Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is this writer's block...

...or something else?

I start to leave a comment on a favorite blog, I get lost in thought just typing a sentence, and then I just close the window. It's not worth the effort to say what measly bit I had to say. Blogging isn't as fun as it used to be. There are so many blogs today, I fear we are all saying the same thing, though I'm not even sure what that is.

I dislike blogging about blogging but I'm doing just that, aren't I? Is it winter causing this low threshold for caring? It might be, but there is a lot going on in my life right now, and most of it brings me rather low. I feel a bit like Edith Crawley, ready to cry at any moment, though I admit an unplanned pregnancy would be the least of my worries.

My mother and I drove to Cincinnati over the weekend, to see my grandma. Poor thing, she's so lost, lost in her own head. She doesn't understand where she is, though in all fairness if I stayed in one place for 20 years and then in one fell swoop you plopped me down somewhere else, I think I'd be confused, too. And 97-year-old brains just aren't very elastic. I'm not sure she knew who I was, though she never came right out and asked, and she was content while we were there. But, she was incapable of really making a decision or doing anything for herself. When I got a cup of coffee for her to drink in her room, she asked over and over if she could drink it. The rehab facility is nice, clean-wise and all that, but there seems to be a severe shortage of human beings, and those who are there don't actually look at her. It's like being in a zombie movie. {Shiver} I wanted to sit next to each sweet soul, rub her hands, read him a story. A society which places its oldest, most helpless people in an institution has lost its heart. I am so grateful that my grandma is going to go home to my uncle's home. I think when she has someone who regularly speaks to her and listens, responds to her questions, she'll be much better. Just in the two hours we were there, she seemed to wake up quite a bit. Her little 97-year-old body is just not ready to stop yet, though her mind is so childlike. My uncle deserves the I Love You Forever award, if there was such a thing.

I know that not all elderly can be cared for at home, and my grandma may get to a point where her care is too much for my uncle and his wife. But, I think we, as a culture, too easily put our parents and grandparents aside and forget about them except for a once-a-week visit. Our parents care for us for so many years, when we are helpless and needy, shouldn't we at least give them that in return?

Speaking of my grandma, my uncle retrieved this from her home for me. I remember it from when I was a child. It's a Sick Call box, for Extreme Unction -- as it was known back then. The card says "The candle should be lighted before the priest arrives. If he is carrying the Blessed Sacrament, meet him at the door with a lighted candle. Precede him in silence to the sick room." That gives me chills, just imagining the scene. My husband said that an acolyte used to precede the priest in the hospitals when distributing Eucharist. We have lost so much of the beautiful reverence for God available in our Faith.

My mom and I drove to Cincinnati and back in a day, so I was here for RCIA on Sunday, though mostly just in body. And it wasn't a great session, and I want to tell the RCIA director to just let us listen to Fr. John Riccardo's RCIA podcasts because I think the candidates will learn so much more. Being critical isn't a nice thing to be, so please don't think I am encouraging it.

Taylor and I got a chance to chat quickly about wedding plans, though, and that's always fun. I am probably going to be making all of the bridesmaids', junior bridesmaids', and flower girl's dresses, so any advice any experienced women have in that area would be appreciated. I am also making the bride's veil, and though I know it won't be difficult, all of the unknown makes me a little nervous. If I could just start now, I would feel better, but the wedding isn't for 16 months, so I can't really start anything. It's fun to finger fabrics though, and look at patterns. I am so grateful it is a summer wedding. I look forward to it like a bright spot of sunshine in which to warm myself.

On the home front, Noah is continuing to not do well in chemistry and algebra (prayers appreciated). We have an algebra tutor, but I can't find anyone to help in chemistry, not for all the tea in China (though admittedly I haven't found one who I can even ask if he will tutor for all the tea in China). Both of these classes are college level, in a Catholic college prep high school, and I am torn between wanting my third son to graduate from the same school as his father and brothers (because I believe there would be psychological consequences to being the only one who didn't, or couldn't) and just saying, "forget this college prep school, this kid just needs math and science to graduate." If he didn't want to stay so badly, I would pull him out. I hate the constant turmoil, the emotional ups and downs we all experience when grades come. I am pretty sure he will have to go to summer school, but sadly, the summer school courses really are college level in all ways, because they are online university classes they take at school and have to pass. I'm trying not to project too far in the future.

This is panning out to be a pretty depressing blog post and I might just have to put it in the drafts category and continue to leave up my 10-day old post.

I thank God for the wildlife in the backyard. If I didn't have the beauty of the birds, and the antics of the squirrels, I really think I'd lose my mind in the winter. My favorite -- the Blue Jays. We toss peanuts out every day for them to come and enjoy.

Mr. Bluebird. We normally don't see many of these, but they are so beautiful, and they enjoy the suet.

Hello, Mr. Squirrel. Have a peanut?

Mr. Downy Woodpecker likes the suet, too. Suet is such an inexpensive way to feed the birds. We buy cakes at the grocer and see a different variety of birds than we would if we just had seed. We offer mixed seed, with a lot of sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and thistle. Do you know of anything else we could put out there for some new birds?

Mr. Squirrel made quite a meal out of bird seed scattered on the ground for the ground-feeding birds. My husband shoos the squirrels away, but I say they are hungry, too.

On the health scene, last week I went to see a neurosurgeon about the nerve condition in my leg. He spent five minutes with me and then said, deadpan, "There is nothing I can do for you. We're finished." I have never experienced such a lack of compassion. Fortunately all he did was fuel the burn to find a doctor who can help me. I am now working through a nurse navigator to find a doctor who might help.

Tea for two and two for tea -- mother and daughter teatime.

On a lighter note, did you know that pies and pizzas were invented so that we can teach adding and subtracting mixed numbers? Seriously, what would we do without them? But, even with pies and pizzas (and they are making me hungry) my student is still not getting it, so I must go.

"You are my lamp, O Lord! My God brightens the darkness about me. With you I can rush an armed band,with my God to help I can leap a wall. God’s way is unerring; the Lord’s promise is tried and true; He is a shield for all who trust in him. Truly, who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is the rock?" 2 Samuel 22:29-32


  1. I know what you mean about us writing the same things. That's why I've decided to go to the original reason why I blog, my faraway family who wants to see pictures ;-) So more pictures, less pontificating LOL. Prayers for the rest of your ordeals over there. Once we thaw a little we need a dinner date! Love that Sick Call box.

  2. I'm not sure I remember why I started blogging, Ana Maria. How sad is that? Maybe time to stop? Or find a new mission?

    Dinner out would be wonderful!

  3. I had grand dreams when I started my blog, now it's mostly pictures and a few recipes. I just don't have the brain power right now to think beyond that :)

    I honestly think the world has gotten so sad and depressing that it's really weighing down on many of us. Everywhere you turn, there's bad news, or infighting within the Catholic community, or another law taking away our rights to worry about, it's enough to make me want to hide my head in the sand.

    I do like your blog, both this one and the food one (your homemade ranch dressing recipe is great!). You were/are a great inspiration in the early days of parenthood!

    As far as your doctor goes, by the way, I think you should write a letter to your insurance company and cc any hospital/group he's affiliated with. More and more it seems as though bedside manner has gone out the window, and people in charge need to know that!

    You are in my prayers.

    1. I think you're right, Beth , about so much bringing us down. I just feel, sometimes, like I am one of those things. I wish I could be the beacon of light instead of a downer! No sense wishing your life away, my mother would say!

      I appreciate your prayers.

  4. Oh Barbara! I am so sorry to hear about the "stuff" of life that is troubling you! I agree with you about the elderly, and I think that box is amazingly precious. Why have all of those significant traditions fallen by the wayside? Since blogging again, I'm having an incredibly difficult time with it. I'm not sure why, but maybe it's writer's block or what you are talking about ... I thought I'd just start writing again, but it's not happening. I guess it's OK, but it's something I think about and try to figure out. We are facing our own woes here, so let's pray for each other! xoxo

    1. Sarah,
      I think the Holy Spirit prompts us in many ways. Sometimes it is by putting a thought in our minds repeatedly. I think it can also be by making something increasingly more difficult to do. The challenge is knowing if it truly is the Holy Spirit prompting me.

      Praying for you!

  5. The Blog is dead. Despite the fact that I have far too many in my reader, maybe it's true. Lots of us are singing the same song, and it seems to be, primarily, the ones that aren't monetized to the hilt.

    Your story about your grandma made me cry---probably because I'm missing my mom and I'm grateful beyond belief that she was cared for solely at home.

    Have you tried Khan Academy for chemistry help? We have used it sporadically for sticky subjects, and my brainiac Tom does the videos for fun. :-)

    Pretty bluebird and woodpecker! We don't feed birds at all anymore because of the horrid squirrel infestation in the attic. I miss the birds, not the squirrels!

    1. Sara,
      In many ways, the blog IS dead. Popularity killed it, in my opinion. It's overdone. My question is, is there any value in continuing. I used to truly believe I had real friends here. I am now doubting the ability to have a true internet friend. I am so glad we've met IRL!

  6. Hugs for you, friend. At least one per week...or twice...or thrice...I think about pulling the plug on my blog. I honestly don't know who I am writing to anymore as I do very little sewing and smocking these days...maybe the future babysitters of America? Life is hard and we all have challenges that would be better off not broadcasted on the www. I guess I could blog about how I beg Our Lady Undoer of Knots to help my poor, needy self. Can I could out to dinner with you all? Please? :)

    1. Cheryl,
      It's so hard to decide if the time required to write a blog post is worth it. I always enjoy your posts, but I think that's mostly because I think we'd be great IRL friends. ;-)

      I wish I could just swing by and pick you up for dinner!

  7. That should read "once per week" and I really like the blue bird pic...my favorite little bird. :_

  8. I think it's just February weighing you down. Spring IS coming, so just hold on a little longer, okay? Maybe find something you really love to do to wile away the time. I started a Project Life scrapbook/photo album and am really loving it. So many years of digital pictures, unprinted, languishing in my computer. I'm making them real! And writing my stories to go with them. :-)

    I don't know if this will help, but the girls are using Teaching Textbooks this year for Algebra, Geometry and Precalculus. Every single one of them is learning the concepts well and enjoying it to boot! I've only had to help clarify a couple of times. Not sure on the Chemistry front, though. We use Apologia, in spite of the frequent lapses in logic in religious matters, because I don't know of anything better.

    And I completely agree about your grandmother and our old people in general. We've told both sets of our parents that we will take care of them when needed, and it's something we're trying to instill in our own children, too, not just so that we don't get abandoned ourselves, but because it seems to me to be in line with our Catholic and family values.

    Lots of love for you, Barbara, and I'm praying for you.

    1. Jennie,
      I do have many projects I love working on, probably more than I should have. There's always something to choose from.

      In regard to textbooks, unfortunately Noah is in school so we can't choose which book he uses. His is a college textbook. I heard some girls (high school) at dance the other day talking about Apologia science. I think MODG uses it and they were talking chemistry (and I was wondering if they knew any tutors!).

      Thank you for your prayers -- I am praying for you, too.

  9. I think everyone is in survival mode this winter. The kids and I just finished reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and, she did such a good job of describing how towards the end of their winter, she really began to feel like she was losing her mind. Day after day of doing not much, and always the same. It's tough. But they were starving too, that helps me count my blessings.

    Oh, now I remember what I first wanted to comment on: I do the same thing with comments and/or on facebook, I start to type out my two cents to keep the conversation alive, and then I think, "Maybe she doesn't care what I think" and I erase the whole thing and click away.

    The blogworld has definitely seemed to change. You can read whichever blogs you want, but it's harder to "make friends" than when everyone was meeting on Danielle Bean's blog. Sometimes I try to introduce myself as a new reader in a comment, and it goes unnoticed, which is probably another reason I'm often deleting my comments.

    Anyway. I'm glad you're still blogging because I love your posts, your insight and perspective and your honesty! Maybe we'll all feel better in the spring.

    PS - Those pictures of your birds are awesome!!

    1. Thank you, Anne, for your sweet remarks. They mean a lot, truly they do. I know what you mean about the "good old days" when there was a much smaller community of bloggers.

  10. I do understand about your 'writer's block' I've been there, I think what have I got to say that others are not saying far better, talk, talk, chatter, chatter. So those are the times I take a break from all the noise, then come back and just focus on my corner of cyberspace, my purpose for blogging. And I'm so glad I have persevered, 7 years of posts means alot of captured memories thoughts I otherwise wouldn't have captured for our little family

    1. Erin, those are the same thoughts I have...what do I have to say? And I often decide my voice just has no value. Sometimes it's good to pull back for a while.

  11. I don't blog but do follow a few - yours is one of my favorites. As a working mother who does not homeschool I often feel difficulty in feeling connected to so many of them - believe me, you really all do not say the same things, or at least not in the same way.

    The owner of the feed store where I purchase by bird food recently suggested I switch to one of their blends that includes a bit of cracked corn, raisins, and peanuts (as well as sunflower seeds, millet)- she uses it and said I may be surprised at new birds it may attract? Too soon to tell yet - I'll let you know :) I also love the suet but am fighting starlings at the moment who manage to throw it out of the side "holder", where it gets buried in the snow...

    You'll be in my prayers.

  12. Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. I do!'

    Yesterday at the store I grabbed a bag of "seed" that is really for a variety of wildlife and included alfalfa pellets, peanuts, whole corn, millet, soybeans, and sunflower seed. I never thought about raisins! We have starlings, too, and my husband yells at them. I call him a bird snob. It's the raccoons who steal our suet, if they get desperate enough.

  13. I'm always late to the party! There's so much here...let's see....blogging, yes, I agree, it's different than it used to be. There are so many bloggers out there, and dare I say, really, they are all the same, in the way of wonderful, Catholic, mamas with seemingly perfect lives.

    I am not and do not want to be that to anyone.

    Sorry about your leg.
    Glad you got to see your grandma...so sad nursing homes...I'm happy she gets to be somewhere with caring people (next, right?)

    It's even been too cold here for our squirrels and birds, hardly seen any...even the deer have not been seen in weeks. Today it is around 20--it's literally a warm front! I didn't even wear my mittens into Mass.
    Woo Hoo!!

    It's the February blues, right?

    That last rites' kit, wow, that is special.
    Can't wait to start seeing your wedding creations, how special for her to have you.

    Prayers and (((hugs)))

    1. I can't wait to start wedding creations, too, Jamie. It's more fun than I thought it would be!

  14. Your words are always a joy to read!! Your like a friend who is always there to listen. Writing is hard. I'm mostly a hack...but some times I know how much somebody's sharing has helped me ...as I am sure you have also been a help to many others with your words and thoughts.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate such a nice comment. :-)

  15. Hello Barbara,
    So relieved to see a post from you (was worried about your grandma). I too miss the 'good old days' of blogging but no use pining for what is gone. I know just what you mean about starting to write comments and then deleting, only my brain is so bad I'll think I really posted a comment and then am surprised later that it's not there...
    So happy to year your grandma will be able to go to your uncle's!
    The sick call set is beautiful. I remember when a dear elderly priest (101 now!) first told us about such customs, meeting the visiting priest at the door with the candles and how every home had such a set. And then he sadly said, 'but that's all gone now.' So sad, the beautiful, meaningful, reverent traditions that have been abandoned. But we can each do our own little part to revive things and build the Catholic culture in our families and homes.
    Lovely birds! Maybe try mealworms (the hardware store should have dried ones) for the wrens and bluebirds. Sounds like you already provide a feast! Grape jelly is good for catbirds in summer and mockingbirds too (though the latter can get very territorial).
    I sure hope you keep blogging! It's about sharing our lives, faith, friendship, and encouraging one another in regular daily life. I think that's important and worthwhile. You write in such a friendly, honest, comforting fashion. I always appreciate your posts. Truly, I do.
    God bless!

    1. Kimberlee,
      I think the pet store and the bait store (we're near a big lake) will have meal worms. Thanks.
      And thank you for your encouraging comment. It really means a lot that you are a reader.

  16. i have a daughter who loves pizza but currently has an F in algebra.
    among MANY other social, adolescent troubles....

    my week has been low, too....

    but here is the thing...
    this is my first time at your blog ever
    and all that you said...i nodded my head YES
    and then the birds!
    those beautiful birds...
    i happen to have a heart shaped BIRD SEED cookie my sister baked for...the birds!
    i will hang it tomorrow for valentines day.

    if God provides for the birds, He will take care of us too!

    and so please know...no matter how low you are today...no matter how low the algebra grade...
    no matter how lost your sweet grandma...
    no matter how low the desire to comment or write...

    your suffering today has become my blessing
    your light has shown in my darkness
    and Praise God..that is awesome!

    after shoveling the enormous amount of snow that continues to fall...i look forward to lighting a candle and praying for you...for our children....and for pizza :-)

    1. Such an inspirational comment, I am so touched. I am glad I could come to your aid on a low day. We have to stick together, don't we?

  17. Barbara, big hugs! February blues and blahs are plaguing us all!

    I don't think the blog is dead, but shifting its purpose. I started to blog for myself, and I'm glad I did. I give myself room and permission to deviate from original ideas and purposes.

    But I also remember how my target audience is very small, but besides blogging for me and my family, if I can keep my small circle of friends around me, then I'll keep blogging.

    And I count you as one of my friends!

    That sick call set is AMAZING! I've never seen such a beautiful one in my life! and I love all your photos. They are wonderful and inspiring!

  18. I can't tell you how many times I've typed something in your comments box, looked at it, decided it was of no value, and deleted it. I would at least like to tell you that your blog is so varied and so interesting that I love coming here, and I worry when you go for long periods without posting. I'm still praying for your soon-to-be-weds and for your RCIA sessions. Since I've done wedding flowers over the years, if I can be of any assistance I'd be happy to help. The box is something I've seen before, but none as beautiful as yours. I hope that some of our younger seminarians will revive some of the beautiful traditions we seem to have lost. We (my husband and I) are doubly snowed-in, since our car has stopped running. We feed the birds and watch them (and the squirrels). They seem to enjoy multigrain bread with some peanut butter and jelly when I can spare a bit. I hope a new doctor will be able to help you; hurting makes this weather seem even worse, I know! You and your blog would leave a very large empty hole in the blogosphere if you were to stop. Thank you for all you've done to brighten our lives.~ Rosemary A.

  19. Dear Barbara, thank you for working past your writer's block and posting this. The sharing of your life has so much value! Personally, your remarks about your grandmother touched my heart today as my next-door-neighbors are in great need of some extra loving in their old age and they have been abandoned by their four daughters. I'm trying hard to fill in for them but I know I could never come close. Also, I love the sick-call box and your birds. Beautiful! God bless you and think spring! It'll be here before we know it!


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!