St. Casimir Church Riverside NJ detail of Brother Sun stained glass window

At Prayer as Thanksgiving

My latest article on prayer, Prayer as Thanksgiving, is available at

A few highlights:

Expressing our gratitude to God reinforces our relationship to him, in the same way expressing our thanks to someone for giving us a gift or helping us can strengthen our friendship or family bond.

Prayer of thanksgiving can be a spontaneous “Thank God!” after hearing good news after a difficult time, or a formal prayer such as Grace before Meals.

We need to look for, and be grateful for, God’s gifts even in difficult times or when we’re dealing with something unexpected.

Read it all at Prayer as Thanksgiving.

This is the fourth in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at

St. Casimir Church Riverside NJ detail of Brother Sun stained glass window

"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 Tale of Greed, Roulette and Rhinestone Boots

Last night Hubs and I attended a charity event our neighbor was hosting. It was a Casino Night party, with dinner and tables for blackjack, roulette and poker. Each guest brought a new, unwrapped toy, to be given to one of two local organizations that distribute toys to children in need.

Upon arrival, we were given our admission ticket with our names on the back, to be handed in for a chance at the door prizes. That ticket entitled us to a certain dollar amount in poker chips. More chips could be had for additional donations of real money (which would also be given to those charities.)

Via Pixabay (2012), CC0 Public Domain.

I’m not familiar with casino games, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my foot, so I didn’t spend too much time playing roulette–the only game I dared to try to play. I doled out my small pile of chips one or two at a time as long as I dared to stand up at the table. Our group wasn’t a high-betting bunch and the dealer was nice, so it was a good time, even as my pile of chips got smaller and smaller.

I returned to my table to sit and rest my sore foot and do some people-watching. I’d been told that the dress code for the event was “casual” but all the shoes I have that aren’t sneakers don’t support my foot enough right now, so I went shopping in the morning for a pair of boots to wear with leggings and a long sweater. I was feeling uncharacteristically stylish.


That feeling evaporated when I noticed the boots one of the other guests was wearing. They had rhinestone-studded spike heels and ribbons of rhinestone swirling up the leg of the boots. The pointed toe was not flat to the ground, and it made my feet hurt just to look at them. I tried to find a photo of those boots, but my knowledge of upscale shoe designers is limited to what’s in one scene from Legally Blonde:


After the tables closed for the night, guests cashed in their chips for prize tickets, which we could place in buckets labeled with the names of the prizes, which ranged from luggage sets to a designer handbag to giant TVs to vacuum cleaners.

I did not put any of my tickets in the buckets for either of the vacuum cleaners, for the record. (Priorities.)

Hubs had pooled his chips and mine and split the tickets in half between us, so I dumped tickets in buckets corresponding to prizes I wanted for myself (the Kate Spade tote, Williams-Sonoma gift basket, small kitchen appliances) or family members (a smaller TV, laptop, luggage).

While the event coordinators called out the winning numbers for the prizes, I allowed myself to imagine winning each of those items.

I let myself dream greedy daydreams.

I didn’t win any of the prizes, and wound up with a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t like that feeling. I didn’t need any of the prizes on the table. Sure, some of them would have been nice to have, but I have food and clothes and heat and electricity and a roof over my head. I don’t need a Cuisinart, Kate Spade bag, Tiffany bracelet or a big TV.

My greedy daydreams tried to steal the enjoyment of an evening out with my husband and friends. They sought to cancel out the nice dinner, the pie, the music and the laughter. They tempted me to forget the good stuff and focus on wanting things I don’t need, and feeling sad when I didn’t get them.

I don’t like what happens to me when I dream greedy daydreams. I worked to cancel them out by remembering the fun I had choosing two toys for Hubs and me to bring to the party, toys that helped fill two vans to overflowing with gifts for children who otherwise might do without. I remembered hearing the testimony of a college student who’s been running a community charity since the 7th grade, and her overwhelmed gratitude at seeing the toys her organization would get to give to the children of her city. I remembered the laughter of friends, the music, the dinner and, yes, the pie.

I kicked the greedy daydreams to the curb with my stylish-enough-for-me new boots.

Take that, greedy daydreams.

Stumbling Blocks on the Road to Sanctity

Via Seinfeld Daily on Tumblr.
Via Seinfeld Daily on Tumblr.

Get into a car with me and you’ll meet a whole different Barb. While I’m not Road Rage Incorporated, in the sense that I don’t get aggressive and tailgate or illegally pass people, I do vocally (with windows safely rolled up, but within earshot of my children) express my frustration with people who drive 30 or even 45 when the speed limit is 50, who leave the turn signal on for miles or don’t use it at all, or commit the Cardinal Sin of Driving: neglecting the “Thank-you Wave.”

I mean, how hard is that?

And then I remember Luke 14: 13-14:

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

In other words, I can’t be a saint until I stop expecting a thank-you wave.