‘Now’: Thoughts on the Closing of Little House in the Big Woods

She thought to herself, ‘This is now.’

She was glad that the cosy house, and pa and ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

A Little (or a lot) about Laura) | The 1000th Voice blog
Three years ago I began a journey to rediscover the literary world of Laura Ingalls Wilder; the world I’d first discovered as a child growing up near the Little Town on the Prairie – De Smet, S.D.

Three years ago, these words, as they ended the first book Little House in the Big Woods, permanently lodged into my brain. I’ve mulled them over; I’ve even been inspired by them to live in the ‘now.’ As I began rereading Little House in the Big Woods recently, these words pulled me to the end.

Through some ups and downs (some documented), I’ve eventually accepted and even now embraced Rose Wilder Lane’s impact on the books. The series would not be what it is without Rose’s expertise and work. From typing to editing to finding and working with an agent, Rose was instrumental in the creation of the books we know and love. When I think about these closing lines, I find myself contemplating their origin. Were these Rose’s words? Were they Laura’s?

Rose seemed to be more conscious of creating a legacy and the idea of how impactful these books could be. As she took the manuscript that has now been printed as Pioneer Girl, she morphed and coaxed the words into a different form and prodded her mom to recall and write more. And, because it is Rose, we know she antagonized her some as well.

I find it plausible that Rose wrote or really shaped this passage. In Laura’s non-Little House writings, she seemed to use more to-the-point language about practical, and at-their-core less philosophical topics. Rose was a philosopher, incorporating ideas of truth, knowledge and the meaning of life into her own writing, and, quite likely, her Mom’s fictional work.

As we get to know the Ingalls family in the big woods of Wisconsin, we learn many lessons by the fire with Pa. But, these lessons frequently focus on how little boys and little girls are supposed to act. Certainly, Laura and Mary learned about life through these stories, but they were more prosaic than this philosophical lesson of always being present in the life that you’re leading.

Switching perspectives, Laura did experience those nights by the fire listening to Pa (or whatever actually happened). As she recounted her life, I can believe that she began to look at her life in a new lens – one with more sentimentality and a greater desire to relive the times she was writing about – for them to be “now” and not “a long time ago.”

As it’s want to do, life had changed significantly from the pioneer days when she was six years old. To the time the first book was published, nearly 60 years had passed and many innovations had revolutionized and improved the quality of life. From riding in a covered wagon for DAYS to driving her car to the train depot a couple hours away, from water at the spring to water at the indoor tap, these lines can be seen as communicating that not so much time had passed since “Grandma Was a Little Girl,” so you best listen to these life lessons.

Not so much time had passed that the lessons throughout the book don’t apply to now – the actual now, the moment we’re living in as we experience her writing no matter how many years pass, even if that’s another 60 to 80 years or more.


There are lessons contained throughout the entire series, but this one is the key to enjoying this story, the entire Little House series and life itself.
IMG_7793My journey to rediscover Laura included a trip to De Smet. Or rather, that trip for a family reunion was the catalyst for my decision to find Laura again. We gathered at Lake Thompson in a lodge built in the early 1900s. When we arrived, the wind was blowing intensely as it does in South Dakota. Our activities were limited, but we found places to enjoy our time from reading throughout the lodge and across the lawn to running in the waves. But, we had to put off pulling out the catamaran, at least for those not adventurous enough to truly ride the waves.

Eventually, the wind died down. Claire, just three years old at the time with a blonde bob and shining blue eyes, was so excited to sail for the first time. As I sat on the sailboat holding Claire, I looked down at her tiny toes with pink nail polish, and I thought, happily, “This is now. It will always be now, and never a long time ago.”

Jumping in: A Little House Series Year-Long Read Along

You know I love Laura Ingalls Wilder. Getting an opportunity to re-reimmerse myself in the Little House series can just make my week! So I had to jump on the chance to participate in a year long Little House series read along hosted by Bex at An Armchair by the Sea and Lynn at Smoke and Mirrors.

Here’s the reading schedule:

January – Little House in the Big Woods
February – Little House on the Prairie
March – Farmer Boy
April – On the Banks of Plum Creek
May – By the Shores of Silver Lake
June – The Long Winter
July – Little Town on the Prairie
August – These Happy Golden Years
September – The First Four Years
October – On the Way Home
November – West from Home
December – Pioneer Girl and/or A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

I’m so excited!

I received Pioneer Girl for Christmas and began reading that right away. I’ll read Little House in the Big Woods on a road trip this weekend. Aside from Pioneer Girl, I haven’t read West from Home or A Wilder Rose before, so I’m looking forward to those books.

It’s going to be a fun year!

They’re All Just Big Kindergarteners

What are we doing in this country?

Recently my daughter’s kindergarten teacher debuted a new behavior management plan for the classroom. When a child receives three strikes, a fix-it ticket is sent home. The ticket lets parents know what happened and provides a space for the student to write how to fix her behavior (or, more specifically, how to could cope better in the future).

We’ve had two tickets come home. Without prompting, Claire knew what to do and her solution was simple: belly breaths. Yes, with five year olds it’s both necessary and important to remind them to take a deep breath before doing anything else when they’re upset. The deep breaths will give her time to relax, clear her mind and refocus her attention to appropriate behavior.

I was at once surprised and, really, not so surprised by this basic response. As a parent there have been many moments when I’ve witnessed this – things almost so basic we forget they need to be taught. (And let’s not even get into how many times I’ve said things I could have never imagined saying before.)

But, then it’s not really simple at all, is it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to remind myself to take a deep breath to relax and respond in an appropriate manner. And there are many times I’ve forgotten to take a deep breath.

Here’s where we arrive at today.

I constantly see examples of others publicly forgetting to take their own belly breaths. As I see it, the Starbucks holiday cup fiasco is one of them. In past years, the cups were more designed or stylized but never have they been religious – no crosses, no Nativity scenes. Yet, when the cups go from a snowman to a whole-cup starburst pattern, it’s OK (both of which, by the way, are not Christmas but winter themed). But now Starbucks moves to red ombre, and they’ve crossed the line. What line? Where were the belly breaths? I can only assume that the outraged took a quick drink of their hot, fresh Starbucks and couldn’t take a deep breath lest they scald their horrified throats.

If they had been able to take a deep breath, they could have regained their perspective and realized that, yes, there are groups out there who want to eliminate Christianity. In fact, they’re kidnapping and beheading people right now. Perspective – Let’s keep it in mind.

Additionally, as many surveys are indicating, fewer people are identifying as Christian today. The vocal minority in situations like this are making Christians seem prejudiced, rigid and unaccepting. It’s turning people off from joining Churches, something most Christians can agree is not what we want.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Season’s Greetings! Happy Holidays!

Every Halloween Read

If the few books I’ve read this year weren’t enough recs, here are the gothic and horror books I’ve read in previous years.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Where it really began, (for me at least). Shelley’s masterpiece was the first book I reviewed here for my gothic series. Read my review here.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Du Maurier used tight, concise language to weave her masterful tale of gothic suspense. Read my review here.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt. I fear. I think strange things…” The book that launched a thousand copycats (sort of). Read my review here.

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel

Not so much gothic or suspenseful, Hanel’s memoir is about her fascination with cemeteries that began with her gravedigger father. Read my review here.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Jackson is known for the creepy atmosphere of her books. This is a definite winner. Read my review here.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Creepy and imaginative, McMahon’s The Winter People is the perfect Halloween read. Read my review here.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

A 400 pager, but there isn’t a single unnecessary word here. So good. Read my review here.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Again, Jackson’s reputation proceeds her, and this is a great Halloween read. Read my review here.



What’s your favorite Halloween read?



Halloween Reads: Quick Reviews of Suspense & Gothic Books

Keeping with tradition, I read a few gothic books this month. However, breaking with tradition, I don’t plan to write separate reviews of every book I read. So, here’s a compilation of quick reviews of these books.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, gothic, graphic novel

Beautifully illustrated and hauntingly gothic, this graphic novel features stories about people entering the woods…and sometimes returning. The stories are imaginative and spooky. Carroll’s illustrations not only drive the stories forward but also add to the suspense. I highly recommend this for a quick and beautiful read.

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb gothic novel

The gothic manse moves to the North Shore of Lake Superior in this novel. Suspenseful and imaginative,  I enjoyed going along for the ride as the tale twisted and unwove throughout the novel. An interesting concept that yielded a good read with enough surprises. While it emulates the idea of books like Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, it isn’t quite as strong but still very enjoyable and a quicker read than Waters’ works.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Peculiar indeed. Supernatural and gothic, this was an enjoyable read. I didn’t find it as intriguing and suspenseful as I’d hoped, but the visual and literary multimedia experience was well done.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

An unusual haunting tells the story of one mansion in New York through several generations of owners. An interesting novel but not one I’d highly recommend. Oliver’s language could at once be beautiful – I found many passages very quotable – but then it switched to be almost mundane.


This year I didn’t enjoy my books nearly as much as I did last year. I read some great books, but there wasn’t the level of gothic suspense that I’d hoped for. In previous years I spent more time researching and picking my books. This year, I picked them all out last minute. Serves me right not to plan ahead!

Have you read anything great this month?

Books & Such | October

I’ve been MIA. There’s no way around that. As you know, life can easily get in the way, even if it’s things we love. But after a while I really felt something was missing. I’ve hardly read, and I definitely haven’t done any personal writing. I’ve thought long and hard about this space. I’ve considered stopping blogging. (For all intents and purposes, I’m sure it’s seemed like I’ve stopped.) But at the end of the day, I’ve always concluded that, while I’m not certain what I want to do here, I know I want to be here. So here I am…

Over the next month or so, I plan to spend some time thinking through my goals – for my life and this blog. Then spend some more time determining what I’ll post about here.

In the meantime, I wanted to just chat about some book-related things.

Mission: Book Buying Binge 2.0

Over the last couple of months I’ve gone on a massive book buying binge. It started over the summer with books from a few random places and has continued through September with a large haul from my local Friends of the Library sale.

201509_Book Haul_Misc_text

Bird statue will not look you in the eye!

Books from misc. sources (from the top): Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston; How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen; The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels; Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond; The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli; The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by Jeffrey D. Sachs; Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

201509_Book Haul_Kids_text

Oh, so happy with these new kids’ books!

Kids’ books from various places (from the top): A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Peter Pan, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Story of Jonah

201509_Book Haul_Library Sale_text

Put a purple pumpkin on it!

From my $5 bag at the library book sale (from the top): May Your Days be Merry a Bright: Christmas Stories by Women, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, Checklist for Life for Moms, Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride, Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, The Midwest, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E. Ambrose and 2013 Writer’s Market

 201509_Book Haul_Butterflies_Text
A little easel love for this lovely book for the lovely Claire!

Butterflies in the Garden
by Carol Lerner

Checked Out & Checking Out

Now, to books I’m only borrowing.

201510_Book Haul_Checked Out_text

Touched by the fall berry bush!

From the top: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Vanishing by Wendy Webb, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and Rooms by Lauren Oliver


Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Just a straight-up beautiful cover!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I’m reading The Vanishing first. It’s a great book that seems to be resetting my reading rut. I’m not certain what I’ll read next, but, based on cover alone, it might have to be Through the Woods. 

What books have you bought recently? What are you currently reading?

An Outdoorsy Book List

Well, National Great Outdoors Month is over. I spent my free time last month outdoors (where else) and reading (trying to find spare moments).

I’ve decided that maybe the entire summer should be devoted to celebrating the wonders of the great outdoors. Here, then, are my favorite outdoorsy books:

John Krakauer, Gretel Ehrlich, Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, The Solace of Open Spaces

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet buy Gary Paulson

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

They run the gamut from young adult to adult, fiction to nonfiction. I hope you enjoy them!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have book recs about or featuring the great outdoors?

Weekly Reads: 6.1.15

Oh, goodness! It’s like I forgot the password to login here!

I can honestly say that life has gotten the better of me these past few months. But, let’s not dwell because I’m here today.

June is National Great Outdoors Month. In honor of that, I’m finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Like, finally. It’s been on my to read list for quite some time. I suppose I was just waiting for the perfect time to pull it out.

I have a few fun posts planned this month to connect reading to the great outdoors. I hope you’ll return and join me!

What are you reading this week?

Joan: A Statement on Her Legacy

As 2014 ended, one couldn’t shake a stick without hitting at least a couple annual recaps in the media. (If one is in the habit of shaking sticks.) Every one of these included a list of celebrities lost. I’ve already shared my thoughts on one celebrity – Robin Williams. But I’ve lately pondered the legacy of another: Joan Rivers.

I feel I should begin by stating that I wasn’t a fan. While mean isn’t the most appropriate term to describe her comedy in my opinion, without getting wordy it’s the best I can do. I say that not to attempt to distance myself from Rivers in case others who dislike her read this. I share that fact only to further clarify my next statements.

In my mind, more than her comedy, her lasting legacy will be her determination, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work. It would be tough to deny these things.

Not only that her career began when it did at a time when just women weren’t allowed to be what she became,  but also because she carved out her own life and career and seemed to be who
she wanted to be despite active discouragement.

Joan’s life, her work ethic – these are the lasting and most inspiring pieces of her legacy.

Fantastically Realistic: Thoughts on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Welcome back to my third Halloween-themed post!

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Until last October, my only experience with Shirley Jackson had been listening to The Lottery what felt like a few dozen times in high school. While enjoyable, it wasn’t the same as experiencing her first hand, so I selected We Have Always Lived in the Castle as part of last year’s Halloween series. (Read my review here.) After a positive experience last year, I chose The Haunting of Hill House this year.


No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood my itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

With The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson brought her patented almost-normal-but-still-not-quite-right characters in a realistic setting with paranormal or occult occurrences and influences. Like We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat Blackwood, Eleanor Vance, who would become a very short-term resident of Hill House, exhibits stunted emotions and thought processes and a paranoid affect. We experience some of her disturbing and insecure inner monologue, which still doesn’t even foreshadow how the book would end.

Perhaps it has us now, this house, perhaps it will not let us go.

Overall, I found The Haunting of Hill House to be an excellent Halloween read. Like my other top-choice Halloween reads, this book isn’t terrifying, but it presents just enough suspense and just enough of the paranormal that it kept my interest and maintained a gradually building sense of dread.


Writing 4 out of 5 stars

I love Jackson’s complex sentences and how she successfully pairs them with simple sentences that pack a strong punch. Overall, though, while technically strong, there were parts of her writing and the story that didn’t quite click for me.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Despite the brief week they spent together, Jackson’s characters developed a unique relationship. Their unusual dialogue added to the overall impact of the book—it almost seemed that as a reader I was somehow a member of the group in Hill House due to an initiation of sorts with the dialogue.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

While the book only spanned one week of time, it seemed that the group had been at Hill House for much longer—quite possibly what Jackson wanted the reader to feel. The plot was well structured; however, it seemed to squeeze the main action points too close to the end of the book. They almost felt rushed.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Again, Jackson tells a fantastic, suspenseful tale using her trademark realistic setting, slightly offbeat if not cognitively and emotionally stunted characters.

Total  4.5 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Haunting of Hill House? What did you think?