Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Exercise for the Atrophied Brain

Last Friday was not a particularly good day. The weather was cold and unfriendly, so the older kids were not outside as much as I would have liked (which is, um, pretty much all day). Also, unbeknownst to me, Cubby was starting to feel the first symptoms of the cold he would clearly have by the next day, which translates into a lot of whining and fighting with his brother.

It was kind of ugly.

But then, at about 2:30 p.m., Cubby looked out the window and said, "Hey! The box truck is here! And he left a box!"

So I went out to retrieve the box, figuring it was something the MiL had ordered. But no! It was to us! It was from Amazon! It said "Gift Enclosed" right on the front!


I thought it was likely something for one of the kids, since I am unlikely to receive random gifts. But when I opened it, the surprises continued, for there, with a message wishing me a happy birthday from my brother and his family, was Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

Yes. The brand-new autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The autobiography on which all of the Little House books so beloved by me as a child were based.

How excited was I? SO EXCITED. I called my brother immediately to thank him. He was sort of shocked that it had just arrived, since he pre-ordered it in November. The MiL told me that the publishers of the book thought it was be a niche sort of book and hadn't anticipated the great interest in it, so it's already been re-printed a few times. She knows this because her friend's academic colleague was the woman who edited it.


I started reading it that night. Or rather, I started trying to read it that night. Because here's the thing about this book: it is a scholarly work. The text is annotated, meaning there are as many explanatory footnotes about the history, the locations, the people, etc., as there are pages of actual text written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is not a quick read. Especially since I usually have about fifteen minutes to read at a time before someone interrupts me.

But I am SO GLAD I got this book, because I think it's about the only subject matter that is interesting enough to me that I'm willing to take the time to plow through it. And I really, really need to do that, because my brain has atrophied.

Really. It has. I used to be able to focus and concentrate and read all kinds of books. I realized during my last pregnancy that I was mostly re-reading all my old books or sticking to things like magazines, with very occasional easy-read books here and there.

This is not good.

Not everything I want to read about comes in easy-read books. But it was almost like I was out of practice or something. My brain was out of shape. I knew I needed to take the time to start reading the more challenging books again, but the very thought made me feel tired, and I just . . . didn't.

But I am now, starting with Pioneer Girl and its thousands of footnotes. I'm forcing myself to read slowly, to examine the maps, to not skip over the many explanations of related historical events. I'm getting my brain back into shape. It's kind of painful, actually, but it can be done.

And Laura Ingalls Wilder (and Pamela Smith Hill) will get me there.


Anonymous said...

I saw that book in B&N the other day and immediately thought about you! Mary in MN

Lindsey @ Half Dime Homestead said...

That is so awesome! I saw this on NPR a while back and have it on hold at the library where I am, like, 137th in line, or something.

I have been reading so many gardening/fiction books that when I picked up a book the other day about the adolescent brain and it's biology it felt like I was reading swahili. Those scholarly works used to be my bread and butter, but now it's articles about canning and how to lacto-ferment that get me going. The smarty-smart-smart books feel so foreign!

By the by - how rad is it that your kids can play outside at any time? I can't do that in my neighborhood, unless I want my child to get hit by a car. SO envious of your surroundngs!

tu mere said...

Don't think it's an atrophy issue, you're just experiencing the effects of a tired, housebound, constantly interrupted. kid based lifestyle. As Perot would say, the little gray cells are still there, just muted.

Glad I'm not a Laura fan. Plowing through books is hard enough, but then I rarely remember any of the info anyway. Oops, guess that says a bit about the effects of not reading the "hard" stuff.

Daisy said...

I'm so jealous! Of the book, that is, not the brain atrophy. That book is on my wish list, and I'm about to give in and buy it for myself.

FinnyKnits said...

That book is so happening.

As soon as I finish "A Short History of Everything", which is slowly eating my brain.