Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yarnalong: "Lizzy & Jane", and a baby sweater!

I'm linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, "Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?"

The book: I'm reading "Lizzy and Jane", by Katherine Reay. This is by the same author who wrote "Dear Mr. Knightley" (you can read my review here), and I like it a lot so far. The subject matter is a bit heavier, but the writing is still just so, so good.

The knitting:  I'm making a baby sweater for a friend who is due with her first boy soon (she has two girls already). The pattern is "Wee Lima" and the yarn is Plymouth Encore (the blue) and Lion Brand Wool Ease (grey).  I wanted something that would be easy for my friend to throw in the wash!

This is a really simple pattern, but I think it's turning out adorably! I also love that it buttons up by the neck, because I remember how hard it could be to get something over a wobbly baby head. :)  I think I'm going to have fun picking out the buttons!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

on children and homework

You know those moments when you have a realization, a brilliant moment of clarity, and then immediately afterward you have an additional realization of "and boy, it shouldn't have taken me so long to figure that out"?

And then you feel sheepish for being thick-headed and not realizing it before, but still grateful anyway, because at least now you get it?

Okay, this is one of those.

So, here's my brilliant (and slow-in-coming) realization:

My job at homework time is to help my children get their homework done.

Obvious, yeah? True. But here's where I went wrong before: I used to think: My job is to make sure my children's homework is done. And when I thought that, I got frustrated so very, very quickly.

Because if my job were to make sure my children's homework is done, you know what would be the fastest way to accomplish that?

Yep! To do it myself.

The thing is "children's homework" is an item on my to-do list, and so my instinct towards it is the same as my instinct towards all the other items on my to-do list: work hard and get it done.  Cross that sucker off!

But that's not how this one gets done. Because my children haven't been doing math for thirty years. They haven't been writing for thirty years. They haven't been reading for thirty years. Their homework isn't easy for them.

My job here is not to do the work. My job is to help the kids.

Obvious? Yes. World of difference? Oh, yes.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekly Links: good rules for eating, superheroes, and more!

"Simple Rules for Healthy Eating":
It’s much easier, unfortunately, to tell you what not to do. But here at The Upshot, we don’t avoid the hard questions. So I’m going to put myself on the line. Below are the general rules I live by. They’re the ones I share with patients, with friends and with family. They’re the ones I support as a pediatrician and a health services researcher. But I acknowledge up front that they may apply only to healthy people without metabolic disorders (me, for instance, as far as I know).
"Why Comic Book Nerds Hate 'Batman vs. Superman'":
Zack Snyder thinks about comic books the way that Peter Jackson thinks about Tolkien. All he sees are the battles and the fights and is completely blind to the themes and characterization that make those bouts of violence mean anything. 
"In Love with Small Towns: Author Interview with Jill Kemerer": I love reading about the persistence it takes to make it as an author - I find it so encouraging!

"The Power of Confession":
The beautiful thing about testimonies at their best is they're not meant to establish the speaker in a power relationship with the listener. Rather, they're an act of humility. Here is my life, the testimony-giver says. Please find in it your own path toward assurance. And please know that after today, I will go on living; this is not the end of the story.

"80's Free Range Childhood Was Not the Sam as 50's Childhood":

Surely we’ve learned something from the scandals in the church and all the conversations about rape culture and bullies–that abuse thrives where there’s silence and lack of supervision, where popularity is currency, where might is right, where blackmail keeps what happens on the playground on the playground. Children really can be quite naughty left to their own devices. Almost as naughty as grownups.

This article: "Why I Haven't Spoken Out on Gay Marriage Till Now"  and its follow-up, "Why I haven't Spoken Up: More Thoughts", I value particularly because they are from a tradition that is not my own, and take an approach that is different than many I've seen, yet clearly a path taken in both charity and obedience. I don't think I agree with all of it, but I found a lot of food for thought in her words.

Finally, skip this if you don't want the earworm, but this guy definitely has the right idea on how to have fun with singing in your car (love the looks on his friend's face):

Have a great weekend!
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Finding Livelihood" Giveaway!

I wrote a bit last week about Finding Livelihood (a lovely book I had the privilege of working on), and I wanted to let you know that you have the chance to win a copy!

The publisher is giving away three copies of the book on Goodreads, just go here to enter.

I hope one of you wins. :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Weekly Links, a little late!

One of the earliest lessons of having a special-needs child was learning to recognize his progress not by comparing him to typically-developing children of the same age, but by comparing him to his own earlier self.
"Where to Start Your Story":
One of the first things I think about when I sit down to actually plot a book is where I'm going to start. As a general rule, the best place to start your story is always wherever things get interesting. BUT (and here's where it gets cool), "where things get interesting" can vary enormously depending on your audience/genre.

"Dirty Clothes, Complaints and Contentment":
Benedict has a way of pulling the rug out from under me. I’ll feel like I’m doing alright with life (I mean I’m not setting the bar all that high, but no one is getting hurt, we are all fed and bathed and dressed at least) and then I sit down and read something like this. Now true, this is a rule of life written 1,500 years ago for monks, totally different from my life. But it gets me thinking.

"The Audacity of Cinderella":
The unflinching purity of this film is so rare that it made me uncomfortable at first, and then it made me ache, because I’m so starved for sincerity.

"The day I bought steak with my food stamps":

And they hated us anyway. Oh, man. They told us everything I had been saying to myself: freeloaders. Not willing to work. What’s wrong with America today. Culture of dependency. And all the while, we went around the house with winter jackets and three pairs of socks on, because we couldn’t afford to turn the heat above 60 degrees when it was below zero out. My kids never got a new toy, never got new clothes. They learned never to ask for a popsicle or a box of crayons. We cobbled together a bizarre school curriculum out of whatever books were 25 cents at the thrift store. My husband’s glasses were taped together at the nose, we had no auto or health insurance, and I chose my driving routes according to how many hills I could coast down, to save gas. We prioritized bills according to how threatening they were.

"The Winter of His Disbelief":
Nor­mally we would start the tour here, ski­ing the three miles of road to the sum­mer trail­head and our first mea­sure­ment course, but this year we drove the three miles instead of ski­ing them, and parked the car at road’s end. We saun­tered to the snow course at North Lake, ele­va­tion 9,300′. In a nor­mal year, we’d expect to mea­sure the equiv­a­lent of 10 inches of SWE at North Lake, but not only was the course free of snow, the meadow grasses were begin­ning to sprout, and the dis­mal real­ity of the bleak snow­pack started set­ting in . . .

"What's Going on with Family Christian Stores?":
Yes. The guy who owns the company, and who wants to buy the company from himself, also wants to be a creditor, so he gets paid before others. What a guy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Finding Livelihood", by Nancy Nordenson

So, this isn't a proper book review, at all, because I'm much too close to this one.

This is a book I had the privilege of working on as an editor, and I love it:

I even had the privilege of getting to help write the back cover blurb, and so I'm going to stick that here, in lieu of a proper book review:

A Book About Work
for Grown-Ups

When we were young, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Those answers were our childhood dreams. The reality of adulthood is that what we are and do now is what we became.  

Finding Livelihood is a book about work for grown-ups. It’s about not just the work we thought we wanted but about the work we found and the work that found us. It’s also about the work we have lost.
At once a shrewd challenge of Buechner’s assertion that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” and also a lyrical journey to the place where labor and love meet, Finding Livelihood explores the tensions between the planned life and the given, between desire and need, between aspirations and limits.

Through story, collage, and juxtaposition, Finding Livelihood invites you to consider work in its many facets. Who gets to decide if our work is “good”? How do we deal with forces and routines that leave us longing for escape? How do questions about money and meaning change when you are holding a pink slip in your hand? How are we transformed when our current work becomes part of a spiritual journey that encompasses all of life? 

Drawing from thinkers as diverse as St. Aquinas, Josef Pieper, and Simone Weil, Nordenson affirms the doctrine of imago Dei and brings it into the real world of work: a world full of brokenness and hope, of dead-end jobs and live-saving interventions, of daily bread and transcendent meaning. In the midst of it all, we find our livelihood. 

I feel too involved in this one to say much more about it, but I couldn't let the release date pass without saying something about it.   :)  So, maybe poke around the book website a bit - or the other book website - and see if it's something that might speak to you.

And, finally, I wanted to end this by saying, Happy release day, dear Nancy!  It's been nothing but a pleasure to work with you.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Notes: "Dear Mr. Knightley", by Katherine Reay

When it comes to classic books one of my all-time favorites is the epistolatory novel "Daddy Long Legs", by Jean Webster. And - perhaps even more dear - its sequel, "Dear Enemy".

So, when my mom handed me "Dear Mr. Knightley", by Katherine Reay and told me that it was inspired by "Daddy Long Legs", I was easily convinced to read it.


And I loved it.  That's the upshot.

Now that said, I am going to be horrible and give you my one objection to this book here at the beginning of this review. It's absolutely not fair for me to do this, because really this book was wonderful, wonderful, and beyond all whooping.

- - - so: SPOILER WARNING here - - -

BUT.  Why, oh why, oh why, did she changed to third-person in the last chapter? I wanted, I needed, I had to have the ending in the same, wonderful voice as the rest of the book! Why did I have to read the conclusion - the wonderful, fulfilling, well-earned conclusion - in that removed, distant third-person voice?

I loved the main character's voice. LOVED it. It was brilliant. I don't know how Katherine Reay managed to convey to me a character who was so very, very flawed, and yet whom I liked so very, very much, I only know that she did, and that I felt cheated in getting the climax of the story in someone else's voice.


BUT. (Again.) But, but, but. Don't, by all means, please, don't let that one criticism keep you from reading this book. You should read it. It is good, and sigh-worthy, and wonderful, and you should read it.

And to that end, let me begin my review properly, and tell you a bit of what this wonderful book is about.

- - - - END SPOILERS - - - -

Sam (Samantha) Moore is an orphan. She's been through a lot, and you find out a bit about what that "lot" is through the course of the book, but our story opens when she's given a grant to attend graduate school in journalism, thanks to a mysterious benefactor. All her benefactor wants in return is regular letters, conveying her progress in her studies. The whole story (almost!) is told through these letters, which are addressed to "Mr. Knightley", the pseudonym assumed by the nameless benefactor. A pseudonym, it should be noted, that gives our literary-minded Sam reassurance that her benefactor is, in fact, a good man.

The story follows Sam as she tries, fails, and tries again. I was amazed, as I read it, by how much I was rooting for such a flawed character. I liked Sam, even as I was clearly aware I'd find her a trying friend in real life. I tried to figure out how Reay accomplished that, and all I really could conclude was that it was because Sam herself was really aware of her own failings (at least some of them) and was doggedly determined to improve. I couldn't help but love a heroine so persistent and so clear-eyed.

And I loved the hero, too, when he came along. Yes, this is a romance. (Of course! All the best books are.) I love romances where the hero and heroine become better people in each other's company, and that was really true here.

This book is so good. Despite my gripe about the ending, the only reason it bothered me so much was because I cared so much. And the only reason I cared so much was because Reay made me care so much. She's so good, you guys. So, so good. I've got her next book, "Lizzie and Jane", on my shelf and I can't wait.

Also, to be fair, I probably wouldn't have had my gripe about the ending if I weren't such a fan of Reay's inspiration, the classic "Daddy Long Legs". If you've read it, then you've read Jerusha's last, exultant letter, and you'll know what I was expecting. Without that expectation, you might not mind the end of "Dear Mr. Knightley" at all. So, be aware that I might be being completely unfair.

Anyway. This was a great book, and it got me out of a bit of a reading slump. Highly recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Twitter, Spring Break, and other mischief

Hi folks!

Well, Bright Week is over, and it's back to work for Adam, the kids, and me.  We had a great spring break, and I was just getting into the groove of this whole vacation thing!

You know when you hit that point in vacation where you're ready to start working on projects? I got there, and now my patio planters are filled with cosmos & snapdragons & calla lilies, my pantry is clean and moth free, and my knitting is all actually blocked and finished!  :D

One other thing I did recently was to join Twitter!  If you're on Twitter, I'd love to connect with you there. I'm at TheJessicaSnell (the definite article is just because I didn't want to have a number).

So, now that Lent is over, and summer is almost in view, I'll be back here blogging about books & homemaking & crafts and all that good stuff. The break was good, but I missed blogging!

So, what did you do on spring break?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter!

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

I hope all of you had a blessed Holy Week and I hope you have a wonderful Bright Week!

I am taking Bright Week off blogging in order to spend time with my family, but I'll resume posting this coming weekend.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Collect for Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

                                                         -from The Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Collect for Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

                                             -from The Book of Common Prayer.