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

#WorthRevisit: Library Fun

Yesterday I was the Substitute Librarian, and substitute teaching is always an adventure, especially when you’ll be dealing with little kids.

After my stint in Morning Car Line I headed upstairs to discover that the librarian had filled the bookmark basket with an assortment of holy cards mixed with publishers’ postcards advertising children’s books. The overwhelming majority of the kids chose holy cards for their bookmarks, and there was much comparing of the pictures on those cards.

One first-grader displayed the Pope Benedict card he’d chosen and asked me to pronounce the name under the picture. Since these kids are only 6 or 7 and wouldn’t remember any pope besides Pope Francis, I explained that Pope Benedict was the pope before Pope Francis.

“I have a Pope Francis card!” another little boy bragged, waving a picture of Pope Benedict in the air.

“No, that’s Pope Benedict. Both of these pictures are Pope Benedict.”

“But this one is wearing red! He’s not the same one!”

Image sources: Fabio Pozzebom/ABr – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, Link and [1]Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

It’s all about the random when you’re teaching. A few years ago, during Catholic Schools Week, I received a lovely packet of homemade cards thanking me for volunteering in the library.  Sentiments included:

“We are all very grateful for you donating your time for the school. You’re a very thoughtful person. As they say in Spanish, gracias!”

“It is a massive responsibility for you to go to the library every single Friday.”

“Every time you come on a Friday it makes me feel happy inside.”

“When you are supporting us we are supporting you.”

“I hope you are proud of yourself!”

“I am thankful because you could be doing something other than helping.”

“You are the greatest book stamper ever!”

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!

#WorthRevisit: I Hope You Never Need Algebra

There’s a fine line between oversensitivity (and the inability to take a joke) and advocacy. I was reminded of that this morning when a friend of mine posted the same Facebook joke that inspired my post from July 2015 about algebra.

Some days I can roll with diabetes jokes, like the song lyric from Shrek:

“. . . like donuts and . . . (what goes with donuts?) . . . donuts and . . . DIABETES!”

Other days, my hackles are raised by a joke that has absolutely nothing to do with diabetes, but I’m making that connection based on my experience. That’s the case with the Facebook joke in question. Four years ago, I’d have shared the same joke.

Seen on Facebook: a T-shirt that says

Well, another day has passed and I didn’t use algebra once.

The person who posted it observed, “Still holds true!”

My fingers have been hovering over that comment button…that’s because there’s algebra right on my kitchen whiteboard, algebra that I use almost every day.

Diabetic algebra

Algebra for diabetics and the people who love them. Because sometimes a person just doesn’t want a whole serving of something, and then you have to do some math.

I can’t afford to indulge the thought that algebra is useless and that I haven’t thought about it once since I took the GREs in 1986.

It’s more useful than you think.

I’m not bitter about having to use algebra. I’m grateful that my husband has a better grasp on it than I do, because he took several semesters of calculus, so he helped work out the formula that comes in handy when The Kid wants something other than the labeled serving size of a particular food. I’m grateful that I can remember a little bit of algebra, thanks to my long-suffering Algebra 2 teacher who never gave up on me.

And I wish, very sincerely, that the people who posted that photo of a T-shirt implying that algebra is useless never have a child with diabetes. I hope they never have to use algebra like I have to use algebra.

As the mom of a teenager with Type 1 Diabetes I often encounter well-meaning misunderstanding about his disease. I try to understand that in most cases, it’s just because people care. Just as I’d ask a person with a known food allergy if the food I am planning to serve is safe for them, so I do appreciate that people think to check in with me about my son’s needs.

It’s all a question of how I deal with the misconceptions. He didn’t get diabetes from eating too many donuts. He can have a donut. He should not have six donuts (then again, neither should anyone else).

I find myself, sometimes, growing impatient when people ask questions, rather than appreciating that they care enough to ask instead of just making assumptions based on bad information.

And sometimes, like today, I just can’t take a joke.

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!

#WorthRevisit: Do We Really Want to Change?

It’s not today’s Gospel, but it’s definitely one worth considering during Lent, when we are doing our best to change our hearts. Today’s “Worth Revisit” looks back at 2009.

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Be Reconciled to God

Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.

Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.

Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)

Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.

So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.

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!

Advent Wreath 2016

Our Advent wreath is the same one that Hubs had when he was growing up. My mother-in-law gave it to us several years ago. I add a white pillar candle in the center for Christmas, and place it on a red charger. This year, I decided it needed a little something, so my daughter wrapped the wreath in string of golden berries. Basically, it’s pretty simple.

We only have one child at home most of the time now, and he’s 14, so our issues with Advent fire are different now than they were when the kids were preschoolers. (Now it’s all about re-lighting the candle and seeing how far away one can stand and still manage to blow the candle out…)

If you’re worried about combining lit candles and small children, those LED candles are a terrific substitute. I wish they’d been around when my kids were small. Back in 2005 I offered some advice to parents who worried about combining toddlers and flaming objects on the dining-room table:

Don’t skip the Advent wreath just because you have young children. The Advent wreath has been great for our children during this season. Three times now, we have been through the Tremendously Terrifying Twos at Advent wreath time and I’m pleased to announce that no one has been hurt yet. However, now that we have a Teenager in the house, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher at hand.

Maybe you have one of those cake plates that sits high off the table. Set your wreath on top of that, if you need to keep it away from the little one.

I wish you and your family many blessings this Advent!

advent-wreath-2016

I’m linking up today at CatholicMom.com for the Advent Wreath Linkup!

I’m also 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!

#WorthRevisit: What Do You Feed a Diabetic on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving. It’s all about the food. And that worries people who have special dietary needs, as well as those who feed them.

Thanksgiving happens in November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month. Whether a person with diabetes has Type 1 (like my son) or Type 2, Thanksgiving food can present challenges.

bt1-what-is-t1d-social-share
Courtesy of BeyondType1.org

Today I’m revisiting last year’s pre-Thanksgiving phone call from my sister–because what people with any special dietary need really need on Thanksgiving is a host who cares enough to check on things ahead of time.

On the day before Thanksgiving, two years ago, our then-11-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. We spent Thanksgiving in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, feasting on a “care package” turkey dinner delivered by friends.

Last year we had a small family dinner at home, though the turkey was super-size as always (leftover turkey is never a bad thing!) But this year, we’ll be driving over the river and through the woods and up the New Jersey Turnpike to feast with family at my sister’s house, where the hospitality is legendary and involves neverending food.

My son is thrilled to be back in the Thanksgiving-dinner-eating saddle, but last week I got that phone call from my sister: “What do you need for TheKid?”

Nothing special, really, other than access to package labels.

I’m very grateful that she took the time to ask. We’ve attended other parties where people don’t bother to do that, and then when we request a label, they’ve already thrown it out.

So what do we need for him? She’s already provided it, by showing she cares.

Type 1 Diabetics can eat Thanksgiving dinner–especially if they’re like TheKid and plan a meal packed with low-fat protein. He’s all about having as much turkey as he can manage. He’s not into green-bean casserole (though if there are plain green beans, he’ll eat those). Mashed potatoes? That’s a yes, and an easy one–he’ll just need to measure his portion. As he prefers his vegetables raw, he’ll munch on carrots, celery sticks and red bell peppers without too much glycemic impact.

My sister and I did conclude that it would be a good idea if I bring along a dessert this year–one TheKid likes to eat. This way we know what we’ll be dealing with for that portion of the meal. I have the feeling he’s going to ask me to make Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. And if that’s the case, he can help me bake them.

The after-dinner walk with Grandpa and his cousins (along with the pre-dinner backyard football game) will help him balance out his Thanksgiving feast with healthy activity.

It will be a happy Thanksgiving indeed when we learn that there’s a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, or (even better) a way to prevent it. Until then, we will continue to be grateful for hostesses like my sister, who not only serves a delicious family meal, but takes the time to make sure TheKid’s health concerns are addressed.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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!

#WorthRevisit: Diabetes Awareness Month

November is not only “Men’s Cancer Month,” as one of the second-graders observed while I was substitute teaching. It’s also Diabetes Awareness Month. We’re all too aware of diabetes around here. Three years ago this Thanksgiving, TheKid was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Because most people with diabetes have Type 2 (and that’s the one that gets the most press) I spend a lot of time correcting misconceptions about Type 1. People aren’t out to be malicious–they just don’t know the difference. So I have conversations like the one I had this past weekend at a family event.

TheKid heads up to the buffet table, is among the first in line, and starts loading his plate.
Relative: “What’s he going to eat?”
Me: “He’s a teenage boy. He’s going to eat All The Food.”
Relative: “I thought he has to be on a special diet.”
Me: “No, he can pretty much eat anything. He just has to take insulin every time he eats.”
Relative: “How many times a day does he take insulin?”
Me: “Every time he eats. He’s a teenage boy, so that’s pretty often…”
Relative: “But he’s going to outgrow this, right?”
Me: “No.”
Relative: …
Me: “He has Type 1. That’s an autoimmune disease. Basically, his body killed his pancreas and it’s not coming back.”

measuring-devices-4

Here’s our story, the story behind Cook and Count, my cooking website, and (most important) the signs of Type 1 Diabetes, which is not caused by eating too many donuts. Yes, TheKid can have a donut. It’s not good for him (or anyone else) to eat the whole box, but he can have a donut if he takes insulin along with it.

He didn’t really have the “usual signs.” Instead, he was battling a so-called virus that caused a low fever, no appetite and a sore throat. His sister had the same thing a week before and had bounced back, so we tempted him with Slurpees and sweet tea and anything else to keep him hydrated. At the third doctor visit in less than ten days we insisted on blood work, thinking he had mono. That blood work showed a blood glucose level of over 600, and we went straight to the emergency room with a very sick child.

Cook and Count is primarily a recipe website, but it was born of my need to figure out the carb count of my family recipes so I can feed TheKid and keep him healthy.

You don’t have to be diabetic, or have a diabetic in your family, to use my recipes. In fact, I’ve been cooking many of these recipes for years. The only difference is that now I know the nutrition information that goes with them.

It’s Diabetes Awareness Month, so please take a moment to learn the signs of Type 1 Diabetes. This knowledge could very well save a life. I pray that you never need to use this information–but if you do, I hope that you find this site helpful.

RECOGNIZING THE WARNING SIGNS FOR TYPE 1 DIABETES (T1D) MAY SAVE A LIFE.

Symptoms may occur suddenly and can include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in the urine
  • Fruity, sweet or wine-like odor on breath
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stupor or unconsciousness

If you or someone you love exhibits one or more of these symptoms, call a doctor immediately.

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!

#WorthRevisit: Rosary in My Pocket

I’ve fallen out of the habit of carrying a Rosary in my pocket. During this Month of the Rosary, it’s time to reboot that habit. Let’s look all the way back at 2005 for this week’s “Worth Revisiting.”

A Friar suggested to me that a good way to deal with anger is to say the Rosary. I’ve never been much of a Rosary person but I figured, what can it hurt? I started keeping one in my pocket (and I am rarely without a pocket). The idea is that when I start to get angry I should take a time-out and pray for a decade or more, with the intention of relieving my anger and finding a good way to resolve the situation.

Around the same time, I started to think about the fact that people, myself included, say they will pray for some intention. I don’t want to forget that I have promised a friend that I will pray for their grandmother, or whatever it is. So I began to dedicate my “pocket Rosary” for a certain intention each day. If someone asks me to pray for their intention, I dedicate my day’s “pocket Rosary” for that. Each time I notice the Rosary in my pocket, I saw a quick prayer for the day’s intention. And of course any decades I might complete are also offered for that intention.

It helps me to know that I am following up on the situation somehow. I know some people keep notebooks, or whatever. This is what works for me, right now.

I read somewhere–and if I can remember where, I will credit it properly–that the best response when someone asks you to pray for them is to say something like, “I will pray for you, as the Lord brings you to my mind.” Whenever you think of this person, just say a quick prayer for them. Chances are, the Lord will bring them to your mind often.

"Pocket Rosaries" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.

The two Rosaries pictured above are perfect for carrying in your pocket. As they’re knotted-cord Rosaries, they won’t be harmed if they happen to go through the wash cycle in your pocket. Even better, they were made for me by friends: the red one by Barbara, who makes beautiful bead Rosaries as well as knotted cord ones, and the green by Lisa “Franciscat.”

Sometimes it helps just to hold that Pocket Rosary in your hand. (At the dentist’s office, for example). Maybe you don’t get a whole Rosary in. But the call to prayer is real.

What’s in your pocket?

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!

#WorthRevisit: What I Like about His School

Yesterday I vented on Facebook because I had to print (again) and sign (again) the technology-use agreement and tablet PC contract for TheKid’s school. I say “again” because I know I printed and signed those and hand-delivered them to school on registration day.

9 years ago the school went “paperless,” so the irony here does not escape me.

But as the conversation turned toward how long it takes me to write my last name on all these forms, I remembered an episode during Big Brother’s senior year that exemplifies the best about this school and the people who study and work there.

I wish this were still the school's slogan.
I wish this were still the school’s slogan.

Big Brother traveled to Mississippi with a cold and came back with airplane ear. So today I made a doctor appointment for him; this way he won’t have to suffer through the weekend. The plan was, I’d pick him up at school to sign him out at 11:30. He wouldn’t miss much class time that way.

The phone rang at 10:45; it was one of Big Brother’s former teachers. She wanted to let me know that Big Brother had fainted during Mass, and that an ambulance had been called.

YIKES!

We only live 5 minutes away from the school, and I explained that I was taking Big Brother to the doctor today anyway. Did he have to go to the ER? The teacher passed the phone to the principal, who promised to hold the ambulance until I got there.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty freaky to run out your front door and hear sirens that you know are responding to your child’s medical emergency–and that will get there before you do. Naturally, I hit both red lights on the way to the school, but once I was in the school’s long, narrow, winding back driveway, I set a new land-speed record (42 MPH in a 15-MPH zone, in the van. Usually my top speed is 37 in TheDad’s zippy little sedan.) Let’s just say it was a good thing that the police officers were already inside the school and not following me up that back driveway.

Running into the building, I was met by the principal, vice principal, several teachers and other staff members, some police officers and a paramedic–and a very pale Big Brother in a wheelchair. His worried-looking girlfriend was also in the hallway. I explained to the paramedic that Big Brother had a medical appointment in an hour, and signed the release form. Big Brother’s girlfriend headed to his locker to get the books he needed for the weekend. His English teacher teased him about going to great lengths to avoid the vocabulary test scheduled in her class later that morning. The priest exited the auditorium and spoke with Big Brother, making sure that he hadn’t scared him when he anointed him after his fainting spell.

I’m thankful that the doctor thinks Big Brother will be just fine; he was a bit dehydrated and has bronchitis. A Z-pack and plenty of fluids will get him past that. I’m thankful for the priest who took the time to anoint Big Brother and to stop by and see him after Mass. I’m thankful for the vice-principal who walked us to the van, just to make sure Big Brother was steady on his feet. I’m thankful for the teacher who called the house just after we got home, because students in her homeroom were worried, and for the teacher who told me to send her a text message after the doctor visit, because she was worried. I’m thankful for all the kids who texted Big Brother throughout the afternoon, checking up on him.

What I didn’t mention in that post was that when the ambulance crew got to school, they asked my son his name as part of their routine evaluation. A teacher told me after I arrived that my son’s response had the EMTs thinking they had a concussion victim on their hands; she had to assure them that this really is how our last name is spelled.

TheKid had his first soccer scrimmage yesterday, as a freshman at the same school. His coach was trying to get his attention while he was on the field and mispronouncing his last name badly; TheKid wasn’t ignoring the coach–he just didn’t think he was the one the coach was yelling at.

TheKid and his crazy-long last name are just beginning to make their way in this school. Mispronunciations and lost paperwork aside, I know it’s a good place. I know, even though they don’t use this slogan anymore, that he belongs there.

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!

#WorthRevisit: Book News

A few months ago, I mentioned that I’m a contributor to a new devotional in the CatholicMom.com line of books from Ave Maria Press. Well, the publication date is coming up, so I’m going to revisit that story again and remind you to preorder your copy now–this way you can have it as soon as it’s released!

One of the cool things about writing for CatholicMom.com is the group of terrific contributors. Every single one brings something different to the table, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this group.

Even more wonderful is the opportunity to participate in writing a book with these talented authors! Coming this August, The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion features the work of over 80 CM contributors, including the site’s founder, Lisa M. Hendey.

I wrote four reflections for this book of short daily devotions which publishes August 29 from Ave Maria Press. Preorder your copy now and you’ll have it on the first day it’s available.

I’ve had the chance to peek at an advance reader copy of this book, and it’s absolutely wonderful! It’s a privilege to be a part of this spiritual resource.

In just one week, I’ll be in the Chicago area for the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference, and we’ll be meeting at the Ave Maria Press booth for an author photo. Unfortunately, not every contributor will be able to be there, but I’m looking forward to seeing many of the writers behind this excellent book.

CM Prayer Companion cover art

Your purchase of The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion through my Amazon affiliate link helps support FranciscanMom. Thanks!
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!