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 CatholicMom.com, 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 CatholicMom.com 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.

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



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.

Small Success: The View from My Office(s)

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

My Fitness Streak is still going. Even on the day when I dared not leave the house because just as my alarm went off, TheKid’s continuous glucose monitor also alarmed with a low blood sugar reading, I got in a short workout on my Gazelle machine in the laundry room. (Hubs gets the overnights. Once I’m up in the morning, I’m on duty.)

Yesterday’s morning sky, even though cloudy, was stunning as I headed off for my walk.

Incline My Heart

In other news, it’s summer and I need to roll with that. TheKid is at theatre camp, so I’ve been praying at other churches and working at Dunkin’ Donuts and the library on some days, because they both have free WiFi and it beats driving 20 minutes each way to go back home and work from there. Still, I feel a bit at odds with the schedule changes.

My Dunkin' office. Hot coffee and a big table where I can spread out.
My Dunkin’ office. Hot coffee and a big table where I can spread out.


The library has some comfortable chairs, but no coffee (though I saw a kid walk in with a milkshake the other day.)
The library has some comfortable chairs, but no coffee (though I saw a kid walk in with a milkshake the other day.)

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800

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Small Success: Double Time

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

Yesterday I was messaging with a coworker on Slack, and I said this:

Yeah, I have an article to write, deadline ASAP, so I’m cleaning the freezer…

That’s pretty much how things are going around here.

My freezer is very clean after yesterday’s defrosting binge. And I don’t have to buy any more meat for the next 2 months, except for what I’ll need for TheKid’s graduation party next Saturday.

(I’m cooking! Want to come over and help us eat all the food?)

That defrosting binge was definitely stress organizing. I’m doubling up on work this month; in addition to my regular job at CatholicMom.com, I’m doing editorial support for Today’s Catholic Teacher during the month of June.

THAT was a total fluke. I answered a call for articles on Twitter and wound up building a spreadsheet of articles, authors and word counts. I’m writing an article too, but there’s not really a learning curve as far as that goes.

So as I juggle my regular part-time job and learn a new (temporary) one, I found something I could totally control–my freezer. It’s full, but it’s organized and I have a LIST of what’s in it.

As for the rest of it, I’ll muddle through. I’m learning a lot, and working with some amazing (and patient) people. Once I finally find my groove, though, the job will end. That’s the nature of temp work. I should be used to it, after all the substitute-teaching I’ve done.

But in the back of my head, I’ve got one more list: things I can spend an hour organizing when I need to clear my head and take complete control of something.

I hope nothing happened on Twitter yesterday. There was no time to tweet (and that’s not simply a leisure activity for me. It’s networking.) I was doing work for 2 jobs, outlining an article, making a batch of cold-brew coffee, washing 5 loads of laundry, defrosting and organizing the freezer, making chicken stock and then dinner, attending folk group practice that ran late, then freezing 21 cups of chicken stock and doing all the dinner dishes that the people who ate dinner late left for me. (We’re going to have to have a talk about THAT.)

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

Small Success: Reach for It

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

I feel like I’m really reaching to find successes today. Yesterday kicked my butt for reasons I won’t go into here. I’m trying to reboot, a little, today.

It’s been a good week at work…I learned a couple of new things, (mostly) stuck with the workflow plan I designed for myself a couple of weeks ago, and saw a brainstorm come to fruition. It’s really cool to offer an idea and then be allowed to run with the ball.

Next week Hubs and I will be going to a long-term service awards dinner his company is hosting. That meant (eeek!) I have to dress up. My work-at-home/occasional-substitute-teacher/church-on-Sunday wardrobe isn’t going to cut it. I asked one of my folk-group friends for fashion advice because she always is beautifully dressed and looks so put together. She works part-time and offered to go shopping with me one afternoon. We had a fun time; I got a flowy sweater to go over my little black dress, a pencil skirt and blouse (which I’d never have chosen if I was shopping on my own) for TheKid’s graduation, and a pair of foot-friendly shoes–HALF PRICE. They’re too casual for the business dinner, but I can wear them just about everywhere else.

These go with just about everything!
These go with just about everything!

Speaking of graduation, yesterday I got a notice from the school asking for a photo for the “Guess the Graduate” bulletin board–always a fun feature! I dipped into the digital archives and found this gem. TheKid is more than OK with using this one.

summer 2004
This is probably my most favorite photo of TheKid.

I’m hoping for a better day today. And I won’t say no to a Memorare for a special intention, if you’re prayerfully-inclined. (Thanks!)

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

#SmallSuccess: UNproductive


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

I’m supposed to be taking the week off from work (and I’ve managed to do that, about 95% of the way). It feels weird. I think that’s partly because I work from home, so it’s really always there, on the same desk as my planner and notebook with my household stuff and personal projects. So walking away is tougher.show us your planner (3)One thing that made it a little easier to put my feet up this week is that asthma has been kicking my butt. I’m finally noticing that the cough is starting to let up. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours just sitting on the couch with a decaf and a novel that I didn’t have to read for work or a book review or anything. Just a novel, to read for fun. It’s not the world’s most fantastic novel by any means, but it’s not challenging to read and that’s what I needed.

I picked up TheKid’s summer wardrobe this week. He has plenty of T-shirts but none of his shorts or swim trunks fit him, so it was off to Target:

Shorts: any color as long as they're tan. He's more flexible when it comes to swimwear.
Shorts: any color as long as they’re tan. He’s more flexible when it comes to swimwear.

I also invented an appetizer. Noms.

asparagus tart (1) c

And while we’re talking food, this grilled Provolone and caramelized onion on rye with whole-grain mustard was amazing.

grilled provolone onion mustard rye

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

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: 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.


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.