On Sabbatical

Small Things-0083

Happy Easter! I hope you are having a happy one. We were late to Easter Mass (as usual) despite my best efforts. I didn’t get any great photos of the kids before they were out of their nice clothes and dressed to play outside. We had our traditional Easter scavenger hunt on Sunday afternoon, something we have been doing for years. I’ve never made Easter baskets, but the girls decided early on in Lent that they wanted them this year. They took matters into their own hands and I wasn’t involved other than on the frequent occasions when either Lark or Beatrix wanted to show me what they had pulled together so far. Each girl was responsible for her sister and one little brother. They (mostly) spent their own money buying little gifts at the dollar store. I did provide the baskets, new mini bolgas, a gift I had planned for the scavenger hunt anyway. They loved doing this so much that I suspect it will be a new tradition.

My sister, Abby, visited last week with four of her boys, so we had a rowdy Holy Week. So you don’t have to do the math, we had 12 kids in the house, 9 of them boys! It was a really wonderful few days despite the endlessly hungry tummies and piles and piles of muddy clothes.

Abby loves history and is a planner who likes to visit lots of places. Being a homebody myself, and totally daunted by the thought of taking 12 kids anywhere, I convinced her to stick close to home with the field trips. One day we ran around the grounds of nearby Chatham Manor, on another she took a handful of kids to a local museum while I stayed home with the younger kids. Mostly the kids played outdoors and got really dirty. Abby and I took walks together every day and talked about our childhood. We focused on the good parts, weary of all the bad. After all these years, the happy memories are the strongest. We had nighttime talks about how strange it is that we are both so close to forty now. Time to get our acts together, right?

On a self-care note, I have put myself on a mental sabbatical of sorts. I’m working hard on stress management (thank goodness my taxes are done.) I am hopeful because I feel like I am making progress. I am trying to re-program my brain. I want to learn how to relax, and let myself off the hook a little. I can’t clear my plate and schedule, but I can work on the way my brain reacts to the endless to-dos. All of the reading I have done in recent months on auto-immune disease has led me to believe that my tendency towards perfectionism and over-achievement, and all the go, go go, may be part of what caused me to get sick.

Part of my “sabbatical” is to read light(ish) fiction this year. Easy reading, and recently published (I have a tendency to only read older books, and am challenging myself to read new ones.) I picked up Lilac Girls at the library, though being set during WWII I’m not sure it’s going to be all that light. (edited to add: returning it today. Not a bad book, just not what I am looking for right now!) Any suggestions?

p.s. I forgot that this post is full of bunny photos! As much as we love him (yes, Larkspur made him an Easter basket) we think that Benjamin Bunny is lonely, so we will be bringing home a friend or two for him in a couple of weeks. I had him neutered about a month ago, and have been getting bunny socialization tips in preparation. Baby bunnies!!! So exciting!

(The photos of me were taken by my sister. Thanks, Abby!)


  1. Antonia Cammarota says:

    I picked up THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER by Jenny Colgan (suggested in comments of this post). The premise was a perfect escape/live vicariously story of a woman moving to the wilds of Scotland and opening a mobile bookshop. Sadly, the author treats divorce, fornication, profanity and using the Lord’s name in vain as morally neutral and acceptable. There are cast off comments about pornography and sex change/reassignment, that seem to accept them as well. This is what I find so frustrating about modern books – is it possible to find a modern book, in a modern setting without all the modern cultural baggage?

  2. the books of Rachel Hore, especially Glass Painter’s Daughter

  3. Katharine Whitmore says:

    You have so many great book suggestions! Here is another very sweet book: Miss Claire Remembers written by Miss Read. There is quite a series, but this one is a good one to start with.

  4. I can’t wait to hear how your sabbatical goes. I am struggling with those problems. Can’t seem to turn off my part of the brain that stresses.

  5. Thought I would recommend one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Gwen Bristow. She is at of print but can be found at the library and half.com. SUCH a delightful writer and her books are so enjoyable. My favorite, Celia Garth! On a side note, I recently discovered your blog and so enjoy each new post. I live just down the road in Richmond so also enjoy your field trip ideas! Blessings.

  6. Hi Ginny,

    I’ve been reading your blog for many, many years. I have to say, every time you mention your mental health issues I am astounded because I find you so very, very grounded and mature. I was nowhere, nowhere (I keep wanting to repeat words and use commas) near where you are at your age.

    When I saw your picture above I just thought how very beautiful you are. Then I was laughing ’cause Job looks like such a little bruiser! Then I was wishing Larkspur could be friends with my youngest.

    Interesting what you say about autoimmune disease. My youngest is affected by an autoimmune disease (alopecia universalis) and she is quite a perfectionist and worrier, I just don’t know how much that was affecting her at the time she lost all of her hair (at 9). I don’t see her as being particularly over-the-top perfectionist/worrier. It’s a mystery, for sure. I do wish I could just find the key, the thing that if we set it right she would be all better. I bet you do, too.

  7. Hi Ginny! Have you ever read
    The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter?
    A looooovely book!

  8. Have you read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles? It was a balm for my soul and one of the best novels I have read in years! I read it a few months ago and am still thinking about it.

  9. Adele Bartlett says:

    The Snow Child is delightful, different and fey. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry is …unusual but enjoyable. I tend to like quirky. I enjoy your blog, your honesty and your writing. But, maybe it’s time for you to do what a couple of other bloggers do and post once a week on a certain day? Being kind to ourselves is so important. I understood your comment about remembering the good times – well done.

  10. I love the idea of reading fiction to relax! That is totally up my alley. I’ve been trying to do so much “productive” reading that I sometimes lose my love of reading. I am 37 weeks pregnant with twin boys (probably looking at a c-section because they are still breech and transverse), my husband and I are navigating some career changes and an extremely tight budget, and I am trying to keep up with my active 2-year-old daughter. Some days I just want to curl up in a hole and hide. Off and on this pregnancy I’ve really struggled with depression, which is new to me. I don’t know what is a lack of faith on my part and what is hormones. But I always appreciate you sharing your real struggles and being honest about where you are and what you need! Our doula did suggest some supplements of fish oil and vitamin D that seem to help when I remember to take them consistently! May we both be able to extend ourselves some grace!

  11. I am curious if you have any other tips for letting yourself off the hook, as you say. I am a mama to 5 and also homeschool. The stress of the last few years, of with illness and sudden and not so sudden loss of immediate family (on both sides) is wearing on us all. I am trying to let myself off the hook as well, in order to let the weight of it all go. But it is difficult when there is always somewhere to be and something that needs done. What are you finding helpful?

  12. Jolaine Snyder says:

    Just read The Snow Child, be Eowyn Ivey, two other friends just read it and we call it “a fairy tale for grownups”. It was simply delightful!

  13. have you read any of the Louise Penny books? She has written a mystery series. I read the first one “still life” and loved how comfy the writing was. There is: NO detailed violence, just “she died of an arrow, the end”. NO sex (I find that off putting…..)

    I was entertained and enjoyed the cast of characters.

    Also, if you listen to podcasts there is one that is called “what should I read next” and the host is sensitive in nature and flags any books that dabble in violence or graphic scenes, I appreciate that. This podcast is how I found Louise Penny series btw.

    • I agree on What Should I Read Next! You don’t even need to listen to the podcast; just check out Anne’s blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. She is a self-described Highly Sensitive Person and has a ton of great book lists on her site for anything you could imagine.

      (I bet you’d be a great guest for her show, actually!)

  14. A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey is a great read and and pretty much an Australian classic.

  15. Hi, Ginny:) Just wanted to leave a suggestion for reading. A Swedish author Fredrik Backman should be just right for you, especially “A Man Called Ove” and “Grandmother sends her regards and apologises”. He writes so beautifully and it is all very touching. Hope you can find his books in the library.

  16. christine lynch says:

    Great post! I think there are quite a few mothers going through similar things. I realized the very same thing about reading fiction last week. A little guilty because I felt I should be reading something spiritual being that it was Holy Week, but reading fiction makes me feel literate again to read spiritual and homeschooling guidance. I delved into Green Journey by John Hassler and finished two others in less than a week, Dear James and Staggoford Flood. Kind of along the Mitford series but about Catholics (and lapsed). God bless you and family.

  17. Sometimes I just like to read the cosy mysteries . Joanna Fluke comes to mind, but there are also some knitting themed series. I like that they are formalic, easy reads, fun characters.

  18. I just finished a book that made me think of you in the title: byErin Loechner
    Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path
    I really enjoyed her style and some profound thoughts.

  19. The World Between two Covers by Ann Morgan.
    Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell
    neither really big sellers but top of my list!

    and Ginny you look fantastic in the photo, your elimination diet is agreeing with you.

  20. I think relaxing is the hardest thing to do! And you have such a busy life. I love Barbara Pym’s novels. Also the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. And a second and third to the suggestions for Anne of Green Gables. I have probably read them all twice. Oh – and of course the Little House on the Prairie books. Happy reading, Ginny.

  21. Definitely the Outlander series (my favorite books ever, I have been reading them since the 90s when the first ones were published and have reread many times. ) Also the Louise Penny mysteries are good. The Amish Horses series by Thomas Nye – quick, comforting books. Dick Francis novels – always entertaining.

    • Outlander is good, but fair warning — it gets pretty raunchy! And it’s definitely not light — there are some torture scenes in the first book.

      • Yes, I have not read past the first book in the Outlander series as the torture scenes that were replayed several times traumatized me. I loved that first book until the last several chapters when I was totally turned off. I kept expecting it to get better and it didn’t.

        • Definitely worth reading all the books! I guess they are not always easy but so engrossing how the characters change and mature…you end up feeling like you really know them. By far the best series I have ever read.

  22. Melissa Nichols says:

    Lucky kids! My little girl wants bunnies badly, but she will have to wait a bit. Lovely photos as always. ;o)

  23. I saw that Guernsey Literary Society was offered by some other folks and I heartily endorse that novel, as well as the whole of the D.E. Stevenson books, especially the Miss Buncle series…..quite pleasing. And treat yourself to the Miss Read books —— more than a dozen, set in post WWII England. There are two series in her works – Thrush Green and Fair Acre – and these novels are sweet, comforting, funny, easy to read but with much sentiment that lingers. So worth your time! I also suggest The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard. It’s the first of a series called the Cazalet Chronicles. Set in pre-war England, not always light but with happy endings. In that same vein, I recommend the whole of the Poldark series. Beautiful prose and good for the soul storytelling.

    Reading happy is my way to manage the difficulties of the world so I am a fan of such a sabbatical!

  24. Loved all the beautiful photos! So glad your sister and some of her kids could visit!!!

  25. I sorry if I offended you by suggesting Michael O’Brien’s books. I am a retired, Catholic, homeschooling mom of many years. My kids have all been through Christendom College. I too had a condition that made me extremely tired all the time. The doctors never found what was wrong with me. A chiropractor, finally found out the problem. A curved spine in the neck from forceps being used at birth. Anyway, I suggested his books because they took me completely away from homeschooling and were a total diversion. Many homeschooling moms I know love them for that reason. Funny, with all my problems now I wish I was homeschooling again. You will get through this. A priest once told me that everything ends. It has a prescribed time. I will pray for you at daily Mass. I know how hard some days can get.

    • No, of course you didn’t offend me! We own quite a few of his books because my oldest son really likes him. I haven’t read any because our copies are hardbacks, and I find them too big and cumbersome to hold! 🙂

  26. I recently discovered and read several of Susanna Kearsley’s books – The Rose Garden (my favorite!), Winter Sea, The Firebird, and Mariana (one of her older books). They’re historical fiction with a time travel twist. I was looking for some lighter and easier reading and these were perfect.

  27. Tamra Garner says:

    I love Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journal series!

    • Yes, the four Crosswicks Journals (first one is called A Circle Of Quiet) are some of the best of the best. Thoughtful, at times funny, deeply honest, yet still light. They are of the memoir genre, though they don’t fit perfectly in that box. I read these almost every year.

  28. Ann Marie says:

    This is not a new book, but I think you may find it as inspirational as when I read it for the first time. It was forwarded to me by my partner’s mother as she found it to be a wonderful read. The book: Mutant Message Down Under written by Marlo Morgan.

    It is described as an American woman’s fictionalized account of her life with the Aborigines of Australia. The novel’s message is that Western culture is in trouble because it has divorced itself from nature. The author is a practitioner of alternative health.

  29. Is that gluten-free bread in the pans? If so, I would love your recipe.

  30. I love this post. I am glad to hear you are getting some mental space back as hard as that is with a bunch of kids. We have been thinking about indoor bunnies…..tell me truthfully..is it insane? Like adding more kids to an already full house of kids? What kind of bunnies are you getting?

    • The tricky thing with bunnies is keeping them safe indoors-if you are letting them hop around as we do. (Benjamin sleeps in his hutch at night and is free in my bunny-proofed studio space during the day) At our old house, I didn’t have a place that worked. You have to keep all electrical cords out of reach. Bunnies also really like to chew: carpet, wood, wallpaper, etc. even when provided with appropriate alternatives. All that being said, this bunny is turning out to be one of my all time favorite pets. He is a mini lop mix and the babies we are getting are lionhead mixes. Super calm and friendly!

    • The tricky thing with bunnies is keeping them safe indoors-if you are letting them hop around as we do. (Benjamin sleeps in his hutch at night and is free in my bunny-proofed studio space during the day) At our old house, I didn’t have a place that worked. You have to keep all electrical cords out of reach. Bunnies also really like to chew: carpet, wood, wallpaper, etc. even when provided with appropriate alternatives. All that being said, this bunny is turning out to be one of my all time favorite pets. He is a mini lop mix and the babies we are getting are lionhead mixes. Super calm and friendly!

  31. Looking at the comment regarding Elizabeth Goudge, Green Dolphin Street is very good. Rumer Godden’s China Court is excellent.

    • I love Rumer Godden. Just ordered China Court. 🙂

      • Ginny, please try to read Miss Prim. I think from what I know of you from your blog, you will really enjoy it. It was recommended to me by a wonderful friend a while ago. When I finally got down to it, I wondered why I’d waited so long.

        • I think that is the most recommended book in these comments! I’m taking everyone’s advice. 🙂 I have it requested, but there is a line-my library only has one copy of it!

  32. I highly recommend The Awakening of Miss Prim. An excellent book with a counter cultural premise.

  33. ChrisinNY says:

    I would suggest books by Elizabeth Goudge from the library. I particularly like the series set at Damerosehay and featuring the Eliots-
    1.The Bird in the Tree (1940)
    2.The Herb of Grace (1948) aka Pilgrim’s Inn
    3.The Heart of the Family (1953)
    She has lots of stand alone books that vary in readability but I also like another series
    1. A City of Bells (1936)
    2.Sister of the Angels (1939)
    3.Henrietta’s House (1942) aka The Blue Hills

    The other suggestion I have is Elswyth Thane
    Dawn’s Early Light (1943)
    Yankee Stranger (1944)
    Ever After (1945)
    The Light Heart (1947)
    Kissing Kin (1948)
    This Was Tomorrow (1951)
    Homing (1957)

  34. I always love to see something from you in my inbox.
    If you don’t mind my saying so I think you look so very well in your pictures! Are the dietary restrictions paying off at all? I know that looks can be deceiving and one cannot tell what people are suffering inside by their outsides.
    Your children have such BEAUTIFUL eyes!
    God bless and keep you. Take good care of yourself!

  35. One of my most beloved series is by Jan Karon and it is the Mitford Series!
    It is about a country priest and his endearing community. It is sure to capture your heart.
    I have read them and reread them. Hope you enjoy too!

  36. Becky Barry says:

    Happy Easter time to you Ginny! Once again your pictures and post here have lifted my spirits! I take periodic time outs, I refer to it as closing my corral gates. I’ve ways loved horses and when I need that confinement I envision myself alone with great horses that I can be quiet with.
    I envied the talk about having your sister visit. Even with the added craziness of 12 kids. My sister died 30 years ago and it’s been a lonely journey without her. I became an orphan very young and it seems to weigh heavy as you age.
    Last week saw the completion of Diana Galbadon series “Outlander”. It was a great read, so easy to get into the time frame that she wrote it in. I like looking forward to the next.
    Hope you will continue to take good care of you. Enjoy spring and summer Ginny#

    • I also enjoy Outlander but it is pretty raunchy! And the first book has torture in it. Not exactly a light read.

  37. Oh Ginny, Sorry about Lilac Girls. I just finished it and no, it was not light reading. Glad you are giving yourself a break and going to cut yourself some slack. We can’t run on full-bore-ahead and nearly perfect all the time. I know this was how I was raised. I have a little picture by my desk that reminds me of this that says, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.” Grace never beats us up and it realizes our humanness. Glad you had some good sister time.

I love to hear from you!