Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reading and Thinking



I am reading this book right now and love it.  All I think about as I do my household chores is when I can get back to my book.  Last night I tried to stay up to read it but crashed at midnight.  I needed toothpicks for my eyelids I think.

Stories of pioneers make me realize what I take for granted.  These women started with nothing...or hardly nothing...maybe a pot or a pan or a quilt.  They lost babies left and right and what a heartbreak.  They were no different from us in the love for their children but they had little time to mourn I think because they had mouths to feed and that took a heck of a lot of work, not a run to the grocery.

When I think of how worried we all get about the dangers out lurking in the world, I realize how most of our fears our imagined or just thought up to bring drama to our lives.  Their greatest fears, whether it was a storm that ruined their crops, snake bites, bear attacks, robbery and murder, the flu, you name it, happened frequent enough, yet it doesn't seem they were filled with anxiety and couldn't go on...they had such strength.

I wonder what they would think of us today with our conveniences and the ability to feed our children meals, and our warm houses and drawers and cupboards full of things, our antibiotics, and still we worry and fuss.  How quickly we forget the past.  I think of my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers...I think our generation needs to hitch up our bootstraps and zip it when it comes to complaining and excuses.

What also strikes me is how these women so enjoyed the simple things.  A flower poking up through the snow, a bolt of cloth to make the first new dress they'll ever own (that they had to find the time to make themselves), a letter from a relative that took 6 months to arrive.

I look at how I rush through life, answering a dozen emails a day without hardly thinking about any of them, buying a $12 bunch of out of season daffodils which really takes away the joy of all that time waiting for the first bloom in April, how easily I replace this or that in my kitchen or closet when I didn't have to save for months or years to purchase them.  I think of how a treat isn't a treat if it is easily and readily accessible...if there isn't hard work, or appreciation and patience put in place to get that treat.  What is else in life is left then?  Of course, we do the same for our kids.  What else in life is left if you can't appreciate the simple things because you have easy access to them all the time and they take no sacrifice?




60 comments :

  1. So true Sarah! I've been thinking about this a lot lately. We're looking to buy a bigger home and have been stressed out about it. I finally just stepped back yesterday and thought - why in the world am I stressed about this? Whether we should buy this home in this nice area or that home in that nice area? So not a real problem. And is a bigger home going to make me one bit happier than I am now? No. Probably less happy since I'll just have more to clean! :) I am in awe every time I think about the every day trials pioneer women faced. We are wimps for sure!

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  2. Wow, Sarah! You've said it so right! I totally recognized myself in your description: worried, stressed, always in a rush,... without a major reason.
    My opinion is that all this "under pressure" feeling of nowadays comes from too much information we are bombed with. It's really an art to avoid and ignore information...
    Speaking about too much information: you've just convinced me "These is my words" worth to be read :-))
    Love you and your posts!
    Kisses!

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  3. This is the first comment that I've left here, though I frequently draft a response to your posts in my mind. :) I think that you are blessed with an amazingly clear sense of right and wrong, common sense, as well as the ability and clarity to put it into words for the rest of us to ponder and discern. Thank you! And I couldn't agree more -- we have so much in our lives and so little to really cause the great concern that our society tends to thrive on. And that gets us ... nowhere. Yep, we all need to grab hold of those bootstraps!

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  4. I LOVE this book! I love historical journals and the like, they always give me perspective. I have a whole new appreciation for my life of convenience, my washing machine, dish washer, hot water in my pipes. I found a batch of letters in my Grandmothers attic that dated to the 1890's, she described a huge snow, the creek was frozen, her food was frozen, her fire wood was wet, her baby wouldn't stop crying and she had a tooth ache, I can't imagine living that kind of life. It made me realize very quickly how much easier we have it!

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  5. That looks like a great read. It's why I enjoy Austen or Gaskell - it makes me appreciate what we have now. It also makes me appreciate what the "universal truths" are!

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  6. I need a good read ... something to put things in perspective. Mostly I need to read because LATELY I'm feeling a bit ENVELOPED by too much noise. A book might be just the escape ;)

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  7. I'm going to have to get that book, sounds like a good one! I think all that you said is why I enjoy knitting so much. Don't get me wrong- I love making my jewlery (it takes me to a wonderful creative world), I love to read (it takes you as far back into the past as you want or as far into the future), but knitting, that puts my mind at complete concentrated peace. I don't think about anything- it is just restful peace. Hard to explain, but I love it. I don't think most of us allow ourselves to experience such peace. There is always something to do, errands to run, babies to care for, but it really is amazing what 1, 5, 10 minutes of something that quiets our mind can do for you. Sarah, I enjoy you and your blog so much! Thank you for giving this mommy wonderful things to read bright and early at 5:50 a.m. :-)

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  8. We've been having a "little house on the Prairie" movie fest here all winter long. The kids love it and I love that they are learning about hard work and the simple things in life. I'll have to check out that book.

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  9. I had not heard the name of this book before..it sounds like one I need to read though. I agree with you wholeheartedly~and have often felt a bit guilty for all I have..and all that comes so easily to me. It would be hard to give it up at this stage of life though, wouldn't it?

    We are blessed indeed by all those who went before us and paved the way for what became the conveniences of today's world. Bless your for reminding us the truth of that fact- Hugs- Diana

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  10. I loved that book, too. And even though sometimes I feel a little bit tired from all the work my family, website, and life require, there's a sweetness in the struggle. I love your perspective and wisdom, Sarah.

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  11. A big fat Amen. I started baking my own bread last year because of exactly what you're saying. I realized we can get everything so easily these days, but at what price? Food is full of chemicals and preservatives, toys are dripping with toxins, clothing comes apart at the seems. Maybe we need to go back to the basics. I'm trying little by little because you're right, we are always searching for something.

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  12. Thanks for the book recommendation. I loved that you called us wimps:-).

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  13. I LOVE this book. For all the same reasons for you and I also love that the book feels so authentic (come on she skips four years at one point- looks my journal), love the love story that doesn't feel forced...it's like she just lives life then suddenly you look back at the big picture and realize that all put together it is a beautiful story, love the common sense advice, the little moments etc. One of my all time top five. I would not recommend the sequels though. They do not stay true in my opinion to style or character.

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  14. I read this book right after my 4th child was born - and loved it!!! She has a series of books that take up where this one leaves off - but this is by far the best! I also agree with your thoughts on the ease of our lives bringing little happiness. Good stuff!

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  15. I loved these is my words, but was very disappointed by the sequels. I'd be interested to know what you think if you read them.

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  16. I agree whole-heartedly! Pioneer books are so inspiring. They always make me put things in my own life into perspective and realise how blessed I am!
    Might need to have a read of this book now...

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  17. nice.
    i am so glad i don't have to sew my own clothes.
    thank you for reminding me of all of this.
    have a nice day sarah!!
    hope you get to read and not just clean.

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  18. Sarah, this is perhaps my favorite book of all time. I have a HUGE crush on Captain Jack. I won't spoil the end, but it was on my mind for a long, long time afterwards. The main character left me wanting to be better person: more hearty...and hardy. Tougher, more self-reliant. I loved her. I also was amused by one similarity between her life and mine: she was grumpy at her husband one day because she didn't have any clean diapers left. Oh, and by the way...I'm reading "A Fortunate Life"!

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  19. Well said! I love pioneer books as well, both historical and fiction. Have you read any of the Jane Kirkpatrick series? They are based on pioneer women with some fiction thrown in, I read every book as fast as I could a few summers ago.

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  20. Great, I totally agree! The total plus was the cover that said "the Arizona territories"...this one is going to the top of my book pile.

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  21. Thank you for your thoughts. I've been pondering a lot on this very thing lately as well.

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  22. Amen! We *are* wimps! I think of the pioneers when it's freezing outside and how I never have to worry about my babies being warm...

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  23. Thank you for reminding me how great we have it, it's been a tough couple of weeks and it's been hard to remember all the wonderful things I'm blessed with.

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  24. Yep.
    I agree wholeheartedly. I also think that the majority in pioneer days had an unwavering and very necessary faith in God that also gave them untold strength.
    I am in awe of this time in history , this time gone-by...and you have coined it all perfectly.
    We have little to no appreciation for the simple and many pleasures that are truly the essesnce of life.
    I love this post.
    I'm buying this book Sarah.

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  25. I read a book last summer that made me think these same things. You would probably like it. It is called "A Lantern in Her Hand." Sorry, I can't remember the authors name right now.

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  26. Thanks for the book recommendation. I have added it to my "to read" list. As usual, you expressed yourself beautifully and confirmed some of my thoughts as well!

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  27. I'm sure the book is great, but this post was fantastic!! I seriously feel like a wimp after having read this. :) Thanks for the reminder to quit whining and appreciate how good modern life is!

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  28. I agree with this so much. We have so much and want so much, that we forget to be happy with simple things or work and save for the other things. I love pioneer fiction books, this one is on my to read list.

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  29. I am reading this book right now too! I am only about 50 pages in, but am so loving it. I like reading books of people who endure hard struggles and let it make them stronger. It also makes me gratful for what I have! Have you read "Left to Tell?" It is about a woman who survives the Rwandan genocide back in the 90's. She is amazing! The book is hard to read because of the content and the violence, but her courage and faith through it is remarkable!

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  30. I read this book last year and loved it! There is also another book that follows this one...can't think of the name right now. Our grandmothers lived through so many hardships compared to our lives today. I've often wondered how I would have managed back then.

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  31. sounds like a wonderful book...I will keep this in my reading list for later...love that era!

    sandy toe

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  32. I'm adding that book to my list...I so agree with you on the subject of hard work. I really want to instill that value into my children, but first need to make sure that I'm also walking the walk. Do we truly appreciate everything we have, take care of our belongings, find joy in the simple pleasures of life? I'm all for keeping things simple, but as for giving up antibiotics? They've saved our family this week...so yes, for some modern conviniences we are thankful.

    Great reminder. I'm off to mop my floors!

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  33. The more simple I make things the happier I am. Two other authors you might enjoy are Sandra Dallas and Jennifer Chiaverini - I always like to start with the first book as the characters reappear. I have been known to hide in the bathroom to finish a book until 3 am.

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  34. I love this book and your thoughts are great as always.

    Don't forget to read the sequels! I'm going to have to read it again- it's always nice to get a reminder of how blessed we really are!

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  35. I agree 100%! I have been thinking some of these same thoughts but from a different perspective. My husband is self employed and made a wonderful living. I got to quit my job when we had our first and stay home and raise our children. We acquired debt but he always made so much money we never really thought much about it. This economy has leveled his business. We are making it but barely and there is a part of me that is so GRATEFUL for this time. Looking back we were careless and foolish with our spending and our thinking. We've become wasteful and thoughtless and for the past year we've been put in the situation of making some MAJOR changes in our lives. I have to say I am proud of how my husband and I have risen to the occasion and I don't really miss all that we "cut out" of our daily existance. It makes you appreciate the little things more and every time we start to back peddle and feel sorry for ourselves we see someone on the news or read about someone who truly has nothing...and we remember, we have our health and 2 healthy children and everything else doesn't matter! I can't imagine living in pioneer times...every single thing they did was hard and almost everything they did was just so they could survive! Joy was still a huge part of their lives but their eyes were wide open to the tiny miracles we take for granted today. Thanks for the recommendation...always on the prowl for a good read!

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  36. I agree! I just finished Little Women and felt the same way! We were without power for about 24 hours because of the storm and my kids were only worried about their wii and Scooby movies. It really makes you think and put things in perspective.

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  37. I love when a book gets me thinking. Have you read Sandra Dallas? LOVE HER. Depression era/Colorado Territory. I'd start with "Prayers for Sale". It is not my favorite one of hers (although very good) but it is a great intro into her writing and whether or not you'll like it. "Tallgrass" is awesome as is "The Persian Pickle Club". "The Diary of Mattie Spenser" is a bit depressing and I almost stopped reading it but soldiered on and it was an amazing read.

    BTW you are right about the heart and strength of these women. Unbelievable. I struggle to read some of it much less live it. We are definitely wimps who need some perspective.

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  38. Just downloaded this to my Kindle. Been iced in at home since Monday night can't get the car up the driveway :/ I love reading historical novels and such. It does make you put your present life in check. Thanks for the heads up on something new to read! :)

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  39. It's a great book! You have to read the series. I think there's 2 more. It reminds me that we do tend to take things for granted don't we.

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  40. If you love this book, then you owe it to yourself to also read this one. It stays with me years after having read it.
    http://www.amazon.com/Diaries-Westward-Journey-Lillian-Schlissel/dp/0805210040

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  41. I LOVED this book! And I agree with your feelings about it; I felt such awe and admiration for my pioneer ancestors and realized how very little I have to complain about! Unfortunately, I also have to agree with a couple of your commenters that the sequels were not as good.

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  42. Thanks Sarah, I can't wait to read this! I often thought of my own mom sterilizing bottles, washing and rinsing cloth diapers while we complained of not having enough time to empty our Diaper Genie. We are surely "soft" when it comes to the real work of mothers that came before us. I'm sure they would have happily enjoyed our luxuries but would they have been happier? I'm not sure. I think the more time we create for ourselves the more we expect to get done. We simply don't enjoy the simple things in life anymore. Books like this remind us of how blessed and SPOILED we are. Thanks for the kick in the butt!

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  43. I read this book recently. I really enjoyed it. It actually made me feel better that they hired household help when the children were small! I just don't seem to be able to do it all by myself and I have all the modern conveniences, which we have, of course, used to complicate our lives even further. I think their greatest blessing was being able to mostly avoid the sin of coveting. They lived their lives, instead of spending a great deal of time looking at other people's lives. For example, every time I look at your blog I envy your beautiful, large kitchen. I, too, have five children and would love a house that is big enough to gather comfortably in. But that will have to wait! I wish I had a mudroom too!

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  44. First of all, I love this book. You are truly a soul sister in literary taste! Second, I think about this topic ALL the time. Your last two sentences were right on. Gratitude is my lifelong quest, I think. I don't want to wake up one day and realize I wished away the best years of my life.

    To go along with what you said about children: I bought my three older girls Happy Meals for the very first time this week. It was like Christmas all over again. They've been treasuring the toys and the boxes. I really just want to throw it away! But it's refreshing to see, because I do overindulge them in other areas and they take so many things for granted, already. Maybe I should apply this scarcity to other areas of their lives!

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  45. Amazing, stirring post - loved it. Thank you. Will be on the look-out for that book.

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  46. Have added this book to my amazon wish list as it has great reviews and I love a historical novel.

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  47. I'm reading this on my Nook, while having a pedicure. (Something I've done only twice in my life by the way.) I wonder what my grandmother or great-grandmother would think about this? It's definitely something they never had. They worried about far greater things than whether or not their feet were soft or toenails polished. I loved your post. I'll put the book on my list to read. In fact, I'll just look up barnes and noble while I sit here, and buy it. (Geez)

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  48. Hi Sarah - once again you have put into words things that a lot of us need to hear. We take so much for granted and appreciate so little! Thank you for the wake up call - you're awesome!

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  49. I'm in total agreement. Instead of living simply, we tend to complicate our lives with more and more STUFF and THINGS TO DO. I drive myself crazy sometimes with the ridiculousness of it.

    Taking the time to stop and "smell the roses" so to speak makes you realize what you've been missing. Today, it was sitting on the stairs with my 2nd child when I found him there after nap time. He snuggled up, even on the stairs for a few minutes and watched TV through the rails with me. Totally worth not rushing back to folding clothes.

    Whenever I find myself getting too far gone in the instant society we live in, I pull out my Little House on the Prairie books! Completely brings me back to reality

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  50. Sarah, often I read your posts and feel like I have just enjoyed a great conversation with a dear friend. Thank you. I was so excited to see your post about this book, I loved it! Actually saying that I loved it isn't enough. It changed my life. My name also happens to be Sarah, and I was named after one of my pioneer ancestors. She was amazing and strong all while being a woman. I want to be that kind of woman, I am working on it. Your post was eloquent, thank you.

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  51. Great post! I just saw a clip of Kate Gosslin camping with the Palins and all their children. I was so disgusted with the way she was flipping out...because there wasn't any hand sanitizer. Come on!! I'm not a mom yet but, my gosh, I hate to think that being a good mom means being so obsessed about germs that you can't even let your kids just be kids. Your post is so right on - there are bigger things to worry about in life than some of the silly things that bother us today!!

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  52. YES! These are the same things I've been pondering as I read the Laura Ingalls books with my daughter. Good reminders, for sure!

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  53. Oh I hope you read the whole series, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden. This set was given to me by my mother. A woman's story that truly touched my soul. Even though I read these over a year ago, it deeply touched me and I still think about the characters and the impression of how they survived comparing to our lifestyles today. Continue to enjoy.

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  54. Isn't it great when a book captures you so that you can only think about when you can next get to it.

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  55. Thank you so much for this post. I took Sarah's Quilt out of the library and have been listening to it on my 2+ hour commute time. I don't have as much time to read as I would like, and this is a blissful use of my time. I literally can't wait to jump back into the car. Thank you!

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