Monday, November 21, 2011

"Home is the nicest word there is."--Laura Ingalls, A Harvest of Friends

In the first episode of the first season of Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls family settles in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and builds their little house on Plum Creek. Mary and Laura are asked by their Pa how they like their new room. They have a larger comfy bed to share and even their own window. Laura declares that she has decided something, "Home is the nicest word there is."

That's exactly how I felt after being displaced for a week because of the snowstorm. I can't tell you how comforting it was to move all our belongings back home a week later and settle into life as usual. We have a tendency to take for granted all that our modern world has provided us. After the storm, I could cook on my gas stove, but we couldn't run water or use the toilets. We had bottled water for drinking and plenty of canned goods, but I felt dismally unprepared again. This is now three storms over the past five months where we've lost power, and I still don't think I know how to prepare for them.
As we prepare for winter--hoping it's not as bad as last year's--my thoughts wander to the Ingalls family and how much effort it must have taken them to get ready to endure the cold months of winter while they waited for spring to arrive, so the growing season could start all over again. It certainly does make one appreciate 21st century life.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: My Life As Laura by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson

In this witty and candid memoir, author Kelly Kathleen Ferguson shares her journey to follow Laura Ingalls Wilder's travels and how she discovers herself.

My Life As Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself is at times funny, at times heartrending, and always a reminder that every Laurafan has a story to tell.

This is the second memoir of a woman following the travels of America's favorite pioneer girl that I've read this year. Both have their strengths: they're funny, well-written, and engaging.

What I feel makes My Life As Laura different is that Ferguson was not just trying to reconnect with a role model from her past. She made a decision to leave her previous life behind, get in her car, and drive across the country to start over in Montana, where her pioneering spirit came alive and encouraged her to drive west from the "Big Woods of Pepin, Wisconsin, to the Great Plains of  De Smet, South Dakota," retracing the path where Laura comes of age.

The opening scene is probably one of the funniest in the book. Having decided to make her journey through Lauradom in period clothing, Ferguson ends up at the local Goodwill trying on prairie dresses. That dress gets a lot of mileage throughout the book, and her story of finding it, getting into it, and the mishaps with it along the journey are hilarious.

Like many of those interested in the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author doesn't care for Michael Landon's television version of things. I've never understood the disdain for the show by some, but the author spends three pages letting the reader know what's wrong with it: television Reverend Alden, Charles Ingalls, and especially Laura were not up to snuff. Nellie Oleson was okay until she was "tamed by Old Testament hot lovin'." Ouch!

Ferguson wasn't too fond of the whole blowing up the town thing; though not many of the fans were either. But at this point, we've heard the story both in Michael Landon's own words in his interview on A&E Biography, and from Kent McCray here, so we just have to deal with it. As I said in a recent article, there might be peace in the Middle East before we can expect it in Laura World when it comes to fans of the show and those who don't even wish to speak about it.

In what I feel is a brave move by Ferguson, she doesn't leave you with all her ducks suddenly in a row. This is no romantic tale, but like Wilder's classic books the author's story displays the optimism that comes from reconciling the past and holding onto hope for the future. I'm glad I have a copy of My Life As Laura in my Laura Ingalls Wilder library.

Title: My Life As Laura
Author:  Kelly Kathleen Ferguson
Publisher: Press 53
ISBN-10: 1935708449
ISBN-13: 978-1935708445
SRP:  $17.95

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Snowstorm Aftermath Day 4

It has been four days since the freak October snowstorm and we still have no electricity. We could have toughed it out at home if we could have used water and flushed the toilets, but since the sewer ejector pump isn't operational and we already have sewer water backing up into the basement (sounds lovely, hey?) we've been hanging out at the in-laws.

It's times like these that give you a glimpse into how much tougher it was to survive day-to-day back in the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Never mind the sun up to sun down litany of chores that kept the farmer and his household busy, being isolated during storms, not being able to get out to purchase supplies, and the cold that seeped in through any nook or cranny sure makes me happy I live in the days of indoor plumbing, electricity, and grocery stores every few miles.

Our hope is that power will return tomorrow night. Then comes the clean up. There are still several trees down in the yard that need to be cut and hauled away. We were able to save a lot of the food, but we'll have to truck everything back over to our house from the in-laws' place once this is all over. Who knows if we'll have Internet or cable once the power is back on. The girls are already climbing the walls after being out of school all week.

I honestly don't think I could have survived on the prairie like Laura did. It certainly makes a person appreciate her life more.