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?

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Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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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!

Small Success: What Schedule?

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

This has been one of those weeks when I’m just glad I have a job with a flexible schedule and a husband who doesn’t get too upset when the dust accumulates to the point where you can write your name in it. It’s been one unplanned thing after another.

MONDAY during the day I had to run over to the school and deal with an insulin-pump infusion set gone bad. I spent an hour on the phone when the supplier of insulin-pump equipment called to tell me that effective last week, the infusion sets TheKid uses have been discontinued. That’s probably for the best, as they haven’t worked out super well for him (as evidenced by that earlier run to school), but it caused a scramble. I emailed the diabetes educators at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (where he goes for treatment and classes) for guidance.

File Feb 02, 2 43 57 PM
He’s tried 2 out of these 3 and neither one works for him.

TUESDAY I had the whole day ahead of me so I worked like crazy and got a lot done, and it’s a good thing I did, because CHOP offered to squeeze us in on WEDNESDAY for a consultation about new infusion sets.

WEDNESDAY I did the grocery shopping and some laundry and put fresh sheets on my bed, then picked TheKid up at school to head to the NJ branch of CHOP (not his favorite location due to lack of a Food Court, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to last-minute appointments). He tried on a new set, likes it so far, and we were on our way.

While we were out and in the area (40 minutes from home) I returned two defective backpacks to the LL Bean store. I’d already replaced my daughter’s, and TheKid was using his backpack, broken zipper and all. He emptied it out in the car on the way to the store. I’m glad I got those packs at LL Bean, because they were super about taking the return of one pack that had a hole in it after 3 weeks and one with a bad zipper (both packs were new this fall). TheKid walked out of there with a replacement pack and I got a refund on the other one.

I had all kinds of plans for what will get done TODAY, but then my daughter texted me rather late last night to ask if I’d go through the 2 suitcases and 2 Rubbermaid bins she’d brought home yesterday from college to see if she’d left her wallet in with her stuff. Answer: yes.

So this morning after rush hour I’ll be heading over there to drop off her forgotten wallet. And then I have Adoration, and then a council meeting for Secular Franciscans. I should get busy putting together the agenda, come to think of it.

In light of all this, I think a slow-cooker dinner is in order for tonight. (It looks like this, but without the potatoes. I’ll serve it over rice.)


After that, when I get a few minutes, I’m going to unsubscribe from all the time-management newsletters I get in my email. Those “experts” have nice ideas, but I’m convinced they don’t have children with medical issues that can change at the drop of a hat. My productivity is directly related to a lack of kid-related errands and phone calls.

And you know what? That’s OK. That’s the season of life I’m in. I’m glad that I’m free (enough) this morning to run that wallet to my daughter. I’m glad I can zip over to school to deal with an unanticipated pump-site change. Do I wish I didn’t have to do either of those things? In some ways. But my time management right now involves doing as much work as I can when I know I have time to do it, because I never know if that window of work time I’ve planned for later in the week is going to be open.

Image source Wawa Facebook page
Image source Wawa Facebook page

So today my Small Successes is brought to you by my slow cooker, the free cup of coffee from Wawa that’s going to help fuel my trip to Philly with a forgotten wallet, and Adoration.

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Show Us Your Planner!

Today I’m participating in a “Show Us Your Planner” linkup at Since the middle of the summer, Lisa Hess has been writing about organization for students, for your home, and finally for your personal time-management issues. Lately, she’s been talking planners–one of my favorite subjects!

Show Us Your Planner logo

A couple of weeks ago, I found an article online that refines to an amazing degree what I am already doing: the Strikethru method. I don’t use all the steps to the method described in that article, but since I am, in Lisa Hess’s terms, an “I Need To See It” person (and even more than that, “I Need To Write It”) this planning method works for me.

Basically, my planner is in two parts: a notebook and a planner.

Notebook and planner for SUYP

I got the notebook at Barnes & Noble, because it was cute. But you can use looseleaf, or a legal pad, or whatever for the notebook part.

I get my planners from Michele Quigley, a Catholic mom who makes beautiful planners. These planners contain a monthly 2-page view and a weekly view. They also include the readings of the day, feast-day listings, quotes from the saints, monthly papal prayer intentions and some prayer pages. (And note the beautiful cover with the San Damiano Cross! There are quite a few cover choices but this one is my favorite.)

show us your planner (5)

Here’s what the weekly view looks like: Sunday through Wednesday on one page, Thursday through Saturday (plus quote and tiny monthly calendar) on the other.

I start by using my notebook as a place to dump out all the things I need to schedule into my week.

show us your planner (4)

After I get that list out of my head and onto paper, I start adding items to days in my planner.

For me, it helps if I use keywords in caps, like CALL, SEND, WRITE, BUY, ERRAND, HOME, EMAIL.

A little circle next to an item means I’ve added it to the planner. A check mark means it’s done. YES, I do write things down on the list after I’ve done them, just so I can have the satisfaction of checking them off.

And the dinner plan is done in pencil for a reason. That is the most subject-to-change part of my schedule.

show us your planner (3)Next weekend when I look at that list again, I can go through and see if anything has to be carried over to the following week.

This planner has a section in the back that I use for work notes and book-review lists, so I can keep those items separate from my home and family tasks and appointments. That section is really a lesson-planning supplement, an add-on purchase, but since it’s basically a 7X6 grid across 2 pages, it can be used for anything and it works well for me. Most of my work stuff is on a shared Google calendar anyway.

I do add personal appointments to my own Google calendar so I can access that info on the go, but I feel much more in control of my schedule when I can write it down in a planner.

Show us YOUR planner! Write about your planner at your blog and link it over at If you don’t have a blog, share into about your planner and how you use it in the comment box.

Time to Foster Some Self-Discipline

Because I do not intend to spend this school year fighting with my eighth-grader every morning, I want to work with TheKid to get some strategies in place so that he gets up and out the door and onto the school bus.

I feel like I have been letting him do a lot of sliding in areas where I challenged the older kids to be more self-disciplined and self-starting at the same age. Part of that is because he’s the youngest, and I’m old. And tired.

And part of it is because of diabetes. He’s been extraordinarily self-disciplined when it comes to that. He’s gotten very independent with many aspects of his care. I’m proud of him for that. But there are all those other things that we’ve been doing FOR him, things that he is more than old enough and capable enough to do for himself.

It’s not good for him that we’re letting him slide. He has to learn how to do all the things, not just all the diabetes things. He has to learn how to figure out what time to wake up in the morning so that he won’t miss the bus. He has to set his alarm and make sure it’s on AM, not PM, and actually get up when the alarm goes off.

If we do all the other things for him, we’re really doing that out of pity, and pity is the last thing this kid (or any kid) needs.

So as he begins his eighth-grade year, I’m resolving to begin again too–to begin to foster some life skills that everyone needs to learn.

teens and time managementTo get myself motivated, I purchased this little book from Amazon: What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Your Teen Succeed. I’m not expecting any all-at-once miracles, but there are a few strategies I intend to start using right off the bat.

It’s a matter of setting priorities. It may even have the side effect of making everyone’s lives a little more pleasant around here.

Note: my link to this book is an Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase through this link, it’s like you’re leaving me a little virtual tip! So, thanks!

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…