Friday, February 28, 2014


Today I had the absolute pleasure of getting a haircut.  I know what you're thinking.  Why is that pleasurable, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  First of all, I get my haircut at the most, twice a year.  Secondly, I haven't had any luck finding a good, steady hairstylist since moving up here.

The first one was kind of like a redneck from the south, which was funny, because it gave me the insight that rednecks are just about everywhere in the world, not just isolated in the south... :)

The second one was half my age and told me how much fun she had partying over in Canada every day that ended in Y and how she lived with her dad, and how horrible her life was...... sheesh, today's youth....

The third one I believe is the charm.  He's definitely a tad older (mid 30's maybe?)and much more mature than the last one and to beat all, if I want to close my eyes and pretend I am at a spa and I won't be going home for like, 12 days, then he totally obliges!  I think the fact that I have six kids freaks him out a bit, but I'm ok with that, because he's never once said, "Do you know how that happens?" Or, "Dang, why?" So I feel very comfortable with this new stylist and I've never had a gentleman cut my hair, so it's kind of nice!

Anyway, today was the day.  I have a friend who I have commissioned to be my micro-manager of my hair appointments, and she met me for lunch and we walked over to have "James" cut my hair.  I went totally drastic today.  Every now and then I do crazy things with my hair.  Now, when I say crazy, my husband will tell you, it's eased up a bit in the almost 18 years we've been married, but let me tell you, some of my crazies have been REAL doozies.

There was the time I tried a mall haircut at JC Penney.

Don't ever do that if you have naturally curly red hair.  Because, even though since giving birth my hair is straighter now, my hair was once, really, really curly.  Crazy curly, like the perm I got in like 1986 was still activated in 1998....  So, I went there on a whim, desperate once again to find a decent hair stylist.  Well, I left looking like a frizzy redheaded poodle and to beat all, I was parked ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MALL.... so yea, tears streaming down my face as I walked with serious humiliation across a very crowded mall, making my way to my car and swearing I would NEVER get my hair cut again.

Then there was the time I thought it would be fun to be a butch again.

I'll explain.

I spent a great deal of my childhood sporting a rather shorter than normal pixie cut.  I am talking, my name was Amy, but you could have seriously confused me with Adam.  There was nothing feminine about me and my hair, or my clothing for that matter, that would give you any indication I was a girl!   My sister and I even gave ourselves nicknames.  Connor and Franklin.

It was bad.

So once again, I had this brainless, memory loss idea that I should try a short style.

I remember coming home and hiding in my bedroom and crying hysterically until my awesome husband came home and tried to desperately console me.

He learned that day to never say these words, "Honey- the difference between a good/bad haircut is three days!"

Not when you get your hair cut so short that shave your neck, big guy.

It was another lesson in humility.

For many years after that, I found that by spending lots of money, I got better haircuts.  I hated it, (the money part) but the results were totally worth it, and when you added up my every 3 month haircut nightmares, it totaled my once a year expensive, I can leave with pride, ones!  A win win in my book.  (No, my husband still doesn't get that....)

So we moved up here and I went to my first place.  The lady, (remember my redneck reference) asked if I had ever colored my hair.  Well, even as a redhead who dreamed of being blonde her whole childhood to avoid the snarky, hateful comments of the other kids, I had never taken the plunge and done it.  She couldn't believe it.  She said, "Can I highlight with blonde?"  I said, sure.  What's the harm?

The harm was that highlights are chemicals and chemicals if not used properly, can distort the look of your hair....

It took a long time to get rid of that disaster because my hair was really, really, long.  Needless to say, I decided not to go back.

So I went to my second hair stylist.  She was about 12.  Seriously, she looked 12, she might have been 21...

I told her I had five children and made a mental note to never mention that again after she freaked out over it.  (then later admitted her family was huge and all her aunts and uncles had large families-etc etc.  I don't get people like that....)  Needless to say, my last cut with her was when I was pregnant (not showing) with #6 and never told her, and frankly, after hearing all about Canada and her miserable life, decided that perhaps this relationship was going no where.... We just did not connect....

I was getting desperate.  To the point I even paid 10 dollars at a super cuts once, just to get the dead ends off.  Of course, I had to tell the stylist, to wet it, snip the ends, and don't dry it.  NO layers, no blow dryers, nothing else.

People don't seem to understand the importance of having a good hair stylist.  It's really a commitment.  It could almost be compared to a marriage.  A BOND.   You have to search sometimes long and hard and sometimes, it takes YEARS..... To find that certain stylist who is not just good, but REALLY good and can cut MY hair AND style it nicely, is a challenge.

Well, I'm proud to report my stylist now is awesome.  All of those qualities I wrote and more.  And a pretty penny, that I'll pay once a year.  My micro-manager would like me to go every season.  I don't know about that, but the comforting thing is that I have found someone who can cut my hair.  I can leave the store with my head held high and actually go places publicly without running like I'm on fire to get home and shower and do what I can to "fix" my disaster....

I didn't think I would ever be able to replace my awesome girl back home, but somehow, I have managed to find someone.  AND I even posted a picture of my new do.

5 inches taken off and all- a pretty radical move on my part- not pixie- but as short as it's been in a long, long time!!!

Thank your hair stylist next time you're in.  They're a gem in a world of rookies...if you've got a good one, you've got a gem....

Sitting at a red light-my new hairdo... :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pope Francis and the amazing sacrament of Confession....a true story...

Today I'm going to talk about a touchy subject, mostly among fellow Catholics, because most non- Catholics have just labeled Catholics as crazy when we feel it necessary to spill our sins to a priest behind closed doors instead of just having a private conversation with God, one on one.  Fellow Catholics tend to think Confession is outdated, unnecessary and quite frankly, who does bad things anymore, right?

Well, since I'm being so raw and honest I'll just confess.  Unless I'm the only sinner left on earth (well, me, my husband and all my kiddos) we all do bad things.  We all do bad things, and quite frankly, we do them really good....

Because let's face it- if sin was sooooo bad, meaning, if it looked gross, scary, life threatening, friendship ruining, soul sacrificing, let's throw our chance at Heaven out the door, why don't I just go ahead and punch my ticket to hell- we wouldn't touch it, would we?   (well, some of my kids might, but that would only be because I said not too, and teaching that defiance is wrong has been rather difficult for some of mine to grasp.....)

But sin is packaged beautifully.  Sin is packaged in such a way, that to be quite honest, unless we really pray and look to God for serious guidance, we can easily convince ourselves that our choices are exactly what God wants for us.  In fact, what we might think is "ok, no one is getting hurt, I'm happier for this decision," might be the very sin that Satan wants you to say yes too, because ultimately, it makes you in charge and consulting the God of the Universe would be trivial after choosing that perfect little wrapped package of "goodness"....

Do you follow me?  If not, no worries, I rarely follow myself and if you hold on, you'll at least go on one heck of a roller coaster and perhaps laugh a time or two and maybe before it's over it'll make sense, either that, or you can just tell people how you'll NEVER get that time back....ever.... :)

Let me make myself a tad more clear.....

The sacrament of Confession, Penance, Reconciliation (whatever you choose to call it) is very relevant today and very, very, very spiritually, and I'll even say, physically, emotionally, and perhaps even psychologically healing....I shall give a few points to ponder as to why, but first I want to tell everyone what the Pope talked about Wednesday at the general audience in Rome at St. Peter's Basilica.  Funny thing, most of the media took a vacation on Wednesday from reporting what Pope Francis said and that affirms for me all the more that what he said was and is completely relevant to today's world.

He spoke about the beauty of confession.  He defended why we do it and why it's not enough to just tell God your sorry, between you and Him.  Whoa.  Seriously?  Can you imagine - first of all, I can, because I've stood in St. Peter's Basilica and HEARD another fabulous Pope address us and let me tell you, there are very few things in my life, other than the birth of all my children, that could top that.
Then, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to go to confession!!!!

Here are a few excerpts from what he spoke Wednesday(February 19, 2014 if you're interested in his papal audience talks).

 “The Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation [...] flow directly from the Paschal mystery…In fact, the same evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, closed in the Cenacle, and, after addressing to them the greeting ‘Peace be with you’, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven.’ (Jn 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic contained in this Sacrament.”

He also spoke about how when we sin it's not just between us and God-this is crucial-

“Someone may say: ‘I confess only to God.’ Yes, you can tell God: ‘Forgive me’, and say your sins,” he said. “But our sins are also against the brothers, against the Church, and for this it is necessary to ask forgiveness to the Church and to the brothers, in the person of the priest.”

He also was so sweetly encouraging in the fact that he told the people to not be afraid!!!!  And I gotta tell you, this is something I fight every time I go to confession!!!!

 “Do not be afraid of Confession!  One who is in line to confess himself feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves free, great, beautiful, forgiven, [...] happy. And this is the beauty of Confession.”

I took the direct comments he made from CatholicVote, but you can find his audience talks here-

So with the Pope encouraging us, I thought it would be a great time to share how this Sacrament of Healing really is a Sacrament of healing.  I'm going to be bold and raw and I know I will say things that some won't understand or may think wrong of me, but it is what it is and I believe this sacrament is that important.

Ok, my story starts about a month or two ago.  (We usually make it a habit to attend confession as a family, once a month, but as of late, it's become increasingly more difficult because of the children's' sports schedules....we will be making adjustments to that very soon...)

I knew I needed to go to confession, but I kept putting it off.  I kept making excuses.  Well, sin has a great way of convincing us that little sins don't really add up.  Yelling at my kids, swearing, taking God's name in vain, coveting my neighbor's things, jealously, a slothful prayer life, fighting with my husband, not treating others the way I want to be treated, perhaps misusing Natural Family Planning, lying, avoiding people because I just don't want to have "that" conversation.  Week after week, pile after pile, and eventually what happens to my heart?  That once clean, open, shining heart with the light of Jesus in it, had become dark, extinguished, and dismal.  I was hateful, negative, jealous, angry, tired, moody, and above all, mad at God.  You know, cause it's all HIS fault I'm such a sloth, right?   Right. 

As my heart grew darker, my prayer life grew dimmer.  My thoughts that would normally turn to God, turned to darkness, bitterness, loneliness as I convinced myself that I was the only human being on the planet that was being so bombarded with this heavy burden of sin.....which, ironically, I had convinced myself wasn't even was just a dark time for me....

What I missed was the fact that every time I go to confession and I sit there before the priest who is actually sitting there before God, I am not only being absolved of my sins, but I am receiving something that only God Himself can give me!  GRACE!  That grace helps me to be strong and avoid temptation!  Now, unfortunately, grace doesn't last forever because as humans, we are drawn to sin- remember the pretty package?  It just takes a small look and before we know it, we're waist deep in it and even faster than that, we're sinking in the cesspool of sin....

Today I finally had an appointment with a priest at my church.  He's a very humble man, who really has an incredible story of how he came to the priesthood, and he's such a great priest to go to for confession.  I had made the appointment with the intent to "discuss" all my "burdens" and perhaps make a good confession- but he suggested I confess first and then talk. 

Well, I started.  And let me tell you, once I blubbered through all that I had done (and let me tell you, with six children, one husband, a few crazy friends, family and countrymen in my life, my list isn't short by any means....) I prayed my Act of Contrition and received absolution.

I sat back after being absolved and he encouraged me to talk about what was bothering me.  The funniest thing- we discussed a few of the things I had confessed (that we didn't discuss during the actual confession- which by the way took an HOUR!) but suddenly, all the drama that had been weighing on my heart like a thousand pound brick, seemed trivial and almost silly.  Some of it was still very serious, but I could see it with such clarity that I felt I could handle what I needed to do. 

The Sacrament of Healing.  Believe me when I say, it was a healing.  I felt spiritually healed.  I felt mentally healed (ok, disclaimer- when I say mentally healed, I mean the things that were causing me anxiousness, stress, etc, seemed to be lifted- not mental illness....). I felt emotionally healed.  

Confession to me is like receiving a really big hug from Jesus as He cleans my heart out again and again, and again.  So, today, I feel cleansed.  I feel new again.  I feel refreshed.  Pope Francis encouraged all to go to confession- no matter how long it had been.  I'll leave with the last thing he spoke about which is just beautiful....

"Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being enfolded in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us recall that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the money of his inheritance. He wasted all the money and then, when he had nothing left, he decided to return home, not as a son but as a servant. His heart was filled with so much guilt and shame. The surprise came when he began to speak, to ask for forgiveness, his father did not let him speak, he embraced him, he kissed him, and he began to make merry. But I am telling you: each time we go to confession, God embraces us. God rejoices! Let us go forward on this road. May God bless you!"

Let's go to confession- it's a beautiful, refreshing, healing Sacrament that can, and does, change lives!!!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ugly Green Monster.....

Don't we all struggle with this?  I sure wish I was writing about a Halloween costume I snaggled on Pinterest.  (wait, snaggled isn't a word?  Good-ness-it is now...)
But what I am talking about is something I deal with sometimes on a daily basis when I allow myself to wallow in my own self pity.  And isn't the life of a mom (and wives, sisters, daughters, and single ladies out there, too) full of opportunities for self pity parties?

I would love to say that as a wife of over 17 years, a mother for 14 years, and a perpetual daughter of a King all my life, that I've never struggled with pity, ugly green monsters, or anything that involves coveting my neighbors goods/wife/etc what have you.

But the truth is, I have struggled and to be perfectly honest, that struggle has ended friendships, ruined relationships and basically, when I let it, turned my life into quite the drama.

Fortunately for me, I married someone whom God carved out completely with the ability to recognize those self pity moments and gave him the heart to not take things I say literally, or to heart.  He helps me see when I'm "getting crazy" and reminds me that I'm not in charge and I'd better settle down and turn this over to God.
I am blessed.  Blessed beyond what I deserve, but today, I want to share when those moments of green envy can destroy and potentially destroy beautiful things placed in  our life.

One of the many blessings I have is the ability to stay home.  I tried the whole "working mom" thing.  Twice actually.  Once, right after my 14 year old was born, and the second time, when I wanted my kiddos (had only 4 at the time) to attend Catholic schools and my husband showed me our income.  Teaching in the school was the only option (so I thought) to send my kids where I felt they belonged (or in my "rational" head, where they would be safe).  It worked for two years and then we were blessed with baby #5 and teaching with 5 children became something my husband had to convince me of, was not happening.  We struggle financially only with thing we want.  God has blessed my husband with a great job and all our needs (shelter, food, hand me downs) are provided.

With this blessing came an opportunity about a month ago.  My daughter who is 10 (5th grader) was struggling in school.  Not academically so much, but she was overcome with such anxiety that many nights were spent sleepless, worried, and sick to her stomach over things she couldn't explain.  She didn't know why she was so worried, or why her heart raced, or why she couldn't just "close her eyes" and fall asleep like everyone else.  She shared a cozy room, had plenty to help her fall asleep, but sleep would not come.  Very rarely did we have consecutive nights where sleep would come.  Once we figured out that school was very much the problem, we set to prayer.  Should we pull her from school?  We tried the "everyone can just get along and finish up the school year" trick.  We reminded her daily that there are people, especially in charge, who we just won't get along with, and we must learn to persevere.  We prayed together.  We talked a lot.  We lost as much sleep as she did and with a baby in the house, losing sleep is really, really, really, hard.... (did I mention how hard it is?)

Finally, something snapped and the door opened and the opportunity presented itself to pull her from school.

So for the last month, I have taught 5th grade once again (that was my first, "real" teaching job eons ago when my husband and I first married!!)  It's been very enjoyable, and to be honest, it's been the whack on my head I've needed to realize what my daughter needed because, as of this past week- she has had zero sleepless nights.... (now the baby, on the other hand.....that's another blog for another day)
But with this new endeavor I have come to the realization of something.

I am very lonely.

Yes, I have my awesome daughter and baby home with me all day.

All day.

Allllll daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

I don't want to sound resentful, because I'm not.  But I have recognized several things.
1) life is still going on
2) life is still going on
3) life is still going on

I should probably clarify so I don't sound completely like a whiney teenager who was grounded from her cell phone....

Prior to pulling my daughter, I pretty much did (within reason since I do have a baby)whatever I wanted.  If I wanted to go shopping, I went shopping.  If I wanted to grab a coffee with a friend, I grabbed a coffee with a friend.  If I wanted to invite myself over for lunch at my girlfriend's house, I just invited myself over.

Well, when you decide in the middle of the school year to pull your child and have zero curriculum, plans, etc., you tend to be overwhelmed, extremely busy, and full of just a hair of worry that you're not going to take what she's learned this first half of the year and not flush it down the toilet because you got this hairbrained idea it would be "good" for her and you to homeschool.

So along with the fact that my daughter's health has improved DRAMATICALLY, my ugly green monster friend has GROWN dramatically.

Because you see, life is still going on.  And what does poor, pitiful, catholicmomma think?  I'm all alone.... (said in a high pitch, crying voice, as pathetic as you can imagine).

Stores are still open for shopping, friends are still meeting for coffee, and my girlfriend is still eating lunch.....

WITHOUT ME..... (again, said in high pitch, crying voice as pathetic as you can imagine....)

In walks ugly, green monster.

I don't know what anyone's ugly, green monster looks like, but mine takes on several forms....

The first form is the self doubter form.

You know the one, instead of talking you down off the cliff, he practically shoves you over by saying things like, "you can't teach this, you're not smart enough, you're going to ruin your child."  He did a number or two on me in the beginning of this adventure, but I have since dumped him for an even better one.

The second one likes to remind you of all you're missing.

 I like to call him the "tattle tale" form.  He's constantly telling me what's on sale at Target and how "before" I could run errands and help save tons of money by shopping savvy and now look at me- I have to pretty much shop like a maniac at one place and grab what I can at a one shop stop, thereby spending more money than want, but feeling no other way to do it.

The third form is probably the worst and actually the one I sometimes find myself struggling with regardless of my current situation.

He's the one that tries to convince me I have no friends, or the friends I have don't like me, or I'm better off without friends because I'm so pathetic.

He's the worst.  Because right now, I haven't spent very much time with friends, and when I do get the opportunity, he likes to put thoughts in my head of regret, loneliness, and reminders that they are always getting together and visiting and laughing and having a GREAT time, without me.... He's very good as his job.  He makes me green with envy in such a split moment, that before I realize it, I find myself desiring, or regretting, depending on the thought, making a different choice than what I'm doing now....

It's very hard to actually admit things like this.  I am guessing, some people struggle with this, and very rarely admit it, or perhaps even recognize it. Maybe there are those who never suffer from this monster, and if that the case, they are blessed even more.  But I'm guessing more suffer than don't.

So what do we do about this ugly, green monster, who invades our minds like a fungus and seems to never want to leave?

The solution may be simpler than we think.

We have to begin to first recognize what makes that monster start to appear.  For me, it's self doubt.  I know as soon as I start letting one thought of self doubt appear and I don't stop it automatically, it will spiral faster than a 5 year old coming off a sugar buzz on Halloween night.  Some of you know exactly, what I'm talking 'bout there... mmm mmmmmmmm.....

Once I recognize the monster's presence, I really have to make a conscience effort to tell him to beat it.   Think Michael Jackson's song, Beat It.  This first verse is really all you need, and the chorus....

"They Told Him Don't You Ever Come Around Here
Don't Wanna See Your Face, You Better Disappear
The Fire's In Their Eyes And Their Words Are Really Clear
So Beat It, Just Beat It"

The ugly green monster is who better disappear.

Ok, so if singing Michael Jackson's song, Beat It, isn't your thing (or perhaps, you're under the age of 35 and have no clue as to what I'm talking about) there are other options.

Surround yourself with Ducks.

The former pastor of my church once spoke at our Mom's group.  He said, "Ducks need ducks."

Seriously, how can such a simple phrase have any impact on the green monster, you ask?  Simple.

When you surround yourself with like minded people, not only does it lift you up, but it those difficult times, it can help rid those green monsters!  Seriously.  One of my girlfriends is notoriously in the same 'dilemma' as I am with our monsters. She recognizes in my voice (as I do hers) when that monster has taken over and she either comes over, or has me over.  We need one another.  Yes, my husband is also one of my ducks, but as a Woman of God, I need other Godly women to lift me as well.  My husband recognizes this need too, and often encourages me to be with my friends when I can.

It's important, especially now, for me to plan times together.  Mostly in the evening, or Saturday mornings (when there is less chaos at home and I can get my schooling in during the week day).

One of the best, and most successful ways to rid us of our monsters is to pray.  And for me, and my Catholic faith, prayer AND reconciliation.  There is POWER in confession.  If you haven't read Scott Hahn's, Lord Have Mercy, The Healing Power of Confession, you need to.   There's a "cliff notes" version in Lighthouse Catholic Media you can listen to that's somewhat abbreviated...But it's GOOD!

I can always tell when it's been too long since my last confession because my body physically aches for it.  There is such a healing in my heart (and my head) that takes place as I sit there before the priest who is actually sitting there for Christ that I can't put into words to make it clear enough.  The feeling, the power, the cleansing, it's beyond what I can explain.  But know this, if it's been a long time since you've been, go.  Your heart and soul will thank you for it.   Speaking of, mine is in need, so meet me next Saturday and we'll go together.... :)

The point is this.  We don't have to sit and wallow in our self pity.  We don't have to sit and let that ugly, green monster reap it's reward as it decimates you and your soul to a weepy mess on the couch or in your bed.  We can overcome this thing. 

Pray for me, and my ugly, green monsters.  I'll do the same for you as well.

As always, be blessed and recognize those blessings.

No matter how small.