The Only Bag I Need Today

I dug my trusty tote bag out of the closet yesterday.

I have other totes. Several of them, in all shapes and sizes. Most of them are fancy and professional-looking, and some even have a special place for my water bottle. Most of them aren’t stained in places, and their handles aren’t frayed.

But this is the tote I dug out of the closet yesterday, because today I’m going to need it.




I’m going to need my Caregiver Bag.

This bag has gone with me to medical visits for at least a decade. It has room for my water bottle. And tissues. And waiting-room snacks. And the book I’ll bring, but definitely won’t read, in the waiting room. And whatever papers we’re handed, with instructions and arrangements and marching orders.

(And a rosary, though there are already 3 of those in my handbag.)

It’s been a decade, and this bag and I are in it for the long haul. Maybe that’s why, every time I get a shiny new bag, I hang onto this one despite the stains and the frayed handle.

I’ve hung onto that handle on some very dark days. And I’ve held it on the days when we heard good news, when we walked out of hospitals breathing a sigh of relief, because this time we were sure we were done with this.

So today, I’ll pack up that bag again with the snacks and the water bottle and the tissues and the extra rosary and the book I won’t read. I’ll grab onto those fraying straps and walk confidently through that familiar parking garage and into those halls I’ve walked so many times before, and I’ll remember that this is not a burden I have to carry alone.

Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

girl copying off boy's paper in school

Time to Stop Looking

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29)

This pretty much sums up Instagram for me, some days.

I like some things on Instagram. One of my kids shares photos of mountains he’s climbed (though sometimes the views are a little scary for me), and another posts little videos of her silly cat. I like the graphics with encouraging phrases. I like the prayers. I like the pictures of delicious dinners (and cookies) with links in bio to recipes.

What I don’t like so much is my reaction to the other stuff on Instagram. Since Instagram has become a replacement blogging platform, it’s populated by women who fill it with their perfect homes, perfect furniture, perfect flowers, perfect perfection. Their heartfelt 800-word articles accompany these illustrations.

“So beautiful!”

“Such an inspiration!”

“So vulnerable!”

“So wise!”

The comments go on and on, and I’m over here feeling left out in all that beauty and all that sentiment.


girl cheating off a boy's paper at school


We had our house repainted in December 2019 and the pictures are still not back on the walls. I had this grand idea that I wanted to re-frame them in all the same frames (I probably saw something like that on Instagram), but was only able to find half of the sizes I need when I went shopping for those in January, and that project has simply stalled out. That pile of new frames and the pile twice as high of old pictures? There’s no beauty there.

Maybe if I spent less time on social media and more time cleaning my house, it would look like something out of a magazine too (oh, who am I kidding – it’s never going to look like that, but it would look better for sure).

Maybe if I got off the couch and used my phone to play an exercise video instead of tormenting myself with other people’s salads and waistlines, I’d find my waist once again.

And I guess I’m just not the sentimental sort, but I’m just about driven to tears here by all the moms who are weeping on Instagram about back-to-school, especially those sending children off to college. Maybe it’ll hit me after my kid actually leaves for college, since he’s my last one, but at this point I’m just glad for the prospect that he’ll get to go live at college at all – homecolleging is not the best way to go, especially when you’re a science major. But I see all the moms lamenting their babies leaving home and wonder what in the world is wrong with me.

My coping mechanism is to “keep it real” and post something self-deprecating (or – worse – something that makes someone else in my house look bad) because this way I shame myself before someone else gets the chance. I do this way too much for that to be considered a healthy strategy.

Is my right eye causing me to sin? When it’s looking at Instagram, yes, I think it is. I find myself giving in to envy about other people’s homes, stuff, appearance, and emotions. I don’t resent that they have what I don’t, but I wallow in self-pity because I don’t have what they do.

I think it’s time for me to take action in two ways.

I need to go to confession. And I need to start using the unfollow and mute functions on social media until I can have a better attitude toward the total strangers whose carefully curated lives I’m comparing to my own, and falling short every time.


sad woman looking at cell phone

Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva Pro

“Kick Me: Clinging to the hurt”

Last night when we were on our way home from dinner, we stopped to let some people cross in front of us in a parking lot. Hubs recognized them and said, “Isn’t that …” but couldn’t think of their names.

“The people who didn’t call you back when you volunteered,” I shot back, as he tooted his horn and waved in greeting.

My comment came from a place of hurt, but that doesn’t mean it was warranted. I could just as easily have reminded Hubs of their names. But, as I always do, I let that old grudge take over.

My superpower is hanging on to grudges. I’m really good at it. I could write a long essay detailing the many offenses behind my retort, but where would that get me?

Fact is, we’re not part of the in crowd. We don’t belong to the clique. We’re not rich enough or stylish enough or fit enough or beautiful enough. We don’t drink enough or travel enough or own a shore home. And we’ve discovered that in certain settings, people who volunteer but don’t belong to the clique don’t get called upon to help.

That hurts. Deeply. You’d think that now that I’m solidly in middle age, it wouldn’t bother me so much, but you’d be wrong. I’m hurt, and I’m steadily crossing the line into bitter.

Worse, I’ve passed along that bitterness to my kids — I’ve heard echoes of my own pain in their words.

Honestly, hanging on to all that hurt is exhausting. I hold tight to it, thinking that will help. I’m not sure what I think it will help me do.

It won’t make me rich enough or stylish enough or fit enough or beautiful enough.

It won’t get me into a clique that I don’t belong in anyway.

It won’t take away the very real fear that I’ll get hurt again.

I cling to the hurt like it’s a security blanket, hoping it will become a protective armor (or, at the very least, an invisibility cloak.)

But in reality, it’s more like that “kick me” sign the third-grade bully pins on the back of your T-shirt.

Closing myself off from the people who shut me out doesn’t prevent me from getting hurt.

Maybe it’s time to try something new. Anni Harry writes:

At the end of the day, my response to the “cool moms” is what is most important. I can lambaste them, throw shade toward them, or think bad things of them. And, I have to admit, I struggled this past weekend to not give in to excoriating them – both in thought and word.

Yet, every time I began to get angry, there was a calm voice running under the current – pray for them.

I have learned through the past five years that prayer is an amazing thing. When I pray for someone I don’t get along with, or someone who has hurt me, I find myself changing. I am strengthened and given a different perspective. I stop finding fault with the other individual/s, and rather, focus on the contributions I can bring to the world – I focus on being the change I would like to see. So, if you are struggling with another person, I encourage you to join me in praying for them.

Via Pixabay (2014), CC0 Public Domain

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#WorthRevisit: Professional-Grade Worry

Professional grade worry

I live a lot of my life in the realm of “what if,” probably borrowing trouble, but I can’t make it stop. Yesterday was a big day for worry around here. I had an afternoon meeting whose agenda included 3 sets of contingency plans. TheKid was on a diabetes roller-coaster ride, for reasons we hadn’t determined, so that was on my mind. And I had a lot to do for work — and all sorts of things were conspiring to distract me.

This morning I received an email that resolved the need for 2 of those 3 contingency plans, and I’m breathing a lot easier as a result. But looking back on my tendency to worry, I found my Small Steps blog tour “randomly-assigned” reflection — on worry.

(The Holy Spirit is funny like that.)

small steps

From Small Steps for Catholic Moms:


“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

– St. Padre Pio


Sweet Jesus, help me to replace the fearful conversation I have inside my head with constant prayer. Whenever I fall into my old habit of worrying interiorly, nudge me. Remind me to put it all in your hands instead.


Copy the quote above and put it in an obvious place where it will remind you not to let worry run around inside your head. Pray! Pray! Pray instead!

It very nearly killed me when I read the “randomly” assigned page that I was given to use. I think that out of this whole book–and I’ve read a good chunk of it already–this page is the one that speaks to me most right now. Shivers down the spine, friends! I am a pro at worrying and had never considered that worry is really based in fear. I could chew on this idea for much more than the single day that’s devoted to it … and I hope that by coming to terms with my tendency to worry, I can learn to put it aside and take my fears to prayer, laying them at the feet of the Lord instead of letting them weigh heavy on my soul and my family.

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!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

"Two small kindnesses" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (

Two Small Kindnesses

"Two small kindnesses" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Yesterday was quite a day.

My daughter had her wisdom teeth out. That was a 4-hour chunk of the day, almost half of which was devoted to driving. All went well and she’s sore but not sick, so we are grateful. That’s the part of the day that went right.

As for the rest of it:

TheKid found a dead bunny in the backyard when he was mowing the lawn.

I’d been up since 4:30 AM getting the hang of my new job and trying mightily to stay caught up on my first job. (“Just keep swimming … “)

My daughter is dog-sitting and since she’s not allowed to drive until tomorrow because she had anesthesia, I had to drive her 4 miles each way two times to take care of the dog.

TheKid had soccer practice from 5 to 7:30.

I was supposed to sing at Mass at 7 PM with the folk group, but Hubs was in New York for the day for training, so he wasn’t going to be home in time for the end of soccer practice, and my daughter can’t drive. So … no church for me. I’ll have to go tomorrow and take my chances on the music.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand … the dryer is broken.

My daughter’s boyfriend arrived, milkshake in hand, while I was getting TheKid after practice. He drove an hour each way after working all day to bring her a vanilla shake.

It was well after 8 PM by the time I’d cooked, we’d eaten, and I got things put away, then headed out to the laundromat with two heavy loads of wet laundry and the pots and pans still in the sink.

I bundled all the socks and towels into two big dryers and settled in with my Kindle to wait for it to be done.

My daughter texted me to ask if I wanted her to finish the dishes. I told her not to worry about it; she was hurting and I was giving her the day off from chores. Then, a few minutes later: “My boyfriend washed the dishes.”

He’s a keeper.

Then the dryers buzzed and I started the foldathon before heading home. I was one sock short, but figured it had just gotten separated out at home. As I piled everything into my basket, a lady unloading her washing machines turned around with my other sock in her hand to ask if it was mine.

Then she went and held the door open for me as I carried my overloaded basket outside.

Earlier, I had almost been reduced to tears by the small erosions of things going wrong. The tears finally came as I slid my laundry basket into the back seat of my car. Gratitude. Relief. And, yes, exhaustion.

Two small kindnesses, when the day had very nearly gotten the best of me.

They might not seem like a very big deal, but when the day is full of little things that go wrong, two little kindnesses mean a very great deal.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

A Grumpy Kind of Morning: #WorthRevisit

This is shaping up to be one of those days where things just don’t fall into place, where you have to push and shove and jam every puzzle piece and hope it will lock into the right spot–because if not, it’s locked into the wrong spot and God help you when you try to get it back out.

I’m going to need a little extra help today–not because anything big has gone wrong, but those little things are going to be the death of me. For example:

  • The Kid missed the bus. Again. I didn’t want to have to leave to drive him, because…
  • We have a contractor coming to do some repair work around here. He spoke to Hubs yesterday while I was not home. Hubs told me the contractor would be here today, but hadn’t asked the guy what time he’d be here. I don’t do uncertainty well in circumstances like this.
  • Middle Sister woke up and told me that the contractor had said he would not be here today but would start on Thursday.
  • I found this out just 10 minutes too late to be able to get to daily Mass (which, I’m sure we can all agree, I could have used).
  • I have to untangle some stupid prescription red tap regarding pen needles for The Kid’s insulin. I placed an order yesterday with our long-term prescription plan, who apparently contacted the endocrinologist for confirmation, who sent the renewed script to CVS, who cannot fill it because we have to use the long-term prescription source for stuff like this. I’m already 2 phone calls into the process. What’s the over/under on how many more I’ll need to make before it’s worked out?

All stupid little things, so why am I sitting here ready to break out in tears over them?

For this Worth Revisiting Wednesday, I’m looking back at another day 3 years ago

And the walls came tumbling down.

Not the walls of my home (thank God!) but the emotional walls that I use to hold everything in and keep it all together.  Sometimes there is just way too much for those walls to hold.  And usually it’s some stupid little thing that causes them to cave in.

Erasmus Quellinus II [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Erasmus Quellinus II [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Who’s the patron saint of people who sweat the small stuff? Maybe it’s Martha:

Martha, you are anxious about many things. –Luke 10:41

That’s me, in a nutshell.

Art: Erasmus Quellinus II [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My Superpower: Thinking the Worst

This afternoon I got ready to drive Hubs back to the airport so he can go back to Kansas. (This is the fifth straight week of business trips. He says the end is in sight.) We waited for The Kid to get off the school bus, and Hubs gave him a hug goodbye.

“Wait, he’s not coming?” I asked.

“He’s 13. He can stay by himself.”

That was my cue to ratchet up the anxiety level to Red Alert. Not because I’m worried that The Kid would do anything he shouldn’t do while we were out. Not because I’m worried that he’d run into blood-sugar issues while we were out. Not because I’m worried that someone would try to rob the house while The Kid was the only one home.

I was freaking out because this trip to the airport was happening at the beginning of rush hour. And the airport is in another state. It’s 30 minutes from home, but it’s in another state. And what if there was a car accident? Then The Kid would be home alone for God knows how long until someone could get to him. Especially if the accident happened on the way to the airport.

I’ve been home for almost 2 hours and I still clench up inside to think of it. This cartoon sums me up perfectly:

Anxiety Girl, found at
Anxiety Girl, found at

Now, obviously I got back here just fine. But that trip home from the airport, while I was alone in the car, was a tough one.

I wasn’t paralyzed enough to keep me from being able to make that drive. But I certainly had a hard time getting past those irrational thoughts that kept me from making a mildly-stressful trip in only a mildly-stressed state of mind. And the whole time I was well aware that I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Yup. I’m a mess. And I have no idea how to stop it.

Crying It Out

Those tears I should have cried 16 months ago are trying to leak out now, at the most inopportune moments.

Some of the stuff The Kid carries everyplace he goes. Because diabetes.
Some of the stuff The Kid carries everyplace he goes. Because diabetes.

I guess I’ve found the limit of how long I can pretend to be strong.

Ever since Saturday, I am struggling to keep the tears back. We spent much of the day at an event for families of diabetic children, sponsored by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the JDRF. That event has outgrown its venue, which is good in one way because more people can learn important strategies to help their kids manage diabetes, but bad in another because it means that there are very, very many kids who have to learn to manage diabetes.

On Saturday morning, everyone at the conference was jam-packed into a hotel ballroom, where someone had played a game of “How Many Skinny, Uncomfortable Chairs Can You Pack Into One Conference Room” and each and every person in the audience was the loser. As it got more crowded, I got more tense and upset until I couldn’t stand being in there anymore. My heart was racing and my eyes were filling with tears and I felt like I couldn’t breathe in there. Well, hello, panic attack! How nice of you to come at such an inconvenient moment!

I missed most of the keynote address because I was hiding in the bathroom battling back the tears, then sipping a (decaf) mocha in the lobby, where the chairs were far away from each other. I managed to calm down enough to make it through the day, but I haven’t really decompressed completely since then, so I almost broke down this morning in the school parking lot, during Mass, and in ShopRite.

Besides the (very reasonable under the circumstances) claustrophobia, I think a lot of this is because I never did cry when The Kid was diagnosed with diabetes. I had to jump right into management mode, because there’s no luxury of time to do anything else. We went straight from diagnosis into a 3-day boot camp, then home to deal with it all on our own.

I’m pretty sure that’s part of the reason that every time we go to a Diabetes Convention, where the focus is All Diabetes, All The Time, I break down. Last year it wasn’t as bad; I just couldn’t manage sitting at the lunch table talking diabetes with other parents, so I wandered around the exhibit hall. That seemed to head it all off at the pass. I also don’t deal well when we go to things like cast parties or school events, where I freak out at all the unlabeled food, though we’ve done fairly well at counting carbs at such times.

I’ve been too busy being the mom and trying to stay competent and, you know, keep my kid alive. I haven’t had time to cry.

Also, if I let myself cry, does that mean that this has beaten me?

The thing is, I look around at the crosses all these other people are bearing, and I feel ashamed that I am being brought to my knees by what seems to be comparatively small stuff. I should just be able to roll with it and handle this, right?


I don’t have thick enough skin to handle the kinds of conflicts that come when people who think everything must be done their way don’t get their way.

I got stuck in one of these this morning, and I am reeling right now.

A bit of background:  I’ve administrated the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Little Brother’s school for the past year and a half. Because our principal is cautious regarding cyberbullying, it was agreed that any comments made to the school’s Facebook page would be deleted.

facebook logoIn 18 months, I have never seen anything but positive comments (and an occasional question) but I remove those comments anyway.

As a courtesy to the people whose comments are deleted, I take the time to send them a message like this one:

“I’m sorry; I had to remove your comment from the school Facebook page. I realize that it was a positive comment but per the school administration, no comments are allowed on the page. Unfortunately Facebook will not allow us to set the page up that way. You may “like” but not comment. Thanks for understanding!”

Because of the way Facebook works, sometimes these messages wind up in people’s “Other” folder, where messages from people they’re not connected with on Facebook land. But sometimes I get replies to these messages, and usually they’re simply apologies and the whole thing is over and done.

Not today.

I removed a positive comment and sent my standard message and got a very angry response.

“It’s a sad world we live in…I don’t like you sending me a personal note…that is a shame…you shouldn’t even have a website…tell that to the principal.”

An attempt at a courteous response resulted in nothing but Feeding The Trolls.

And now I am sitting here trying to keep a lid on my emotions because a nasty message on social media has me all wound up and overwrought. I’m clenched and shaky and holding back the tears.

Social anxiety, anyone? (Social media anxiety…?)

All because someone I’ve never met in person (and am not likely to, as her children have already graduated from the school) was less-than-gracious when I dared to uphold a school policy.

And I don’t know how to make this go away, this reaction that is completely out of proportion to the situation I’m in.

Trust, Insecurity and Double-Checking

My child’s life depends on double-checking.

He has a continuous glucose monitor that constantly checks his blood sugar–but at least twice a day he has to do a finger stick to double-check that the monitor is correct.

dexcom g4When he leaves the house, we’re always asking him if he has his supplies (and the receiver to his monitor, which he removes from his pocket when he comes in the door. His routine:  take off shoes, take monitor out of pocket.)

I’m OK with that, because he’s a kid.

But when someone double-checks ME, it never fails. I get all bent out of shape, and I react in a manner that’s WAY out of proportion with the situation.

Just this morning:  I woke Little Brother up in time for him to get ready to go to theater camp. I asked what he wanted for breakfast and we figured out the carbs. As I scrambled eggs, he gave himself a shot. I wrote down his blood sugar, carbs and dose of insulin and went back to the stove to finish the eggs. Hubs walked in and asked Little Brother if he’d had a shot yet.

“I’m RIGHT HERE with him,” I yelled.

It’s not Hubs’ fault for double-checking. This is MY problem. Double-checking is important, but when someone double-checks me, I get all sorts of offended and upset. I feel like they don’t think I’m good enough to manage the task on my own. I feel like I’m not being trusted to do it.

There is no room for insecurity like that when it comes to dealing with diabetes. Hubs and I need to work as a team–and we need to be able to double-check each other and communicate well.

I could have just answered, “Done.” I could have said, “I wrote it down.” I could have just given a thumbs-up and turned back to the stove.

What am I so afraid of, anyway?