On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Mary’s Way” by Judy Klein

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Mary’s Way: The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God is both a testament to perseverance and a guide to surrender. Judy Klein shares her own heartbreaks as a mother, tracing her journey as a parent and a Catholic. But this book is more than a memoir: it’s a call to a very specific kind of prayer by mothers for their own children.

Judy Klein is careful not to make empty prosperity-gospel-style promises about what will happen if you pray for your child. While acknowledging that miracles can happen, Klein notes that when our prayers of petition seemingly go unanswered,

…God invites us to learn the power of prayerful surrender. It’s a prayer that can bring real peace, and it often brings us to deeper conversion and inner transformation. It sometimes takes many hard lessons and countless wrestling matches with God to learn to surrender, and it’s something we must practice as we go. But surrendering prayer is worth leaning into and learning well because, in the end, learning to yield to God and say yes to him in whatever life brings changes us. (p. 3)


The beauty of Mary’s Way is that, more than anything else, it’s about the heart of the mother as she learns to give up control. We all want to control how things will turn out for our children, and despite tiger-mom and helicopter-mom strategies, we can’t guarantee optimal results by our own prayer, word or action. Instead, Klein urges readers to follow Mary’s example of faith.

Mary’s most exquisite blessing was not that she was given a “pass” on suffering but that she was permitted to participate in the Cross in a most profound and intimate manner. She found the greatest blessing precisely by uniting her deepest agony–watching her son die upon the Cross–to her Son’s own sacrificial offering, cooperating freely with salvific grace in bringing about the redemption of souls. We are invited to do the same whenever the Cross presents itself in our lives, turning our pain into a source of sanctification for ourselves and for others. (p. 8)

Judy Klein guides mothers toward surrender by sharing her own story, offering questions to ponder, and including prayers at the end of each chapter that speak to the heart of what mothers face as they learn to follow Mary’s example.

In this book, readers will learn of the beauty of endurance, how embracing the Cross can grace us with strength we cannot imagine, and how true friends support each other through trials.

You do not need to be a parent in the throes of suffering to benefit from this book. But if you are, or know someone who is, this book will be balm for the suffering soul.

Mary’s Way is a CatholicMom.com book published by Ave Maria Press.

Buy this book through my Amazon link and support FranciscanMom.com with your purchase! I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher through Netgalley.com, but no other compensation, for the purposes of this review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Intentional Living on Sundays

"Intentional Living on Sundays" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

“Intentional” seems to be the buzzword these days. That’s a good thing, I think. I’m not talking about the kind of intentions that pave the road to Hell, but rather the kind that require self-discipline to live out.

I know people who are intentional about buying local, or eating clean, or beginning their days with a 45-minute workout. The productivity experts whose articles always suck me in when I’m on Twitter (it’s those compelling titles) outline all the ways in which one can live intentionally.

Many times, in those articles, one important idea is left out.

Honor and keep holy the Lord’s Day. –the Third Commandment

If you’re going to pick one thing about which to be intentional, this is the thing.

I admit that could do better at this. I try very hard not to shop on Sundays. I don’t have to try too hard to give myself permission not to do laundry or housework on Sundays. Other than cooking and everyday wiping down for sanitary purposes, most things can wait another day.

Today’s a weird Sunday for me; the folk group sang at the 5 PM Mass last night, so I won’t be at church. That always throws me off. To me, it feels like a Saturday, except that there’s a Sunday paper spread all over the dining-room table. No one needs a ride to rehearsal or soccer practice. And I’m resisting temptation to do work-related stuff–I could be really productive right now, since I have the energy and a big chunk of time.

I’ve got no deeds to do, no promises to keep. –Paul Simon, “Feelin’ Groovy”

Instead, I need to give myself permission to fill my day in a different way. I can serve bacon and French Toast to TheKid and his 2 sleepover guests, when they wake up. I can flip through cookbooks to find a new recipe to try. I can write someone a letter. I can call my mom. I can read that newspaper that’s all over the table, before someone spills maple syrup on it. I can pray a little extra.

This morning I read an article in Aleteia about what one busy working woman discovered when she intentionally set Sundays apart. The work will always be there, and if there’s a choice, I encourage you to choose, if you can, to keep your Sundays free from work and shopping and everyday household chores.

I guarantee you won’t miss being among the crowds in the supermarket on a Sunday.

Give yourself and your family the blessing of intentional Sundays. You won’t regret it.

"Intentional Living on Sundays" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Photo copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved. Text added in Canva.

Small Success: A Dental Breakdown

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!

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

In a nutshell, this week’s success is surviving yesterday’s Dental Visit from Hell.

I noticed at the beginning of June that the crown that was replaced in the summer of 2012 was beginning to come loose. I did not wait. I called for an appointment right away. They wouldn’t deal with my crown when I went in the day before graduation, saying I had to see the hygienist first and maybe it would fall out during cleaning, which would be better than having them force it out. I waited 2 more weeks for that appointment, only to be told to hang in there until it fell out on its own. They did make an appointment for me for August 24, however.

At that point in June I was 4 weeks away from a professional conference, where the last thing you want is to look like a hockey player for photo opportunities with your boss. The office staff at the dentist’s office was unswayed. Fortunately, the tooth stayed put. Wiggly, but still in my mouth.

Authors of the CatholicMom's Prayer Companion at the Catholic Writers Guild, July 2016. @franciscanmom
Authors of the CatholicMom’s Prayer Companion at the Catholic Writers Guild, July 2016

I have been babying that stupid tooth all summer long. No corn on the cob for me this year. I would worry that it would fall out during the night and I’d swallow it. Finally, last Wednesday night, I sneezed, and that was it for the tooth. (“No, it didn’t shoot across the room,” I had to tell my kids, who were gleefully imagining that dramatic scenario. It would have at least made for a better story.)

The dentist’s office couldn’t or wouldn’t find a way to move my appointment up.

So yesterday I went in there, having looked like a hockey player (it’s a canine tooth) all week, with my tooth in a sandwich bag.

Then the torture began.

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!


I had my rosary in my pocket. I didn’t take it out, but my hand was right there by my pocket and I just counted off the Hail Marys. 7 decades’ worth. After that, I lost track. I couldn’t even concentrate on the words of the prayers. They worked on me for quite a while before deciding that Novocaine might be a good idea.

I was just sitting there with my eyes closed to keep out the giant light that was right in my face. Enduring. Opening my mouth and biting down, on command.

And then, while my eyes were shut, I was asked to “open” and in went an impression tray thick with goo. There was no warning. (I’m practically having a post-traumatic panic attack just typing this.)

I was still shaking, hours later. It took 3 Advil after I got home to dull the pain. I felt like I had to keep my hand over my mouth for over an hour, because it hurt so much, and for some reason my brain told me I needed to do that. And for what? A temporary crown for the next 15 days–so still, no corn on the cob. Nothing that requires me to bite. If I eat pizza, it’ll be with a knife and fork.

Some offering-up happened, and I hope that helped the people for whom I was suffering.

I’m still kind of sore, so if you can use a little suffering on your behalf, say the word. I’ll share a prayer and maybe hope that this pain can mean something to someone.

And when this is all over, when the new crown is in and the 2 cavities are filled, when TheKid’s molars have been sealed and I’ve paid the bills that were not in the budget, I’ll be going on the hunt for a new dentist. I’ve broken up with dentists over less than this.

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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!

#WorthRevisit: What I Like about His School

I wish this were still the school's slogan.

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.


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!

Never Say Never: My Bullet Journal

Trying out the bullet journal: Never say never @franciscanmom

The Bullet Journal is THE THING in the planning & productivity world these days.

“It’s a fad,” I said. “A bullet journal is not going to work for me.”

And then last week I went on vacation. I didn’t take my computer and I didn’t take my planner.

So I started a bullet journal in the small notebook I’d brought with me, in case I needed to write anything down.

It just seemed to make sense. And that whole index-at-the-beginning thing? A lifesaver!

My Michele Quigley Catholic planner. @franciscanmom

I’m a confirmed fan of the paper planner, and a loyal customer of Michele Quigley, whose planners I love because they are beautiful, well-made in a family business, functional and contain all kinds of useful Catholic data like the daily readings, saint of the day, quotes from saints, papal prayer intentions and more.

My Michele Quigley Catholic planner. @franciscanmom

I purchased the notebook addition for the back of the planner and use that as my “bullet journal” for work. I also have a section there for organizing book reviews, because I don’t want those to fall through the cracks (that’s not the way to stay on the good side of authors and publishers!)

I wasn’t using a bullet journal for anything else, but did have a brain-dump notebook that I used on and off through the winter and spring. That sort of fell off when summer came along.

Since I double-dog-dared Deanna Bartalini to try (and report on) using the bullet journal and have actually begun using one myself, I figure that the least I can do is play along and link up at her CatholicMom.com post.

Like Deanna, I’m not out to create a work of art here. I might use a ruler to make a vertical line–that’s it (my notebook is ruled, not graph paper). And look: I don’t even use the same color pen for everything. It’s random–and that’s OK.

My bullet journal @franciscanmom

Unlike Deanna, I’m not using this as my planner. It’s a notebook with indexed pages for whatever I need to write down at a particular time. During my vacation, I used it to track:

  • micro-reviews of books I read on the trip (7 total) for input into Goodreads after my return
  • some brainstorming for the regular feature I’ll be writing for Today’s Catholic Teacher
  • a list of dinner ideas
  • items to discuss with TheKid’s guidance counselor regarding what his classroom teachers will need to know about diabetes
  • “random airport sightings” — things that popped into my head while we sat in the San Juan airport for 6 hours. (Times like that, I wish I were a fiction writer. There was lots of story fodder going on, and I don’t mean that in an uncharitable way. Airports are fascinating places for people-watching.)

Once I let go of the idea that it had to LOOK good, I found that the bullet journal really can work for me!

Have you tried using a bullet journal? Join the linkup at CatholicMom.com and share what works (and doesn’t work) for you!

Trying out the bullet journal: Never say never @franciscanmom

Small Success: Sleep-Deprived Edition

Today's Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover

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

I’ll say one thing right up front: it’s going to be a BIG success today if I manage to stay awake during my Adoration hour at noon. I’ve been up since about 3:30 AM, on diabetes duty. (Thank you, soccer tryouts that run from 5 to 7:30 and mess with blood sugars hours later. Hubs had 2 sleepless nights in a row, so last night was my turn. TheKid was in the safe zone by 4:15, but by then I was good and awake.) Sitting in a quiet place for an hour is going to be dangerous. I hope my guardian angel can keep me from snoozing in the chapel!

There’s been a lot of post-vacation catching up going on at work and at home. All the suitcases except one (containing miscellaneous snorkel gear, rain jackets and souvenirs) have been unpacked. I’m slowly getting my pile of books to review in order, and the clean laundry (8 loads on Monday!) is working its way back toward the drawers and closets.

I didn’t lose any weight on vacation, despite the fact that I basically doubled my daily walking mileage. But I didn’t gain any weight on vacation either, so that’s a victory right there.

Yesterday I took TheKid for his uniforms for high school. Because I hoarded saved hand-me-downs from the Big Kids, he’s all set for dress shirts (those things will never die!), golf shirts and sweaters. All I had to buy was pants and shorts, which were still way too expensive. He’d better not outgrow these anytime soon. Gym uniforms have to be purchased at school, so that’ll be tomorrow’s fun.

Today's Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover
Today’s Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover

The Fall 2016 issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher is out, containing my first-ever magazine article! For future issues, I’m working on the Bulletin Board feature, and I have another full-length article coming in the summer 2017 issue. I’m excited about that!

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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!

#WorthRevisit: Unplugged Vacation

Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.

Last week we were on vacation. I didn’t tell you we were going.

There’s a reason for that, as I explained last year after our family vacation, in a Tech Talk article at CatholicMom:

We just didn’t want to let the whole world know that nobody was home at our house. It’s a safety thing.

You might think that if you mark your Facebook posts “friends” instead of “public” that you’re safer. And you are. But you never know who’s looking over your friends’ shoulders. As for Twitter and Instagram, everything you tweet and ‘gram is broadcast for the whole world to see.

And it’s not like we have a common last name. So we chose the “better to be safe than sorry” route this vacation. My photos never did make it to Instagram. That’s OK.

Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.
Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.

I just pulled the vacation photos from my camera’s memory card this morning. It’ll take a while to go through them, but I do hope to share more of the beauty we experienced.

As for the tweets, I’ll bet you didn’t even miss them.

I actually stayed unplugged (no cell phone except for the camera function, no Internet, no text messages, no email) for over 7 days. No, I didn’t get the shakes! I read 7 books, played board games, ate too much fancy food, admired scenery, napped, and stayed out of the sun.

Good times. Even without Instagram.

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!

Small Success: It’s a Thursday


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

So usually I’m all perky and say, “celebrating the ways in which things have gone right!” But today, the little things haven’t. I’m really reaching for the Small Success today.

“It’s a Thursday,” I observed in the middle of this afternoon, as my daughter and I commiserated on all the little things that had gone wrong for both of us all day.

Thursdays were always my daughter’s tough day. Mondays had nothing on Thursdays for her. Thursdays were Murphy’s Law and Monday all rolled into one. My daughter’s trials and tribulations are not mine to share, but today I was having a Thursday too.

I didn’t get to Mass because my tire pressure light went on in the car after I dropped TheKid off at theatre camp. I drove around searching for a gas station with a working air pump. User error meant that I figured out which tire was low but couldn’t manage to fill it. Hubs was late for work because he had to deal with my panic and my tire (with the air compressor he has at home).

It snowballed from there. And then I picked up TheKid at 3, found out that he had to be back at camp at 5:30 for the show tonight, and then read through the new recipe I’d chosen for dinner.

Note to self: never choose a new recipe for dinner when it’s a show night.

This dish simmers for 2 hours after about 25 minutes of prep. It wasn’t looking good for the new recipe.

I jumped back into the car and zipped over to ShopRite for some chicken drumsticks so I could make Miss Jill’s Chicken, which is extra-appropriate since it’s a theatre recipe.

The chicken is in the oven and on track to be done at 4:45 so we can eat and get back to the theatre in time for him to put on his costume and me to help set up concessions for pre-show sales.

The meat for the Swiss steak will go into the freezer for another day, when I have 2 1/2 hours to be home to simmer it.

There are 2 real successes here. OK, 3.

  1. I didn’t completely lose my mind when the dinner plan fell apart.
  2. I hadn’t started cooking that Swiss steak before I noticed that it takes as long as it does to cook.
  3. I didn’t buy, let alone consume, a Milky Way at ShopRite when I ran over there for chicken legs. (All bets are off on this one if there’s good candy at the concession table tonight.)

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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!

#OpenBook: July 2016 Reads

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The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:


pickup notesPickup Notes by Jane Lebak. This story will rid you of any idea that string quartets are boring. The novel centers on the violist in a NYC-based quartet; Joey struggles against toxic family circumstances, a night job collecting tolls at a Brooklyn tunnel, and her own doubts about everything from her music to her ability to be a friend. Mix in an intriguing romantic situation, some well-placed snark and three more musicians and you have a recipe for a winner of a story. I had a hard time putting this novel down–and I didn’t want it to end.

they almost always come homeThey Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti. This was a harrowing tale about a woman in a difficult marriage whose husband leaves for a 2-week fishing trip in northern Canada and does not return. Overcoming her anger at him for getting out before she could is her true concern for his safety. She organizes a search party with her best friend and her father-in-law. While only her father-in-law has wilderness experience, the three journey to retrace her husband’s steps in the hope of finding answers.

seven riddles to nowhereSeven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan. Perfect for middle-schoolers, this novel centers on a cyber-scavenger hunt reminiscent of “The Westing Game” but with higher stakes–the survival of a beloved school. Kam and his friends are challenged by bullies as they make their way through unfamiliar neighborhoods, seeking clues in churches and racing against time to win an inheritance. This was an advance reader copy–the book will be released by the end of August and I can’t recommend it enough. Make a note to check Amazon for this one later in the month, and visit author A.J. Cattapan’s Facebook page to sign up for the release party!

in this house of bredeIn This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, but I needed a retreat in the form of a novel that would draw me in with its overwhelming peace–and this was just the thing. This book is a masterpiece.


pope francis takes the busPope Francis Takes the Bus by Rosario Carello. What’s Pope Francis really like? You’ve heard bits and pieces in news stories about him paying his own hotel bill, riding the bus around Buenos Aires and forgoing a plush Papal apartment in favor of a life in community. Italian journalist Rosario Carello has put together eighty vignettes from the life of Pope Francis in a book that will help readers get to know the Pope.
My full review is here.


Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Franciscanmom.com. Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at CatholicMom.com!

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#WorthRevisit: A Podcast About Worry that I Need to Hear Again

from fear to faith

I chose this fairly-recent post for Worth Revisit Wednesday because right now I’m feeling pretty anxious and overwhelmed, and I need to revisit Jeff and Gary’s podcast!

I figured I’d catch up on an episode of The Catholic Foodie Show. Yesterday’s program featured Gary Zimak, a Catholic author and speaker who lives in a neighboring town and who specializes in the subject of fear, worry and faith.

As Gary and Jeff shared about worry and how it tends to short-circuit prayer (except for the “God, help me!” kind), they encouraged listeners to remember to always praise God.

That reminded me of a line from St. Francis of Assisi’s Letter to the Faithful. Copy this down and put it where you’ll see it every day:

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, and serve him with great humility.

This is going to be my focus, going forward. Let’s see where it takes me.

from fear to faithRight now I’m reading Gary’s book From Fear to Faith: A Worrier’s Guide to Discovering Peace. It’s an excellent book to bring to Adoration. Chapters are short and there’s a lot of room for thought, prayer and reflection.

You can listen to this podcast here. When you’re done listening, bookmark the Breadbox Media website or download their app (free for iOS and Android) so you can find your favorite Catholic radio shows online or listen to archived episodes!

The fine print: the link to Gary Zimak’s book is an Amazon affiliate link, which puts a little extra in my pocket at no cost to you when you purchase this book through my link. 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!