Inspired by Mother Teresa, Catholic T-Shirt Club Urges Recycling to Bless Others

Catholic T-shirt Club Mother Teresa
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

As we celebrate the feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta today, the Catholic T-Shirt Club found two ways to honor this contemporary saint.

First they designed a T-shirt featuring St. Teresa’s words: “Intense love does not measure. It just gives.”

Then they found a creative way for customers to reuse the mailing boxes from their T-shirts to bless people in need. Whether you choose to keep these boxes in your car or donate them to shelters or other agencies that help the homeless, blessing boxes such as these are easy to make and an excellent way to involve the whole family in helping others. Finding small ways for everyone in the family to help the vulnerable is a beautiful and simple way to carry on Mother Teresa’s work in our own part of the world.

What can you put in a “blessing box”? Mine will include:

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • travel-size mouthwash
  • socks
  • pack of wet wipes
  • band-aids
  • travel-size deodorant
  • tissues
  • water bottle
  • granola bar

Later in the year, warm gloves will be added to the boxes I put together. I’ll also be enclosing the toiletry items in a ziplock sandwich bag to ensure that any leaks don’t ruin the food items in the box. And look at the side of the box–there’s a Mother Teresa quote front and center.

Catholic T-shirt club Mother Teresa
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

This T-shirt is my favorite design so far from the Catholic T-Shirt Club. I prefer designs with quotes rather than pictures of faces on a T-shirt, and I love that the shirt’s designer referenced the signature blue-striped garb worn by Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in the heart design on the shirt. The card inside the box featured one of Mother Teresa’s most famous quotes, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,” but the lesser-known quote on the T-shirt is not only a conversation starter but food for my own meditation as well.

I’m a fan of the way Catholic T-Shirt Club has turned an evangelization tool into an opportunity to help those in need.

Catholic T-shirt Club Mother Teresa
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
I received a free Mother Teresa box from the Catholic T-Shirt Club in exchange for my honest review.

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Friendship Project

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Today I’m your hostess for “Friendship Friday” on The Friendship Project blog tour. This new book from Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet (Ave Maria Press, 2017) inspires women to foster friendships based on holy virtues.

The title of this book immediately made me think of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, but there’s a big difference here. Rubin’s book is all about how to make things more pleasant for yourself. The Friendship Project invites you outside your personal cocoon into a world of relationship where you and your friends encourage each other. As Sister John Dominic, O.P., remarks in her back-cover endorsement,

“We live in a technology-driven world where people are instantly connected, yet in our own personal lives, we often feel isolated and alone. … [The Friendship Project] underscores the truth that happiness lies in living a virtuous life.”

Friends since college, Michele and Emily write from their own experience, sharing the joys of their twenty-year friendship. Each chapter features a pair of women saints who were friends, and focuses on one virtue that will help us to become better friends and deepen our spiritual friendships.

friendship project

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I was struck by this book’s lovely cover design featuring images by Ivona Staszewski. The folk-art style portraits of saints fit so well with the down-to-earth treatment of saints and holy friendships that Emily and Michele discuss in this book.

Emily Jaminet (l) and Michele Faehnle with advance copy of The Friendship Project at Catholic Marketing Network 2017. Photo copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.
Emily Jaminet (l) and Michele Faehnle with advance copy of The Friendship Project at Catholic Marketing Network 2017. Photo copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

I met Emily and Michele earlier this summer at the Catholic Marketing Network, where they displayed advance reading copies of their book. They are powerhouses: energetic, prayerful, dedicated women–and clearly BFFs. When you meet them in this book, you’re going to want what they have. When you read The Friendship Project, you’ll find out how to get it.

Friendship Friday blog tour for
Courtesy of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Visit the other stops on The Friendship Project blog tour!


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

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Busy Lives & Restless Souls

Barb's Book shelf blog title

If you think you’re too busy to read a spiritual book, Busy Lives & Restless Souls (Loyola Press, 2017) is the book for you. The title grabbed me immediately. Yes, I’m busy (who isn’t?) — but I’ve learned the hard way that checking off to-do list items at the expense of nurturing my soul leaves things off-kilter.

I picked up this book because I knew nothing about Ignatian spirituality and I welcomed the chance to learn something new. As a pragmatic person, I found comfort in the practical advice that I learned is a hallmark of the Ignatian way of life and which is so clearly explained by author Becky Eldredge.

busy lives and restless souls

Becky Eldredge is in a different season of “busy” than I am (my youngest is 15, while she still has toddlers underfoot) but despite our difference in years and experience, her advice rings true. I’m no longer interrupted in prayer by a toddler who wakes up early, but there are different demands on my time and energy that can tempt me to neglect my soul. And then there’s that tendency toward perfectionism (“if I can’t pray Evening Prayer without listening to that movie someone’s watching at top volume in the next room, well then, I’m just going to wait until later” … and later, of course, never comes). So that good advice in chapter 2 (“Creating Spaces”) had nothing to do with blissful quiet and pretty journals and luxurious fountain pens. Instead, it was simply this: “Stop judging your prayer … stop beating yourself up about how you are not praying and celebrate how you are.” (p. 12)

The end of each chapter is as practical as the material preceding it: it’s entitled “A Look at Your Life Now.” The reflection questions and action items there are concrete and do-able. The chapters present plenty of examples of real people applying Ignatian spiritual principles in ways that make sense with their current state of life. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to prayer. The best prayer is the prayer you can pray, and what you can do today is probably different from what you will be able to do next year. But since it’s not next year, do what you can today. That’s extraordinarily practical, and extraordinarily comforting.

One thing I found distracting in this book is the author’s refusal to use a pronoun for God. Yes, it’s nitpicky of me to notice, but when the word “God” comes up three times in two sentences it starts to get awkward; after all, isn’t that why God invented pronouns in the first place? This is the first time I’ve encountered this practice outside of hymnals and the people who insist on replacing pronouns in Mass responses and proclaiming those loudly, so it didn’t engender (pun completely intended) a positive response from me.

That aside, the book is definitely worth reading–it’s a great encouragement to any parent or other busy soul.


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

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 101 Places to Pray Before You Die

Thomas J. Craughwell’s unusual guidebook to our nation’s vast treasury of Catholic churches, shrines, retreat houses and universities helps travelers add a Catholic element to their vacations, business trips or Sunday drives. If you plan to visit a city for any reason, take a look in 101 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide to see if you’ll be near any of the featured locations. Visits to some of these sites may not require very much time; others (like the retreat houses) beg for longer stays.

Since many holy sites are closing due to lack of visitors and funding, like the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine near Philadelphia, PA, this book is a well-timed reminder to take the opportunity to visit such places while the opportunity still exists. Your visit supports the efforts of those who maintain and staff these churches, shrines and other sites.

101 places to pray before you die

Craughwell makes sure to note that some of the locations featured in his book are “hidden treasures”: you might not guess from a building’s plain facade that it holds a beautiful collection of statues or boasts unusual painted ceilings, for example.

The author takes a “big tent” approach with this book, making sure to include at least one site from each state plus Washington, D.C., and selecting places with connections to a variety of ethnic heritages. The destinations include universities, cathedrals, churches, retreat houses, and shrines. Many are working parishes, so you can plan your visit to include Mass, if you wish (one of the highlights of my only trip to California was the chance to attend Mass at the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, so I’d always want to time a visit to a church, cathedral or shrine to include Mass)!

101 Places to Pray Before You Die also includes notations of special events or times of year when visitors might enjoy special displays, such as the collection of 76 Nativity scenes each December at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT.

Each site’s description is short (only a page or two in length) but includes website information as well as address and telephone number. I would have loved a photo from each place and a location mark on the state map illustrating each holy site. I’d hope that most readers know where the various states are, but not everyone knows the locations of cities within those states.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who travels frequently.

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.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Two Small Kindnesses

"Two small kindnesses" by Barb Szyszkiewicz (Franciscanmom.com)
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Yesterday was quite a day.

My daughter had her wisdom teeth out. That was a 4-hour chunk of the day, almost half of which was devoted to driving. All went well and she’s sore but not sick, so we are grateful. That’s the part of the day that went right.

As for the rest of it:

TheKid found a dead bunny in the backyard when he was mowing the lawn.

I’d been up since 4:30 AM getting the hang of my new job and trying mightily to stay caught up on my first job. (“Just keep swimming … “)

My daughter is dog-sitting and since she’s not allowed to drive until tomorrow because she had anesthesia, I had to drive her 4 miles each way two times to take care of the dog.

TheKid had soccer practice from 5 to 7:30.

I was supposed to sing at Mass at 7 PM with the folk group, but Hubs was in New York for the day for training, so he wasn’t going to be home in time for the end of soccer practice, and my daughter can’t drive. So … no church for me. I’ll have to go tomorrow and take my chances on the music.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand … the dryer is broken.

My daughter’s boyfriend arrived, milkshake in hand, while I was getting TheKid after practice. He drove an hour each way after working all day to bring her a vanilla shake.

It was well after 8 PM by the time I’d cooked, we’d eaten, and I got things put away, then headed out to the laundromat with two heavy loads of wet laundry and the pots and pans still in the sink.

I bundled all the socks and towels into two big dryers and settled in with my Kindle to wait for it to be done.

My daughter texted me to ask if I wanted her to finish the dishes. I told her not to worry about it; she was hurting and I was giving her the day off from chores. Then, a few minutes later: “My boyfriend washed the dishes.”

He’s a keeper.

Then the dryers buzzed and I started the foldathon before heading home. I was one sock short, but figured it had just gotten separated out at home. As I piled everything into my basket, a lady unloading her washing machines turned around with my other sock in her hand to ask if it was mine.

Then she went and held the door open for me as I carried my overloaded basket outside.

Earlier, I had almost been reduced to tears by the small erosions of things going wrong. The tears finally came as I slid my laundry basket into the back seat of my car. Gratitude. Relief. And, yes, exhaustion.

Two small kindnesses, when the day had very nearly gotten the best of me.

They might not seem like a very big deal, but when the day is full of little things that go wrong, two little kindnesses mean a very great deal.


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Back-to-School Reads from Pauline Books

As the summer winds down and the school year begins, it’s time to look at some books for readers of all ages from Pauline Books and Media. I’ve organized these by age, beginning with one for the bedtime-story set.

beginnings
Beginnings by Lori Ann Watson is an excellent read-aloud for the start of a school year. Capitalizing on young children’s fascination with the natural world, Watson shows the beginnings of such diverse things as flowers, rivers, trees, butterflies, rainstorms and baby birds, then concludes with a child’s own beginning: God giving a child to a family, where the baby grows within the mother’s womb and then is born. This book carries a beautiful message about God’s love and God’s loving plan. Reinforcing the humanity of the unborn child, Beginnings would make a special gift for a child feeling a bit displaced by the impending birth of a sibling. Beautiful, gently-colored illustrations by Shennen Bersani complement the story and feature children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

beatitudes explained
The Beatitudes Explained by Silvia Vecchini is for independent readers in intermediate school. This book, available Tuesday, August 15, is a small booklet that breaks down the beloved teaching from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount into lesson-sized pieces. Each Beatitude is related to other Gospel stories, events or parables. Readers then consider what Jesus is asking us to do, and read “Words to Live By” which come from Scripture or saints. Finally, the “Notebook” pages at the end of each section offer journal prompts about how we can better live the Beatitudes on a daily basis. This book is an excellent supplement for religious-education classes and would also be a good resource for families to work through together.
anointed
Anointed: Gifts of the Holy Spirit by Pope Francis (compiled by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe) is designed specifically for teens who are preparing for Confirmation or are newly Confirmed. Most of the book is comprised of quotes from Pope Francis’ Wednesday Audiences. These short quotes are laid out on colorful pages with energetic, eye-catching design. Grouped according to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the quotes are encouraging and inspiring. The final chapter is made up of prayers, many of which are Holy-Spirit centered. There is also a short introduction to Lectio Divina, a list of Bible verses to inspire prayer, and a list of relevant sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I like the idea of gifting this book to teens at the beginning of their formal sacrament preparation so it can be used as a prayer resource for them as they ready their souls to receive the Holy Spirit. Visit Pauline Books to preview this book and download a free poster!
jesus speaks to you

 

A new Catholic coloring book from artist Veruschka Guerra, Jesus Speaks to You, provides a creative prayer outlet for fans of coloring books. Beautiful images inspired by Jesus’ words in Scripture fill the pages of this large-format book. My favorite design is an intricate botanical drawing inspired by the Parable of the Mustard Seed (but I reserve the right to change my mind about that as I keep coloring in this book!) You can download a free sample page from the coloring book along with a coupon code for a special offer through August 14.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given free review copies of these books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Barb's Book shelf blog title

#OpenBook: July 2017 Reads

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:

Fiction

things we knewThe Things We Knew by Catherine West. When I reached the last page of this book, I found it very hard to leave this family of characters behind. Catherine West has created a wonderful group of flawed-but-working-on-it characters, most from one family, and all of whom have been wounded by a family tragedy that no one quite understands. Lynette, the youngest and most wounded, holds the key to everyone’s healing, including her own–but it’s been used to lock up the traumatic memories of what a middle-schooler once witnessed. Addiction and dementia in some characters add to the challenges this family faces. I read this book because Carolyn recommended it! It’s definitely the best novel I’ve read this month.

murphys luckMurphy’s Luck by Benjamin Laskin. A very different romance–quirky, captivating and a terrific story. Murphy Drummer has the worst luck. Everything falls down around him, though he manages to escape unscathed. After he’s kicked out of school, his grandfather keeps him at home, where he tries out every hobby under the son while managing never to leave the house. Murphy manages to make a name and a nice living for himself as a blogger. Once his grandfather dies and he does leave, a chance encounter with a woman who always seems to land on her feet raises the possibility that Murphy’s luck just might change.

cub creekCub Creek by Grace Greene. This novel paints a disturbing picture in a beautiful setting. Libbie is running from a tragic past, but her impulsive purchase of a home in the middle of nowhere turns eerie quickly when she feels like she’s being watched and has flashbacks to some of the horrors in her formative years. Her relocation isn’t enough to keep tragedy from following where she goes. There’s hints at some sort of mental illness on top of Libbie’s abusive family background.

loves highwayLove’s Highway by Jane Lebak. This novella is part of the “First Street Church Kindle Worlds” series by over a dozen different authors. I’m a fan of Jane’s work so I read hers first. Casey, a young woman on the run, shows up in Sweet Grove and lets her guard down immediately when she sees someone abandoning a litter of puppies. She can’t help but be captivated by the community there, especially Peter, who’s willing to put off his own future in order to see his brilliant sister through veterinary school. Casey is challenged to learn her own lessons in sacrifice and trust. This story stands alone, but you’ll want to read more about the town–and I do hope Jane will be writing more about these characters!

loves prophetLove’s Prophet by Melissa Storm. A sweet love story that continues the “First Street Church” small-town romance series. Widower Liam has shut himself off from the world, including his young daughter, who’s on a mission to carry out her mother’s dying wish: to complete the family once again. Molly Sue has her heart set on Jennifer, an old friend of her mom’s; will old memories get in the way of new romance?

 

YA/Kids

spokesSpokes by Deanna K. Klingel. Two homeschooled teens team up to train for a triathlon after a tragic hit-and-run claims the life of Kelsey’s mom. With the help of friars from a nearby monastery, Kelsey and Brendon set out to solve the mystery that has police stymied while each of them works through emotional journeys through grief. Recommended for readers in middle school and up.

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!

open book new logo

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

 

Full-On, Full-Time Adventures

Beginning today, it’s all adventure, all the time. Add up two part-time adventures and you get a full-time adventure!

cm_logo_final_vertical At CatholicMom.com, I’m staying busy as usual. We have about 125 authors writing here, and my job includes keeping track of the schedule and getting all the content published on time. (There’s other stuff to do too, but most of it revolves around that main task.)

HCFM logoLater this week I’ll be traveling to Massachusetts to “meet the family” at Holy Cross Family Ministries and work on the details of bringing CatholicMom.com under their umbrella. There have been lots of emails and phone calls, and everyone has been very welcoming. I’ve already received a rough agenda for my 3-day trip. Each day’s schedule includes Rosary and Mass. That’s the kind of work schedule I can get behind. That kind of work schedule helps give me the support I need to do the work I do!

TCT_FALL16And I officially start tomorrow, but I’ve been easing in to this a bit: I’m the new managing editor/digital content manager at Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine. I did this work on an interim basis for a month last summer, so I’ve had a taste of what I’ll be doing, but I’ve never worked through the whole process for an entire issue of the magazine. There’s plenty of support as I get to know the ins and outs of the job.

Old desk
My tiny desk in my tiny office. I need more space in my workspace!

All of this means that my tiny desk in my tiny office isn’t enough anymore. I need room to spread out with notebooks and clipboards and bullet journal and laptop. For my birthday, my family took me to Ikea for a new desk. Before I can break out the Allen wrench and assemble my new furniture, though, we have to get an old twin bed out of the room. It’s taking up most of the space, and I’ve only got 9×10 to start with.

when the timer dingsThis also means that I’m going to need to get serious about time management. I’ve begun working through the exercises in Katharine Grubb’s When the Timer Dings, because she has a realistic view of what it’s like to work from home and care for a family at the same time.

For me, working from home is the only way I’d be able to work right now. I need the flexibility to be able to take care of TheKid when diabetes gets . . . interesting, even if that just means I’m working in the next room while keeping an eye on blood-sugar levels and delivering juice or sugar-free Gatorade, depending. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s never predictable, so availability is key.

busy lives restless soulsOn Saturday I received a review copy of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, new from Ignatius Press. Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola; what better time to begin reading a book whose back cover promises, “Elderidge interprets principles of Ignatian spirituality in a fresh way to equip us with prayer tools that are accessible and practical within the relentless realities of our daily routines.” Yes–this book is for me.

It’s time to get started on my new full-time adventure!

Housing Fight Concerns More than Affordability

children not welcome seniors only
Map: Google Maps. Title added in Canva.

I opened the local newspaper yesterday and read that my town is embroiled in a legal battle over affordable housing. (I’m going to quote heavily because the article will be behind a paywall soon.)

The nonprofit advocacy group alleges that the Township Council is trying to skirt its affordable housing obligations by claiming there isn’t enough vacant space for substantially more low-income homes or apartments, even though the Planning Board recently approved the development of two large age-restricted housing projects. Neither included affordable units.

The spokesman for the Fair Share Housing Center noted that Delran is “intent on locking out working families.”

But the mayor’s comment reveals that there’s more to the story.

“We felt those (age-restricted communities) would have a minimal impact on schools and be good for Delran,” Mayor Ken Paris said Thursday.

This is all about the impact on the schools–it’s not really about affordability at all.

My town doesn’t want to add any housing that might wind up housing children.

And they’re not ashamed to say so.

From what I’ve seen in the past, few towns are interested in building houses that are not age-restricted. No one wants to add children to the school population.

Council President Gary Catrambone said the township has been working for years to keep development at a minimum to help control property taxes and school overcrowding.

That’s their plan for keeping taxes down (a plan which, by the way, isn’t working out so well here): they’ll welcome children only to existing housing. People who want to buy brand-new houses will have to find some other town in which to live.

That plan says a lot about the local government’s priorities (and the priorities of the people who run local government and the people who voted for the mayor and town council.

Delran officials countered that their intent in approving age-restricted housing was to keep the township affordable by expanding its tax base without overburdening the school system with new children.

In a town that’s full of playgrounds and soccer fields (and building more of both all the time), no one seems too eager to welcome the children who would use those amenities. If this trend continues, it won’t be long before our playgrounds turn into dog parks.

Dogs–and seniors–are still welcome here, after all.

Children are the future; there doesn’t seem to be much future here.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Dying for Compassion

Barb's Book shelf blog title

Dying for Compassion (The Lady Doc Murders Book 2) by Barbara Golder. A murder mystery by an author whose mysteries include enough character development to satisfy readers like me who usually avoid that genre (and very little gore, especially considering the main character’s profession as the local coroner). Dying for Compassion puts a human face on the euthanasia debate and how it plays out in cases involving children and adults. dying for compassion

In my review of Dying for Revenge (The Lady Doc Murders Book 1) I noted,

There’s much more than a mystery in this thriller; it’s the story of a soul in torment.

Book 2 in the series is less about the tormented soul and more about trust. Dr. Jane Wallace is just about to let herself fall for Eoin when his ex-wife shows up and makes it clear that he’s not free to marry Jane. The doctor finds herself vacillating between wondering if he can be trusted at all to traveling to Ireland to clear his name after he’s indicted for murder.

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths at home vie for Jane’s mental attention as she considers the impact of an assisted-suicide advocacy group that has entrenched itself in the town, including its health-care workers and her own assistant medical examiner. Can that assistant be trusted to do her job without bias? Can Jane?

In this series, the second book is just as good as the first (and a good deal less violent). I highly recommend both!

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