Getting Ready for Winter with Ma Ingalls

25 pounds or 1/2 bushel of ripening Georgia peaches.

Have you ever read through all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? After reading listening to The Long Winter in the car, I will not complain too much about winter ever again. The poor Ingalls family (and the whole town) nearly starve to death and their only source of fuel is straw twisted into sticks, because there is so much snow that the trains cannot get through.

After blanching, these freestone peaches were easily peeled and pitted.

Plus, it is as bitterly cold as last winter was. M’s Uncle T, who has lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, thinks that long winter in South Dakota was exaggerated having never experienced blizzards like the ones described in the book. However, the Native American that warned Pa about the winter said that every 7 years is a bad winter and every 21 years is a 7 month awful winter.

The philosopher starts to lose his mind if he does too much manual labor.

So, my guess is that we are due for that awful winter with blizzards that blind you entirely and cold so bitter that last winter will seem warm. Or maybe, like Uncle T says, we won’t even notice it is winter, and then it will be April.

Melt in your mouth peaches. Yum, yum!

At any rate, after all those polar vortexes, I am feeling a lot of camaraderie with Ma Ingalls as I store away summer fruits for the winter. I don’t expect that there will be a lack of food in the cities, but I like the idea of having warm summer fruits canned or frozen and ready for eating this winter.

G says, “This is the most beautiful pie you have ever made Mom! It is like a pie from story books! It looks like a flower!”

After our 30 lbs of strawberries, I learned from a friend how to obtain 25 lbs of Georgia peaches and Michigan blueberries just across the border in Wisconsin. This company ships fruit in bulk in for us poor, sad Northerners that cannot grow our own peaches. The peaches were delicious and we canned 14 quarts, plus had enough to make a pie.

I can’t wait… well, I can really.

This summer is so nice as it is slowly wiping away the memories of the cold. The children run around in sandals or barefoot, and we do not even think of sweaters or winter coats. It is absolutely lovely out and everything is green. We have fresh peaches to eat now, home canned peaches to look forward to, and better yet, a livelihood that cannot be eaten by a massive flock of blackbirds.

Book Review: Something Other Than God

I read Something Other Than God during my recovery time from my miscarriage/extreme loss of blood/trip to the ER. I found myself engrossed in passages where Jen Fulwiler told how she had been up at the wee hours of the night trying to figure out God during times I was supposed to be napping or going to sleep at night. It was a pretty realistic encounter with the book, as I took my foggy, tired mind to the concepts her foggy, tired mind had been trying to figure out. I highly recommend reading it that way.

And without further ado, read my real review from Truth and Charity:


During the three days it took me to read Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir, Something Other Than God, my husband made the same joke every time he picked it up. He would skim the endorsements on the back of the book from famous Catholic authors, radio hosts, and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and then become extremely impressed when he saw that on the inside of the front cover C.S. Lewis had also “endorsed her book” saying this:

“All that we call human history…[is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

He would then laugh at his own joke, hand back the book, and move on to something other than my reading.

As I was reading Something Other Than God, I realized that my life has been so much simpler than the life of an atheist convert, having Catholicism taught to me from a young age. Yet, she was taught to investigate the world and seek to learn everything she could about it. Fulwiler starts her story with childhood encounters with zealous Christians and her realization of her own mortality. She spent the next years of her life trying to escape from the haunting realization that everyone dies. Once she started dating and then married her husband, Joe, she lived a life of traveling almost continually and attending parties regularly. She immersed herself in distractions so that she would not have to face the reality of death.

Then they had their first child. It was during the first few months of motherhood that she realized that her experience of love for her husband and her baby did not fit with her atheism. From there she slowly moved toward faith, starting a blog to investigate the questions she had about God and Christianity. She eventually, after a long intellectual and emotional struggle, converted to Catholicism with her husband.

The genre of memoir is interesting in how one picks very specific episodes from a lifetime to highlight as crucial to the endpoint of the story. Fulwiler was ultimately explaining how she moved from being a happy atheist to a happy Catholic. It makes sense that it took her six years to write the book, tossing out entire drafts several times.

It leads me to wonder, if I were to write a spiritual memoir, would it look anything like hers? If I looked at where I am now in my Catholic faith and where I was as a young child, I would be able to pick out moments of grace in my life that solidified my faith at a deeper level. I would see where God had impacted me as His child and drew me into loving and serving Him more. I would find where I had made deeper commitments to forming myself in virtue. A life of faith is one full of moments of conversion, where we enter little by little deeper into our faith. Fulwiler had a parallel experience, starting from where she was raised and ending up in the Church.

But for her, as for all Christians, the story does not end there; it continues. Christians cannot stop with the point of conversion or the moment of full initiation into the Church, we are all called to go deeper into relationship with God. I am reminded of the end of The Last Battle, the final story in the Chronicles of Naria by C.S. Lewis. The Earth and Narnia has been destroyed and made new. When the main characters enter the new Narnia, the deeper they go into it, the more beautiful and new everything becomes. They are told by Aslan to, “Come further up! Come further in!” That is what the Christian life is; going deeper continually.

We can never be satisfied with where we are now, and that is why reading about someone’s conversion is so beneficial. It reminds us that we are called to be more than what we are, that God is always calling us to love Him more fully. It is easy to be caught up in our daily distractions and to seek something other than God to satisfy us, even when prayer and the Sacraments are a regular part of life. Fulwiler encapsulates the first part of her journey into faith so beautifully in Something Other Than God, and it is inspiring to read, and to remember that we are always called to know God better and to grow deeper.

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 2

1. I spent most of Monday in a little panic about silverfish bugs in our basement. I found a couple in our basement school cupboard, and then discovered that they nest in and eat paper and cardboard. I imagined a whole colony of them just destroying everything in the cupboard and moving onto the rest of the basement. I really do not like bugs in my house. I really don’t. Especially creepy looking ones that destroy things. So, I called M and asked him to spray the whole basement for bugs, because who knows what else might have come out since it stopped being freezing cold in the world. Do they have brown recluse spiders in Minnesota? They have them in Missouri and I always was afraid of being bit by one of those. I also discovered that bugs don’t like the smell of cedar. We have a large cedar closet that came with the house in the basement, which I am super thankful for since I am storing things in there like my wedding dress.

2. The kids have their new swing set. M and our friend, T, built it all last Saturday, just in time for it to rain from Saturday night through Wednesday afternoon. I managed to get a picture of it finally this morning. The big girls have been going out and playing in the cold between rain showers. F has been begging to go outside all week, but I really did not feel up for going outside and standing in the cold while helping F slide down the slide. Maybe it will be sunny this weekend. We could all go for that around here.

3. F (18 months) is thinking about potty training already. The other day, G (5) announced that she had to use the bathroom. Whenever she does this, L (3) screams, “No, I have to go potty!” They then race to the bathroom. F, observing them, pulled up her shirt saying, “I po-yee. Pee.” And then waddles after them. Maybe we will go for it this summer. No pants in the backyard. Why not?

4. We decided to night wean F last week. It was a breeze. This kid is so chill most of the time. I kind of wish all babies could be just like her. I still nurse her before bed, but if she wakes up M goes to her with water and tells her to go back to sleep. The first night, he did this three times. The second night once, and now, for now, she is sleeping all night without waking. That is much better that her sisters who wake up multiple times to go to the bathroom, get a drink, fuss about whatever, monsters… How do you parent night wean 5 and 3 year olds?

5. I ended up making the thickest Greek yogurt the other day. You see, I did it overnight in the crockpot on Monday night. (8 cups whole milk for 2.5 hours on low, cool for 3 hours, add 6 oz plain yogurt starter and wrap in blankets overnight). I usually “strain” the yogurt by putting a bunch of paper towels on top to soak the excess liquid off for about an hour. Well, Tuesday, when we were hurrying to get me to the ER for my miscarriage “complications” I stuck it in the fridge with paper towels on top. Wednesday morning I remembered it and, voila, yogurt as thick as you could want!

6. I am guessing that wondering minds want to know about Tuesday. I would like to write a longer post devoted to my experience of miscarriage, but a few initial thoughts are that passing a 6 week old baby at 8 weeks is like a less strenuous labor. But I feel a lot now like I did after having each of the other babies. I lost a lot of blood, and wears one out. What makes it a little easier, but also sad, is that I can sleep all night, without infant care. It is not what I expected. And the baby had a sense of liturgical time, since he/she stopped growing on the Feast of St. Gemma (my confirmation saint), we found out about the death on Good Friday, I started bleeding on Divine Mercy Sunday, and the baby passed on the (new) Feast of St. Catherine of Sienna (who we have started a devotion to since F was born…her biography by Sigrid Undset is amazing).

7. And, I was not going to buy Jen’s new book, since I do not normally randomly buy books (a certain husband of mine would buy a new book everyday if he could).
I was thinking library. But as a treat, to help with recovery, I ordered it on Wednesday, plus a new Von Balthasar for M. It is scheduled to arrive next Tuesday. I previewed the first chapters on Amazon, which let me since I purchased the hardcover. I am eager to read the rest. Jen has a beautiful and interesting way of explaining her childhood in the first couple of chapters. Who knows, maybe I will have time to enter a contest.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary!

The Call to be Outcasts: A Reflection on Les Misérables

I have not seen the new movie that came out on Christmas, and will probably not get a chance until it is on video or at the $2 theater in Minneapolis (when maybe I will be willing to leave the baby with a sitter). I have seen the musical performed live and have read the unabridged novel; this reflection is based more on the novel but does not depart from the plot of the musical.

While I can’t boast of fluency in French, I have read that “les misérables” translates into something like “the outcasts” or “the wretched ones” or “the miserables.” I want to focus on the “outcast” translation. If you look at each of the main characters, they are all outside of society: Jean Valjean the exconvict, Fantine the former mistress of a wealthy student who was left with an illicit child, Cosette the orphan child being raised by the exconvict, the Thenardier family who spend their whole lives stealing from people, Javert who is a police officer standing outside society to keep order, and Marius the orphan and republican student.

The character I am going to examine is Jean Valjean. He spent 19 years in jail regretting his small crime, and is filled with rage and hate. He encounters society’s terror of exconvicts when he is on parole when he is unable to find food or shelter; however, even after his conversion caused by the bishop’s kindness, he lives in fear of his former self. No matter how many good deeds he does and how virtuous he becomes, he is always aware of who he is, Jean Valjean the exconvict. It doesn’t matter that all he did was break a window and steal a loaf of bread when he was starving: he is an exconvict. As soon as people learn of his past, they fear him and think that there is no possible way that he can be good. Yet, when they do not know his identity as the exconvict, they recognize his saintly deeds and virtuous character.

There are several turning points in the story where Valjean struggles with choosing the morally right thing. If he follows his conscience, he will have to expose his past (and what he believes to be his true self) and be condemned by those who respect him; however, because of the influence of the bishop, he has been transformed and cannot disregard his conscience. It is not until the end of Valjean’s life that there is a person who is aware of both his criminal history and all the good he has done. This person recognizes that he is a saint.

Jean Valjean represents the life of a saint. He has a conversion, turns from his old life, never does a wrong thing again and is constantly running from his former sins. He seeks the life of virtue and union with God, but is always aware of his sinful nature. He constantly condemns himself when he is already good. He continues to find his weaknesses and overcome them until he has completely abandoned himself to the point of physical death. I think this is how we are called to overcome our sins, to become more and more selfless so that we completely lose ourselves in God. We need to be horrified at our ability to sin and our past sins. Fortunately, God is much more forgiving than society, and we must run to him. Valjean’s one flaw is his inability to accept forgiveness from God for his past sins, but in this he displays what it is to live a penitential life.

If we truly live the call to sainthood, we will be cast out of society like Jean Valjean. To seek be holy in a modern society is to be set apart a life of virtue and penance does not make sense without God. If we are truly seeking to be holy, we will be outcasts. This experience of being cast out of society is becoming more and more real for Catholic Christians in modern America. Being “set apart” is never easy, but with the grace of God it can and will be done. God will provide what we need to be sustained through the community of believers. Valjean says that love is what leads to human flourishing; without love the human soul dies, the human dies. So we must live the lives of saints with those whom we love and not fear the call to be outcasts.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.