Wednesday, February 27, 2013

words for a Wednesday

I was looking this up for a footnote, and it was so heartening on this Lenten Wednesday that I thought I'd share it. From Lewis' Screwtape Letters:
He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual year; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.
The wisdom of God in shaping the world! So grateful for that rhythm, for that union of change and permanence.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, February 25, 2013

a few morning links

-One of the things I want to do in the kitchen this week is to give this mix-and-match nutrition bar recipe a try. I love how flexible it looks! What combination would you make?

-This is a link to just one post on Elizabeth Foss' blog, but I'm really recommending the blog as a whole this Lent. She's been posting short, dense "fast - pray - give" posts every day during Lent, and they're a really great quick, re-focusing read at the beginning of the day.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1. Editing a book about celebrating the church year in the home is pretty congenial work, generally speaking. But editing the Christmas chapter in the middle of Lent is a bit jarring. Not to mention hunger-inducing: mulled wine, gingerbread, stollen . . . mmm.

2. I am also starting to edit in my dreams. I don't know why my brain thinks it needs to spend its rest time making sure its thoughts are thought in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, but I wish it would knock it off.

3. I have now reached the point of Lent when I realize that I am not a high-minded person who's delighted to fast. No: I am a wannabe who likes to think she's delighted to fast. I am actually grumbly and grumpy and disgruntled from the inside out.

And I'm shocked, just shocked, that it took me all of about a day to figure that out.

4. Also: Lent is really long. I always forget that beforehand, too.

5. I have a Paschal candlestand in my bedroom. I have a Paschal candlestand because I'm in charge of the Altar Guild so it was my job to order it and put it together.

It's in my bedroom because I don't want the cat to mistake it for a scratching post before I have a chance to bring it to church.

6. I had to fight my eight-year-old this week to get her to stop reading and do her homework.

Which felt so very, very backwards.

7. Also, what I had to fight her to stop reading? The Fellowship of the Ring. (And yes, that is just a straight-up brag. I told you I'm not as high-minded as I like to think I am!)

More Quick Takes can be found over at Conversion Diary!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Links - writing schedules, parenting, and more!

"A day in the life of EE {daily routines, systems and time management for my life as a writer}" - I love posts about how other writers and moms schedule their days, and this is a really good one, partly just because it's so honest about the cost.

"How Star Trek Deep Space Nine Helped Invent Everything You Love":
It seems like a weird thing to mention now, because every random cop show or space adventure has storylines that carry on from episode to episode, more like serialized novels than collections of self-contained stories. But back when Deep Space Nine started, the idea of following "arcs," especially ones that went on for more than one season, was still more unusual on TV. For a Star Trek show, especially, it was considered weird to have so many continuing storylines.
"Never Again Hate Self Promotion":
It comes down to how you look at business as a whole. Businesses exist to provide people with something of value. If you take your business seriously, and run it with integrity, then you are doing something good for the world. There is no shame in telling people about it.
"Here We Are":
Sometimes, we just have to acknowledge that life has its indisputable stinkiness, and that our own stupid choices, or our own stupid fates, have made it impossible to have what is clearly superior. But sometimes, we end up open being grateful for our failures, because it make one thing really clear: we're not here to be particular kinds of parents. We're here to be the parents of particular kids.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yarnalong: Lace and John Donne

I'm still plugging away at the cabled kilt hose for my husband, but when it comes to pictures, I have to show off some lace I just blocked:

eeee! so pretty! This is the first time I've successfully knit lace (other than the very, very simple pattern on my Sunday Swing socks) and I'm so happy with it. Especially given that while I worked on it, it looked like this:

But after blocking? Look at how it opens up!

Seriously, blocking is magic.

As for books, I'm reading John Donne. He's my favorite poet, but I realized that when it comes to his poems I've stuck to just reading, well, my favorites. So I'm reading all of him. And I discovered that he was actually once part of a military voyage, I think with Drake (my book's upstairs on my nightstand, so I can't fact-check that right now). But, weird, eh? The reverend Dr. Donne? Batter-my-heart-three-person'd-God Donne? Wrote a bunch of poems home to his friends about how awful it was to be becalmed in the middle of the ocean.

The more you know, I guess.

Anyway, more yarn-y and book-y goodness over at Ginny's place!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, February 18, 2013

some of my favorite podcasts

I love podcasts. They're like the magazine version of audiobooks. I enjoy listening to them while I'm knitting, and sometimes they're also just the thing to make a dull chore like doing the dishes go just a bit faster.

Here are my favorites:

1) Writing Excuses: this one's so good that after I discovered it, I went back and started listening through the archives. If you're an author, you definitely want to give it a go, but if you might like it even if you're just someone who enjoys reading stories, not creating them, because despite their tagline ("fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart"), this podcast is all about smart and funny people saying smart and funny things about how books work.

2) The City Online - this one is smart, funny, and devout people saying smart, funny, and devout things about . . . well, I'm not sure they have an outer boundary that defines their subject matter. Maybe "culture, generally"? Their last episode was about love and marriage, and the one before that was about the higher education bubble. I've liked all I've listened to from them.

Next, a few knitting podcasts:

3) Stash and Burn - one of my favorite podcasts to listen to on Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and a lapful of knitting. Two San Francisco knitters discussing their latest projects. Good for knitterly daydreams about yarn much more expensive than I can actually afford.

4) Ready, Set, Knit! - this podcast from the owners of features good interviews with crochet and knitwear designers, and the husband-and-wife team that hosts are awfully cute together.

And a few more random ones:

5) The Dave Ramsey Show - I don't listen to this religiously, but there are times when I just want to hear someone talking common sense for awhile, even if it's just about money.

6) Do I Dare to Eat a Peach? - the Wells brothers dissecting top 10 (and 20, and 30 . . .) lists about various bits of pop culture. This one's nice to have on if I'm roaming around the house, trying to get it straightened up, because I can miss a minute here or there without missing the flow of the show. Sometimes an episode will be about a bit of pop culture I don't care about, but more often than not I enjoy listening to them argue about the best jail breaks in sci fi or the best movie musical of all time. (This is one my husband likes too, btw.)

Got any you'd recommend?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, February 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Ash Wednesday, marriage, and Star Trek

My very least favorite part of any church service all year comes on Ash Wednesday when the priest smears ashes on my children's foreheads and tells them that they're made of dust, and to dust they will return.

I know it's true, I just hate that it's true about them.

On the other hand, there's very little sweeter than the realization, after that sadness, that the services keeps going, and the next thing that happens is that these very same children get to take communion and receive, again, the promise of redemption and eternal life and life anew.

We don't stop at the ashes.

If you need something to listen to today as you commute or wash dishes or whatever, this week's edition of The City podcast is excellent. Seriously.

I made the mistake (?) of getting into an internet debate about marriage yesterday, and it left me feeling uneasy and sour, and listening to that podcast was so heartening. Smart, godly people talking about marriage and celibacy and romance and erotic desire and friendship . . . such interesting things, but discussed with such thoughtfulness and virtue! 'twas the cure for what ailed me.

Even when I'm not sure I agreed with all of it. I agreed with most of it, and where I disagreed, my disagreement just made me want to discuss it more.

What I really want, I think, is to sit down a write a good essay.

In other news, I miss college.

Relatedly: I am a nerd.

Oh! and if you're a nerd, too (of a particular sort, anyway), can I point you to this post? It's a debate about the ideal Star Trek crew. Utterly geeky, but so much fun if that's your particular area of geekdom. :)

Wow! From Ash Wednesday to Star Trek. It must be Friday. :D

More Quick Takes can be found here, at Jen's place.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Getting Geeky About Star Trek: the Ideal Crew

So, my husband and I just finished watching Star Trek: Enterprise on Netflix. We missed it the first time around and watched it now because: new Star Trek!

And it actually was decent Star Trek. The best? Nope. But there were some good stories in there and some great characters.

The best of these was the doctor, Phlox.* Cheery, ethical, subtle - almost British in his balance of quiet joy and ingrained determination. Loved him.

And it got me thinking (and arguing with my husband) about the ideal Star Trek crew. You know, if you stole characters from all five Star Trek series, one for each major position on the ship or station, and put together a best of the best.

Now, there are two ways you could do this. One: the best people for the job. This gives you Odo over Worf, because you're just not going to beat a shape-shifter for Security Chief.

The second way to do this is: best character who happens to have that particular job. This gives you Worf over Odo because Worf.

Here are my lists, both ways:

Best of all worlds Star Trek Crew, by competence:
Captain: Picard (c'mon)
Second-in-command: Spock
Doctor: Julian Bashir (genetically engineered vs. holographic** is a tough call, though)
Engineer: Trip Tucker (LaForge a close second) (actually, all the engineers are pretty competent - not to say downright magical in their ability to come up with a mechanical cure at the last minute)
Security: Odo
Pilot: Chekov? Wesley? Paris? I don't know how to rank this one, because they're all portrayed as insanely good at their jobs.

Best of All Worlds, Star Trek Crew, by character:
Captain: Sisko
Second-in-command: Spock (c'mon, he wins both - though Kira's great)
Doctor: Phlox (Bashir a close second)
Engineer: Trip by a hair (because Miles O'Brien's pretty awesome)
Security: WORF.
Pilot: Wesley****

Okay, if you're nerd enough that this is your game, please play along in the comments. Fights definitely encouraged.

-Jessica Snell

*The second best was Trip, the engineer. Dang it, show, you didn't do right by him and T'Pol. That was one of the finest 'ships that ever sailed and I'm just going to pretend that very last episode didn't happen, m'kay? Because the Trip/T'pol storyline was only one of about ten things you screwed up six ways from Sunday on that last episode. Couldn't you learn anything from TNG about ending well?

**The really sad thing about this game is that it reveals Voyager's lack of good characters. The Doctor is the only one who comes close to being competitive in this game.***

***Okay, maybe 7 of 9, too. But that's it.

**** My 13-year-old self might be the one voting here.*****

*****My 15-year-old self, on the other hand, would vote for Paris, but then my 32-year-old self points out that everything interesting about Paris was leeched out of him by the time the second season of Voyager rolled around, due to the horrible writing that turned every single character on that show into a cookie-cutter perfect Starfleet officer. (What? I'm not bitter!)

Links! Beth Vogt giveaway, cancer, guns, and more

Today's list of interesting links from around the web is a little more hodge-podge than usual, so forgive me the cognitive dissonance as you hop from one to another! It's all good stuff, though, so take a look:

-I really liked Beth Vogt's last book, "Wish You Were Here", so I was excited to see that she has a new one coming out, and that she's giving away four advanced copies of it! This is one giveaway I'm signing up for.

"A New Journey with the Lord":
Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer last December, amongst the wonderful wishes of encouragement and love I’ve received, I’ve noticed that some of my loved ones have struggled to come to grips with why God would allow such a thing to happen to me. I empathize with their question (and pray that God will lead them through it). But I don’t currently share in their struggle myself. I think it’s because I wrestled with God about a similar question just over a decade ago.
"On Ash Wednesday":
I didn’t grow up observing Ash Wednesday or Lent, but I have to say, at this age it helps to be reminded that I am dust and returning to dust. It’s not just a help, but a comfort. This world is forever demanding that we take it as seriously as it takes itself, and it tempts us to take ourselves too seriously too. Ash Wednesday says, “No, no, no, dear sinner. You’re just dust, living in a world that’s just dust, and you and the world both are returning to dust. And you are dear to God nevertheless.”

-And, in a total departure from the other links, here's "How Do You Win a Gunfight?"  Those of you who aren't in SoCal might not have been following the terrifying, fascinating, horribly sad Christopher Dorner case, but this article goes in depth on one aspect of the events of the last few days: how pitched gun battles actually go down in the real world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Preparing the Ashes and a few more Lenten Links

Grinding the palm ashes prior to sifting them. And now my house smells like wonderfully aromatic smoke.

The good folks over at Lent and Beyond reminded me that they have a plethora of good reading for Lent. I really appreciate their blog; it's always so thoughtful.  Here are their links for Lent, including lots of devotional reading, and here are their links for Holy Week. And if that's not enough, here are their recommendations for Lenten reading beyond their own blog

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lots and LOTS of Links! - Lenten edition

Some of these are old, some new, but they provide plenty of food for thought for the upcoming Lenten season. Browse away! (and feel free to bookmark to browse later, mid-Lent, when inspiration and desire might be waning!)

- "a holy lent":
The technical word for this process is Conviction. It can be painful, but also, sweet, because God, so big, so concerned with so many important things, takes the trouble to care about the smallest, meanest darkest parts of me and you.
- "The Lenten Prayer"

-"For God, Or for Your Bod? Some Thoughts about Fasting and Dieting"

-"The Essence of Lent"

-"In the Wilderness":
Thus it is that Jesus - and so many, many others - went into the desert to fast and pray. The purpose of going into the desert wasn't fasting. The purpose was praying. It's just that some times you have to make room for prayer, and that is the essence of fasting.
-"To Hell on a Cream Puff"

-"Pre-Holy Week Spring Cleaning"

-"A Playlist for Lent"

-"Lenten Rookie Mistakes"

-"Printable Lenten Calendar for Kids"

-"More On Lent" - some ideas for observing the season with your children

-"A Definition of Lent" - some historical observations, here.

-"Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down"

-"Welcome, Dear Feast of Lent" - the best of Lenten poems. (Okay, except, perhaps, for Donne's "Good Friday")

-Holy Saturday in Narnia

-"You're Kidding, Right?"

-"Canonical Communities: Ash Wednesday and Christian Communities"

-"Preparing to Prepare for Easter" - more on Lent and kids

-"Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes for Lent" - a list of links

Feel free to add your own links in the comments!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, February 10, 2013

a snippet of fiction

Happy with this just because it helped me tease out an idea that'd been dancing around the edges of my consciousness for the past few days:

           He wasn’t happy, and that meant a bad decision was more likely than not. People made bad decisions when they were unhappy. Their true selves were locked away, down deep, protected from the miserable fog of their day-to-day experience, and they made decisions on impulse, grabbing desperately onto any stray idea that seemed to promise a way out of the grey clouds that mired them. People thought their hearts were what led them astray, but it wasn’t true. The mind was a necessary check on the heart, sure enough, but it was an insensitive instrument when left to itself, tone-deaf and unable to hear when a note struck true.

            He was unhappy, and desperate not to be, and his brilliant mind was going to lead him to do something very, very stupid indeed.

Not sure what I think of the idea, but I do love how writing helps get my ideas out of my head and onto paper, where they're easier to study.

-Jessica Snell

ETA: this is just scratchpad stuff, unedited, just scribbling because I had an idea I wanted to play with. And just posting because, well, because it's my blog, and I wanted to.

Friday, February 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes

I really like this new music from Gray Havens, and right now it's free! I especially like the Narnia-inspired "Silver" and the sweet, upbeat "Let's Get Married". "Where They Go" is good, too.

I've been trying the Couch-to-5K program. I'll probably write a longer blog about it sometime, but right now I have to say that it's the most sensible start-running program I've ever encountered. I'm beginning to hope I might be able to become a runner without injuring myself! (Injuring myself is what I normally do when I think, "hey, I should go for a run!" I start out too fast and my body says, "hey, idiot, knock it off!")

Something else I want to write a blog post on sometime is the difference between reading scripture and hearing scripture. I've become fonder and fonder of listening to the Bible. It seems to seep into my heart in a different way when it comes through my ears (sorry, that's a terrible mix of the metaphorical and the literal).

But reading it engages my attention, too. Just differently. I've been trying to figure out what the difference is. Anyone have any thoughts?

You've probably seen the beautiful animated short "Paperman", but what you might not have seen is this sharp analysis by Lars Walker. I had the same problem he did with "Paperman"'s narrative arc, and I like his solution to the difficulty.

5. Lent starts next week! I'm just saying.

6. Actually, my preparations for Lent this year feel really different, because this is the first year I'm preparing for Lent as an Altar Guild director. Yes, I'm figuring out what I'm going to take on personally for Lent, what sort of fast I'm doing . . . but I'm also collecting last year's palm crosses to burn for Ash Wednesday and making sure our priest's Lenten chausible is ironed and that we have people signed up to serve at the various Lenten services . . . it's a really different perspective on the season.

7. I really like being a part of our church's volunteer staff. Talk about work worth doing! All of our lives are part of the life of the church, but getting to participate in the actual church-service-related work makes it all feel so much more literal than it usually does.

I'm not expressing that well, I don't think. I guess that means I need to think about it more; muddled expression usually means muddled thought. But there is something so good and sweet about liturgical work, and I'm sure there's some connection between that work and my day-to-day life as a Christian. Some connection between washing the chalice after communion and washing the dishes after my family has supper.

I just need to ponder it a bit more, I think.

More Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Yarnalong - Kilt Hose and Together Alone

It feels like forever since I've participated in a Yarnalong!

First, the pretty, pretty knitting:

That's Adam's kilt hose, which is coming right along now that I'm done (for a while) with all those hexipuffs.

The pattern for the kilt hose is Kilravock, which is free on Knitty, and the yarn is Knit Picks Stroll in Basalt Heather.

And I have oh-so-far to go before this is a complete pair of socks. But at least I have both of the cuffs done, and that's the tricky part!

As for books, I didn't get a decent picture of it, but I'm really enjoying Susan Wittig Albert's Together Alone. My mom lent it to me because of some of the writer's life bits, which I do like, but more than that, it's a story of Susan and her husband making some land in Texas their home, and themes of home and making homes and what Home is are just exactly my brand of literary crack, and so I'm enjoying this book very much indeed. (Reminds me a bit of this one, in its groundedness.)

More yarny, bookish goodness over at Ginny's lovely blog, Small Things.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Links - the year, the time, and the wine

"The Year of Not Putting Up With Things":
Maybe we should blame it on the practice of frugality that seems to have come with my German heritage, but I've put up with a lot of minor inconveniences over the course of my life...little things being not quite right, particularly in my home or in my wardrobe. A belt doesn't fit quite right. A dress rides up funny on one side. A shirt feels a tiny bit too short. The trusty black pumps I've owned and worn for years have started to separate from their strap on one shoe. The toilet in the guest bathroom splashes the lid when you flush. The rug in our living room is too small for the space. Our air conditioning has never worked.
"The Best Wine in the History of the World":
He was about to perform his first public miracle. Let me frame that a different way. He was about to formally and publicly introduce himself to his bride—the church—for the first time. I wonder if Mary’s request sounded to him something like, “Go on, son. Ask that girl to dance.”
"Routine Life":
Some mornings I wake up feeling ready to do it all again. Ready to get out of bed (after drinking coffee, of course), face the day, clean, prep meals, homeschool, do laundry, break up fights, nurse the baby. But some days, I just feel do not feel it. I do not feel like getting up and doing it all. Those days generally do not go well. But sometimes, something happens to arrest me mid-day and change everything.
 Usually, that thing is . . . work.
"how do I Run a Micro business and homeschool?": this whole thing was interesting, but I love, love, love Christine's observation about her home:
 I don’t decorate the house – it’s the lab for making projects in, it isn’t itself a project. 
Hey, I've got one of those project-lab houses, too! :D

"I love this bar (and a recipe)":
Houston, we have a problem. Even though I know that I can make something akin to a Larabar in my food processor and have a great granola bar recipe that most of our family will eat, even though I no longer buy boxes of granola bars or nutri grain bars for the children I cannot resist the lure of the bar.
There is something about the presentation, the bright colors, the many flavors, that seems to beckon. Eat me! They cry. I am interesting and fun and come in my own individual wrapper. I have as much protein as a chicken breast but taste like fake cookie dough coated in fake chocolate. Eat me and you can skip taking your multivitamin! I can make you happy!
"Op-Ed: An Ode to Ordinary Time": I'm not quoting from this one, because the fun is in the scroll-down reveal.

"Guinevere and Julia: The Platypus Reads Part CCX":
. . . it's a necessary part of all romance and adventure that we not be allowed to weasel out every time our beliefs land us in hard places. 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's okay to just fast

I was reading Elizabeth Foss' blog today, and came across this:
"Ahh, the Lents when we give up chocolate are always so much easier than the ones when we don't choose what to sacrifice."
Oh. Yeah.

And the thing is, you don't necessarily know if it's going to be one of those Lents going into it, though sometimes you do. Cancer, difficult pregnancy, difficult relationships . . . those can make for a pretty sacrificial Lent, and there's nothing you can do about it.

But, as far as I know (the Lord knows), that's not my Lent this year. And so what if it's just an ordinary Lent? Besides thanking God fasting, what do you do?

Well . . . I don't know. I'm going to spend the next week praying about it, I think. But here's a thought I started thinking last year, and that I'm still kind of pondering: I think it's okay sometimes to just fast.

Like, actually give up eating, fast.

If there's no reason not to (pregnancy, illness, hard physical labor, etc.), why not? That's the tradition of the church. 

There are different ways to do it. Some of the simplest are just giving up a meal per day, or fasting one or two days a week (Wednesdays, for Judas' betrayal, and Fridays, for Christ's death, are traditional). Some people actually fast for forty full days, though I think that's an Olympic-level event that needs the supervision of a doctor and a priest, at least.

There's going to bread and water for certain days, going vegan, going vegetarian. That starts to get complicated, though.

But, for Protestants, who don't have the strict rules some of our fellow Christians do, I think the simplicity of just fasting - from a meal, for a day - might not be such a bad idea.

I'm not saying you should. I'm not even saying I should - not yet, anyway. These things take prayer. But I think it is something to pray about, as Lent approaches. Sometimes we make very complicated fasts for ourselves, making up rules about different kinds of media or desserts, or whatever.

But maybe sometimes we should just fast.

What do you think?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Knitted Work-in-Progress: the Beekeeper's Quilt

I just finished working through some scrap yarn left over from my Color Affection, and afterwards I took out all the hexipuffs I've made so far for my Beekeeper's Quilt, and arranged them all, rainbow-order:

I have 124 hexipuffs so far, and I think I'm at about 1/6 of the size that I want, which means . . . eep. About 750 hexipuffs total.

This might take me a few years. :)

Link to my Ravelry notes for this project, if you want more info about yarn types and such.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell