Theology of Home review

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Theology of Home

Theology of Home review
Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

I wanted this to be a lifestyle book.

We’re in the planning stages right now of updating our home’s interior. Over the summer we replaced every door in the house. Now we’re choosing flooring and paint covers and preparing for the removal of the 1970s paneling that covers nearly every interior wall.

We’ve lived here for 21 years. After the first year, my husband primed and painted all that paneling, turning the house from a dark dungeon into a warmer, brighter space. But baby gates have come and gone, and the paint bears the battle scars of vacuum cleaners pushed by hands that were hurried or unskilled (or both), not to mention countless games of Nerf basketball.

It’s time.

Only one of our kids still lives here, and he’s 17. We’re past the point of baby gates, outlet covers, and plastic light sabers. The last Nerf basketball hoop went when we replaced the closet door where it hung.

20 years ago, we made our decisions about wall color and floor covering in an entirely utilitarian fashion. We were in a hurry. We had two young children. But now, we have time. We’d love to get this done now, but it’s going to be several weeks before the work begins, and the only thing we’ve chosen so far is the hard flooring that will replace most of the ancient wall-to-wall carpet in here.

And that’s OK, because now I have time to read Theology of Home: Finding the Eternal in the Everyday.


As I said right up front, this new book from TAN Books is not a lifestyle book. If you only look at the pictures (and Kim Baile’s photography is beautiful), you might get that impression, and it’s certainly fun to page through the book and enjoy the pictures.

But this book is not going to help me choose the paint color that best complements my San Damiano cross.

This book will help me daydream about what I want my home to be, what I want it to represent, what I want it to say to my family as well as to the friends and acquaintances who visit.

My house is never going to look like something they’d feature in a lifestyle book. The coffee table in my living room is strewn with (unread) newspapers and a permanent collection of church hymnals and the portable music stand we use when our parish folk group rehearses there. The family room is littered with video-game controllers, and mismatched afghans spill out of the toy box I had as a child, which now holds blankets for visiting teenagers to use when they sleep over. And we certainly don’t have the budget for high-end accessories.

That’s our lifestyle. We’re good with that.

Theology of Home invites us to celebrate what we love about our homes — not the paint color, or the comfy couch, or the carefully curated light-switch plates. Instead, authors Carrie Gress, Noelle Mering, and Megan Schrieber muse on the meanings behind the spaces in our homes as they invite us into their own stories of home and share episodes from the lives of the saints in which home figures prominently.

Theology of Home review
Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

"Junk drawer superpowers" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

Junk-Drawer Superpowers

Every mom has a superpower, without which things would fall apart in the household.

My superpower: knowing where all the random stuff is hiding.

Related to this is my ability to know what things will fit in what spaces, which is handy when packing the car for a dorm move-in (or -out), vacation, or school event involving a lot of stuff.

It all comes down to a very visual orientation. I definitely get that from my dad. If you ask my dad for directions, he will immediately grab a pen and paper and say, “Let me draw you a map.” After he sketches it out, he can give you the step-by-step. (Dad’s really good at packing too.)

My superpower comes in handy when I’m in the grocery store and have forgotten my list — I can usually visualize what’s on it. This only works if I’ve written the list on paper, proving that eye-hand coordination is necessary for more than just knowing how to juggle. My ability is also helpful when I send a kid to the pantry (in our basement) to retrieve an ingredient. “The mustard is on the shelf just below the sugar and flour. It might be hiding behind the ketchup or salad dressing.”

And it even works when I’m out of the house.¬†People text me all the time when I’m not home, asking where something is.

Yesterday I had gone to the mall and was derailed from my shopping mission by a rack of jeans that were on sale. (50% off! I wasn’t leaving that store without jeans.) I made 3 trips into the dressing room because I didn’t plan ahead while trying on … and the whole time, I was getting texts from my husband. He was installing the weather station we’d gotten him for Father’s Day.

“Eyeglass repair kit? Do you know where it is? The wx station has a tiny phillips head.”

(You can tell he’s a real meteorologist because he uses “wx” to abbreviate the word “weather.”)

“Check top center drawer of my desk. If not there then NO I have no idea. I also have a very small Phillips I think in the pencil holder on top of my desk. The gray mesh one.”

“Found em both. Trying. … Neither works ūüôĀ ”

“Because … ”

“The eyeglass repair kit is a flathead and the screwdriver is too big.”

He sent a picture. He’d found a full-size screwdriver and stopped there.

“In that same desk drawer about halfway back there should be some old stylus from your PDA. The kind with mini screwdriver inside the top.”

“I found an old ipod … ”


“OR!!!! Go in my church tote and get the striped zipper bag out. Inside should be a set of tools.”

And there was. I keep those in there, even though the guitar that required the use of an actual screwdriver when a string broke hasn’t been in my possession since 1994.

When I got home, I zeroed in on that junk drawer and found that old stylus, right where I’d said it would be. The screwdriver inside was the right size, too — though he’d already accomplished the task using the one he found in my church tote.

If I clean out that drawer, I’ll be in trouble, though I did toss the expired pack of Rolaids (I think the asthma inhaler is out-of-date as well, and we won’t even talk about the age of that peanut chew.)

I’m just hoping that Hubs forgets he saw where I hide the Robo-Grip.

"Junk drawer superpowers" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Actual photo of my junk drawer. Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved (though why I care if someone steals this photo of my messy drawer, I couldn’t tell you.)

What’s your superpower?

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This article contains Amazon affiliate links.

Small Success Thursday: Home Improvement

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’ve been doing a little here-and-there organizing this week, and I’m pretty pleased with that. So I called this week “home improvement,” even though no hammers, screwdrivers or power tools were involved.

1. In my continuing battle against the wet-swimsuits-left-in-random-places issue that comes along every single summer, I took the laundry drying rack out of the basement and put it up on our enclosed back porch. I don’t think that a laundry drying rack looks very nice on the porch, but it sure beats crumpled, damp swimsuits, t-shirts and towels on every porch chair. That’s mildew waiting to happen, people!

2. I also tackled the laundry area of the basement, which has a large shelf unit that’s handy for holding detergent, “Pray ‘N’ Wash,” the old towels we keep around in case the utility sink overflows or for when we defrost the freezer, and cleaning supplies. The shelves are fairly deep, so things get pushed to the back and never seen again. One hour and one Hefty bag, later, I’d cleaned, sorted, and put things back neatly. I even used some old kids’ placemats to line the shelves in case of detergent spills. It’s much better, and the stuff I need most frequently is easy to reach. (Since I’m the only one who does the laundry here, this job was all for me, but I was happy to get it done.)

basement before and after

3. I started using the free Wunderlist app, which syncs across all my devices, to keep track of those little home-organization chores I want to get done. wunderlist logo(I use it already for other purposes, but having the list there means I don’t lose the piece of paper where I wrote down the tasks I want to complete for the basement or porch or family room.) And I just found out that this app allows for repeating tasks, making it even MORE useful.

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

Small Success: Neat and Tidy

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’ve been doing a little tidying-up around the place, since it’s too cold to GO anywhere.


My refrigerator door has gone from MESS to MESSAGE CENTER. I have a whole basket of the things I removed: ¬†soccer-team-logo magnets that The Kid wants, a big SpiderMan magnet that I should really send to Mancub, a prayer card that my grandmother kept on HER refrigerator (yes, I inherited the Stuff My Grandmother Kept On Her Refrigerator Door and most of it moved straight to mine)…but they’re not going back on the fridge. Which means I must permanently get rid of some of it before TheKid gets home from school.

fridge door AFTER


On Tuesday, TheKid and TheDad had Snow Days. I cleaned out the linen closet. Bye-bye, bag of cough drops from 2012 lurking in the back corner!

linen closet AFTER


I’m all out of neat accomplishments. My limit seems to be 2 per week. But that’s better than 0 per week.

I also survived a half-day of middle-school substitute teaching on 30 minutes’ notice plus a seventh-grade sleepover capped off with a waffle-eating contest. The winner had 6. Perhaps Kelloggs would like to sponsor TheKid’s next sleepover…

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

Menu Monday: Dinner for 3

menu Monday

I’m joining up with Mary Ellen’s Menu Monday feature. I used to publish meal plans, way back when, and I do miss that!

IMG_0237-0This is no guarantee I’ll stick to this plan, but that’s why I do my menu plan in pencil. I have everything I need to make all these dishes already on hand except for the rolls and provolone for Tuesday’s dinner and the fresh produce.

My biggest cooking challenge right now is Dinner for 3. It’s been a whole month since Middle Sister left for college, and over 6 weeks since Big Brother moved to a townhouse near his job. I haven’t yet gotten the hang of cooking in smaller quantities. When Middle Sister was living here, I usually just cooked for 5 even if she wasn’t home for dinner, because she’d eat the leftovers at midnight while working on homework, or for breakfast, or after school. I’m trying to scale back, but I’m still eating a steady diet of leftovers for lunch every day.

Here’s the plan:

MONDAY: ¬†Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans. I’m still in the habit of buying the biggest Oven Stuffer I can get. We’ll eat the drumsticks, thighs and wings tonight, and the white meat will be frozen for future dinners. Based on the size of this chicken, we’ll get 4 meals out of it, and I’ll use the carcass to make some broth, too.

TUESDAY: ¬†Roast-beef sandwiches with provolone on Italian rolls and a salad on the side. Easy dinner before Little Brother’s soccer practice.

WEDNESDAY: ¬†Spaghetti and meatballs (we have this almost every Wednesday! It’s folk-group practice¬†night, and this is easy to cook and clean up before we have a houseful of musicians. I host folk-group practice AKA Music Therapy; people bring their kids, we celebrate birthdays, and, oh yeah, we practice Sunday’s music, too!)

piccata bites 3THURSDAY:  Chicken piccata bites with rice and a vegetable to be named later.

MEATLESS FRIDAY:  Vodka pasta and a salad. (Pre-soccer-practice fuel!)

SATURDAY: ¬†Takeout pizza. This is our one weekend a month when we play at the 5:00 Mass, and we’re busy ALL day.

LaSalle explorersSUNDAY:¬† “Miss Jill Chicken” with potatoes and a vegetable. This is a quick and easy dish, which is not usually needed on a Sunday, but we’re going to Mass and brunch for Family Weekend at LaSalle to see Middle Sister. Big Brother will be there too!

R.I.P. Maytag

For the fourth time in less than ten years, our dishwasher has broken.

Every time, it’s the same. The panel on the front where you select the cycle and turn it on breaks. First the latch that helps you open the dishwasher door starts to disintegrate. You can still use the dishwasher, but it’s a little more challenging. After a while, I guess the pieces of that latch start falling down on the inside, and none of the buttons on the front work anymore.

lonely maytag repairmanSo much for that “lonely Maytag repairman” myth.

Is there a Lemon Law regarding dishwashers?

Middle Sister observed this morning, “You don’t need a dishwasher. You have 3 kids.”

Me: (figuring that none of the kids would be on board for that kind of KP) ¬†“Really?”

Middle Sister: ¬†“Oh…yeah. You need a dishwasher.”

Mr. Appliance says that the average life expectancy of a dishwasher is 12 years. This one isn’t going to make it.

The new KP schedule will be posted on the refrigerator. Have fun, kids.


Dead Leaves and Sloth

You know those chores that nag at you and nag at you while you put them off? The ones that bug you because you know they need to be done, but you just don’t feel like doing them?

stopwatchI did one of those just now.

There’s a place at the back of our house where we keep the recycling buckets. All winter long, dead leaves from trees several yards over collect into the corners and spaces between the buckets. And now that it’s spring, it was time to do something about it.

So I pulled out the can and got a rake and a snow shovel and cleaned out the mess.

It only took 15 minutes–and what a lift it gave me! Now that spot is nice and neat.

The consequences of laziness:  those tasks that take very little to do will just eat you away. And for what? Why do I always put these things off, letting them get to me, when only a few minutes and a bit of effort will get the job done?

Today I¬†began to shovel and rake away that sloth in the form of a big pile of dead leaves. I wonder what tools I’ll use tomorrow?

image source

Small Success Thursday: Let’s Eat!

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxStop by where we take a few moments every Thursday to share our small successes from the past week.


tortilla soupI created a new soup recipe in an effort to use up some tomato soup that was left over from Soup & Sandwich Night last week. Waste not, want not!


It’s a beautiful morning and the laundry is hanging on the clothesline. Want a good way to keep your blood pressure down? Put up a clothesline!


zapps honey mustard chipsTech Week Dinners are over! It was a true pleasure to work with the parents of the cast and crew and feed the kids, but¬†I am enjoying the chance to once again cook dinner for my own family.¬†Tonight, I’ll be working on a new original recipe for Honey-Mustard Potato Chip Chicken.

2 out of 3 of my Small Successes for the week have to do with food. I really shouldn’t blog when I’m hungry! Pass the chips.

Lent Prep: Planning for an Hour of Power

I’ve been kicking around a few ideas for what to do for Lent this year. Then, this morning, Margaret Rose Realy passed along this link to Elizabeth Scalia’s Lenten reading list.

Oh, to have the time to read that many books…but I digress. I recognized a few of the books pictured there, and (to my shame) realized that I’d purchased some–and never read them.

It didn’t take me long to gather up a pile of 9 spiritual books or devotionals that I haven’t read, and that’s not even including the ones on my Kindle–that’s my NEXT project. I took that pile of books and placed it on the table between my desk and the love seat. It’s a little table, just big enough for the phone, a candle, a box of tissues, my Bible and Liturgy of the Hours, a coaster for my coffee, and a pile of books.Lenten reading challenge

Do you recognize any of the titles in this pile?

In no particular order, I’ve got:

Imitating Mary by Marge Fenelon

The Joy of Knowing Christ by Pope Benedict XVI

The Catholic Briefcase by Randy Hain

Wrapped Up by Teresa Tomeo and Cheryl Dickow

Essential Writings by Caryll Houselander

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

Happy Catholic by Julie Davis

One Size Fits All by Michele Howe

A Season of Mystery by Paula Huston

mery in the cityPlus, I recently ordered Kerry Weber’s new book,¬†Mercy in the City, which should arrive Monday, so that rounds out my pile to an even 10 books.

When it comes to spiritual reading, I tend to be a grazer, so I’m happy to have an abundance of choices. I might not finish these, but I’m going to work on this stack of books for sure during this season.

But I want to do more than read this Lent. So I’m going to fit in an Hour of Power each day. It doesn’t have to be a whole hour all at once, but I have 4 things I want to make happen daily during Lent, for 15 minutes (at least) each:

  • Spiritual reading
  • Journaling
  • Work on my book
  • Declutter my home (Home Storage Solutions has a nifty 15-minute-per-day challenge)

What would you do for your daily Hour of Power?

Small Success Thursday: Snow Day Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxYes, it’s another Snow Day here in southern NJ, where the winter weather has been overachieving in a big way. It’s been snowing since before midnight and is expected to continue until after midnight tonight. I don’t know how much we have because there’s plenty of old snow underneath the new snow, so who can measure?

I’ve got a nice big list of things to do around the homefront today, so I don’t mind being housebound. I’ve already checked off “eat bacon” from my list, so it’s time to join up with the Small Success crew at and look back on how the week has gone.


Proving that I can, indeed, roll with the punches in an actual emergency, the second grade and I survived Monday, when I became the Substitute for the Substitute on 5 minutes’ notice. I was in for the librarian, but was called to abandon ship there and head to second grade when the substitute teacher already in that class was suddenly hit by a stomach virus. It turned out to be a pretty good day.


I did the traditional pre-snowstorm run to the supermarket for French Toast ingredients. Wanting to avoid the crowds, I went on Tuesday night (since I spent Tuesday in the school library as the substitute librarian.) I made it a menu-planning Snow Day Win by picking up a whole chicken and some fresh parsley. The chicken was roasted yesterday for our dinner, and I saved the carcass to use for chicken broth today–that’s where the parsley comes in. It’ll be on the stove soon, and it can simmer all day long.


I turned a Juggling Fail into a Small Success. ShopRite had containers of 30 eggs on sale. We go through a lot of eggs here (Little Brother eats 2 or 3 eggs a day) so I was all about buying the bulk package. It’s a new package, though–flimsy plastic, like this:


and when I went to get it out of the car the container flipped out of my hands and landed upside-down in the driveway.


I was amazed that almost all of the mess was contained in the package, so I ran it inside, set it on the kitchen counter, and went about seeing if anything could be salvaged. Little Brother removed 17 unbroken eggs and put them into another carton. I got an ice-cube tray for the rest. Yes, you can freeze eggs in an ice-cube tray. Now, I only did this because I knew when those eggs got cracked. But only 3 eggs were so far gone that I couldn’t save them.

Just pulled the raisin bread out of the oven. It’s a new recipe, and either the yeast was really overachieving today or there’s a mistake someplace in that recipe, because there was a serious overflow. Some of the raisins were trying to escape. I hope I can get it out of the pan, but if I can’t, I’m just going to cut it right out because it smells amazing, despite its odd appearance.

raisin batter bread overflow

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