Knocking down the fence

I went to confession the other day. It had been a while, like a loooong while, since I had last been. There really isn’t a good reason why, especially here in Stuebenville, where there are at least 5 Catholic churches within 10 minutes from my house. Each week, I would plan to go on Saturday and each week, something came up or I just plain old forgot. Like I said, no good reason. The diocese offered 24 hour adoration and confession at one of the local churches on Friday. No excuses. It was time. After I left work on Friday, I headed over to Blessed Sacrament. When I got there, I just sat for a bit in front of the monstrance. I wanted to quiet my mind so that I could prepare to make a “good”confession.

So I sat and sat and sat. I don’t know about you, but the more I try to quiet my mind, the louder my internal voice gets. The circus monkeys in my head were clanging around, I was starting to feel more and more anxious.  I decided to pull out my rosary, my go to for peace. I had even brought my earbuds so that I could listen to my favorite rosary podcast, “The Sound of the Rosary” by Christian Peschken. His quiet, steady voice helped to drown out the monkeys and I started to feel a little bit more calm. I pulled out my bible and journal and started to write it out. I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to work through, but I wrote and I wrote. I kept glancing at the monstrance, trying to see Jesus in the exposed Eucharist. I kept searching for that connection, that feeling of experiencing God in His presence. It was like He was almost there. I could almost touch Him, but whenever reached out, He slipped out of my grasp. It seemed as if there was a fence. I was on  one side and He was on the other. I could peek between the slats of the fence and I would catch a glimpse of Him here or there, but that was it.

pexels-photo-113726.jpegI was still sitting, waiting, watching, when it occurred to me. The fence was sin. It was the wall that I had inadvertently built up each time I had offended Him. Each time that I lost my patience and snapped at one of the kids, each time that I got carried away in gossip or felt that pang of jealousy, I had helped to distance myself from Him. He had never moved. He was still there, steadfast in His Love and mercy. It was me that had put up the fence. And because it had been so long since I had been to confession, the fence was pretty tall. It was blocking out the sun or in this case the Son.

It was my turn to enter the confessional. I sat down across from the priest and just started to unload. With each word, I could feel the fence coming down. I started to cry. I just kept telling the priest how inadequate I felt. I told him how I had continually failed my husband, my kids, myself. I told him that it seemed like the harder that I tried to be a good mom and wife and Catholic, the worse I seemed to do. I felt like a failure and I basically sucked. (Yes, I actually said that I sucked…to a priest. Not a finer moment, but an honest one.) I continued to cry as I told him sin after sin, failing after failing. And then I stopped.

I took a deep breath and looked up at him He just sat there for a minute just looking at me. And then he smiled. He said, ” First of all, you don’t suck.”

I stopped crying and I just laughed. “Ummm thank you?” I said.

He went on to say that God’s love is always there, even when we don’t feel it. In those moments when I am reaching out and can’t feel a connection, He is still there. He is still loving me. He said, “It is like the sun. You know that it’s always there, even on cloudy days when the sky is gray and dreary. It is there even at nighttime when the sky is dark. It is always there and so is He. ”

Of course He is. He has never moved. His love has never diminished. I just allowed the sin in my life to block Him out. I built the fence. I put the distance there. And all along, I had the key to reconnect. I had the key to dismantling the fence. All that I had to do was to ask forgiveness. The grace from the sacrament of Reconciliation was just waiting for me to claim it. As I said my Act of Contrition, I felt the lightness and freedom that comes from confession. I felt the cleansing power of the tears that I had shed. I felt forgiven. I once again thanked God for the gift of the sacraments. I thanked Him for the mercy that He continually shows us. I thanked Him for His unwavering and unconditional Love.

And once again, I wondered why I had waited so long to go.

My friends, don’t wait. Don’t let Satan stop you from knocking down your fence. Satan would like nothing more than for you to build a wall so tall and so thick that the Son can never get through. He wants you to think that there is nothing on the other side. He wants you to believe that you are such a failure that God has left you. But it’s not true. He is always there, even if you can’t see Him, even if you can’t feel Him. He is there just waiting for you to come back to Him. He is just waiting to forgive you. All that you have to do is ask.


Little man turns 7

24173905_10156757647668906_1207327525275820917_oToday Little Man, aka, JP, Jonathan, Peezy, or Click-Clack Paddy Whack (don’t ask…)turns 7! I remember when I found out that we were expecting him. I freaked out and, embarrassingly, not in a good way. We had eight kids and I felt like we should be done. Silly, silly girl…I should know better than to think. LOL I found out that I was pregnant and I was kind of mad. We were charting and there really wasn’t any way that it should have happened, except that it did. I went in for an early ultrasound because of some weird clotting issues and they couldn’t find the baby. There was nothing. I immediately realized how much I wanted that little baby and I was devastated. They told us to come back in a week and they would check again, it might just be too early. I was 100% convinced that I had lost the baby and that it was my fault. For the next week, I lived in the dark side. I couldn’t get out of bed and I just kept crying. We went back in the following week for the ultrasound and I just laid there with tears streaming down my face. I knew that she was just going to confirm what I already knew…but then she turned the volume up and there it was…the heartbeat. I looked at the screen and you could see the distinct little lima bean baby wiggling around in there. I swore then and there to never take my fertility for granted and to that I would joyfully welcome any children into my heart that God blessed us with. The ironic thing is that shortly after Peezy was born, I developed fibroids that basically incapacitated me and I had to have a hysterectomy. He would definitely be our last little one. Let me tell you, I thank God everyday for the blessing that is Jonathan. In a house full of teens and tweens and hormones and angst, his funny little self is not only welcomed, but it is needed. He basically has the entire family wrapped around his little finger and keeps us entertained. The funny thing is that he is a very old, little boy. There is a wisdom that is there that just can’t be explained. He is always pushing to be bigger and I keep begging him to just slow down. My little man.

So this morning, I was sitting in my bed, reading the daily readings and he saunters into my room. He is wearing this lopsided grin and looked at me expectantly. “Happy birthday Buddy! How does it feel to be 7?” He says, “Pretty darn good. ” I am trying not to bust out laughing. I said, “Are you too old to come over here and give me a big birthday hug?” “Course not Mom,” he says. He climbs up on the bed and I pull him in for a big hug. I was holding him and I flashed back to that very first day. My mom and Brian had gone home for some dinner. Brian had planned to bring the kids over to meet the newest Hough later that evening. We had no idea that while I was laboring, we had been hit by a major ice storm. With the exception of my dad, who popped in on his way home from work, nobody could come to visit us. I remember laying him on the bed and unwrapping his blanket. I just looked at his little feet and tiny fingers. I couldn’t imagine a world that he didn’t exist in.  As I was patting his back, my mind back 7 years ago, he says, “Mom, I feel as if I should tell you something. I am going to fart.” Moment gone. I dissolved into laughter and so did he. Hugs from mom and giggling about farts, this is what it is to be a seven year old boy.


The light

Wednesday evening was the usual level of crazy with finishing up dinner, assigning kids to dish duty (always super fun…NOT), enforcing homework time, bath time, etc. When I had finally said good night to the youngest two, I grabbed a cup of tea and sat down on the couch to enjoy some Olympics with the girls. Aiden, my eight year old, came back downstairs and stood by me. I looked at him questioningly, “Yes???” “I feel weird.” was what he said. Huh? “You feel weird?”I asked. He nodded. “What does that mean? Do you feel sick?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Does your head hurt?” “No…” he answered. “Your belly? You need to give me more than weird Buddy. What is going on?” I probed. He sort of crumpled into a heap on the couch and started to cry. Oh boy…so much for getting lost in my tea and snowboarding.

“Ok, what is going on?” I asked as I pulled him onto my lap. He looked at me and said, “What if I get shot at school?” Oh my…I took a minute and cursed myself for giving up wine for Lent and then I just kind of sat there. This was when I should have comforted him with some soothing, maternal words of wisdom. But instead, I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. I didn’t know what to say to him because those were things that I had worried about myself. We send our kids to school or sports practice or boy scouts, or whatever, and we expect them to be safe. We assume that when we go to pick them up, they will be safe and sound and whole. Sadly, that is not the case. So…what do we do? What do we say?

I looked at my little guy and was overcome with sadness that his tender little heart was so affected by this. I am not sure where he had heard about the recent school shooting in Florida. I don’t know if it was at school, or on tv or if he had overheard my older kids and I discussing it. I guess that it doesn’t matter. What does matter was how was I going to comfort my son when I was afraid too? How can I give him the assurance that he needs, really that we all need, that it is all going to be ok?

I think that it comes down to this…There is an ongoing battle and we are all under attack. Through our faith as Christians, we know who wins in the end. But I believe that the evil one is constantly looking for the weaknesses in all of us. He watches for the little opening where he can worm his way in and plant the seeds of doubt, loneliness, and hate. I just keep thinking that in all of these violent crimes, these senseless killings, what happened to the person behind them? What could possibly make someone feel that their only option was to take the lives of innocent people? What good did they think would come from their violent actions? How could that make them feel better?

I know that there are people who say that mental illness is to blame. Or that we need stricter gun control. Or even that it all comes down to bullying because kids these days are so mean. I am not denying that any, or even all of these things, are contributing factors. But I think that it all comes back to the ongoing battle that people choose not to acknowledge. There is an evilness out there and it preys on the weak, the isolated, and the lonely. It is that little mocking voice that whispers things like, “they don’t like you…you aren’t good enough…you are ugly…you are stupid…nobody cares…nobody loves you.” We have all heard it at one point in time or another. When we have those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, they are right there mocking us. So why don’t we all just go nuts and turn to violence and anger?

The difference, at least in my life, is that I also allow the goodness. I invite God into my life each and every day and when I experience those feelings of doubt and insecurity, I remind myself that my value and worth doesn’t come from anything that I am or have done, but rather just in the fact that I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings. It isn’t always easy, which is why I try to surround myself with people who know this Truth as well. They are there to remind me of this very thing when I fail to see it myself. This is what I want for my children. I want a support system around them that is positive and loving. I want them to be surrounded by family and friends that remind them that they are kind and important. They are loved and cherished. I want them to be that loving presence in others’ lives as well.

But that didn’t really answer his question.

I looked him in the eye and I said, “Here is the thing Buddy. We have no idea what each day will bring us, but we always know that no matter what, God is right there with us. He has sent each one of us a guardian angel to keep us safe and protected. I don’t think that anything like that will ever happen to you. I really don’t. But if it does, you know that you always have God right there with you through all of it. He loves you so much and so do we.” He nodded as he tried to process it all.  I gave him a little squeeze and told him that when I am worried or anxious about something, that I like to pray a rosary. There is something so soothing about talking to the Blessed Mother and feeling the beads slip through your fingers. It has helped me to fall asleep many anxious nights. I handed him my “special” rosary and told him that he could take it with him to bed. He gave me a little smile and walked slowly up the stairs to his room. I wasn’t sure if it had helped him at all. I don’t know that there is really anything that can help us to make sense out of any of this. I only know, that in this darkness that the evil brings, I look for the light. That is where our Hope lies.



Lent….the season of penitential prayer, sacrificial fast and alms giving. I must admit that I am looking forward to the spiritual reboot. In the days leading up to Lent, I have overheard my kids discussing what they were going to “give up.” These sacrifices have been everything from “all electronics” to “junk food” to “making my bed!” (That last one was the 6 year old. ) While I think that it is important to fast from something that will really challenge you, I think that is more important to ask yourself if it will bring you closer to God. Will not eating junk food improve your relationship with Our Lord? Will packing up the ipod or kindle for Lent make you a better version of yourself? Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that you bail on the idea of making a fast from something. I know that I am spoiled rotten and I am a creature of comfort, so to “give up” some of these comforts can be very beneficial. At least it will be if I have the right frame of mind while doing it. Whining about the absence of doritos or social media isn’t drawing you any closer to God. If anything it will push your family and friends farther away because whining is…well, super annoying. But if you quietly offer up your sacrifice for a specific intention, you can give a redemptive quality to your suffering, no matter how small it may seem.

You might also consider adding something to enhance your relationship with Our Lord. That can be anything from praying a daily rosary or chaplet, to reading the daily readings, to just sitting quietly and listening to what it is that God is trying to tell you. That last one is a tricky one for me. With as much crazy and chaos as my daily life brings, you would think that I would revel in the quiet, but it is the exact opposite. I have such trouble quieting my brain and just slowing down. That is why developing a structured prayer life is at the top of my Lenten “to-do list.” I have no lofty goals of sitting in silence and meditating for an hour each day. I know myself and I would just end up planning out the next two weeks meals and grocery lists. Instead, I am going to start small with a daily rosary, the readings and 5 minutes of meditation. I am hoping to slowly bump it up so that I am eventually able to sit quietly and just listen to God for 15 or 20 minutes without hearing circus music playing in my head. Baby steps my friends.

What does your Lent look like?


***To all of my Sisters in Christ, if you are interested in praying a daily rosary and would like to be a part of my Lenten Rosary group, just send me a pm and I will add you to the group. I post a different intention each day for the group to offer up their rosary. Each year, I am amazed at the beautiful blessings that has come out of this group.


I know that as time goes on, my kids are growing older. They need me less and less. My role has changed and is changing with each new phase that they move through. The time staring at a nursing newborn, changes into reading stories with a toddler, which changes into helping with homework and packing lunches. The string of games and plays and proms and concerts to be attended, seems to be neverending. Until it does. You pack up your car and drop them off at college and wait for a text or an email or maybe even a phone call. You watch them live a life of adventure, going on trips to other countries, buying their own car, starting a “real” job. Eventually, you don’t get to see your kids everyday. They don’t come to you for each and every problem. The center of their world has expanded and shifted. You are no longer at the center. They have become the adults that you have always hoped and prayed that they would become. It is the way that it is supposed to be.

The thing is that as they grow up and move out, time slows down. You have time to think back and you realize how special the chaos of having littles truly was. But that time has come to an end and all that you have are the memories. Those memories are what we, as mothers, cherish. You can close your eyes and think back and for just a minute you remember how soft their little cheeks were. You can see the look of victory when they master addition or a tricky spelling word. You can see the tears trail down your daughter’s face after she has suffered her first heartache. The memories give you a sense of peace. The remembering gives you joy.

But what happens when your mind starts to fail you, when these memories slip away? What happens when you look into your children’s faces, but you don’t recognize them? You can almost place them…but not quite. You can sense that you should know them…but you just don’t. The concern on the strangers’ faces is disconcerting to you, but still the confusion remains. You get angry at yourself for not knowing, for not remembering. Why can’t you just recall the thoughts that are so close, but still so very  far away? You get scared. You are living somehwere that is unfamiliar with people that you don’t know. Fear and anger is normal, but it doesn’t make you feel any better.

I can only imagine that is what it feels like to suffer from dementia or Ahlzheimers. I have watched this in people that I have loved.  My great-grandma Bowser was one of those ladies that was always, just so. As a little girl, I remember taking her mail to her. She would always welcome me with a big smile and a glass of iced tea. Her hair was always perfect, her home was always immaculate. Even at a young age, I could recognize that she was very put together. But then it changed. We were at my grandparent’s house and my Poppy, her son, had brought her to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family. She just sat in the corner looking around. She didn’t look at all like the woman that I remembered. She looked terrified. It was because she had no idea where she was. In a room surrounded by people that loved her, she was entirely alone.

My grandma Gaggini was a simple and kind woman. She placed her family above all things, second only to God. Her family was her world. As she grew older, she started to forget things. She would ask me repeatedly how many children I had. She would then start to tell me stories about my dad when he was a baby. She could recall those things that had happened some 50 years ago, but she had no idea what or even if she had eaten breakfast that day. I remember when her sister had passed away. She just kept asking what had happened and if she had died. And each time that she was told yes, it was as if she was losing her sister all over again. It was heartbreaking.

Brian’s Grandma Hughan was a lady that always had her hair perfectly coiffed. She was always dressed perfectly. She knew each one of her great-grandchildren and loved to sit with them on her lap as she would sneak them candy. She would bake pies and make peirogi. She was the quintessential Polish grandma. But then she couldn’t quite remember the recipes that had always come so easily to her. She started to forget to comb her hair. And while she used to sit back and laugh as the kids ran around laughing and playing, she would get nervous and agitated by the noise. We could see her slowly start to slip away and then it just snowballed.

We have all lost someone that we love to this wretched disease. It is frustrating. It is heartbreaking. Because this disease touches so many people, a couple of my friends and I have decided to walk in the Walk to End Alzheimers in Clarion County on October 7. Please take a minute and consider making a donation. Help us find an end to this horrible diesease.

This is the link to make a donation…

Thank you!

Mother’s Day

When I think about what a mother is, so many thoughts come to mind. As the mother of 9, I have found that each child brings their own personality to the table. Each child has their own gifts and talents and their own needs. Each child needs a different thing from their mother. It seems pretty obvious, but where it gets tricky is when the same person (mom) has to be so many different things to so many different people. It can feel overwhelming and frustrating, exhausting and impossible. So how can any of us do this mother thing?

Firsts things first… you need to realize who a mother is. It is not necessarily the person that gave birth to you. I can tell you from my own experience, the love that I feel for every one of my kids, regardless of whether I gave birth to them or not, is real. It is deep and it is life changing. As the adoptive mother to my oldest 3 kids, I have a special place in my heart for their other mom. She has gifted me with the most precious gift, her children. This is not something that I take for granted. I don’t ever forget the part that she has played in their lives, and my own life, for that matter. I have always tried to honor that.  She was real. Her love was real… But so am I. I am their “real mom” too. The fact that I didn’t have the joy of carrying them or giving birth to them, doesn’t negate the reality of my role as their mom. They are mine and I am theirs.

Mothers can come in the shape of a grandmother, an aunt, cousin, sister or friend. Motherhood can come from a marriage, such as a step parent relationship. Mothers can be born through adoption and foster parenting. There isn’t a single definition that can accurately describe who a mother is. It is so much more than a title. The answer can be found in the heart. A mother has a special kind of heart. It grow and grows. With each child, the capacity to love is greater. It is kind of crazy.

Secondly…you can’t do this, at least not alone. Thankfully God will bless you with the grace to get through the difficult times. And their will definitely be difficult times, trust me. But you will get through it. Just pray, pray hard and hand it over to Him.  And He has seen fit to give us several examples to look toward, when we need a role model. We have the saints. So many of them were mothers that exemplified a mother’s love in an extraordinary way. St. Gianna, St. Anne, St. Monica, St. Rita and St. Elizabeth, just to name a few. And of course the Mother of us all, the Blessed Mother Mary is always there. I know that in my own life, I pray to all of them frequently. It is nice to have some Saintly backup. But thankfully, I have also been blessed with an earthly mother that has given me many of the tools that I have needed to tend to my own family.

My mom always made things beautiful. When I was growing up, my dad was a school teacher and my mom stayed home to take care of us. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was blissfully unaware of this. Our home was always clean and tidy and I remember my mom taking the extra time to make it beautiful as well. Our home wasn’t full of designer furniture, but my mom was always refinishing or repainting old furniture to give it a  unique beauty and new life. We didn’t have high threadcount Egyptian cotton sheets, but we had soft worn sheets that smelled of the outside after hanging on the line all day. To this day, that scent is one of my favorites. One of my favorite childhood memories took place one morning. I came downtairs and walked into the freshly mopped kitchen. The morning light streamed in through the window, settling on the kitchen table, catching the light of a glass vase full of freshly cut lilacs. That memory is so vivid that I can practically smell the lilacs mixing with the scent of pine sol.  This is just one example of how my mother loved to make a beautiful home for us. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a lot of money. We had a lot of love and that gave a shine to things that can’t be bought.

I try to do the same thing in our home. I want my kids to look back and remember our house as being a warm, comfortable, safe place. I want them to remember that I always went a little overboard with Christmas decorations, but it was beautiful and made Christmas magical. I want them to remember me sitting on our porch in my rocking chair reading a book, or enjoying a glass of wine while I watched them play. I want them to think of all of us sitting around the fire pit attempting to make the perfect smore while the marshmallows catch fire.

I want them to think back and realize that even when I was angry or disciplining them, it was because I loved them. Seriously. I know that parents say that all of the time, but it is the truth. My job as a mom is to bring my kids closer to God and to teach them to not be axe murderers or jerks. Some days this is easier than others. Some days it is a challenge to not murder someone myself. But refer back to grace. Thank you God for granting me grace…and wine. Happy Mother’s Day !!



All About Aiden

What a few days for this little guy! Yesterday Aiden received his First Holy Communion. Today is his 8th birthday! He is a fuzzy blonde haired hot mess of a boy. His shoes are never tied, and his knees are always bruised. But his heart is big as his eyes are blue. (Which is really, really blue, in case you are wondering.) He is funny and weird and sweet and pretty much everything that you want in a little boy.

Yesterday, while we were sitting in the church before mass started, I could sense his excitement and his nervousness. I leaned over and whispered in his ear that he was about to receive the biggest gift that Jesus could ever give him. A grin spread across his little face and his eyes lit up. “I know mom,” he said. “It’s really cool!”And then he turned his gaze back to the altar.


This was right before he stepped in a big pile of dog poop. Like I said, hot mess. 

When we came back to our pew after receiving Communion, he looked at me and whispered, “Mom, do I look more Jesusy?” More Jesusy??? Absolutely!


Getting Jesusy with Msgr.

We came home and had a party to celebrate his big day. The weather was beautiful and the food was plentiful. The company was great. All in all it was a wonderful day.



Party time!

Today is his 8th birthday. I can’t believe that it has been 8 years. Remembering Aiden’s birthday is one of those bittersweet moments… The Circle of Life…My Pappy passed away on the morning of the day that I had Aiden,  at the same hospital, while I was in labor. This is his story and he asks me to tell it to him often. He seems to take comfort in knowing that he has this special link to Pappy. The other day we were in the van on the way to school and the kids were talking about his upcoming birthday. Gianna, aka the Queen of Sass, interrupted him saying, ‘Yes Aiden, we know…you are the miracle baby that brought joy and happiness to the family again. We get it! Move on!” Ok, I realize how utterly bratty she sounded. But what she said was right. Of course the sadness of losing Pappy didn’t just disappear, but there is something about holding a tiny, little, new life that can ease the pain a bit.  A new baby is full of hope and promise and a reminder that good still exists in this crazy world that we live in.  And while losing a loved one is painful and difficult and just plain old sad,  it is really difficult to hold a sweet new baby and not feel a piece of your heart stir with joy.

So it has been 8 years since we have lost my sweet Pappy, but it has also been 8 years since this blonde haired, blue eyed, freckled mess of a little boy gave me a reason to smile again and again and again.

Happy Birthday Aiden Joseph! We love you!