and it isn't.

Mostly good though. I'm still excited about it. I'm especially looking forward to house-cleaning when it's all done. Cleaning is so much easier when there isn't so much to clean around and when you don't have to wonder where something goes. It's so much better when you know.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

signs of summer . . .

Gotta love it when the CSA email for the week reads like this:

Regular Baskets this week contain: Kale, Romaine & Iceberg Lettuce, Chard, Beans, Cucumbers, Turnips, Parsley, Basil, Radishes, Peaches, Dill, Kohlrabi, Yellow Nectarines, Apricots, Pluots, Navel Oranges

The Large Baskets this week contain all of the items found in the small baskets, as well as a larger volume of Cucumbers, Peaches, Nectarines, Navels & Pluots. The extra items for our large baskets this week are Avocado, Red Onion, and Potatoes.

Don't mind me, I swear I'll stop drooling soon . . .

(Dill! Basil! oh, we're going to eat well this week!)

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

yarnalong - dishcloths & Romance for Dummies

Back to basics here this week with how-to book and some dishcloths:

The book is old (2005, maybe?) and there are a few bits of anachronistic advice (like that you might want to get a separate phone line for your email, or that you might want to get a computer model that includes a CD drive so that you can listen to music), but otherwise this is a really solid read so far. It's reminding me of some things I already knew and teaching me more that I didn't.

Oh! I forgot the best anachronism of all! It says that paranormal romances are a hard sell. :D Pre-Twilight, anyone? Not that I'm a fan, but I got a good chuckle over how quickly - and how severely - trends can change.

And the dishcloths will be thrown on the constantly diminishing supply. We're hard on our cleaning supplies around here!

More Yarnalong goodness here.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links! all to one person, but still: Links!

I usually save up my links for one big post, but I think these are particularly worth highlighting, so I'm doing a super-short links post.

In 2009, Elizabeth Foss did a little series of articles about prayer and peace and work in the home. They're very good. I'm not Catholic, so I can't say "amen!" to every one of her theological practices, but her instruction on how to place oneself in the presence of God and then stay there throughout the day is so good.

The first is called Plan for a Peaceful Home, and is mostly about morning prayer.

The second is called Daily Meditations, and is about spiritual reading.

The third is called Prioritizing for Peace, and is about planning your day.

A few snippets to entice you:

"We begin by offering the day to the Lord, opening ourselves to the grace He freely offers and ensuring that even our failures are redemptive."

"Meditation and spiritual reading take less than half an hour a day. That half hour is an investment in my soul. Without the interior peace and direction that meditation brings, there is chaos and aimless drifting. With it, there is relative peace and purpose. It’s not perfect and praying in the morning doesn’t fold my laundry for me, but it does significantly help me to harness my will and to bring the grace and strength that are God’s freely given gifts to the tasks of my vocation."

"Because my day — my work and my play — has been offered to the Lord of my life, every action I make becomes an occasion for silent prayer to Him. I am mindful that this is not really my day, but His."

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Thoughts

It must be summer: I've started decluttering the house.

I've decided that every item in the house must give me a justification for its continued existence. I'm going to ask every thing in the house: 1) do we want you? and, 2) if we want you, where would we expect to find you?

At least, that's the plan.

I'm also still chewing on King's concept that novel-writing ought to be a three month affair. I have about 10,000 words (maybe less?) to go on the current one. If I reeeeaaalllly pushed myself, I could finish that with the month of June. And I've got another one mostly plotted. Which makes me curious if I could do a three month push (July-August-September) and finish an entire novel in three months. 1000 words/day would give me 65,000 words by the end, if I just worked weekdays, and that would actually be the right length for this particular novel, which is a fun little contemporary romance.

Hmmm . . . I can foresee the failure of this plan already, but that's not making me feel less like trying it.

Plus, I'd have to rewrite the current novel at some point. I wonder if I can do both at the same time?

Again, I can see the crash and burn coming. But I still want to give it a go.

On top of that, I have a list I've been keeping over the past month of house projects. Stuff that just didn't fit in the school year, but that would be nice to have done. A lot of it overlaps with the decluttering. Here's what I've got so far:

-sew Bess' birthday dress (um, this is a two-year old project. If I don't finish soon, it won't actually fit)

-sew Adam's long coat

-sew my long coat

-make my measurement template

-have various friends over for supper

-get our Story of the World mp3s onto CD, so the kids can listen to them up in their room.

-get my bike (+bike trailer!) in working order

-get bikes for the two big kids

-help the big kids learn to ride their bikes

-go through our closet

-go through the linen closet

-go through the downstairs closet

-go through the downstairs bookshelves (I've done the upstairs already - yay!)

-go through our coffee table/nightstand (this is where I keep stationary supplies)

-Magic Eraser the upstairs walls

-Magic Eraser the downstairs walls

-Magic Eraser the stair rail

-organize my recipes

-join Facebook (I know, I know . . . it's evil, but what are you going to do?)

I'm not planning on rushing any of this. I'm picturing a leisurely summer (as leisurely as it ever gets with the Ducklings). I'm planning on working away steadily, and seeing where I'm at come September. I hope to be pleasantly, um, pleased. Further along than I was before. With a happier, easier-to-care-for house that I had before. (Less stuff means less to pick up.)

And I'm a J. I like having a plan. And the plan is not necessarily to get everything done, but to know what comes next. That's a plan I can live with.

Does summer get anyone else's gears turning? It's Ordinary Time, folks. It's the glorious green season of the Holy Spirit. Time for work and play and joy.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I went for a run!

And this is novel enough to deserve its own blog entry apparently.

I learned:

-That I'm in shape enough to go off and run a 5K, just because I want to.

-If by "run" you mean "run most of the time, but stop and walk every five or ten minutes."

-Nonetheless, it was a run and not a walk.

-That it only takes half an hour to give myself blisters.

-That my town is full of lots of friendly people.

-That most of them are not stupid enough to go running when the sun's blazing.

-That, instead, these hours are properly to be spent sitting in the shade and eating something.

-Or, at the most, slowly walking one's dog.

-That, nonetheless, they will smile and wave at the crazy, sweaty running person.

-That I am no spring chicken.

-That my legs especially want me to know that I am No Spring Chicken.

-"You are No Spring Chicken" my legs say to me.

-That I still have a knee that complains when I run.

-That when my knee complains, it makes my hip complain.

-That running gives me just as much of an endorphin high as weight-lifting does.

-That it might be better than weight-lifting because I can stare at the trees and sky and birds while I run. No trees and birds and sky when I weight-lift.

-That I still want to weight-lift because I don't want to turn into a puny runner person with bad joints.

-That running is a great way to get alone time.

-That I have an awesome husband, who's okay with me going off for a 5k run, even though it's Father's Day.

Peace of Christ to you,

(and happy Trinity Sunday!)

Jessica Snell

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Notes: The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos, by Staci Eastin

This book caught my eye because it was advertised as a book about organization that wasn't about making lists and checking them off. Tomes with a few hundred pages detailing their particular author's favorite order for cleaning the living room I can pick up by the armful at my local library, but "The Organized Heart" promised to be something different. It didn't assume you didn't know how to be organized. Instead, it promised to tell you why you weren't doing what you know how to do.

I found that it lived up to its promise. Eastin's book is divided into four main categories, each of them a reason - she calls them "idols" - behind your disorganization. The fact that one of them ("leisure" out of the possible choices of "perfectionism", "busyness", "possessions", and "leisure") really hit home to me more than the others makes me think that she's probably on the right track in defining her categories.

In the "leisure" section, she observes:

. . . a habit of procrastination indicates a worship problem: an unwillingness to do the work that God has appointed for us, or an inability to discern what he has given us and what he has not.

And that sentence right there contains both what I loved about this book and what I hated about it.

What did I love? Well, look at the second half of the above-quoted sentence: it's brilliant. It's insightful. She's got it exactly right. Procrastination is either an unwillingness to do the work or an inability to discern what the work is. It's disobedience or it's ignorance. I'm still chewing on that.

But look at the first half of the sentence: it's exactly the sort of jargon that makes me grind my teeth when reading books by modern Calvinists. And this book is full of it.

Despite that, I recommend it. The define-my-terms-so-carefully-I'm-spending-more-time-defining-my-terms-than-using-them-in-normal-sentences style of writing really just is the style of a lot of modern Calvinists. Unless you're willing to ignore them completely (which would be sad, because they have good stuff to say), you'll have to put up with it. And I have a lot of sympathy for it; it's awful to be misunderstood, and it's tempting to hedge your sentences round with disaffirmations in order to avoid misunderstanding. But it makes for tedious reading.

Yet the kernel of goodness in this book is worth it, and many times Eastin's natural insight breaks free of what feels like a strong editorial harness and she goes striding beautifully through pages and pages of helpful prose before being reined back in.

How can you find a solution to your problem when you can't even state your problem? That's where I often find myself. And I think that "The Organized Heart" is worth its purchase price just for how well it states the problem. I haven't seen it done as well anywhere else. I think it'll help many readers towards a solution.

Jessica Snell

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Links! Potter, Ascot, Excoriation & More

First, let's start with our Harry Potter funny of the day. Would you give this kid credit for his answer?
It's always fun to gawk at the hats worn to the Royal Ascot. And I've got to say, I'm digging Topiary Lady's lace gloves.
It's also fun to gawk at the hats worn by the new Duchess of Cambridge. And I agree with the Fug Girls: the white coat she's wearing in the second, third, & fourth picture is gorgeous.
One more fashion-ish link - though it's more craft than fashion - Samurai Knitter's quarterly excoriation of Vogue Knits is one of my favorite Internet events. Caution for language. (The invective gets particularly creative when she discovers VK's suggestion that a 38" bust counts as extra-large . . .)
I've mentioned before that I love Anne Kennedy, yes? It's because she's always writing things that sound like what's going on at our house, only she makes it all sound so much funnier. You know a blog post is good when it starts with the sentence:
"My first answer to nearly everything my children ask me is always a full throat-ed and enthusiastic 'NO!!!'."
Semicolon writes about how "It Takes Darkness and Light to Make a Good Book".

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the fun of fan fic

I've just rediscovered the fun of writing fan fiction.

Fan fiction was how I started writing, really. Back in the day, as a middle-schooler, I was introduced to Star Trek and fell in love with sci fi. The adventures! The drama! The new worlds!

So of course I invented my own character (an intergalactic space princess*, how else?) and inserted her into whatever that week's episode was and watched how the plot changed as she joined the adventure.

This was how I got through boring classes day after day after day. I daydreamed.

And of course I wrote it all down. That's what you do with stories. How could you grow up in a house with books in every room and not know that?

I even had a friend back then who did the same thing, and we'd write stories together, each with our own heroine, passing a notebook back and forth between classes, taking turns adding a chapter to the story. (The trick with those was always to have your own heroine come out on top in scene, but to do it subtly enough that your friend couldn't complain about how you'd treated hers.)

I never stopped writing fan fiction, really, though eventually several of those stories followed enough rabbit trails and started being legitimate stories of their own, universe included. And developed even further and started having real characters and not just Mary Sues.

(Imagine my joy when I learned that even Bujold wrote fan fic back in the day. That my favorite sci-fi series ever wouldn't have existed without her proposing her own Star Trek what-if?)

But just this week I've discovered a new use for fan fiction, something that's made me fall in love with it all over again: it's a great writing warm-up.

Fan fiction - at least the way I do it, with no audience in mind ever - is just fun. I don't have to worry about it making sense, or about writing the boring parts, or about plausibility. It's just stick-my-Mii-in-my-current-favorite-story-and-run. It's a blast. It's like sprinting.

I imagine this is how other people feel when they write their "morning pages" or their free-writing. But free-writing doesn't get my engine running the same way story does. To take an exercise metaphor: free-writing is static stretching, fan fiction is dynamic stretching. The former actually makes you weaker, making microscopic tears in muscles that aren't yet warm. The latter gets your muscles moving through their range of motion, psyching up the fibers that are needed for movement.

I've always liked writing fan fiction.** But I never realized how useful it is. It reminds me that all of it is supposed to be the fun part. So once I write a page of fan fic, I can go over to my novel and hit the ground running, remembering that the fun of the story is in the characters, the impossible situation and just how fast and how far I can make it all go.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*I actually still use the same character when I write fan fic now that I did when I was thirteen. She's just grown up a bit.

** Not reading it. Generally, reading other people's fan fiction is deadly. Which is why mine isn't getting posted anywhere.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Notes: Daughter of the Misty Gorges, by Essie Summers

When I first saw the Lord of the Rings movies, and saw all those gorgeous, panoramic shots of the New Zealand landscape, my first thought was, "So this is what Essie Summers was talking about."

Essie Summers wrote for Harlequin Romance from the 1950's all the way through the 1990's (a career to envy!), and even if some of her romances (like this one) started in England, all of her heroines made it to New Zealand by the end. And Summers' descriptions of her native land made me fall in love with it from hundreds of miles away:

Christabel found the twenty-five miles to Mount Cook . . . all too short. How could it be otherwise with a tantalising view like that spread before one . . . a fairy-tale mountain that dominated the view one moment and the next disappeared behind diaphanous gossamer mist? there were massive shoulders of hills, grey and tawny, crouching in front and seeming so enormous in themselves that one could only imagine the height of the king of these Alps when one got closer. The gleaming mass of the Tasman Glacier gave the illusion of a horrific river suddenly turned by a wizard's hand into incredible depths of solid ice.

The lake shimmered under hot sunshine . . . here was the Alpine village. It was all in keeping with the spirit of the mountains, buildings of oiled wood and natural stone, chalets showing peaked roofs among pines and gums, gardens reminiscent of the bright gardens of Austria and Switzerland . . . the scarlets and pinks of geraniums splashing and cascading in a riot of colour, golds and whites of huge daisies and the paler alpine plants and creepers in myriads.

Always, in Summers' books, the beauty and ferocity of the landscape are presented in perfect counterpoint. And her descriptions of domestic life are no less compelling: there beauty and hard work make up the melody and rhythm of the music of her prose. I always finish an Essie Summers book inspired to have a house full of books, plants, & pictures, where good food is regularly served and good memories are made through the sheer repetition of good, ordinary days.

The description of Kiwi life in the back country may be what sets Summers' books apart from others, but they don't lack a good love story as the center spine. I would have a hard time telling one Summers heroine from another (or one of her heroes from another), but I don't care, because every time she tells the story, it's good: a capable, ethical woman finds herself in a new situation, working (always working! Summers' heroines are no slouches!) next to a capable, ethical man and finds that they share a vision of the good life - full of poetry and children and a good day's work doing what they love (usually ranching or writing or ministering). There's always a misunderstanding that keeps them from bliss till its explained in the last few pages, but their chemistry is so strong and their shared vision so vibrant that they run in tandem through the whole story anyway, as romantic frustration builds and their eventual happy ending becomes more and more inevitable.

I love these books. "Daughter of the Misty Gorges" is one of my favorites because the hero and the heroine are both writers, and some of their discussions about the ethical dilemmas inherent to the craft fascinate me. I also recently read "My Lady of the Fuschias" which stars the perfectest estate I think has ever been imagined, complete with shady green swimming hole, big sprawling house and tiny little writer's cabin off in the back forty. And, of course, many, many fuschias.

I highly recommend "Daughter of the Misty Gorges".

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quick Takes

1) I listened to a lecture recently that suggested - not as a necessity, but as an fascinating possibility - that St. John the Divine wrote his gospel after his vision at Patmos. In other words, that what John had in his mind as he wrote that magnificent prologue, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . ." was that vision of Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, King and Judge and triumphant over sin and death, at the throne, surrounded by all the angels and saints . . . yeah, I could see that prologue coming out a man who had just seen that. Again, it's not something we can know for sure, but doesn't it sound about right?
2) I was listening to Psalm 78 and noticed the phrase "they were not estranged from their lusts" and I thought, I would like very much to be estranged from my lusts. In fact, I'd like to be so estranged that when they raise their ugly heads I am surprised and say, "who are you? what do you think you're doing here? Go away!"
3) It's so fun to put on the "Tangled" soundtrack and watch my adorable three-year olds dance around in their princess dresses. So girly, so rambunctious, so cute.
4) A new food discovery: Bob's Red Mill Muesli. No added sugar, but still yummy with the add-in's like dates and raisins and sunflower seeds. This solves my problem of wanting to eat oats every day, but not wanting hot cereal in the summer. Added bonus: if there's a child-related emergency at breakfast (spilled milk! a fall from a chair! why am I saying "if"?), my cereal doesn't get soggy before I have a chance to get back to it.
5) My favorite crochet magazine is Interweave Crochet - they're always publishing patterns that are actually made for crochet, not crochet-trying-to-look-like-knitting - but they also publish really interesting articles about the history of crochet, and about crochet around the world.
In this past issue, the articles ruled. There was an amazing one about a Ukrainian biologist-turned-artist, who lost her scientific job at the fall of the Soviet Union and fell back on the needlework she learned as a little girl, from her grandmothers. Her name is Antonina Kuznetsova. I loved this quotation from her:
"I was afraid of using colors, because I had no special training in colorwork . . . Then one day I realized, I am a biologist, and I know something about flowers and plants . . . Sometimes we try to invent something new, but in color matching, everything has been invented by nature before us."
Anyway, if you don't subscribe, it's worth borrowing this issue from someone just for the article about Kuznetsova. And the pictures of her work are jaw-dropping. There's also an article or two about doilies that any student of history - or reader of Victorian literature or watcher of BBC historical programs - would probably also enjoy.
6) I've decided recently that instead of hoping to achieve something grand as the House of Elrond, I'm going to be content if my home is little more like the Burrow: clean and neat, but still rather shabby and crowded. All good if it's as full of love and always has a corner in which to squeeze in a guest. Anyway. I'm going to keep up the work on the clean and neat part, but I'm done fighting the slightly shabby and crowded part. I think we're more like the Weasleys than the high elves anyways.
Though maybe when the kids are up and grown, we can reach towards the elegance of Bag End. :D
7) This Sunday is Pentecost! Time to dig out the red clothes and wear them to church! Always a problem for my husband, as his wardrobe is almost entirely in the blue-grey-brown spectrum.
This feast in honor of the coming of the Holy Spirit is always a joy to celebrate, and it's one of the easiest ones to celebrate at home. My favorite tradition is that of scattering red flower petals on the table (in memory of the tongues of flame that descended on the first disciples). The kids get really into that, and it's a great visual to have in front of them when you recount the story from Acts.
Less popular with the kids is the tradition of serving spicy foods (heat=flame is the connection there), but maybe some cinnamon toast sprinkled with cinnamon hearts?

More Quick Takes found here!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yarnalong: Birch Vest and On Writing

I've enjoyed the Yarn Along posts at Small Things for a few weeks now, where bloggers post a picture of both what they're knitting/crocheting and what they're reading. I decided to add my own today:

The yarn is KnitPicks Palette in rainforest heather, the pattern is Kristen Omdahl's lovely lacy Birch Vest, and the book is Stephen King's On Writing.
I haven't read any of Stephen King's other books - being scared isn't usually my idea of entertainment (the Weeping Angels excepted) - but the man knows his stuff. This is a really good book. I'm especially digging his idea that novels ought to be written at a one-novel-per-three-months pace. That'd certainly cut down on the amount of time I have to impatiently wonder how is this all going to end again? In other words, the master of horror might have just taught me how to take some suspense out of my life. :)

And I'm enjoying the vest very much. I had to rip back two whole rows due to my own carelessness, but now that I've done one whole repeat of the lace I'm hoping that I can avoid doing any more of that. The yarn is beautiful - it doesn't come through properly in the photo, but it's the very best green ever, full of little specks of blue and red.

More of this sort of thing here!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links! writing, reading, and Haiti

I found Patricia Wrede's account of the financial side of a writer's life interesting. An excerpt:
Essentially, it’s like a long, long pipeline, with the writer standing at one end pouring manuscripts in. No matter how fast you pour, it takes quite a while for the money to start coming out the other end. This can be intensely frustrating, especially at the start of one’s career. One works for years for a payoff that never seems to arrive, or that looks inadequate when it does finally start trickling out.
Here is John Wesley's advice on how to read a spiritual book, with commentary by Fred Sanders.

One for the "Man Bites Dog" file: Homeowners Foreclose on Bank. Great story!
Momco3, doctor, writer and homeschooler, is headed back to Haiti to help out. Please keep her in your prayers. You can read about her previous trip here, here, and here.
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why we must learn to say, "God's will be done."

I read a story recently where one of the characters pointed out that we always do what we want to do - that sometimes we call what we want to do "right" to make ourselves feel better, but, basically, we do what we want.

I think the character's implication was that nothing actually is "right" or wrong, and I disagree with that conclusion, but the observation that the only thing we can possibly act on is our own desires is correct: we always do what we really want to do - you can tell what we want by what we do. Or at least, you can if you have all the information (which you don't). Anyway.

But here's the cool realization I had when I read that: this is why we must learn to say (and mean) "God's will be done." Or, in other words, why we must make God's desires our desires. Our real desires. The reason we must learn to desire what God desires is that only God desires correctly.

Our desires are corrupted by sin and selfishness and - I don't think we think about this enough - a really pathetic lack of sufficient information. We can't see into the next minute, let alone back to creation and forward to the End, taking into account the good of all creatures and the honor of their Creator. But God knows all and loves fully. So may His will be done.

Almighty God, to whom our needs are known before we ask, help us ask only what accords with your will; and those good things which we dare not, or in our blindness cannot ask, grant us for the sake of your son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Friday, June 3, 2011

the real reason writers write

Because there's this story we really want to read, and nobody else has written it yet.

For me, it's an adventure that has the world-righting clarity of Dorothy Sayers, the homely joy of Essie Summers, the wry brilliance of Lois McMaster Bujold and the sheer sexy goofiness of Dr. Who.

Can I write it? I don't know. But it ought to exist and so I have to at least try.

And try and try and try. Which leads us to the answer to our second question: why do writers write more than one book?

Because we never quite hit what we're aiming at. But we get close enough to lift up our hearts, and so we have to bend the bow, close one eye, focus on the target, and let loose the arrow once more.

Because there's that one story that we really, really, really want to read. And nobody else has written it yet.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell