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

Part of That World

The Little Mermaid was Middle Sister’s favorite movie when she was around 3 or 4.  I don’t think I’ve seen, heard or thought about that movie in at least 10 years.

But she borrowed it from a friend and watched it today as a break from a marathon final-exam cramming session.  And really, some of its messages gave me pause.

I’ve got a beautiful 16-year-old daughter who’s strong and strong-willed, who has a bit of a rebellious streak and is definitely a risk-taker.  In other words, I’m raising Ariel.

Does my Ariel think the grass is greener on the other side of some fence?  Does she wish that she were somehow different–different in a way that denies a part of her true self–so that she could fit into a world that is not hers?  Does she think that her life wouldn’t be complete unless she fit into that world?  Would she be willing to make a Faustian bargain to get there?

Is this movie’s lesson any different from the one we learn in Grease?  Boy is attracted to girl, but she’s not good enough to keep “as is.”  She has to change so they can be together.

Maybe that’s what I like about the movie Legally Blonde (silly though it may be.)  In that one, the girl changes because she thinks it will help her get her boyfriend back.  By the time he comes around, though, she discovers that he’s not the man she thought he was–and she decides not to let him get in the way of her goals.

I want my daughter to know that she doesn’t have to be Ariel, or Sandy, or even Elle Woods.  I want her to discover how wonderful she is, just because she is Middle Sister.  I want her to discover and develop her unique talents, to use her strength to help others, to love her life.

The Media-Savvy Catholic Parent

As the mom of three children, ages 20, 16 and 10, I’m right in the thick of parenting digitally-active kids in an ever-more digitally-active age.  We consume media around here.  I’m probably the only one in the house who reads books anymore–and half the time, they’re e-books.  The rest of the family stays informed through television, radio, and various new media.

In my house, you’ll find computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads and a Kindle. You’ll find video games and a Netflix subscription.  We’ve got satellite radio and satellite TV.  While I’m the only one who blogs, three of us tweet and four of us Facebook.  The ten-year-old wishes he could, but we think he’s too young for that.

And in my house, we’re Catholics.  The kids go to Catholic schools (and, in one case, a Catholic university.)  We attend Mass weekly and our children serve as musicians and altar servers.  Our reality includes grace before meals–even when friends come over to visit, my own life as a Secular Franciscan, and “prayers upstairs” with the 10-year-old before he goes to bed each night.

Books like Infinite Bandwith:  Encountering Christ in the Media are encouraging to me as a parent.  Author Eugene Gan discusses the digital realities that our children (whether young children or young adults) encounter each day without being heavy-handed.  Media of all sorts are a part of just about everyone’s life, and Gan shows parents ways to use these media tools to help others learn about–and grow closer to–God.  Gan’s book explains seven “media keys” to help people approach the use of media in a sensible, faith-filled way, so that the media we consume can nourish our faith and that we can use media to inspire the faith of others.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information. I received a review copy of this book, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review.

Sharing New Media

In an effort to get the word out as to what’s out there for Catholics who use computers, I have volunteered to supply one link per week for my parish bulletin, along with a short description. I’ll be linking to podcasts, websites and apps. All of them will be previewed before I recommend them and I’m looking for a good sampling so that there’s something for everyone.

Here are the first ones I have submitted.

8/22 Among Women Podcast

Features conversations with Catholic women from all walks of life; faith-sharing and faith-building. Each weekly podcast also includes information about a saint who brings inspiration to our lives. Podcasts are downloadable audio files; you can listen to them on your computer or mp3 player.

8/29 In Between Sundays Podcast

A podcast for young-adult Catholics, discussing how to live as a Catholic in the world outside of church. Their Facebook page allows listeners to connect with and support each other.

9/5 The Deacon’s Bench

A permanent deacon in the diocese of Brooklyn, NY includes homilies, interviews, Catholic news items and inspirational stories along with some fun stuff in this blog. Updated often and always interesting.

9/12 Catholic Mom

Catholic author Lisa Hendey hosts this site, which includes a podcast, book reviews, Sunday gospel activities for children, and articles by a host of columnists and contributors. You’ll also find reflections on the daily Mass readings, weekly fiction features, and giveaways of Catholic books and CDs.

9/19 Divine Office

Want to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours without the confusion of a big prayer book? This free website provides the daily prayers in both written and audio versions. The Liturgy of the Hours is the daily prayer of the Church and is not just for priests and deacons; everyone can participate in these prayers. There’s also a free app for your iPhone or iPod.

9/26 Faith & Family Live
This group blog is more than just a collection of essays; it’s open for comments so it becomes a discussion. Topics include parenting, education, homemaking, working, book reviews, a weekly podcast and more. There’s also a print magazine: Faith and Family.

Rosary Army
Learn how to make all-twine knotted Rosaries; download free mp3 files of the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other topics. Hosted by a young family of seven.

10/10 Grace Before Meals
Join Father Leo as he presents recipes for delicious food and ideas on strengthening family life. Sign up for his free weekly newsletter or watch online videos of his program.

10/17 QuoteCatholic
“A collection of the best, coolest, inspiring, most thought-provoking and wise Catholic quotes on the world wide web,” according to founder Matt Warner. Organized by topic. Sign up for a daily quote via email or Twitter.

Catholic Tech Tips
Catholic Tech Tips was created to help teens use new media technologies to share their faith and love of Christ with others — and to maybe learn some life skills at the same time. It’s not just for kids; parents can learn too!

10/31 Saint of the Day
This site, hosted by the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press, features a daily mini-biography of the saint whose feast we celebrate on that date. There’s also an iPhone app, including audio and a searchable calendar.

NOV. 7

Podcast, a blog and more by a priest in the Diocese of Providence, RI.  This priest even has his own iPhone app!

NOV. 14
Summa This, Summa That

A group blog on Catholicism, culture, politics and more.  There’s plenty to learn and plenty to consider.

NOV. 21
Catholic Foodie

“Where food meets faith”—this site includes recipes and highlights how good food can be a sign of God’s love for us and our families.  There’s a podcast you can download as well.

Father JC Maximilian

Father “JC Maximilian” is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton.  He posts his Sunday homilies on his blog as well as “Liturgical Footnotes” that cover different aspects of the Mass.  Updated about twice a week.

O Night Divine

Crafts, foods, and activities for parents and children to share during the season of Advent.

Advent and Christmas resources at

Prayers, projects, coloring pages, recipes, website links, and suggestions for books and music families can enjoy together during Advent and Christmas.

Catholic Culture

Gives faithful Catholics the information, encouragement, and perspective they need as they work to shape an authentically Christian culture in a secular world.

Catholic TV

This online TV site presents diocesan television programs from throughout the USA, including the Diocese of Trenton. Watch videos online or on your iPod–no cable TV required.

Pray as You Go

Daily downloadable prayer podcasts, with music, for your MP3 player. You can also listen from your computer. Lasting 10 to 13 minutes, each podcast contains music, questions for reflection and Scripture.

Exceptional Marriages

Features resources religiously-committed Catholics need to live more faithful and abundant marriage, family, and personal lives. Links to radio programs, blogs, book suggestions, quizzes and more.

Daily With DeSales

Visit this site at the beginning of each day! Consider how St. Francis de Sales can help you to pursue a practical path to holiness precisely in the state and stage of life in which you find yourself.

Catholic News Agency

On the web, facebook, and twitter, reporting news from the Vatican as well as news of interest to Catholics in the USA and abroad. Links to daily Mass readings, saint of the day, and more.

Digital Resources for Lent

Free printable Stations of the Cross, examination of conscience, guides to understanding the Mass readings, and devotional materials.

If you have ideas for others that I can recommend to my parish, I’d appreciate your input.

It beats Bakugan.

Except for the commercials.

Ever since vuvuzela World Cup Soccer has been on TV, Little Brother has been hooked on ESPN. Each morning he wanders downstairs and turns on Sportscenter. Then I have to listen to Mr. Sports Encyclopedia (otherwise known as Little Brother) spout statistics about sports in which I have zero interest while I make his cinnamon toast.

The end of men’s World Cup Soccer did not spell the end of Sportscenter around here. He loves that show. He’ll sit under his Snuggie and watch it for hours, then run outside and kick his soccer ball around the yard. Once it gets really hot, he finishes up with a jump in the pool.

Sounds like a perfect summer–and it sure beats the Bakugan cartoons he wanted to watch every morning during the school year. But the advertising on Sportscenter is not geared toward your average eight-year-old. At eight-thirty in the morning one day, I nearly dropped a full basket of laundry when I heard a male voice bragging, “And my libido has never been better!”

I do not want to have to answer the inevitable question, “What’s a libido?” after Little Brother hears that!

No, I don’t know what product was being advertised. I didn’t stick around to find out. But I’m sure that if Little Brother ever sees it in the CVS, he’ll be the first one to loudly tell everyone what this product can do for someone’s libido. Even though he doesn’t know what that means.

Take that statistic with a grain of salt

I’ve been going through some back issues of magazines this evening, since the recycling truck will be by next week and I need to get them out of the living room. Of course, I want to grab the recipes and coupons out of the magazines before I pitch them.

In the process, I skimmed a few articles I’d missed the first time through. And I noticed just how much magazines love statistics. “Recent studies show,” or phrases like it, regularly appear in sidebars.

It takes a little discernment to deal with those statistics. If 31% of women prefer perfume as a birthday present, that means that 69% don’t. But it’s the 31% that gets the column inches, because that number proves some point.

Magazines seem to be about as reliable as Wikipedia when it comes to real information. Sure, they’re entertaining; they sometimes have good tips, great recipes and, of course, coupons. But do a little fact-checking on your own before you believe a lot of what you read.

A Sick Sense of Humor

Someone at Fox29 in Philadelphia has a pretty sick sense of humor. I love it!

When the local news returns after a commercial break, they play a quick clip of a song while showing video of some local sight–a park, William Penn atop City Hall, someone rowing on the Schuylkill River.

A few minutes ago they played a bit of Van Halen’s “Jump!” while panning the camera up a large building with many balconies on the side. Turns out they were watching a goose that was pacing up and down the railing of one of the balconies on an upper floor.

I have the feeling we’ll be seeing more of this goose this morning, unless he flies away before the news show goes off the air. The anchors have been speculating on whether he’ll poop on anyone walking on the sidewalk below. Lovely.

Free Downloadable Lenten Resources

The Catholics Next Door from Sirius XM Radio are offering some free downloadable MP3s for Lent!

At that link you can find the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and some podcasts on apologetics, total consecration to Mary, and prayer.

A big “thank you” to Greg and Jennifer Willits for making these resources available for everyone’s use!

I Watched It

Last night Middle Sister and I watched The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom. I wanted to give it a fair chance by watching it.

I stand by what I said before I saw the show, for the most part. I discovered that the soccer moms do have one day when others “fill in for them” at home, after they take the children to school or child care. After that, Mom tells the family that she is at a spa, and Dad has to watch the kids. I also learned that not all these moms have children who are school-age. On the episode I watched last night, the youngest child was not quite walking yet.

Not only is the whole family lied to by Mom, they are secretly taped by the cameras in the “spy truck.” Mom knows about that but no one else does. At one point Mom is shown footage of some tough moments in the house and how Dad’s dealing with those. I guess that’s the part where they try to see if she feels guilty about pursuing her career dream.

One lovely moment (NOT) came when the tween-age daughter said that “men can’t do anything right.” I sure hope that Middle Sister doesn’t believe that. But if she watches this show, or even Jon & Kate Plus Eight, she won’t get a different impression.

I still believe that this kind of secret has no place in a family. I think “deserve” is a word that’s way overused in our society, but it fits here. Families deserve better than this.