Not so holy: How did your Lent go?

March has been a busy month — all the more so because I’ve been getting ready for what I’m calling “Crazy April.”

Monday morning, bright and early, I’m headed to the airport so I can travel to Cincinnati and represent Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine at the NCEA convention and help host a banquet for the Innovations in Catholic Education Awards.

(Related: I had to buy a fancy dress. And shoes that, I hope, will allow me to stand for the better part of the day on a trade-show floor and walk a few blocks each way to the hotel. Tendonitis in both feet and an old stress fracture in one isn’t a good combination when this is on the agenda.)

After four days of travel this week, I’ll have about 10 days at home before I drive to Worcester, MA, for editorial meetings for the magazine.

So I’ve been prescheduling as much content as I can at and, working on final edits for the coming summer issue, and, well, generally neglecting things around the house. On Wednesday it occurred to me that while I’d finished most of the work projects, I had no Easter-basket treats for my family and no idea what I’d be serving for Easter Sunday dinner.

Meanwhile, in the course of my routine correspondence with the authors I work with in both of my jobs, I’ve been getting some variation on the theme of, “How was your Lent?” I’ve even been editing articles along that line.

When you work in Catholic media, you can’t help being bombarded, this time of year, with recaps of people’s holy Lents. And, well, my Lent hasn’t been so very holy. It’s not that I’m not keeping my eyes on my own paper, so much that other people’s papers are being shoved right under my eyes in the course of my job.

I bought this beautiful Lenten spiritual workbook, Above All, from Take Up and Read. I haven’t touched it in weeks. If I’ve completed 1/5 of it, that’s a lot. I just haven’t made the time.

I did manage to give up espresso beverages … whoop-de-do.

But honestly, it’s all been about time management. I love the work I get to do: I have terrific and supportive colleagues at both my jobs, and the writers I work with are wonderful. I call many of them my friends, and I look forward to meeting several more of them this summer at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference. My problem is, in an occupation where there is always new content to prepare, I can get swamped under that and let it spill over into the time I should be allotting for other things.

So I’m packing my copy of When the Timer Dings, and a blank bullet journal, into my tote bag for the airplane trip. I find that when I’m in a different place, I can get out of my head and think more creatively. I have some daydreaming to do about my goals and wishes for next year’s magazines, but I need to do some daydreaming about the way I manage my time (or, more accurately, don’t manage it.)

Lent this year just hasn’t been so holy. Beating myself up about it isn’t going to help. So while the business trips I’m taking this April are taking me way out of my comfort zone (and my comfortable sweatpants) I’m beginning to feel grateful for the opportunity to reboot the way I schedule my work.

After all, Lent isn’t the only season of the liturgical year in which you can grow in holiness. Maybe with improved time management, I’ll be better able to nurture my spiritual life during the Easter season and beyond.

How did your Lent go? If it wasn’t so holy, what can you do about that during the Easter season?

Created in Canva. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for using these links for our Amazon purchases.

Full-On, Full-Time Adventures

Beginning today, it’s all adventure, all the time. Add up two part-time adventures and you get a full-time adventure!

cm_logo_final_vertical At, I’m staying busy as usual. We have about 125 authors writing here, and my job includes keeping track of the schedule and getting all the content published on time. (There’s other stuff to do too, but most of it revolves around that main task.)

HCFM logoLater this week I’ll be traveling to Massachusetts to “meet the family” at Holy Cross Family Ministries and work on the details of bringing under their umbrella. There have been lots of emails and phone calls, and everyone has been very welcoming. I’ve already received a rough agenda for my 3-day trip. Each day’s schedule includes Rosary and Mass. That’s the kind of work schedule I can get behind. That kind of work schedule helps give me the support I need to do the work I do!

TCT_FALL16And I officially start tomorrow, but I’ve been easing in to this a bit: I’m the new managing editor/digital content manager at Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine. I did this work on an interim basis for a month last summer, so I’ve had a taste of what I’ll be doing, but I’ve never worked through the whole process for an entire issue of the magazine. There’s plenty of support as I get to know the ins and outs of the job.

Old desk
My tiny desk in my tiny office. I need more space in my workspace!

All of this means that my tiny desk in my tiny office isn’t enough anymore. I need room to spread out with notebooks and clipboards and bullet journal and laptop. For my birthday, my family took me to Ikea for a new desk. Before I can break out the Allen wrench and assemble my new furniture, though, we have to get an old twin bed out of the room. It’s taking up most of the space, and I’ve only got 9×10 to start with.

when the timer dingsThis also means that I’m going to need to get serious about time management. I’ve begun working through the exercises in Katharine Grubb’s When the Timer Dings, because she has a realistic view of what it’s like to work from home and care for a family at the same time.

For me, working from home is the only way I’d be able to work right now. I need the flexibility to be able to take care of TheKid when diabetes gets . . . interesting, even if that just means I’m working in the next room while keeping an eye on blood-sugar levels and delivering juice or sugar-free Gatorade, depending. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s never predictable, so availability is key.

busy lives restless soulsOn Saturday I received a review copy of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, new from Ignatius Press. Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola; what better time to begin reading a book whose back cover promises, “Elderidge interprets principles of Ignatian spirituality in a fresh way to equip us with prayer tools that are accessible and practical within the relentless realities of our daily routines.” Yes–this book is for me.

It’s time to get started on my new full-time adventure!

"My plate is full. My cup runneth over." by Barb Szyszkiewicz (

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 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 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, 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, 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 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 Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

A Big Announcement #WorthRevisit

Just over 5 years ago, my first article was published at 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 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, 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" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS (



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 (
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 (
By The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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.


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:
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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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

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…