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

Winning Reads for Kids and Teens

It’s always fun to learn that books you’ve enjoyed have won awards! It’s even better when you’ve met an author or have a local connection. That’s the case with two books for kids and teens from Pauline Books and Media, both of which won Excellence in Publishing Awards from the Association of Catholic Publishers this week.

If you’re looking for books for your children and teens this summer, I highly recommend these two!

A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Stephanie Engelman, whom I met last summer at the Catholic Marketing Network tradeshow and Catholic Writers Guild Conference, proves that a story doesn’t have to be edgy to be compelling. In her YA novel, A Single Bead (Pauline Teen, 2016) teenage Kate finds faith in an unlikely way: through the stories of others who have been touched by the prayers of her grandmother, killed in a plane crash a year ago.

From my review: The novel opens with Kate’s extended family gathered around the plane-crash site for a memorial service. Needing a moment to get away from the tension and grief, Kate stumbles toward a wooded area where she finds a shiny bead–one from her grandmother’s custom-made rosary that had silver beads with the initials of her loves ones engraved on each. Kate doesn’t find just any bead. She finds the one with her own initials on it.

Kate and her cousins go on to discover that other beads have been found, and that the people who received them have experienced physical or emotional healing. Could it be that her grandmother’s prayers have such a deep effect?

Thus begins a journey of faith for Kate, whose extended family is deeply Catholic but whose own immediate family is less engaged in the faith. But faith is exactly what’s needed, because Kate’s mom has fallen into a deep depression after the plane crash a year ago. Kate hopes that finding other pieces of the rosary will help heal her mom.

This compelling novel is appropriate for students in grades 5 and up and challenges the reader to lay aside the idea that a prayer or a sacramental can be a “magical” thing. It is refreshing to read about an extended family whose life is centered on faith.

 

32 days

Author Ellen Lucey Prozeller writes from my diocese (Trenton, NJ). Her book, 32 Days: A Story of Faith and Courage, is a historical fiction account of the life of a little girl in China who, with her family, was forced to practice her Catholic faith in secret.

From my review: After her church was desecrated by Communist soldiers, Pei makes the risky decision to sneak into the church at night to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The story is told from Pei’s point of view. Readers in grades 3 through 5 will learn about a child their own age who lives her faith in a time of oppression: a young, unknown Catholic hero.

Winning Reads for Kids and Teens

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!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

 

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#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: Parenting in Public

In two days, Tech Week starts at the high school. TheKid is playing Lord Farquaad in the school’s production of “Shrek,” his fourth time participating in the high-school musical–but his first time as an actual high-school student.

Tech Week at this school features Tech Week dinners, coordinated by a group of parents with themes and fun and a good (not fast-food) meal for the entire cast, crew, orchestra and directorial staff. This will be my 6th year helping out with these dinners.

Five years ago, I found myself parenting very publicly at one of these dinners. Cue soundtrack: “Walking on Broken Glass.”

"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Those windows at left rear? The broken glass in question. Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only grade-school kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the students, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.

I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”

“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?

The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the high-school boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.

Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the student who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.

The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a teenage boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that teenager’s script.

We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain teenager, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.

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, OFS

#WorthRevisit: A Recommended Lenten Practice

Lent is only one week away! Here’s a suggestion for a virtue to cultivate in the upcoming season. From February 2009, some wisdom from the dearly-missed Father H:

This morning at Mass, Father observed that in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, the phrase “fear of the Lord” was repeated four times. And he explained that God is not someone we are to be terrified of, like something in a horror movie. That’s not what fear of the Lord is all about.

He recommended that this Lent, we all practice growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord: wondering at the mystery of God and all that He created. He said that the more you grow in this virtue, the more awesome you understand God to be.

Read here what one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Hilary, wrote about fear of the Lord.

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: 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: Chapel Rosary

Wrapping up the Month of the Rosary with a look back at May of this year, when I borrowed a rosary at the Adoration Chapel.

I was running a minute or two late for my Holy Hour yesterday, and as I approached the church driveway I realized I’d left my pocket rosary behind when I changed my clothes.

Worse, I’d tossed my wallet into my “Adoration tote” along with my journal, earbuds and a spiritual book or three–so I didn’t have the rosary I keep in my handbag.

I can count on my fingers in a pinch; after all, God gave me ten of them, but our Adoration chapel has a few rosaries on a hook near the entrance. I decided to use one of those to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Red rosary breviary C
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Using a chapel rosary (or any rosary belonging to someone else) brings to mind a unique connection that is made through prayer.

What other hands had held that rosary, fingering the beads, counting off prayer intentions, wiping away tears?

What other hearts had prayed the prayers, there in the chapel, laying bare their most secret and fervent desires of the soul?

Was the last person to lift this rosary off that hook a stranger? A friend? A neighbor? My husband?

So many prayers have been prayed on this rosary, in this chapel.

I prayed one extra Memorare for those who have prayed here before me, for those who pray here with me, and for those who will pray here after me.

We are all connected, united, brought together by our prayers on a single string of beads.

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: Panic at the Retreat

I was listening to a podcast this morning while I baked cookies for the soccer team’s pasta party. Greg and Jennifer Willits were talking about one of my favorite subjects–personality–and that was spun into a discussion about why Greg needed to leave a retreat over the weekend.

I’ve taken various forms of the MBTI countless times over the years, and I just went through the free survey at 16personalities.com, the site Greg and Jennifer recommended. My score: ISFJ (but I’m pretty close to ISTJ.)

I completely understand Greg’s experience at the retreat, as he described in episode 157 of the podcast. Which brings me back to a story I shared last fall–a story about the very same type of retreat Greg attempted to attend last weekend.

The first time I was called upon to share my faith story, I had just returned from a Christ Renews His Parish (ChRHP) retreat. Newly married and new to the area, I was already feeling shy, and I was dismayed to discover that after you’ve attended a ChRHP weekend, you’re expected to be a presenter at the next one. I sat there at the follow-up meeting, listening to other women share dramatic stories of conversion and renewal of faith. I didn’t feel like I had anything to add or contribute; certainly, I had nothing that could compare to those witnesses. Finally I fled the meeting, weeping, and in a full-blown panic attack. I never returned. I felt like a fraud.

That was exactly Greg’s point in the podcast. We’re not all the same. Those retreats are wonderful–for certain types of people who benefit from certain types of activities. I am not one of those people.

Today, for the first time in over 25 years, I felt OK about running away from that meeting (though there are tears in my eyes as I think about it.) It’s part of my personality to want to finish what I start. It’s why I stuck it out a whole year in the school lunchroom, though I discovered under one month in that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I’d learned, by then, that I could create a new opportunity to help the school–and I’m still volunteering in the school library even though my kids have all graduated.

St. Paul is famous for saying, “There are different gifts, but the same Spirit.” There are different personalities, too–but the same Spirit. What works for one does not work for everyone. (It’s why I don’t podcast or do Facebook Live. It’s why I’ll probably bury myself in small tasks at the pasta party tonight.) As Greg said in the podcast, we don’t all fit the same cookie-cutter! The trick is finding what works for you, and using your own personalities, gifts and talents to serve God and others.

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!