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

"Wrong Answer. Wrong Question?" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS (Franciscanmom.com)

Wrong Answer. Wrong Question?

“How was church?” I asked my daughter yesterday after she returned from the 8:00 Mass.


Maybe I’d asked the wrong question. Maybe I should have inquired if she’d seen anyone she knows there, or how the music was, or who had preached the homily.

I don’t know what answer I’d hoped to hear. But the answer I did hear leads me to believe that I’ve failed.

When I was her age I suffered through the summers because I had to sit in the pews instead of with the musicians. I didn’t have a place to sing at home in the summertime. I’d go to Mass with my parents sometimes (and once I begged sheet music for original hymns from the songwriter who was playing them at Mass.) Other times, I’d walk to the church a mile away from our house. A lot depended on my work schedule.

I didn’t consider it boring, but then again, I didn’t go to Mass expecting entertainment. My biggest obstacle in the summer was that I wasn’t serving.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I haven’t taught my kids that Mass isn’t about entertainment. Maybe I haven’t stressed enough that we’re not there to get, but to give (and I’m not referring to what we’re putting into the collection baskets).

I can make my kids go (as long as they’re living in my house) and I can even insist that they don’t wear shorts to Mass. But I can’t make them want to.

Is my example enough? Is bringing them week after week after week, sending them to Catholic school, enough? Should I have done, said, been something more?

Have I failed my Domestic Church?

Photo copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#Worth Revisit: On Her Birthday

On what would have been her 101st birthday (and she’d be furious at me for divulging her age), a tribute to my grandmother, revisited from 2 years ago.

word by wordI wrote more about my grandmother in my chapter of Word by Word; her witness was a huge influence in my life.

We called her “Nanny.” (She hated the nickname, but once a little kid learns it, you’re stuck with it.) Today she would have turned 99 years old.

Only two of my kids remember her, though we do have a picture of her with all 3 of them. She passed away when Little Brother was about 7 months old.

Nanny lived 2.5 miles away from our house. I know this because when I was in middle school (and high school) I used to ride my bike there, and my dad made sure we all had odometers for our bikes.

Nannys HousePictured here is Nanny’s house as it looks today. She lived on the second floor. When I was in middle school, I received my own key to her house. By that time she was recently retired from her job as a secretary in the courthouse in Paterson, NJ–and she was tired of going down the stairs to let us in when we’d show up to visit.

We were always welcome in her home, even unannounced. And she always knew we’d been there if we showed up and she wasn’t home. We started leaving her little notes on the kitchen table so she wouldn’t worry about someone breaking in.

I inherited my grandmother’s supersonic ears. She could always tell when we were raiding the glass bowl of M&Ms she kept on the dining-room table. (I inherited that table.)

I wish I’d inherited her crossword-puzzle skills. Every Sunday she bought the New York Times, removed the magazine so she could do the puzzle, and threw away the rest of the paper. She’d sit at the kitchen table and work on the puzzle while her Sunday chicken roasted and the potatoes boiled. If I rode my bike over there in time for dinner, I got the wings. And sometimes she’d let me take a crack at the puzzle after she’d gone through it.

Nanny’s house was four blocks from the Catholic school where my mom taught and where at least 3 generations of my family (including me, my brother and sister) were educated. Maybe 4. My great-grandfather might have gone there too. On sick days, Mom would drop us off at Nanny’s house, where we’d be set up on the couch with a crocheted daisy blanket and a book to read. (I inherited that blanket too.)

Nanny was a daily Mass-goer and Rosary pray-er. She always went all out in decorating for Christmas–INSIDE the house–right down to the fake snow on the mantelpieces in the dining room and living room. One year for my birthday she gave me a big box of art/office supplies:  new crayons, scissors, pencils, stapler, art paper and more. I was thrilled.

Hands down, Nanny made the best roast chicken, mashed potatoes, turnips, and tuna-fish sandwiches (on Wonder bread, with butter. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.) I don’t ever remember her baking anything, but she knew where the good bakery was, and when she went there, she’d bring you back a lemon cupcake or blueberry tart. You could always find Coke in the fridge and Mallomars in the cabinet, and the Milky Ways were kept in the vegetable drawer.

I miss Nanny, and more than that, I wish that my kids had what I’d had:  the chance to grow up with anytime-you-want access to your grandmother.
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!

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#WorthRevisit: My Favorite Nonfood Thanksgiving Tradition


Thanksgiving is all about the food in so many ways. But really, it’s all about tradition.

I was one of many who responded to a tweet by @CatholicFoodie, in which an innovative pepper-stuffed turkey recipe was shared, with this: “Thanksgiving, for me, is about Nostalgia Food. New recipes will be saved for another day.”

Nostalgia Food and tradition. That’s Thanksgiving in a nutshell. And here’s a tradition my sister and I have. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. From 2007:

My sister cooks Thanksgiving dinner at her home every year. My family attends every other year, and in the off years we spend the holiday with TheDad’s side of the family. Usually I cook, and they all come here–though there have been exceptions, like the time Pop was in the hospital. That year I cooked it all and brought it to my brother-in-law’s house and finished making the dinner there, since they lived closer to the hospital, and the adults visited Pop in shifts throughout the day.

When you cook Thanksgiving dinner you have to get up early. There are a lot of details to take care of, and a big turkey does take a while to stuff and cook. So my sister and I have developed our own little tradition. Whether it’s our year to visit her home, or the “bye year” as she calls it, we spend part of the early hours of the morning on the phone. Even if we’re at her house, she’s got so many guests and is so busy that we don’t get to talk much. So we enjoy our Thanksgiving phone call.

I’ve got nothing to cook this year but I’m up early anyway. The coffee is brewing, and I just got an email from my sister telling me that she’s awake, and that those participating in the annual Great Pheasant Hunt will be leaving at 5:45, so I’m welcome to call anytime after that.

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!