Small Success: Less Jealousy, More Compassion


Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Several months ago, I got a Facebook friend request that surprised me, from a mom I’ve been acquainted with for several years through school. Our paths have crossed through various sports and school parties, but we don’t know each other at all and normally wouldn’t get past that “how’s your kid doing?” type of conversation.

This mom is a confident woman. She’s successful in the business world. She’s comfortable in leadership positions.

In other words, she’s the opposite of me.

My own bad experiences in high school (I was the middle-class kid in a very small school populated largely by the Ivy-league crowd) lead me to instinctively fear people like this mom. And by “fear” I mean “do anything I can to avoid having to be near” such people.

That’s not conducive to getting to know someone.

That doesn’t help you dispel the crazy illusions you have that someone else, someone you really don’t know, leads a charmed life where everything is perfectly perfect.

My fear of confident, successful leaders, it turns out, is born of a bad combination of social anxiety and jealousy.

There. I said it.

Anyway, I accepted the friend request and didn’t think anything of it.

Over the past few months, this mom has shared some things that have opened my eyes.

She does not live the charmed life I thought she did. This is not because she was ever lying about her life–it’s about the assumptions I made given the little I knew.

Her life is not perfect. She has problems too. She has trials and struggles and difficult situations.

She’s just like the rest of us, trying to make the best of things.

This mom has been gifted with confidence and leadership abilities. She uses them at work and she uses them as she volunteers to help her children’s schools. She’s a hard worker, not standing on some perfect pedestal.

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So for those people who say that spending time on social media is useless, I’m sharing this story. If I had not made this Facebook connection, I’d never have learned that someone I thought was so perfect, who had it all, has problems too.

I’d never have had the opportunity to feel less jealousy and more compassion.

I’m still working on the social anxiety part, but this is a big step in the right direction.

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#WorthRevisit: Panic at the Retreat

I was listening to a podcast this morning while I baked cookies for the soccer team’s pasta party. Greg and Jennifer Willits were talking about one of my favorite subjects–personality–and that was spun into a discussion about why Greg needed to leave a retreat over the weekend.

I’ve taken various forms of the MBTI countless times over the years, and I just went through the free survey at, the site Greg and Jennifer recommended. My score: ISFJ (but I’m pretty close to ISTJ.)

I completely understand Greg’s experience at the retreat, as he described in episode 157 of the podcast. Which brings me back to a story I shared last fall–a story about the very same type of retreat Greg attempted to attend last weekend.

The first time I was called upon to share my faith story, I had just returned from a Christ Renews His Parish (ChRHP) retreat. Newly married and new to the area, I was already feeling shy, and I was dismayed to discover that after you’ve attended a ChRHP weekend, you’re expected to be a presenter at the next one. I sat there at the follow-up meeting, listening to other women share dramatic stories of conversion and renewal of faith. I didn’t feel like I had anything to add or contribute; certainly, I had nothing that could compare to those witnesses. Finally I fled the meeting, weeping, and in a full-blown panic attack. I never returned. I felt like a fraud.

That was exactly Greg’s point in the podcast. We’re not all the same. Those retreats are wonderful–for certain types of people who benefit from certain types of activities. I am not one of those people.

Today, for the first time in over 25 years, I felt OK about running away from that meeting (though there are tears in my eyes as I think about it.) It’s part of my personality to want to finish what I start. It’s why I stuck it out a whole year in the school lunchroom, though I discovered under one month in that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I’d learned, by then, that I could create a new opportunity to help the school–and I’m still volunteering in the school library even though my kids have all graduated.

St. Paul is famous for saying, “There are different gifts, but the same Spirit.” There are different personalities, too–but the same Spirit. What works for one does not work for everyone. (It’s why I don’t podcast or do Facebook Live. It’s why I’ll probably bury myself in small tasks at the pasta party tonight.) As Greg said in the podcast, we don’t all fit the same cookie-cutter! The trick is finding what works for you, and using your own personalities, gifts and talents to serve God and others.

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I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Perfect Blindside

Barb's Book shelf blog title

I dare you to read The Perfect Blindside without imagining how great it would be as a movie.

Review of "The Perfect Blindside" at

Anyone who knows me is amazed I’d say something like that, because I never like movies based on books–and I hardly ever see movies. But this mystery novel for teens is just begging to be depicted on the big screen.

Told from dual points of view, The Perfect Blindside follows Jake, a self-described “snowboarding phenom” and teenage Olympian with a chip on his shoulder and his classmate Sophie, a small-town girl who’s proud of it–and who tends to geek out over local history.

Jake and Sophie become an unlikely pair as they puzzle over suspicious occurrences in the town of Silver Springs, Colorado. Is the deputy sheriff up to something nefarious, or is he just a greedy cop who just pushes the limits of abusing his power, harassing teenagers with speeding tickets and finagling free coffee and pastry from Main Street merchants? What’s killing the local wildlife? Who slashed the tires on Jake’s Jeep while he hiked on the mountain? And did that joint the deputy found in Jake’s glove compartment really belong to someone else?

With true-to-life characters, an intriguing mystery and a setting so real you’ll imagine yourself walking down Main Street, this novel had me saying “Just one more chapter” over and over again.

The Perfect Blindside is published by Pauline Teen. I recommend it for readers in 8th grade and beyond.

The fine print: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of this review. Opinions expressed here are mine alone. All Amazon links to the book in this post are affiliate links; your purchase of any items through these links help support my website. Thank you!

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Small Success: Resurrection Mile


Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Still plugging away at making a routine happen around here. I went to the gym (once) and did a Resurrection Mile (twice). What’s a “Resurrection Mile”? I go to Resurrection Parish, and on one of our two church campuses, there’s a parish center with a gymnasium. The building is open weekdays from 9 to 3 for people to come in and walk laps around the gym. Our parish has daily Mass at that location 3 days a week, so I’m trying to go over and walk my mile (20 times around the gym) after Mass. I listen to a podcast on my phone while I walk! I’m catching up on Among Women and Girlfriends this way.


I have officially run out of Pepsi and decided that I’m going to use this opportunity to try to give up soda. More water, iced tea and iced coffee using my super-duper iced-coffee-without-ice-cubes cup*–that’s my plan.

I stuck to the meal plan and tried a new recipe.

Pork Scaloppine by Barb Szyszkiewicz for

One thing I did that I never do: stayed up to watch a TV show that started at 10 PM. Actually, the fact that I intentionally watched a TV show is astonishing enough. But “Designated Survivor” hooked me from the promos and did not disappoint. Did you watch? What did you think?

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*The fine print: Link to the iced-coffee maker is an Amazon affiliate link. Your purchase of any items using that link supports this website! Thanks!

Worth Revisit: The Pope Redefines Saint Francis

"Worth Revisit: The Pope Redefines St. Francis" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

On September 17, Franciscans celebrated the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis. That’s what Francis is really all about–uniting himself so closely to the Gospel life that his own body bore the same wounds as Christ on the cross.

"Worth Revisit: The Pope Redefines St. Francis" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
License [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Ten years ago, then-Pope Benedict XVI spoke about who St. Francis really was. Here’s my reflection, written September 14, 2006, on an article from Chiesa News.

He’s not just that guy in the birdbaths. He’s not some enviro-hippie.

Benedict XVI said he wanted to correct the “abuses” and “betrayals” that distort the true character of Saint Francis. And to recall the false view of Saint Francis, Benedict XVI needed just two words: “environmentalist” and “pacifist.” …The truth of Saint Francis – the pope emphasizes – is his “radical choice of Christ,” the conversion awakened in him by the words of the crucified Jesus: ‘Go, rebuild my house.’

It’s not about peace protests. It’s not about ecology. It’s not about blessing our household pets.

Being Franciscan is about conversion. All the rest is incidental.

In the spiritual travail that the young Francis was living through, he perceived these words of vocation and mission as being in the first place an invitation to carry out completely the conversion that had already begun, making his own the concern and plans of Christ for his Church.

So my priority, as a Franciscan, is to ask myself how I can better turn myself toward God, and serve Him in my daily life. That’s what conversion is about–turning TOWARD God.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Small Success: Unscheduled


Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

So far this week, it’s been one unscheduled thing after another.

I don’t usually do schedule changes well. I like to know when things will happen. And yes, I do have a Google calendar so colorful that my older son compared it to a quilt:

Here's what this week looks like. Some colors are for work. Dark red and orange are TheKid, and light blue is mine.
Here’s what this week looks like. Yellow and green are for work (there’s also purple for work, but that’s for unfinished articles and I’m done with everything for the week). Dark red and orange are TheKid, and light blue is mine. Dark blue is the Notre Dame football game (GO IRISH!)

Things that happened that weren’t on my color-coded calendar: my daughter’s car wouldn’t start on Sunday and had to be towed to our mechanic. She had a doctor’s appointment Monday to finish an immunization series required for her nursing-school clinicals. So I got to drive back and forth to LaSalle twice on Monday, because the car wasn’t ready yet and she had to get back to school to study for a test.

Fortunately I knew on Sunday night that I’d need to do this, so I was up and working early Monday morning. I managed to get my work done for the day, get to Mass, do a load of laundry, clean both bathrooms and make a good dinner in addition to all the driving.

On Tuesday I spent an hour or more preparing for a meeting, but the others who were supposed to attend the meeting were no-shows. I spent another hour or more stressing about that. I also baked some cookies.

Double chocolate-peanut butter cookies by Barb Szyszkiewicz for

I was doing pretty well with all that unscheduled stuff until this morning when TheKid missed the bus. He’d made the bus for 6 school days in a row and I was hoping this was a trend; now we’ll need to figure out how to get him back on track for tomorrow. I tried not to yell and poison the morning. I didn’t raise my voice, but we didn’t part on happy terms today. (I know I’m breaking the Small Success “rules” by saying this here, but here I am, back to trying to figure out how to get TheKid to build good habits and respect other people’s time.)

This week I also created a new recipe for pork stir-fry/lo mein. It came out really good!

Pork lo mein by Barb Szyszkiewicz for

And yesterday I had the chance to meet my parents for lunch; they were on their way back from vacation, so we found a place along their route that was only about 30 minutes from me.

I made a resolution this summer to learn something new every week. I managed to create sidebar widgets for the two books for which I’m a contributor! (Purchase your copies today!)

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Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Small Success: Summer’s End


Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

At long last, summer is over and everyone is back in school. TheKid had his high-school orientation day yesterday. They toured the school, got their school-issued tablet PCs, learned about their options for extracurricular activities, had a picnic lunch, went to Mass and had pictures taken.

“Mom, do you REALLY have to take my picture?”

He was out of bed before Barry Gibb got to the part in “Tragedy” where he sounds like he’s being tased (this song is the current musical torture device I’m using to wake him up.)

And he made the bus.

He’s too old to acknowledge my presence at the bus stop.

This is only the second time in 9 years that the bus (provided by the local public-school district) has actually showed up on the first day of school. I didn’t have to call the transportation office and pester them about why there was no bus.

Tuesday he had a soccer game, and I drove 45 minutes to the hosting school only to discover when I got there that their athletic fields are 2 miles away from the school. That wasn’t fun. I have a plan in place now to double-check all soccer-game directions by visiting the host school’s website. And scrolling all the way to the bottom of the very long home page, because that’s where they hide this information.

I don’t know what most parents do about going to their kids’ games. I never made it to too many games or track meets for the older kids, because TheKid was in grade school that dismissed at 3 and he wasn’t home until at least 3:35. We went to the local games and home games, but that was it. They’ll probably complain that it’s not fair that I go to all his games now. Honestly, driving an hour each way to a game (like I’ll do today) and sitting outside for over an hour in 95-degree weather (like I’ll do today) isn’t super high on my list of fun things to do.

But I’m worried (maybe needlessly, but I worry) that TheKid will have a blood-sugar issue during a game, and the coach might not be ready to handle that. The parents’ meeting the other night didn’t help reassure me on this matter–the varsity coach told parents that if our child is injured at a game or practice, he should see the trainer before we take him to a doctor. Well, that’s fine if it’s a home game, but if the game is an hour away (like today’s game) and the trainer is gone by the time the team bus returns to school, I’m not going to wait until after school tomorrow to get the trainer’s opinion on whether my injured child needs medical attention–just because the trainer will “make sure the players get back on the field quickly and doctors make them wait weeks to return.” I feel like we were being told that the athletes’ health is less of a priority than a winning record. Maybe that’s not the case, but that’s how I interpreted it.

So I struggled about deciding to make it a priority to attend the games. Right now, for my own peace of mind, I’ll drive the hour and sit in the heat and be there, checking that glucose-monitor app and just keeping an eye on my kid. Once the game is over and I know that all is well, I’ll leave in my car, because he has to stay and watch the end of the varsity game and then ride the team bus home.

In other news, I have a couple of articles up at CatholicMom this week that you might like:

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Book Notes Goes to Middle School: 7 Riddles to Nowhere

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Intercessory Prayer Gets Behind the Wheel
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Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

#OpenBook: August 2016 Reads

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The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading. We went on vacation during August, so I had plenty of time to savor some good novels!


pretty-lies-other-storiesPretty Lies and Other Stories by Olivia Folmar Ard. Short stories and poetry, all first-person and nearly all anonymous. Ard’s short fiction is very short indeed–the longest selections are a few pages long, but she wastes no words in telling very detailed slice-of-life tales.


anne-green-gables-collectionAnne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery. Not just for middle-schoolers; I found more to like in Marilla this time around. When I was a tween/teen, she was the villain in the novels! Anne is captivating and wise beyond her years. The second book is less compelling than the first, but still worthwhile. I wasn’t motivated to read more in the series, though.

saving-abbySaving Abby by Steena Holmes. Steena Holmes gets you hooked on a character and then turns your expectations and emotions inside-out in this novel about a husband and wife who want nothing more than to become parents. A devastating diagnosis threatens the life of both the unborn baby and the mother-to-be.

everything-we-keepEverything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale. She should be dressed in a bridal gown instead of attending her fiance’s funeral. Aimee never saw the body, either. So when a psychic approaches her after the service with claims that her fiance is still alive, she HAS to follow up. This is a novel of grief, the power of love, and letting go.

pug-listThe Pug List by Alison Hodgson. Read after I heard part of an author interview on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show (Sirius/XM’s The Catholic Channel.) I just didn’t know what to make of this book sometimes. I’m aware that it was written after the trauma of a house fire (everyone was fine, but the home was a total loss) and the family was at loose ends as a result, but sometimes I felt that the emotion, expressed after the fact, seemed forced and overpowered the story the author was trying to tell.

unexpected-everythingThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. YA novel about a politician’s daughter who loses an internship after her father’s political fall from grace. A dog-walking job introduces her to a young novelist and forces her to consider what really matters in terms of relationships and honesty. Good story of resilience and friendship.

life-listThe Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman. Brett’s mother is a high-powered cosmetics executive. After her death, 34-year-old Brett receives her life-goal list–written when she was only 14. Brett has 12 months to achieve those goals in order to receive her inheritance. An enjoyable, if predictable, read. There really weren’t too many plot twists, but I did like the characters and wanted to see how it all turned out.

recipe-by-candace-calvertThe Recipe by Candace Calvert. Short, sweet romance about a young woman seeking her way in the world, aided by a little blackmail, a stroke victim, an organic farmstand and a well-intentioned grandson. Good story with great characters!


WLA-PWorks of Love are Works of Peace by Michael Collopy. While biographies are a wonderful way to get to know a person, they don’t always tell the whole story. Photographer Michael Collopy proves that images can say much more than words in this newly-reissued photobook from Ignatius Press, which documents the work of St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity. Originally published in 1996, the large-format book has been updated with an appendix containing the contents of the Missionaries of Charity daily prayer book as well as a most personal and profound letter on the interior life written by Mother Teresa during Holy Week of 1993 and addressed to her entire order. Described by the publisher as an “illustrated prayer book,” this book is an extended photo essay that brings home the radical life of service modeled by Blessed Mother Teresa and the Sisters. Full review here.

marys-wayMary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God by Judy Klein. This is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. Judy Klein shares her own heartbreaks as a mother, tracing her journey as a parent and a Catholic. But this book is more than a memoir: it’s a call to a very specific kind of prayer by mothers for their own children. Full review here.

Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Thank you!

I received review copies of both nonfiction books from the publishers in exchange for my honest review. I purchased all the fiction books myself or borrowed them from the library. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at!

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Monday Recap: September 5, 2016

Monday recap 2016 edition

It’s the first Monday of the month, so I’ve gathered up links to the work I’ve done in other spaces, from book reviews and Tech Talk (will I ever get to Inbox Zero?) to recipes and back-to-school tips from none other than Ramona’s mom!


Image via Pixabay (2009), CC0 Public Domain


Tech Talk: Is Inbox Zero a Pipe Dream? I fight an ongoing battle with my inbox. Are you working on controlling your email? Find out what works for a detail-oriented thinker.

“Beverly Cleary Fandom” by Multnomah County Library (2014) via Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0


Mrs. Quimby’s 6 Best Back-to-School Tips (Plus One from Me). I loved reading Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” series as a child. Turns out, these books are chock-full of sound parenting advice.


Book Notes: Works of Love are Works of Peace. My review of the newly-reissued photobook about Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Works of Love are Works of Peace. This book will challenge and change the way you serve.


Book Notes: “Mary’s Way” Encourages Praying Moms. Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. I reviewed this new book by contributor Judy Klein.

At Catholic Underground

A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Catholic Underground picked up my review of Stephanie Engelman’s A Single Bead. Thanks for hosting me!

At Cook and Count

I haven’t made too many new dishes this summer, so there’s just one recipe this time!

shrimp fra diavolo for 2Shrimp Fra Diavolo for Two

At Dynamic Women of Faith

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Book Review: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. The book is out now, so be sure to order your copy today! Want an autographed copy? Leave a comment or email me for details.

Monday recap 2016 edition

Small Success and Chocolate Therapy Cookies

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Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Honestly, I kind of feel like I’m spinning my wheels right now. Or maybe “running around in a hamster wheel” is a better way to describe it. Either way, I’m just feeling scattered. I took my scattered self to Adoration today and left after an hour, no less scattered than when I’d walked in.

A couple of things I’ve gotten right:

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  • I invented some new cookies yesterday. Chocolate cookies with bittersweet chocolate chips, pecans and craisins. 6 inches across (I don’t mess around.)
  • I made the cookies to cheer up a friend who’s grieving the loss of one of her good friend’s husbands.
  • I baked a double batch of those cookies.
  • I was able to say “yes” when my cookie-receiving friend mentioned that her friend could use a dinner for tonight (guess what’s for dessert?)

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