My plate is full. My cup runneth over.

It’s been a big week at work. First, the announcement that Holy Cross Family Ministries is welcoming CatholicMom.com as part of the family. I’m beyond grateful for the job I’ve had since March of 2015–I love the work that I get to do, and that it offers me the flexibility that my family circumstances require.

I’m equally grateful that Holy Cross Family Ministries will be keeping me on to do this work.

On the outside, things shouldn’t look too different. There may be some extra logos and links around as the various HCFM sites cross-promote each other. But nobody wants to change what makes CatholicMom.com special.

It’s so special, in fact, that founder Lisa Hendey and I won an award this weekend; for the second year in a row, CatholicMom.com placed second in the “Best group blog” category of the Catholic Press Association awards! Our names are on the award, but without the 125+ contributing writers, CatholicMom.com wouldn’t be what it is today.

closeup of blue ribbon

On the inside, things will be different. That’s the part you can’t see. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a different thing. There’s a whole team at HCFM that I’ll be working with. I’ve had a few emails from them and everyone is friendly and helpful and I think it will be easy to work with them. Eventually there will be someone who will be trained to do what I do, so there’s a backup plan in case of emergency or vacation.

I’ll have to get used to people who like to conduct business via phone instead of email, Evernote or Slack. I’ve never talked so much on my cell phone since I’ve had it than I have in the past week or so!

There are lots of people I need to meet and lots of details on lots of lists that we need to get figured out. It’s going to be a busy summer. I want to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible for the many writers whose work I edit and for the readers who see it once it goes live on the website.

Right now, I’m overwhelmed. I’m happy and apprehensive at the same time. Once I have those boxes checked off on all those lists, I know I’ll feel better. I’ll feel even better when I finally get to meet everyone in person–that’s tentatively scheduled for August. (Not that I’m not used to working for and with people I haven’t yet met; I worked for CatholicMom.com for more than four months without ever meeting Lisa or even talking with her on the phone!)

In the meantime, if you need me, I’m probably hiding holed up in my office. And there’s a good chance that I’ve put M&Ms on the grocery list. For medicinal purposes.

my plate is full my cup runneth over -sq
Image created at Recite.com. Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

A Big Announcement #WorthRevisit

Just over 5 years ago, my first article was published at CatholicMom.com. Since that first “Tech Talk” June 12, 2012, I’ve written well over 500 articles for the website: mainly book reviews, Tech Talks, and recipes for the year-round Meatless Friday feature.

In March of 2015, that volunteer opportunity turned into my dream job.

It’s exciting to be able to work for one of my very favorite websites, and to be working WITH a veritable army of amazing contributing writers.

I’ll still be doing a little writing for CatholicMom, but most of my work is behind-the-scenes. I’m like Stage Crew, but for the Internet: checking props, hauling scenery and signaling the director to bring up the lights and start the music.

Best of all, I’m working from home, which means I can be available for Mom Duty at any time, I can get to daily Mass, and I don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes. That’s a vocational WIN right there.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a stagehand for a website that’s been a big influence on my life for quite a few years.

CM joins HCFM -f

Yesterday, there was a big announcement at CatholicMom.com: it’s been welcomed into a big family at Holy Cross Family Ministries. Translation: more power for the website, a larger and possibly multilingual international audience, and the opportunity for me to continue doing what I do (within my own time zone, even–I’ve been living in Eastern Time and working in Pacific for over two years)!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and work at CatholicMom.com, and I look forward to what the future will bring.

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

Scattered

 

I used to be really good at jacks, that kids’ game where you scatter the little metal asterisks around, then toss the ball in the air and gather up the scattered pieces.

If only I had that skill when it comes to my routine. One thing out of place, and everything falls apart.

In other words, my life is a game of Jenga right now. And I’m not winning that game. I’m great at building the tower, but let just one piece get pushed out of place and it all comes crashing loudly down.

"Scattered" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS (FranciscanMom.com)
Via Flickr (2007). All rights reserved.

Does that mean my priorities are not in the right order? Or that I can’t focus unless they are?

I fought against lack of focus all day yesterday. My routine was off. Things I usually do in the morning weren’t going to get done until the afternoon, which is not my best time of day to concentrate. I had time in the afternoon, and I spent a good chunk of it trying to pay attention to what I was doing instead of peeking at my email inbox every two minutes.

Finally I turned on some music. I don’t normally listen to music when I work, but then again, I don’t normally try to work at 3 PM. So I went for the counterintuitive and cued up a playlist with not-too-loud, not-too-fast music. And I got some things done. Not as many things as I’d have liked to get done, but enough. The rest can wait until today.

And today, I hope to be playing jacks instead of Jenga.

"Scattered" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS (FranciscanMom.com)
By The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21064230

###

This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Proud Moms Tweet

When my older son graduated college last spring, he had a job offer in his pocket. I followed that company on Twitter and then immediately forgot that I had. They didn’t tweet very much, and the tweets that did come through were from their British division (judging by their spelling of “personalisation,” so I didn’t expect to see any references to my kid and his work.

I knew that, this week, he’d be in Philly for work, attending a big event. And there were suddenly lots of tweets from a usually-quiet company account. Some of the tweets had pictures.

Like this one.

original tweet

I retweeted it, adding a “there’s my kid!” remark. It’s cool to see him all grown up and hard at work.

The next day, my son called to tell me that one of his coworkers had commented, “Hey, somebody’s MOM retweeted my tweet about the event yesterday.”

My son said that this quickly morphed into a discussion about whose moms even know how to tweet, and that he’d said that I work for a blog and know more about social media than he does.

Which was quickly followed by, “Is this YOUR mom?” as a phone showing my retweet was handed over.

Well, yes, it was me.

So he called to ask how I’d found out about the event hashtag. (No such luck. I only saw the photo because his company was retweeting everything with that hashtag.)

At least I didn’t tweet this version for his coworkers to see.

photo

He didn’t say he wanted me to unfollow, though, asking instead if there had been any other photos of him in the Twitter stream.

It’s neat to listen to him talk about his work. I’ve talked to him about mine, because he can appreciate what it is to build a page with jump links in HTML. (I was ridiculously proud when I learned how to do that.)

I’ll probably try harder to refrain from retweeting any more photos from his company. No promises, though.

Photo source: twitter.com/singerde
Bottom photo modified by the author.

Summer Jobs: You Never Know What Skills You’ll Learn

The other day, the 10 Minute Novelist tweeted that her two teenage daughters had landed summer jobs that were local–and in their fields.

“They have fields?” I replied. (They’re still in high school.)

Turns out that they’d gotten jobs that were related to their career aspirations. And that’s great! But looking back at the summer jobs I held through high school, college and a my first year teaching, I realize it wasn’t so important to work “in my field.” Lessons and skills I learned in these jobs, regardless of the field, have been useful over the years.

Honestly, I was in those jobs for the paychecks (except the summer-camp job which barely paid anything). The life skills were a bonus I appreciated much later.

The library where I worked was in a remodeled home in town. It's since moved to the new municipal building. Photo source: Google Earth.
The library where I worked was in a remodeled home in town. It’s since moved to the new municipal building. Photo source: Google Earth.

LIBRARY

Not surprisingly, on this job I developed better research skills. I also learned the truth of the adage, “do what you love and the money will follow.” I started at the library as a volunteer and they eventually found money in the budget to keep me.

BAKERY

I didn’t bake anything here; I worked behind the counter. I memorized all the prices and learned to keep orders in my head (and even to add up the bill in my head); anything to move customers out quickly during busy hours. On a weekend or holiday morning in a bakery, speed was essential.

In the bakery I also learned the value of cleaning as you go and using any few minutes of no-customer time to refill bins of bread and rolls, wipe down counters and sweep the floor. Doing what needed to be done when I saw that it needed to be done meant I didn’t have to stay after my shift to finish the work.

INVENTORY CONTROL/DELIVERIES

Never underestimate the importance of clear handwriting and the ability to take notes quickly. Those skills were hugely valuable on that job.

WAREHOUSE

The only summer job I ever quit before summer was over. I finish what I start, but working in a non-air-conditioned warehouse in summer in New Jersey was awful. I lasted less than four weeks. I was “picking and packing” socks for a mail-order clothing business. We had to track how many packages we sent down the conveyor belt in an hour and best that number on a regular basis. We were also continuously under suspicion of stealing, so our handbags were inspected each day when we left. And despite the awful heat, we had to wear long pants.

At that job I learned that constant suspicion was not a sign of a healthy working environment, and that if I was going to get in trouble for needing a bathroom break, minimum wage wasn’t worth it.

PARTS DEPARTMENT

I can trace my tendency to count as I go to this job. If I’m baking cookies, for example, I’ll count them as I put them on the baking sheet. Working in the parts department of a company that built computers for Navy sonar, I spent 8 hours a day counting tiny little screws, washers, capacitors and circuit boards. Counting as I go has come in handy while cooking, both for recipe-writing purposes and for nutrition calculation.

STATIONERY STORE

I’m not sure how much I learned here, other than trivia regarding numbers for envelope sizes. This job did play a part in my developing office-supply addiction, however!

SUMMER CAMP

As the business manager of a Girl Scout camp one summer, I did everything from running the camp store to running all the errands and running injured campers to the hospital (there’s a reason for the rule against running in camp. I transported more kids with ankle injuries because they broke that rule and tripped over tree roots…) I learned how to pump gas (the camp was in New York State), how to drive a minivan and how to check the toes on an injured camper’s Ace-wrapped foot while driving to make sure her bandage wasn’t wrapped too tightly.

You never know when some skill or bit of knowledge learned on a summer job will come in handy later. It’s not where you work all summer that counts, but what you learn while you’re there.

Mommy Dangerfield Moment

IMG_0423You’d think I’d have figured this out by now.

But maybe I really DO have “DOORMAT” stamped on my forehead.

The issue here is respect for my time, respect I don’t feel I’m getting from my family.

I work from home. That doesn’t have to mean that I’m 100% available 100% of the time just because someone couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed in time to catch the school bus.

Because Hubs enjoys spending a few minutes in the morning driving The Kid to school, he’s been enabled in his slugabed ways. Hubs is away on business this week, though, and that leaves me to do the driving, whether or not it happens to fit into my plans for the day. Those plans begin at 7:40 AM–when the bus rolls away.

When I complain, they both act as if I’m being unreasonable in expecting The Kid to get moving in the morning and make it onto the bus.

I don’t think it should be on me to rearrange my schedule because someone wanted to catch a few more Zs.

I’m willing to dump my plans at the drop of a hat when medical necessity is involved. It’s a big part of the reason I work from home. But why is my schedule always subject to change when someone else decides to be lazy?

The way I see it, I have limited choices here. I don’t want to call a halt to Hubs’ time with The Kid in the morning, because it’s something they both enjoy.

These are things I can do and need to do:

  1. Work with The Kid to establish a better morning routine that will get him out the door in time for the school bus.
  2. Give The Kid the responsibility of finding out whether Hubs is available to drive him to school–the night before.
  3. Determine a reasonable plan of action for those days when Hubs can’t drive The Kid, who then misses the bus anyway.

Number 3 is going to be the hardest one, because everyone thinks that because my job allows for a flexible schedule, they can be the ones to decide to flex it.

photoMeanwhile, I’m going to read the chapter on “Organizing Your Time” in Katharine Grubb’s new book, Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day. (No, I’m not writing a novel, but there are plenty of ideas in here that will apply.)

Because I’m not willing to start my workday at 8:30. And I shouldn’t have to. Early morning is my most productive time, and I want to make the most of that.

I need to start setting the example here and respect my own time.

Announcements, Announcements, Announcements!

I got a new job!CatholicMomcom Contributor blue outline

I began working last Thursday as the Editorial Consultant for CatholicMom.com.

It’s exciting to be able to work for one of my very favorite websites, and to be working WITH a veritable army of amazing contributing writers.

I’ll still be doing a little writing for CatholicMom, but most of my work is behind-the-scenes. I’m like Stage Crew, but for the Internet: checking props, hauling scenery and signaling the director to bring up the lights and start the music.

Best of all, I’m working from home, which means I can be available for Mom Duty at any time, I can get to daily Mass, and I don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes. That’s a vocational WIN right there.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a stagehand for a website that’s been a big influence on my life for quite a few years.

 

 

Beat the Clock

Beat_the_Clock_logoWhen I was a little kid, I used to enjoy watching the game show Beat the Clock, in which teams would have to accomplish silly tasks within a certain time limit.

And I always wanted the game “Perfection.”

It’s all about a race against time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve started using the principles behind those games to my advantage when I’m working at my computer. Read more at CatholicMom.com…

 

This, That and The Other Thing: Freelance Edition

You know what’s cool? When they pay you to rant about stuff that you’d probably rant about anyway. At least, that’s what I get to do over at one of my shopping blogs. As long as I can segue over to a coupon at the end, it’s all good. Over there today, I tell the story of what happened last night when Middle Sister was getting ready for her friend’s birthday party.

You know what’s not cool? Learning a real-life lesson about intellectual property…the hard way. I was hired to write some articles for websites that focus on building a personal brand and developing an “online portfolio.” I was asked to provide a biography and a photo. About two weeks after completing those articles, more were requested. I visited the websites to get an idea of other content on the topics I was assigned, and I found one of my articles from the first batch, attributed to someone else who (according to the person who hired me) is a fictional persona. Let it be known that in the future I will be a lot more protective of the copyright on any of my writing, because clearly I cannot claim authorship of those articles for my own online portfolio. Notice the irony there?

That led to a whole big dilemma for me last weekend, culminating in my decision not to do any more work for that group of websites. I was very afraid that I would burn a bridge, because I do have a very good working relationship with the person who hired me to do that and several other projects. Fortunately she was understanding (and as surprised as I was about what happened) and she asked me if I’d like to continue working on future projects with her (yay!)

It was a tough couple of days, but my husband and kids stood behind me and encouraged me not to work for someone who would put a different person’s name on my articles even if it meant a loss of business. And once I sent out that email explaining why I would not do more work for that website group, I felt so good. I knew I had made the right decision and was so happy to learn that I have not burned a bridge when it comes to other projects.

Monday’s 2-fer

I volunteer in the school library for 2 hours every Monday, and then today I have a 30-minute break before I have to be at my tutoring job for 2 hours. None of this is physically strenuous, but 2 hours with first- and second-graders, and then 2 hours working with 2 learning-disabled high school students in a foreign language, makes my brain pretty fried by the time I am done!

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my volunteer work and my tutoring job. The little kids at school are a lot of fun. Sometimes I get to be the Story Lady and read to them. Other times I help them find books, and I always check their books out for them. And there’s the usual Quieting Them Down, and Separating Two Boys Who Are THISCLOSE To Hitting Each Other, and Telling Them For The Gazillionth Time Where The Bookmarks Are. Then I’ll move on to my students’ house. They don’t do a lot of study (who am I kidding–they don’t do any study) in between sessions. And with two students, it’s twice the chance that they’ll want to spend more time giggling over the dorky pictures in their textbook, and making up sentences like “[Name of boy they both know] es feo.” So whose bright idea was it to stack up both of those things in one day?

Oh yeah. That was me. Next time I think this is a good idea, smack me in the head, OK?