Failing at the Heroic Minute

All I wanted was a Pajama Day.

Last night I realized that, since I’m playing at the 7 PM holy-day Mass tonight, I could take my time about things and spend the morning in my PJs. I wouldn’t have to get dressed until it was time to head to Adoration at noon.

I relished the idea of working in my PJs, with the bonus of avoiding an early-morning shower-schedule collision with my daughter.

I even woke up a few minutes early! And I remembered that I’d be hanging around in my PJs, so I put on my cozy slippers and went downstairs to make my cup of tea and begin my morning routine.

All was well until TheKid’s alarm went off at 6, and he didn’t get up. He didn’t get up at 6:10 or 6:15 when I called to him from the hallway.

He didn’t get up until 6:24.

I wasn’t sweating it TOO much, because he’d said that his first-period class was having bagel sandwiches for breakfast and he’d already brought in his money to give to the classmate who was picking up the order. THEN he told me that the breakfast party had been moved to tomorrow.

And that’s when I failed at the Heroic Minute.

Succeeding at St. Josemaría Escrivá’s Heroic Minute is getting up when you’re supposed to. No snooze alarm. No rolling over and pulling the blanket over your head. I’m normally pretty good on that score.

For me, the Heroic Minute involves managing a graceful response when someone throws a monkey wrench into your plans.

I like plans. Monkey wrenches, not so much.

At 6:24 I kind of lost it when I realized that I was going to have to change out of my pajamas so I could drive TheKid to school, because there was no way he’d manage to shower, dress, and finish breakfast before his bus arrived at 7:13.

Me: I have nowhere to be until noon today. Don’t miss the bus and make me have to get dressed to drive you to school.

Kid: You don’t have to get dressed. You’ll be in the CAR.

Me: What if there’s an accident?! (Why yes, I did just hear my mother’s words … and her mother’s … come out of my mouth.)

Kid: If there’s an accident, nobody’s going to care if you’re in your pajamas.

Being my mother’s daughter, there is no possible way I could leave the house in pajamas. Or slippers. So I put on my sweatpants (translation: almost-pajamas that are fit to wear outside the house) and a pair of sneakers and grumped around folding laundry until it hit me.

I was mad because my kid’s laziness wasn’t letting me indulge in being lazy.


So I grabbed my car keys, and off we went, and we had a laugh about the music on the radio (instead of a fight, as is our usual), and I hope we redeemed the bad start to the day — just a bit.

Lesson learned. I don’t get to plan to be lazy, whether that means hanging out in pajamas for half the day, or indulging in spiritual laziness.

I should be grateful for the surprise of down time when it comes my way, but I should not take it for granted.

The soul of the sluggard craves, and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4)

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Image: Canva


#WorthRevisit: A Recommended Lenten Practice

Lent is only one week away! Here’s a suggestion for a virtue to cultivate in the upcoming season. From February 2009, some wisdom from the dearly-missed Father H:

This morning at Mass, Father observed that in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, the phrase “fear of the Lord” was repeated four times. And he explained that God is not someone we are to be terrified of, like something in a horror movie. That’s not what fear of the Lord is all about.

He recommended that this Lent, we all practice growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord: wondering at the mystery of God and all that He created. He said that the more you grow in this virtue, the more awesome you understand God to be.

Read here what one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Hilary, wrote about fear of the Lord.

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!

Boycott Burnout?

This afternoon I was listening to my favorite radio show, The Catholics Next Door, on Sirius XM (totally worth the price of the subscription just for this show, by the way!)  Hosts Greg and Jennifer Willits were discussing boycotts.  I wish they’d allotted more time to this issue.

That topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  For about the past 20 years, my family has participated in the Life Decisions International boycott of companies that support Planned Parenthood.  That means no Levi’s, no Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, no Texaco gas–among so many other things.

And then there’s the Dump Starbucks Campaign, triggered by their announcement that same-sex marriage is core to who they are and what they value as a company.  More recently, Target announced that proceeds from a line of Pride T-shirts would fund the Family Equality Council.

Now, I don’t get Starbucks much; I don’t like their coffee.  If I want a $4 fancy coffee, I’ll go to Panera and get my latte there.  But Target is right around the corner and it’s my go-to store for a lot of things, replacing Wal-Mart, which is farther away and which has boycott issues of its own regarding labor issues, Chinese suppliers and more.

Maybe I’m just wimping out because this is hitting too close to home.  But it’s starting to feel like I won’t have anywhere to shop if I support all these boycotts.

Do they do any good?  Do the companies really care if I (not a big spender anyway) spend what I do spend someplace else?  Does anybody care?  After all, the American Cancer Society has been linked to support of Planned Parenthood, yet my parish still participates in the local Relay for Life.

So, am I lazy?  Tired?  Wimpy?  Is the devil on my back?  Or do I need to find another way to make a difference?

To love, honor and obey

Every January, my Secular Franciscan fraternity celebrates with a ritual called Extraction of Saints, in which we are assigned a patron saint for the year, a virtue to develop, a maxim to live by, and another fraternity member to remember in special prayer.

This year, my virtue was Obedience.

I knew I was in for it when that one came along. Ask God for a virtue and He’ll generously respond with a challenge to help you get there.

This is not to say that I think God is in any way responsible for the medical condition (endometriosis) that led to my recent surgery. I don’t think that’s how things work. But that surgery is an opportunity for me to use God’s grace to grow in virtue.

It’ll be another three weeks, at least, before I’m allowed behind the wheel. I can’t be running down the basement stairs, hauling laundry, mopping, vacuuming, and bending over to get heavy pots and pans out of the cabinets.

They sent me a babysitter in the form of Mom for this week, to make sure I don’t do anything I shouldn’t. Next week, my husband will be working from home with the same end in mind. But I admit, I’m not super-tempted to cheat at this point. Thought about it on Monday, then reconsidered.

The resentment about not being able to do my usual things is evaporating. Offers of help from friends are accepted, tough though it can be for me to let someone do things for me. Grace has been busy, I guess. And I am very blessed, and very grateful.



I can command it (fourth-graders fear me) but living it is another matter.

After all, it’s my way or the highway.  Isn’t that what we all expect?  It’s taken me 40-mumble years, but I am coming around…a little…to the realization that it’s not always going to be my way.  Not even close.

Every January, the Secular Franciscans in my fraternity start the year off right.  We pray together, and then each of us is given the name of a patron saint, a virtue to cultivate, a maxim to live by, and a person within the fraternity to hold in prayer through the year.

My virtue this year is Obedience.  (Cue eye-rolling.)  Obedience?  Really?  I follow the rules, except for the speed limit.

There’s a little more to it than that, though.  It’s the question of attitude.  Like the “how dare they” mentality I get when I’m asked/told/required to do something that really IS the right thing to do, but since it’s not what I happen to want to do at the moment, I’ve got no mind to obey it.

The word “obedience” comes from a Latin root meaning “to hear.”  That’s what it’s all about, really.  That’s why, when I’m dealing with fourth graders, I’ll sometimes ask them to repeat directions back to me so that I can make sure they heard them correctly.

But what do we hear?  To whom do we listen?  There are so many messages to listen to:  Facebook, Twitter, the news media…I’m reminded of a line from Pippin that asks, “Would a newspaper ever print anything that wasn’t true?”  Are we listening to those sources that have our best interests at heart?

Psalm 119 says:  “Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart.  Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight.  Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain.”

It’s all about “Thy will be done.”  And we don’t want to have to say that.  But if we really believe that God has our best interests at heart, we will learn to say it.

My prayer this year, then, will not be one written by Saint Francis but instead this one composed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

Who Makes Your Coffee–Mary or Martha?

I have two coffeepots: a regular old automatic-drip pot and a French press.

When I got the French press, I thought it was so great that I considered putting away my drip coffeemaker. That would save me about a square foot of counter space, which in my tiny kitchen is no small potatoes.

I haven’t stowed away the drip coffeepot, though–and I think that’s because there’s a little too much Martha in me.  And I’m not talking about Martha Stewart, either.

The drip coffeemaker allows me to be Martha when I need to.   All I have to do is fill it up and hit the switch.  The coffee brews without my paying any further attention to it.  That means that I can wake the kids up for school, unload the dishwasher, and pack lunch sandwiches while the coffee brews.  If I get distracted and don’t get to pour that cup of coffee right away, it’ll sit there and stay hot until I can get to it.  It’s definitely the kind of appliance that allows me to keep busy in the kitchen, with my mind on many things, with no adverse result if I have to keep that hot coffee waiting for a while.  That’s why using a drip coffeemaker is like being Martha; she was concerned with many things.  Martha was a multitasker, the hostess with the mostest who had a lot on her mind, and she knew that the dinner wasn’t going to cook itself.  She’d have loved a coffeepot that would do the work for her–it’s one less concern she’d have when she held a dinner party.

Using a French press, on the other hand, is a very “Mary” way to make coffee.  It’s not a push-button kind of thing.  A French press requires that you pay attention to it, much like the way Mary dropped everything to sit at the feet of Jesus.  I think of Mary as a “one thing at a time” kind of girl.  She wasn’t going to multitask.  Everything she did got her full and complete attention.  So she wouldn’t mind warming the press, bringing the water almost to a boil, adding the coffee and hot water, waiting four minutes, then pressing out the coffee and pouring that fragrant first cup.  She’d be there four minutes later to do that; she wouldn’t have run down to the basement to throw in a load of laundry or gotten distracted with the peanut butter and jelly.

I love French-press coffee, but at this time in my life, I can’t always spend the ten minutes to be completely attentive to it.  Most of the time, I have a “Martha” kind of morning.  And that’s OK.  But sometimes, I manage to choose the better part, like Mary.  And when I do, I savor it.

Who makes your coffee?

Graciousness and Generosity

Those two go hand-in-hand. And I fail at both of them regularly. My first response is usually “no.” That’s 99 44/100% of the time. No.

It is my own selfishness, my own refusal to be inconvenienced, that prevents me from saying “yes.” And when I finally do say yes, I’m not gracious with my generosity–or generous with my graciousness. That kind of attitude is no good for my family.

Today’s Gospel (John 13:16-20) challenges us:

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”

Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet. What a model of graciousness and generosity! Not even the lowest slave or household servant would be expected to do such a thing, Father H. explained to us this morning at Mass. In fact, he said, it was scandalous that Jesus would have dressed as a slave and done a thing like this.

And Jesus wants us to do the same. Not literally washing someone’s feet, but acting generously and graciously when the need is presented.

I need to, at the very least, stop using things I cannot control as my excuse, and learn to stop saying “no” so much. If I cannot immediately get to “yes,” maybe I can at least get to “wait and let me think about it.”

That’s way better than “no.”

Today, may God give us all gracious and generous hearts.

Kicking the Can

I’m saying this here to boost my accountability.

It’s time for me to kick the habit.

My name is Barb, and I’m a Pepsi-holic. It’s time to get off the hard stuff and switch to water, iced tea, or lemonade.

Danielle has given up Diet Coke and that has pushed me into thinking that it’s time for me to do the same, and start looking for soda alternatives. I had already stopped buying Pepsi and bought some cans of Coke instead, and it just doesn’t taste as good to me, so I’ve already been a little motivated to avoid soda.

Yesterday was pretty easy.

But today…that can of Coke in the fridge is calling out to me, and it’s all I can do to avoid it.

Yes–I am fighting my very own Cola War right here.

Earlier today I googled “soda addictive” because I swear there’s something in these drinks that makes people compelled to drink more. I’m already drinking decaf soda, so it can’t be the caffeine. And really, soda has no redeeming nutritional value. There’s got to be some virtue in kicking this habit. Oh yeah–that would be “self-control.”

So I am off to refill my pretty, flowered glass with some more ice water while I laugh an evil, victorious laugh at the can of Coke as it gets shoved farther back into the dark recesses of the refrigerator.