A Pioneer of Days
How the "Wilder" Podcast Helped Me Shape My Schedule
For the first time in—oh, gosh, I have no idea how long—I’m struck wondering what I will do all day.
Don’t get me wrong: I have things to do. Client books need editing. My books need writing—and rewriting. Proposals need drafting. Talks need crafting. Laundry needs folding. Dogs need snuggling. And dinner—Lord, help me—needs something.
What’s different now, however, is that my days are largely unscripted.
Though it’s been over six months since I left my church job, six amazing months of me working as a full-time freelance editor and writer, it’s only now that I’m feeling the space.
Six months ago, I left church gasping after squeezing in writing and editing (and school) projects under tight deadlines wrapped around a six-day-a-week work schedule. It took a couple months to catch up—and catch my breath. Then, my kids wrapped up their semesters. Though each had work or school throughout the summer, at least one of them was here with me at any given time—which was fantastic, but it did mean juggling and squeezing my work around our conversations and fun outings and vacations.
We had so much fun. I had the best summer I can remember.
But now, they are back in school. Last week, I was back to gasping—catching up on deadlines, knocking tasky business things off my to-do list.
Then, I caught up. I relaxed. And now, as I look at my hours, at my days, at my week, it all seems so roomy.
I’m struck with this first-ever or, at least, first-in-a-very-long-time-ever sensation of time being All Mine. After decades of working while raising kids and also going to grad school and writing and… and … and… having this time is luxurious. It’s a rare privilege. I know.
Because of this, I want to say I need to learn to steward it. But I don’t actually think that’s the right word.
I’ve been listening to Wilder, a podcast all about none other than Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame. The podcast plods at times but is largely fascinating. It covers the good, but also explores many of the troublesome things about Laura, her daughter, Rose, and the books in general.
While I already knew many of those troublesome things (much as I loved the books as a child, I didn’t encourage my kids to read them [but also—I did not ban them]), the podcast opened my eyes (yet again) to the many, many things about U.S. history I did not know. The Minnesota Massacre? The U.S.-Dakota Wars? The United States government hiring buffalo-hunters to destroy the food source of indigenous people to make room for white settlers? What?
(Oh, how we need a fully inclusive U.S. History. If we don’t do anything about guns hurting kids in school, why do we worry what history—or books—will do?)
Anyway, listening to this podcast has made me rethink pioneers and pioneering in general.
Ever since I was a kid—growing up well-fed, well-schooled, well-loved in a snug Chicago suburb in the 1970s—the word pioneer has had happy associations for me:
I absolutely romanticized pioneers. I’d ride my bike through neighborhoods and down paths (the same neighborhoods and paths I still ride my bike, for what it’s worth) — and imagine I were on a palomino. I’d wonder what this land looked like without all the houses—when it was just open prairie—and what it would’ve been like to settle it.
Of course, our town didn’t do much reclaiming of the prairie back then—we’re better about it now—so I never even properly imagined the itchiness of the prairie grass or wildflowers on my—or my horse’s—legs. But still, I’d wonder how long it would take to haul clothes to our local creek to bang it against rocks or if we’d have to go two full towns south to grind our corn.
And of course, though I do remember recoiling at the anti- “Indian” sentiments in the Little House books, I never thought much about how the wide-openness of the prairie, the opportunities afforded those pioneers did not belong to them. How, the pioneers pioneered because they were manifesting their desinines and living what they saw as a God- and government-given right to take and use it and set their days as they saw fit.
I didn’t think—much—about the people displaced.
But now, here I am: thinking, typing on land I purchased—but that was once stolen—facing the openness of my days. Time is the prairie of which I am a pioneer.
Like those pioneers, I face a long task list and much to do, as I wonder where’s best to start and what the best hours are.
While I don’t believe in the American Manifest Destiny (what a horrible concept—especially that Christians ever believed this to be true!), like those pioneers, I do believe in callings and in manifesting destinies in general. I believe completely that God called me out of a steady job and into a new frontier. For both of these—and for God’s amazing provision—I give thanks.
However, I don’t want to be like those pioneers—taking what’s not mine. Profiting from the loss of others. Destroying so others out of my way. Thinking what is best for me and my family and my calling trumps the collective good.
I realize this seems like over-kill thought. I’m just trying to set a schedule for crying out loud!
And yet as a person of faith, I must recognize, my time, my days are not just actually All Mine.
This concept that is so central to the Christian faith is almost impossible to square with American thinking.
If I were a Communist, this would be so much easier.
But alas, I’m not.
I’m not even a Socialist (though, yes please to socialized health insurance—for the sake of human kindness but also human entrepreneurship!).
I’m left-leaning, free-market, open-border, open-table Christian, a writer, editor, mother, wife, pit-bull-rescue-r, neighbor, friend trying to be a good pioneer of my open days. And though I know better than to romanticize the pioneer past, still, as a good American, I’m drawn to the spirit of adventure, fortitude, industriousness, and creativity as part of my day-to-day. It’s hard to resist the thinking that it’s all mine for the taking.
But that’s not the way of Jesus, who calls us to live—to pioneer—differently.
So I want to value what I’ve been given—but be aware of what might have been taken or should be shared. I want to honor God in my calling and my work—while knowing calling and work ain’t everything. I want to remember that loving others—enemies and neighbors—doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly is what God actually asks of us. No matter where or when we find ourselves.
That’s a better pioneer spirit.
Just not sure how to do it well. Thoughts?
In Other Gnus
Thanks to all who’ve sent lovely messages about Frankinschool: Monster Match. Keep them coming—and if so inclined, it’s very helpful to leave a review on your favorite online bookstores. I have some copies that I’d love to give teachers for their classrooms. If you know a 1st through 5th grade teacher who might like a copy, nominate them to receive one by emailing why their classroom would benefit (if you are a teacher—feel free to nominate yourself!!). I’ll choose a few winners and announce them here. Email me via substack or firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for more on Book 2—coming this January!
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