Book of Mormon for Teens – Timeline and Authors

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teenagers. You can see the first one here.

Before I really get into the Book of Mormon, itself, I wanted to have a few pages showing the timelines and authors of the Book of Mormon. As I wrote in Tiger’s Book:

“Sometimes when you are reading the Book of Mormon, it can be a little confusing to keep track of what you are reading. There are accounts of things as they happen, flashbacks, and the changing of hands with the records.

Hopefully, this timeline and author chart will help you keep the events and authors of the Book of Mormon straight!”

image-41

The timeline – there is a lot to fit onto one page!!!

Several years ago, I did my own “story of the Book of Mormon” project. (You can read about it here.) As a part of this project, I created my own Book of Mormon timeline. I highly suggest this type of project. It really helped me to understand the Book of Mormon.

In any case, here is a copy of the timeline that I created: BoM Timeline (available as a PDF Download).

I also felt like Tiger should understand the authors of the Book of Mormon and the way that the plates were handed down. I found a very handy flowchart of the Book of Mormon Authors online here.

image-40

Authors of the Book of Mormon

These two pages are chock-full of information. I didn’t have much space to make anything “cute!” No worries, though. I really think that this information will be helpful.

Finally, I included a quote that I really love about the Book of Mormon:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement – that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon.” – Tad R. Callister (emphasis added)

Thanks for letting me share this project with you. I am so excited to actually get into the Book of Mormon now. I’m excited to be able to share my testimony with my daughter in a way that I hope she will be receptive to.  I’ll share more with you later!

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Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for a Teenager (Part One)

When my oldest daughter turned 12, I made her a special book. (You can read about it here .) – She will be turning 16 in a little over a year, and I’ve decided to start making another book for her. This time, it will be about the Book of Mormon. (In case you’re wondering, I made a book for her when she was 14. I’ll probably post it on here soon).

The Title Page

The Title Page

So, I just started this. I’m using one of my favorite – sketchbooks (although the one I’m using is hardbound rather than wirebound).

Why am I doing this? Is it because I’m crazy? No. I’ve thought a lot about how to teach my children the gospel. I’ve thought about lecturing them – and lectures weren’t particularly helpful in my life. I mean I honestly don’t remember if my parents lectured me. I know that they said stuff to me, but I zoned out very easily as a teenager.

I don’t particularly like lecturing my teens right now, either. It feels boring and pointless. But how do we teach our kids the gospel? How do I teach them the things that I know and understand and what them to know and understand?

In this quest, I’ve been inspired by the words of Nephi:

“And we talk of Christ we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – 2 Nephi 25:26, emphasis added.

I feel like writing what I want to teach my children is an effective way (for me) to preach to them without seeming preachy! I can write lectures, make them cute and heartfelt, and instead of zoning out – my kids will treasure these lectures. That’s the idea, anyway. It’s not sneaky. I’m just being as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. 🙂

So – this is a Book about the Book of Mormon. I’ve divided it as follows:

  • Title Page
  • Timeline of the Book of Mormon
  • Explanation of the Small and Large Plates and their Authors
  • 1 Nephi
  • 2 Nephi
  • Jacob
  • Enos
  • Jarom
  • Omni
  • Words of Mormon
  • Mosiah
  • Alma
  • Helaman
  • 3 Nephi
  • 4 Nephi
  • Mormon
  • Ether
  • Moroni
  • So – pretty straight forward.

    Title Page

    On this page, I just wrote that the Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. I wrote my hope for her – that she will continue to read the Book of Mormon in her life. I also told her about this book that I’m making for her:

    “This book is a gift to you from me. It’s kind of a “commentary” on the Book of Mormon. I’ve been inspired by Nephi’s words, ‘And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.’ (2 Nephi 25:26).

    I want you to know – not only do I want you to know the Book of Mormon for yourself, but I also want you to know my testimony of it.

    I hope that this book will be a blessing to you now and for years to come. Love, Mom.

    ***
    So – that’s the beginning of this fun ride. I anticipate that it will take me a little over a year to finish this book. It will require a lot of work and effort, but I’m sure that it will be worth it. Maybe you have a child who could use something like this? Try writing your testimonies and lessons you have learned in the Book of Mormon. I’d love to see what you come up with if you do it, too.

I’m the Canoe

canoe

I’ve been trying to figure out an analogy for a few days.

Imagine a canoe. There are people in it. One person is seated toward the front of the canoe, with a paddle. This person is strong. He/she is primarily required to paddle.

There is a person in the back of the canoe. This person is the most experienced of all in the canoe, but not necessarily the strongest, physically. This person is in charge of steering the canoe, and must be able to diplomatically lead the rest of the people in the canoe while directing their little boat.

Though not pictured, imagine that there is a person in the middle of the canoe. This person also has a paddle, but isn’t quite as strong as the person seated in the front, nor is this person as experienced as the paddler in the back of the canoe. The middle-person is learning about canoeing. As far as propelling the canoe goes, he may not be the most important canoe-er, but he is there.

I’ve been thinking about people in a canoe – in terms of family. In thinking about this, the question is, who is the paddler in the bow? In the stern? In the hull?

Well, it’s obvious to me that children are the paddlers in the hull. They are part of this team, they paddle from time to time, they help, but are not of critical importance…yet. They are training and gaining experience for when they will one day sit at the stern or the bow.

So. That leaves us with the person sitting in the front of the canoe and the person in the back. I’ve been wondering, which one am I?

There are days when I feel like I’m steering this ship. You know what I mean. I remember in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother explains to the daughter:
man is the head

Even though this is funny, and I admit that I can act somewhat “neck-like” at times (without being manipulative, of course!), I don’t know if I’m the one on the back of the canoe. We don’t always move according to my direction. Maybe I’m actually in front.

I’ll also admit that there are days, many days, when I feel like that I’m in the bow. I’m paddling, paddling, and paddling. I wake up, feed the kids, exercise, start homeschool (which is quite a list in and of itself), feed the kids lunch, keep them from fighting/destroying the house/general chaos, throw a load of laundry in, talk to my husband about the business, take the kids to the library, make dinner, … you get the idea. We all do this.

I’ll say that again. We all do this. As in, not only are mothers paddlers, but fathers are, too. I know that my husband has a billion things going on in his life: he has to paddle, paddle, paddle.

I don’t think I’m steering. I’m not sure if I’m the primary paddler either. But I know that I’m something in this little analogy that I’ve got swirling in my head.

***

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated. It was Saturday, I had been looking forward to some time just sitting, breathing, and catching up. But, the whole day flashed before my eyes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but my expectations for the day weren’t quite met, and I needed a little encouragement. A little buoying up.

I was thinking and praying about my frustrations of the day when I realized the solution to my analogy. I’m not steering the ship, nor am I powering it forward. I’m not sitting idly in the hull. I’m not any of the oarsmen.

I’m the canoe.

I bear up my family, support them, stabilize them. My role isn’t particularly glorious, neither is it obscure. I’m simultaneously a part of the action yet partially submerged under water.

Sometimes I feel tired and “waterlogged.” And then the question comes to my mind, who ever really takes time to appreciate the boat? I might spring a leak, which causes panic and maybe even a fair amount of cursing. 😉 Despite everything else that is going right, those paddlers in the boat can only see the one small fissure. Of course, that fissure is letting in water, so I can’t blame them. I just wish they could see how often everything goes right.

This line of thinking isn’t necessarily helpful as it usually leads to further temptation – It’s a temptation for me to imagine life without them for a moment. No burden to bear. No dirty feet, no rocking back and forth. No bickering about who is paddling, about who splashed whom. I’m tempted to think of a life other than carrying my people, their needs, their worries, their weight back and forth – all done without much of a thought of that vessel that carried them.

It’s tempting to imagine life in the middle of a peaceful lake, with me just floating aimlessly.

Yet, the truth is, I am the canoe, and when you see a canoe in the middle of the lake, empty, it’s a problem. Typically, an empty canoe looks like this:

docked canoe

An empty canoe is docked. It’s going nowhere. While it’s not useless, you could say that an empty canoe doesn’t have much of a purpose. A canoe’s purpose comes into play with every person that boards it: Children, spouse, friends, siblings, students, and more. While it can be tiring to bear the weight of these people, I must admit that I’m honored. I don’t mind being partially submerged, stepped on, sat upon. I don’t mind being weighed down and directed. Without them, I’m going nowhere.

And I also know that without me, they aren’t going anywhere, either.

***
This morning, still a little down, I decided to re-read the talk, Behold Thy Mother, by Jeffery R. Holland, one of the current Twelve Apostles.

Anyone who is familiar with General Conference (A meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we hear from a living prophet and apostles) knows that there are talks for women or about women/motherhood from time to time. I have to admit that I’ve always liked these talks. They encourage me. They motivate and inspire me.

However, I will admit that I’ve had this sneaking suspicion from time to time – are these talks just “pep talks?” Are they obligatory, “keep the women happy” talks?

This morning, I re-read Elder Holland’s talk, and I was reminded, this isn’t just some pep talk to tide me over until next conference. No. These talks are messages from God. The Lord knows that I am a canoe, and He is grateful for my decision to be this kind of a woman.

Elder Holland taught:

“Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. “My Father sent me,” He said, “that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that as I have been lifted up … even so should men be lifted up … to … me.”

But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne, carry and lift, labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, ‘Behold thy mother!'” – Jeffrey R. Holland

We women are all “canoes.” I don’t mean only mothers, either. I know other women who have born others up, strengthened them, and even delivered them. I’ve had these types of women in my life. Of course my own mother, I’ve had others, too. Kerri, Stephanie, Kara, Sister Chisholm, Vanessa, Chandra, Donna, Jocelyn, Hillary, Janay, Rachelle, Krista, Niki, Celeste, and sooo many more women. They have helped to bear me up and deliver me along when I’ve needed some support. At times, I’ve been a willing paddler, while they have acted as my canoe.

Elder Holland continues:

“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.

A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: “How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’” – Jeffrey R. Holland

At first, last night, when I realized I was “the canoe,” I felt a quiet sadness wash over me. I thought of my roles as a woman: as someone who has given herself to her husband and children. Though I have done so willingly, last night I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it will be my turn to fulfill my own dreams and chart my own course. When will they support me?

Heavenly Father heard my frustrated prayer, and I was comforted in my heart, but I also felt a confirmation from the Spirit: Yes. You are a canoe. Yes, I’ve made sacrifices, and I will continue to do so. But the Lord would help me to understand more in the future.

As I said, I felt comfort wash over me, even though I was still a bit troubled at the thought of being a canoe. I decided I’d just be patient, go to sleep, and that I’d figure this out later.

***

This morning, as I read Elder Holland’s talk I felt confirmation of my thought last night. I am indeed a “canoe.” We women, who are choosing to righteously nurture those in our lives – our families, friends, and even strangers – we are canoes. It’s not particularly glamorous, but to the Lord and to the people in that boat it is valuable.

I am the canoe.

Grandma

I’ve been thinking about writing a post since Friday. And honestly, I should have written this post a long time ago.

This is how I think of my Grandma

This is how I think of my Grandma

This is my Grandma.

She passed away this Friday.

Grandma and Me

Grandma and Me

At the beginning of my life, I had a very close relationship with my Grandma. I was born in San Francisco, and my Grandma lived only a few hours north. My mom wasn’t married to my biological father (there was no man in the picture at my birth), so when I was born, it was just my mom, my grandma, me, and my mom’s roommate Doris.

Women.

Strong Women. And a little baby.

Grandma, my cousin, and me...I'm the baby looking for an escape route.

Grandma, my cousin, and me…I’m the baby looking for an escape route.

When I was about two, my mom got married to my dad, and then we moved to Houston. I didn’t have as much interaction with my Grandma after that.

Yet I have memories. We took a few trips out to California. She and my Grandpa made a few trips to Houston. My grandma would write us letters. She would send us books and tapes where she read the text out loud, so we could listen to her tell us a story. She made me a quiet book when I was a baby. And she made me a quilt.

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

Even after my parents got divorced, my dad would always remark about my grandmother, his ex-mother-in-law, “She’s a pretty amazing woman.”

And she was.

She could do it all. She knit, crocheted, quilted. She cooked and cleaned. She gardened. She raised a family and she was a breadwinner throughout most of my mom’s childhood – in a time when most women didn’t work outside of the home.

I remember Grandma coming out to Houston when my brothers were born. She’d clean, cook, and help my mom…all while crocheting baby blankets, tying quilts for my sister and I, and doing some small renovations in our house. Even though I didn’t understand everything that went into what she was doing, I remember that I loved having her there. And I remember that she never seemed too tired. She never complained. She worked, worked, worked, and we reaped all of the benefits.

This is another favorite picture. Doesn't she look like a feisty, fun girl?

This is another favorite picture. Doesn’t she look like a feisty, fun girl?

In some ways, my grandma seemed kind of no-nonsense. She had such a work ethic. Yet she was also absolutely hilarious – in the kind of quiet way that sneaks up on you. She was so practical, so matter of fact.

One time, when I was an adult, my Grandma was visiting me while I lived in Utah. We headed to Target to buy her a shirt. I was helping her look for something that she might like. I found a shirt, and thought it was very basic, it had something printed on it – some kind of label or brand. I honestly can’t remember.

She said, “What’s that, written on the shirt?”
“I think it’s the name of the brand.” I replied.
“Well, I’m not getting that. They don’t pay me to wear their clothes.”
“It’s a good price, though.”
“I’m not a walking billboard,” She said, and she found a plain, coral tee shirt that suited her much better.

I appreciate this outlook more and more every time I think about it.

So Pretty.

So Pretty.

After living in Houston for about 14 years or so, when I was a teenager, we moved to Pennsylvania – which happens to be even further away from California. We didn’t see my grandma for a really, really long time.

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

My grandma endured trials. So many trials. She was very poor, in a material sense, throughout most of her life. My Grandpa had a difficult upbringing of his own, and suffered from his own vices as a result. My grandma had to pick up the slack most of the time.

She suffered through the death of a son (My uncle died of cancer in his early 20s), she suffered through the death of four of her grandchildren. Yet she remained faithful and determined. She never seemed to complain or feel sorry for herself, despite experiencing true grief.

Grandma as a Child

Grandma as a Child

When I went to college, I moved to Utah. I was able to have more experiences with her – anytime she came to Utah for a family reunion, or when I would visit her in California. I tried to make more of a relationship with her by writing her letters and talking to her about family history. I was an okay granddaughter back then even though I hadn’t been geographically close to my grandma for so many years.

I went to California when My grandparents celebrated their fiftieth anniversary.

Fifty Years

Fifty Years

I went to California a few years after that, when my Grandfather passed away.

Grandpa

Grandpa

And then, a few years after the death of my Grandpa, my Grandma had a stroke. I don’t know who was most devastated by it – my grandmother, or her children and grandchildren. Everything about her changed.

The stroke didn’t effect her physically as much as it effected her mentally. It’s amazing how the brain works – how much we take it for granted. She had a lot of trouble speaking and communicating. She knew what she wanted to say, she knew how to say it, but it wouldn’t come out of her mouth.

She was a different woman.

It was a shock to all of us, but I think maybe it shocked her more than anyone else. She had always been so capable, and now, she was struggling with the most simplest of communication.

Despite this trial, she still bore such a strong, moving testimony of the Savior and the Gospel. Though her speech was slurred, her simple testimony that “This book, the Book of Mormon, is good,” was powerful and clear through the Spirit that accompanied her conviction.

She still worked hard. She came to my house when my first daughter, Tiger, was born. She held and rocked the baby, sang “I am a child of God,” and crocheted Tiger’s blessing dress.

She made progress and was able to keep living on her own. I stayed at her house once, shortly after she got this little (six-pound) dog, Millie. It was so cute. Grandma would clean, and garden, and cook. She would walk the dog, then hold it in her lap while complaining to it, “Someone needs to teach you to work. This is still one of my favorite memories. Hilarious.

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa

More time passed, as did more strokes, and more difficulties, and then eight years ago it was determined that she would move away from California and to Pennsylvania to live with my mom.

She hung on for eight years. With each passing day, clinging tighter to her memories and her family history.

It was all so hard for her at the end, which almost makes me angry. I’m not angry at God or even Grandma. It’s just that general sense of anger – the kind that actually gives you the strength to persevere, in spite of your challenges.

I’d like to think that I inherited that stubbornness from her.

Maker's Gotta Make

Maker’s Gotta Make

I recently moved to Hawaii, and all of my stuff is still on the mainland. My sewing machine – in storage. My crochet hooks – in storage. My knitting needles – in storage. My art supplies – in storage. My embroidery floss – in storage.

Hawai’i is paradise, but at night, I need something to keep my hands busy. I finished a small project I was working on, and I’ve been craving making something.

I was telling my mom about this, and she laughs. “You can’t just watch T.V. You always have to do something.”
“Exactly!” I agreed. “I like watching a movie or show at night, but I can’t just sit still and do it. It drives me crazy.”
“You’re just like Grandma.”

It was a true compliment.

I hope that I’ve inherited a fraction of her faith, strength, work ethic. I know that I haven’t inherited her green thumb, but I hope that I’ve inherited her hands that make, that produce, and serve.

You know, actually, I do feel it. I feel like a part of her is in me, and I know that a part of her is in my children, too.

I’m so grateful for mothers and grandmothers. Women. I’m so grateful for my Grandma. This world was a better place because of her.

I only hope to honor and uphold her legacy.

Family History: Three Easy Steps

Recently, (this last November) the Phoenix temple opened. I live fairly close to this temple. In fact, I think that it is the closest I’ve ever lived to a temple. It is such a blessing.

Phoenix Arizona Temple

Phoenix Arizona Temple

The temple and the ordinances performed in the temple are very sacred and center around the Savior and families. Naturally, knowing your own family history is an important aspect of temple attendance. So, I have been doing more family history research recently.

I’m blogging today to say – Do your family history! Here are a few easy steps to get you started.

One – Start!

Just try it out. Go to Familysearch.org and just start.
This website is free to anyone. There are millions of records and chances to find your own family.

I will freely admit that Family History is overwhelming. I won’t even say “at first” because I don’t think that there is ever a time when family history work isn’t overwhelming. However, just don’t think of your generations of family. Don’t think of this looming project or idea of whatever is in your mind of what Family History is supposed to be. Just go to family search.org, and start somewhere. Devote a period of time – 30 minutes or so – to kind of play around. Look for pictures. Look for experiences. Just look around. You don’t need a plan.

You don’t need to know what you are looking for. You don’t need to look for opportunities or things that need research. Just mess around. Click around. See what is there. See if your family tree is there. See who is in your family tree.

Two – Do It Again and Follow Your Intuition

Most likely, you won’t find everything about your family and family history in one 30 minute period of study.

So, you will have to do it again. After completing step one, you have now experienced family search. While you may not be an expert at the website, it, at least, isn’t completely foreign.

This time while you are on the Family Search website, be careful. Listen to your intuition. I can guarantee you that some kind of curiosity will present itself as you begin to search. Just click through, and follow your intuition. I can’t really tell you how this part will go because it will be different for everyone.

Just go to the website again, and listen to where your heart and where the Spirit are trying to guide you.

Three – Honor Your Intuition and Search!

As you begin to feel inclinations, follow them. I know – this is so vague. But trust me, it works!

A few days ago, I went online. I didn’t really have a plan to “search” for anyone. I wasn’t expecting all that much. Instead, my plan was to upload some pictures of my ancestors to the website.

One of the pictures I added was this one:

My Grandpa and His Cousin

My Grandpa and His Cousin

This is a picture of my Grandfather (The taller one) and his Cousin (The one in a hat). In my family history information, I have no records of my Grandfather’s cousin. Yet, I know that this is a picture of my Grandpa and his cousin taken in the Philippines during World War II. (He wrote it on the back).

I was entering this information in, and feeling pretty frustrated. How would I find this information?

I was also feeling a little frustrated by the entire family search program because it has changed so much recently. I know, I’m not supposed to say that. But I was just feeling like I didn’t know what I was looking for.

I said something about this to my husband. I told him that I was frustrated, “Here is my Grandpa with his cousin, but I can’t find his cousin in my records, and I’m not sure where to find it. I can’t remember if I had this information in the past, or not.”

Okay. So that was that. I moved on, and then entered in more photographs. While still venting a little frustration.

As I was doing this, I felt a little curiosity come up about a certain name. I wanted to prove a point to my husband about my frustration, “Watch. I’ll search this name, but I don’t think that it will—” I stopped talking mid-sentence – engrossed by the information that came up in the search results.
“What Catania?”
“Wait a minute. I think that I just found something.”
I clicked on the result to the search – where I found a census record that showed my Great-Grandfather’s family – including his siblings – which were the parents of Dick Hanley, my Grandpa’s cousin.
“What do you mean?”
“Well. I guess I should stop complaining because I just found something.”
“Found what?”
“I found Dick Hanley’s parents!”

So – I said that step three was to “honor your intuition.” My example above is bad because I wasn’t really honoring the intuition I was having. But I learned from it.

Since then, I have had similar experiences repeatedly. It isn’t easy. I can’t give you specific instructions on how to do your research – other than what I have already said. Just follow your intuition to see where it will take you.

Basically, family history feels like a puzzle – but you don’t have the “map,” you are missing some pieces, and it is a very intricate puzzle with thousands of pieces.

The puzzle seems pretty impossible, but it can be done.

You just have to look at the puzzle pieces. You have to guess. You have to try to fit them together. You don’t need to have a plan. You just need to sit down and start experimenting. Most of the time, things won’t work out, but if you just listen to your intuition and stay persistent, you will find pieces that fit together perfectly. (Yay!!!)

***
I encourage you to try out family history. While there are times when it is confusing and overwhelming, if you are persistent, then there will be times when things work out, and they are amazing. You will learn more about your family, and, therefore, yourself as you do this work.

*Have you started doing any of your family history? What kind of experiences have you had while doing this work?

Family History, I Am Doing It (Again)

Years ago, I was very interested in family history work. I guess you could say that I had caught the “Spirit of Elijah,” the feeling that often accompanies Family History work.

The idea of the “Spirit of Elijah” comes from the following scripture:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

This time has come. We, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe that Elijah has come again and that he has fulfilled his duty in turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

This promise is all centered in the temple.

Mesa Temple at Night

Mesa Temple at Night

Many people might feel like the Mormon temple is a place shrouded in mystery. It is not. The Mormon temple is a sacred place where we as individuals and families can covenant with God.

I have experienced the blessings of the temple in my life. I made covenants with God in the temple for the first time when I was 19. It was shortly before I was to be married (to my first husband). Even though this marriage would end less than seven years after we covenanted to be together for time and all eternity, I was blessed by the temple. I had never broken my covenant. I was always endowed with God’s power in my life.

Additionally, because of my knowledge and testimony of the temple, I began to do a lot of family history work. As I searched for the names and lives of my ancestors, I began to feel a closer connection to each of them. I was able to experience miracles, and I felt a surge of love for my family that had passed on in addition to my future family. My heart was both turned to my fathers and mothers and my own children.

There is nothing like the feeling of belonging in a family.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel like I could be happier as an individual – that I’d be happier chasing temptations and so called dreams (usually fleeting fun) all on my own. There is a side of me that is tempted to find the idea of “no strings attached” alluring. Now, some of those dreams aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but I also know, thanks to experience, that I’m not happier alone. I’m happier with my people: my family. We are all connected. We can’t get around that. And when we learn to embrace that, we find fulfillment and joy in our lives.

Over the next several months (or longer), I plan on blogging about my own adventures in Family History work. I feel like I need to start it up again. I have been blessed by many miracles as I’ve sought out my ancestors.

I encourage you to seek out your ancestors, too. Because of the experiences I have had, I know that If you want to experience a miracle in your life, then do family history work. Your family wants you to find them. They want you to remember them. They want you to learn from their mistakes and keep their good legacies alive.

The End of the Beginning (Part 32 – the finale – of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part thirty-two of the Homey and Me Love Story.

While waiting for the cancellation of my first temple marriage, Homey and I decided to keep moving forward with our wedding plans. I still needed to meet his parents and we needed to find a place to live in Mesa, so he sent me a buddy pass, and I flew out to AZ.

The flight to Mesa happened to be the worst ever flight of my entire life. Because I was on a buddy pass, I was flying stand-by: which means no assigned seats. I ended up in a seat between this large older man and a and thin older woman (I later realized she was the man’s wife).

I had my book, but was honestly a little too excited to read. It had been three weeks since I last saw Homey. I was going out of my mind.

The plane took off, and that’s when the bodily functions began. Not my bodily functions. The man next to me – kept farting, burping, and breathing on me. It was so disgusting. He seriously lifted up one of his *cheeks* and let out audible gas! And smelled incredibly gross. I shoved my face into my book so that I could breathe in the pleasant smell of books rather than the putrid odor of his flatulence. About twenty minutes before we were supposed to land, the woman sitting next to me starts speaking to him in German. I realized, they were married! Gross! And I had to sit next to him. Although, I admit, she lives with this man. I can understand why she’d want a five hour break from him.

Not only was I excited to land so I could see Homey, but I longed to felt free after being stuck to the large, gassy, German dude.

(super gross…I know).

I got off the plane, recounted my experience to Homey, and laughed, taking great pleasure at my suffering. We are perfect for each other.

The weather was sunny and beautiful in Arizona, and it felt like a good sign.

I honestly can’t remember most of the details of this trip, except how I felt one night. For most of the trip, Homey and I had fun plans. I spent about a week in Arizona. We went to a baseball game, we went to a Shins concert, we ate at In and Out, we toured apartment complexes and even put a deposit down on one of them. I was feeling overwhelmed with happiness; my life was changing.

Though we always had a lot going on, one night, Homey and I stayed in. I was staying at his parents house. He cooked for all of us, I chatted and got to know his parents, and then Homey and I watched a Stranger than Fiction. I had never seen it before, and was excited to see it. The movie was a bit of a departure for Will Ferrell, but it was still really good.

I have to admit, I’m not much of a fan of romantic comedy. I know that sounds like a cardinal sin. But, for the most part, I hate romantic comedies. There are a few that I like, but for the most part, romantic comedies are so far-fetched that they have ruined the process of dating and love for so many women (and men). Plus, most romantic comedies have very poorly developed characters and even worse dialogue. I know I sound picky. And, for the most part, I am.

While Stranger than Fiction is more along the lines of romantic comedies, I liked it. There was an unrealistic, even magical element to it, but it was executed so well. I felt like the situations were actually more believable, the characters were developed, and the dialogue was interesting.

Most of all, I liked this movie because I felt like it highlighted the beauty of ordinary love.

***
When I was first going through my divorce from Rusty, I struggled between feeling like love, loyalty, and marriage was a hopeless notion and hopeful notion. One day, I went into church and sat in my pew. I looked around at our congregation, and the ugly thought surfaced,
I wonder how many men here have their own dirty little secret. I wanted to believe that every marriage was a lie.
Yet, as soon as that thought surfaced, another chimed in, Catania, there are good men in this world.
But Rusty seemed so good, and was so bad. My stepfather cheated, my father cheated, my biological father isn’t a part of the picture and never has been. It’s easy for these guys here at church to act good. But Really? Rusty acted good, and we know the truth. Are these men really any different?
Just as I had these thoughts, my Bishop caught my gaze. I tried to force a smile, but he didn’t really smile back. Instead, as he acknowledged me, he simply began to weep, and I knew that yes there are men who love their wives, there are men who love their children, and there are men who love their God. I could see, from my Bishop’s sympathy, that marriage and love could be a sublime experience.

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

One night, shortly after my separation, I was talking with Spunky on the phone.
“I just want to find a sexy man, hold hands with him, and walk with him on the beach at sunset.” She said.
It was like high school all over again for us. “That sounds nice,” I returned, dreamily.
“The sea breeze flowing through my hair, and every once in a while, he’d kiss my cheek.”
Her dream sounded perfect, but after a moment, it was sitting right with me. “You know,” I started. “I don’t want that.”
“Well, then, walking through the streets of Paris or Rome,” she countered.
“No,” I said. “I don’t mean it that way. I mean, don’t get me wrong. A walk on the beach or in Europe would be nice, but I want something more. Or actually less.”
“What do mean?”
“Well, I mean, just imagine, sitting there, with a dude that you like, that likes you, and you’re just laughing together. No beach. No Europe. Just you, and a guy who actually cares about you.”

At that moment, I realized that I just wanted to have an experience where I was loved for who I was – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I looked forward to an experience where I was with a man who was undistracted and kind. I looked forward to a connection. I could enjoy a walk on the beach, or a trip to Europe with anyone – male or female – or even alone! But my dream was to experience a deep, meaningful, intimate relationship without the aid of a beautiful backdrop.

Having been married, I knew that there were happy times, beautiful times, low times, and ugly times. I knew that not every single day would be a walk on the beach. I knew that we would need something real, and that was my dream.

***
While Homey and I started watching Stranger than Fiction, he began to fall asleep (a marathon week of concerts, baseball games, apartment hunting, and more led to a really tired finale). I snuggled up to him in a very mushy way and watched the movie. After a while, he woke up.
“Tired?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it’s a good tired,” he replied.
“Keep sleeping.” I offered.
“I feel bad, though. I’m missing the movie.”
“We can watch it again.” I assured him.
“I’m going to watch it.”
“Okay. I bet.” He laughed, and stubbornly tried to watch the movie. His exhaustion won out, and he snoozed the rest of the time.
I didn’t mind, though. Everything about the moment felt right. As much as I loved going to baseball games and concerts, sitting together and enjoying a nice evening was just as amazing. I felt like the vision I had years earlier was being realized.

I was with someone I felt comfortable with. And he felt comfortable with me.

A lot of times, people say that you know you are comfortable with a person because you can fart, burp, or do something else gross in front of them. And maybe that’s true. But there is a difference between comfort and lack of respect. I thought of that woman who didn’t want to sit next to her stinky husband on the plane, and I was grateful that I was with a man who respected me, but was also so comfortable with me that we could be doing nothing and be happy.

***

The week in AZ went by too quickly. I was back in PA, and now we were counting down the days until the wedding. We still hadn’t heard about the cancellation of my first temple marriage. We were planning the wedding without knowing if it was going to happen.

Two weeks after I returned back to PA, Homey would come out and would stay in PA until we were married, home from our honeymoon, and ready to move to Mesa.

***

Thankfully, the Bishop agreed to let Homey stay at his house for a few weeks before the wedding. Though the Bishop had met Homey before, this time, when Homey arrived to PA, the Bishop had a little bit more to say to Homey.
The Bishop invited us into his living room, and began to question Homey.
“So…what do you do for a living?”
“I am selling my Smoothie Business and just got a job working for a CPA. I have a Masters in Accounting.”
“Oh, okay,” the bishop said with a nod. “Where did you study?”
“BYU” (another mental check in favor of Homey).
“Did you serve a mission?”
“Yes.” (right answer, thank goodness.) It was funny to see the Bishop this way. While he wasn’t being mean, he also wasn’t his usual jubilant self. He was very serious as he interviewed Homey. Neither Homey nor I were expecting it.
“Where did you serve?” the Bishop asked.
“The Italy Milan Mission.” With that, the Bishop jumped up out of his seat. The Bishop’s wife, Homey, and I just sat there as the Bishop ran into another room.
A minute later, the Bishop returned with three large binders. Family History binders.
As the Bishop began to open them, he asked Homey, “Have you ever heard of the Waldensians?” At that point, Homey’s eyes lit up.
“Yes. I actually served in a small town called Pinerolo, Italy for about seven months. It was near the mountain where the Waldensians hid.”
At this point, you *the reader* probably have no idea what the Bishop or Homey are talking about. If you do know, then you’re probably an Italian-American with Mormon Pioneer heritage – a descendent of this group of people. I had no idea what Homey or the Bishop was talking about. Sister Malan, the Bishop’s wife, sounded like she had heard these stories before. Sister Malan and I exchanged pleasantries while the Bishop and Homey discussed Italy and the Waldensians.
I was fidgeting with my watch when the Bishop’s wife declared, “I think that they have a place to be.”
We all laughed, and the Bishop excused us to go. As Homey and I left, the Bishop took me aside and whispered, I really like him.
I responded, “Me, too.”

***
On May 1st, 18 days before our scheduled wedding, I received a letter in the mail from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s here,” I told Homey.
“Wow. Open it.”
So, we took it to my mom’s kitchen, and opened the letter.

The first presidency approved my request! My temple marriage from Rusty was cancelled! I called the Washington, D.C. Temple and confirmed with them that we’d be getting married on May 19.

I had my Bishop’s approval. I had the approval of the First Presidency. Now, I needed to get approval from my dad.

***
When I told my dad that I was marrying Homey, whom I had met online, he asked, “When are you getting married?”
“May 19th.” (It was a month away at the time).
“Wow. May 19th. So, is that the day he gets out on parole?”
“Ha ha, dad. I know I met him online, but I promise, he’s a good guy. He’ll be out here soon, and you can meet him.”
“I’d like that.”

So, at the beginning of May, Homey, Tiger, Panda, and I headed up to Boston.

I can’t remember the details of this visit, but I remember that it went well. We hung out together as a family, we chatted. Homey was interested in talking to my dad because of his interest in stocks (my dad is a stock trader). They had actual adult conversations about money and stuff that I still don’t understand. Later on, my dad said to me, “That Homey, he’s a pretty sharp kid.” That’s about the best kind of compliment you can get from someone like my dad.

One evening, during dinner, as we were having usual dinner-time banter, Homey cracked a few jokes that left us all laughing – especially my step-mom. She said to me, “He’s really smart. And funny…I like him.”

We had a great weekend in Boston, then headed back to PA to make final preparations for the wedding.

Wedding Preparations

You might be wondering, how on earth do you prepare for a wedding in less than three weeks.

hahahahahahaaaaaaaaa! The secret is: have the world’s best wedding ever.

Our wedding consisted of: inviting our very closest friends and family. (Less than 30 people, total!), a reservation to be married in the smallest sealing room at the Washington D.C. temple, and a reservation for lunch at Bucca di Beppo.

So, I was able to make both reservations in one afternoon. We called all of our friends and family, telling them that the wedding was happening, then I went shopping to get a wedding dress. Easy peasy.

The Bachelorette Party

On May 18, Homey and I visited with my Bishop one last time. I wanted him to attend my wedding, but he’d be traveling on business. We met with the Bishop, and he gave me a Priesthood Blessing. I had received countless Priesthood blessings from my Bishop through my years as a single mom. This, he mentioned, would be the last one he gave me.
My Bishop looked at Homey and remarked, “Now, when Catania needs anything, you will be able to bless her. I hope that you will.”
Although I have no blood relation to my Bishop, I considered this my first and last Father’s blessing.

He gave me a blessing, and then Homey, my sister, and I went to Washington. When we got there, Homey met up with his family. My sister and I met up with Freckles and Spunky.
Freckles asked, “Do you have a photographer?”
“Well,” I replied. “My sister brought her camera.”
“Okay, good.” She said.
My sister chirped in, “Yeah, I’ll take the pictures.”
“Thanks, guys.”
“Well, do you have any flowers?” Spunky wanted to know.
“You know, I thought about it. I wanted to get some Gerber Daisies, but never really got around to it. No big deal, though.”
“No! You need flowers,” she insisted.
We drove over to a Giant Food store. It was about 9:30 PM. “They might not have much variety, if they have any flowers at all,” I said. “I’ll just take whatever they have.”
We walked into the Giant foods, and there was one lonely bouquet of flowers…

Wedding Flowers!

Wedding Flowers!


“Perfect!” We snatched the last bouquet. It was a little ragged, but Freckles had a solution. “Let’s just go to Wal-mart, pick up some floral tape and cute ribbon. Then it will look professional.”

So, we did exactly as she suggested, and I had a bouquet!

“How are you doing your hair,” my sister wanted to know.
“Uh…” I began.
“Have you thought of anything?” they all wondered.
“I mean, we’re getting married. I have a dress. We have reservations to fly to Cancun. And we’ll be eating tomorrow. The important stuff is covered.” I chuckled.
“We need to figure out your hair.” My sister stated.
“Okay. I guess we’ll put it in a ponytail. I don’t want anything fancy. I mean, you’ve seen my dress. I just want something simple.”
“A ponytail is perfect,” my sister agreed. “Let’s just get some ribbon for it.
We looked through the ribbon, and I originally picked a pink one that matched my flowers when Spunky shouted, “I have the perfect idea!”
She held up a spool of ribbon that read, “I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet I [heart] my pet.”
“Funny,” I agreed.
“What?” My sister asked.
“You don’t get it,” Spunky began to explain, “let’s add an “e” to Pet. Then it will say, ‘Pete’!”
Without hesitation Freckles grabbed the ribbon and added, “We need a sharpie.”

So, with floral tape, ribbon, and sharpie in hand, I was finally ready for my wedding.

This went down as the most productive bachelorette party in the history of everything.

The Wedding

The morning of the wedding, I arrived at the temple with plenty of time. I had chosen a very informal wedding dress (and it was black), so I simply changed into my usual temple clothes.

If you are not familiar with a temple, Mormons get married in temples. There are special rooms for brides to do some last minute preparations before they are married.

These rooms are beautiful and ornately decorated. The Washington D.C. temple is large and can accommodate many brides any given day. Saturdays in May are especially busy. Inside of the Bridal room were many young women and their mothers: cinching up dresses, reapplying make-up, and fretting about last minute details for their receptions. I sat, completely at peace. Well, I was nervous. I was about to get married. But I wasn’t bogged down by a million other details. I was able to think about Homey, soak in the experience at the temple, and mentally give a prayer of gratitude.

My sister sat at the mirror set aside for brides and applied her make-up. We all laughed about it, and I felt so much relief knowing that I didn’t have to worry about a thing. All I had to do was get married.

***

When my time came, I was led to the sealing room, where I saw Homey, our friends, and our family. It was a very touching experience. I was both happy and sad. I was happy to be surrounded by the people I love. I was sad that there were several people I love missing.

The sealer spoke to us for a few minutes, then performed our marriage, and we were married. Not only were we married, but we were officially sealed to one another as husband and wife for time and for all eternity.

Yay! Newly Married!

Yay! Newly Married!

Our Family.

Our Family.

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

***

When I was fourteen, I received a very special blessing, my Patriarchal Blessing. In this blessing, I was promised, “I bless you that you might also see through to the day when you will be able to find a fine young man, a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood who will be willing and able and worthy to go with you to a temple of the Lord, there to be sealed together for time and for all eternity.”

When I married Rusty, at the age of 19, I found this phrase somewhat cryptic. I knew that marrying Rusty was the right thing to do, but at the age of 19, it didn’t seem like I had to see through to the day.

The day I found out about Rusty’s infidelity, I began to understand what this phrase meant. When I decided, finally, to divorce him, this part of my patriarchal blessing fueled me with hope. And, through God’s mercy, and his willing servant (my Bishop), I was able to find a fine young man.

My Patriarchal Blessing continues, “Recognize, Catania, that that is one of the choice blessings a man and woman can receive on this earth.”

I have come to know that this is true. This May, Homey and I will be celebrating our Seventh anniversary. While it isn’t a long time, by any means, we still love one another. We still cherish one another. I love Homey more now than I did when I married him.

Homey has proved to be exactly the man that I both wanted and needed in my life. With Homey, I’ve become a better mother, wife, friend, and woman. He magnifies my womanhood. He loves me and respects me. When we were dating, Homey would jot down little things that he liked about me on a pad of paper. It is a list of little phrases – usually based on things that I said or did. I don’t think that he knows I found this list (I found it one of the times we were moving). Obviously, when I read through this list, I was reduced to tears. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there is a person, a man who cherishes me because I’m me: because I like to crochet, because I fall up the stairs, because I have pretty eyes, because I love to study the scriptures… Yet, he does love me, and I love him. We’re pretty lucky.

Of course, we’ve hit bumps in the road. Within the first year of marriage, we had experienced a colonoscopy, surgery, and cross-country move. The last seven years have not been uneventful. Homey adopted Tiger and Panda, we had two more children. We moved cross-country again. And then again! Homey has had seven different jobs. We are still discovering more about ourselves, each other, and our children. But this journey is so much better with a companion. It isn’t always simpler or easier, but it is, undoubtably, better.

So, while this is the last entry of the “Homey and Me” Love story, it isn’t the end. Our wedding was a commencement.

I hope that as you’ve read my story, you have not only been uplifted by a love story, but you have also felt the power of and love of God. Every time I think about meeting Homey – and I mean the whole story including the years preceding my meeting Homey – I am ultimately struck by the love that God has for me. I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He loves all of His children. I know that He loves you, that he weeps with you and rejoices with you. I know that He wants to bless you with the righteous desires of your heart. And I know that when we allow ourselves to submit to His will, then we will have what He wants for each of us: happiness and joy.

Marry Me! (Part 31 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part thirty-one of the Homey and Me Love Story.

It was March 17th, there was a dusting of snow still on the ground from the storm the day before, and Homey and I were at my house…shooting the breeze. Well, actually Homey was on one knee, shaking, and sweating despite the fact that it was only 65° in my house.

Homey held up an open ring box, with a diamond ring sparkling, and demanded, Marry me!

I started to say yes, but then laughed, realizing that he left me no option to say yes or no. I motioned for him to get up, started putting on the ring, or maybe I was hugging him…I don’t know. I can’t really remember the details. But I’m sure that we were kissing and that we were so mushy that you would have needed a barf bucket if you were there. It was the best.

Before Homey had come out to PA, we had given ourselves a curfew, and we were getting really close to it. So we hugged, kissed, celebrated, and then Homey left for the night.

I wanted to call him right away. Instead, I started texting him. We texted back and forth until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.

I was engaged…to be married.

I went to my bed, alone, realizing that this experience was limited. Everything in my home was different. I wouldn’t walk up my creaky stairs many more times. I wouldn’t be sleeping alone much longer. I wouldn’t be checking my phone every three seconds to see if I had a text from Homey. Soon enough, I’d be moving to Arizona, and we’d be together. In fact, we’d be together forever.

I wasn’t on cloud nine. I was on cloud nine-hundred ninety nine.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of happiness and excitement as I showed off my engagement ring and told everyone my big announcement. With every repetition of the phrase, “We’re engaged!” the fact that I was engaged felt more real.

***
Homey went back to AZ, and we continued to email and talk on the phone, but now our conversations were laced with real plans. It was an exciting time.

One of the first things I had to do to prepare for our wedding was talk to my bishop about canceling my temple marriage to Rusty. Here’s the thing, marriages performed in the Mormon temple are considered to be eternal. When we are married, the priest performing the wedding doesn’t say, “’til death do you part.” Instead, under proper authority, this priest is sealing a husband and wife as a married partnership together forever. This scripture explains:

“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens;…” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:46

Marriage isn’t only a social construct. It is ordained of God. It is a covenant, the crowning covenant, that we can make during our mortal lives. Marriage is an eternal covenant made between God, husband, and wife. Getting married in the temple isn’t just a wedding. The temple marriage is a significant and sacred covenant. Divorce isn’t really meant to be an option.

Elder Oaks explained,

““Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8–9).

The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.” – Dallin H. Oaks

So, if we are living the way that we should, then we would have no need of divorce. We would not enter into a covenant that we didn’t mean to keep. If we are serious about our commitment to God, then we will be serious about our commitment to our spouses, even when it is difficult. When we truly accept the gospel and the covenant of temple marriage, we rely on the Atonement to aid in our marriages.

Even though my story is ultimately a happy one, divorce has always brought confusion and sadness in my life.

Divorce isn’t ideal, but Heavenly Father knew that people wouldn’t keep their covenants. He knew that there would be victims. He knew that there would be a need for divorce, so He allows for it under certain circumstances, but it isn’t meant to be a quick solution.

In the Mormon tradition, when a man and woman who have been married in the temple are legally divorced, the blessings and obligations of the temple covenant are not automatically revoked. Only someone with authority from God can cancel the temple marriage. As the Savior teaches,

“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. – Matthew 19:6

Because the temple marriage isn’t instantly revoked at the time of a legal divorce, Mormons go through another process. Often, it is referred to as a “temple divorce.” However, as I began my own process, I soon learned the true name of this process: the cancellation of temple blessings. What a difference this makes. “Temple divorce”- sounds pretty cut and dry – sign a paper, and voila… However, “Cancellation of Temple Blessings” sounds more difficult. I don’t want to lose out on my blessings. I don’t want the covenants that I have made and kept to be cancelled. For this reason, most people do not receive a cancellation of temple blessings when they are divorced. Instead, they wait until they can be re-married, so as not to lose the benefit of such covenants.

I had not broken my covenant with God nor with Rusty; therefore, I still received the blessings of this covenant. These covenants are very sacred, so I can’t really spell it out to you, but I can tell you that I was protected throughout my marriage to Rusty, throughout my divorce, and throughout my life as a single woman. Someone asked me what good my temple marriage had been since my marriage had ended in divorce anyway. To this person, I proclaimed, It wasn’t the temple that failed me; it wasn’t God that failed me. It was Rusty. I have lived worthy of my covenant, and can still appeal to God for all of the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant…What good was my temple marriage? It led me to be closer to my God, the temple has infused my life with the Spirit. And the Spirit has saved me – literally and spiritually.

So, I was being blessed by this covenant, but now that Homey was in my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to make this covenant with him. In order for this to occur, I needed to see my Bishop and begin the process of a cancellation of temple blessings.

In some ways, this process was exciting. I would be getting married soon! I was moving on! My prayers were being answered. But for the next six weeks, I would feel so much stress – the stress of completing all of the components of this process, and the spiritual stress that also accompanies all big changes. It was a challenging process. There were three main ways that the cancellation process kind of scared me.

One – The Process itself

First of all, the process of a cancellation of temple blessings is exhausting. I had to meet more often with the bishop. I had to have extended worthiness interviews. Old “stuff” that I hadn’t thought of in years was brought back to light. I had to write a letter to the First Presidency. My bishop would have to get in touch with Rusty. My bishop would have to get in touch with Homey’s Bishop. After all of this, I’d then have to have an interview with the Stake President.

The Stake President and Bishop would also send letters to the First Presidency and give their thoughts.

My request, forms, and letters would all be sent on to General Authorities, and they would evaluate everything. Prayerfully, a decision would be made by the First Presidency. They’d send me back a letter, and I’d know if they had agreed to cancel the temple blessings or not. It was a long process that required a lot of work.

Homey and I prayed about it and decided to set a date for our marriage. We didn’t know if I would be granted a cancellation of temple blessings. We decided to act in faith. I had kept my covenants. I knew that God would keep His, too.

So. I met with my bishop, and I started the process. The first thing I had to do was write a letter to the prophet. If you are not Mormon, you need to understand how huge this is. Essentially, I had to write a letter to the Pope. The only one who can revoke the covenant of a temple marriage is the prophet. Yikes!

I wrote my letter to the Prophet and First Presidency of the church. You can read more about that experience here. I sent a copy of this letter to Homey. I was so happy to receive his response.

Catania, this email is gonna be brief. I just want to thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter to the First Presidency. You are an AMAZING woman. I’m so lucky. ohmygosh I will never forget how lucky I am. I LOVE YOU more than raccoons love shiny stuff in a box.” – Homey to Catania, March 2007

Not only was it nice to hear Homey talk about how much he loved me, I’m so glad that he compared himself to a raccoon. He really was my kind of guy.

Two – An Unwanted Reminder

Even though Homey was supportive of me, and even though he knew my past, the process of a temple cancellation was a constant reminder to me and to Homey of my past.

Sometimes, I just wanted to pretend that I had never been married before. I wanted to be pure. I didn’t want a shadow to hang over my relationship with Homey. For the most part, this was possible. Rusty was such a distant memory that it never came up between Homey and me.

However, when we began the process of the temple cancellation, there was no getting around the constant reminder of my first marriage, my past life, and I kept worrying that Homey would be turned off by all of this. Homey was, after all, a bachelor who had never been married. Would all of this talk about Rusty and my first marriage make Homey realize that I was tainted meat? that I was worthless?

Just when my worrying and fear would reach a fever pitch, I’d get an email from Homey and be comforted by his words:

“I just barely fell asleep on the couch and had a dream that we were married…and we were at the golf practice facility hitting golf balls. My oldest bro was there with his kids (this will probably happen because he lives in Tucson and loves golf), and Tiger and Panda were there running around with them. This one will definitely all come true in just a few short months. Anyway…it was good because it feels so right every way I think about us together.” – Homey to Me, March 23, 2007)

Or…Just when I was sure he’d realize I was “tainted meat” and that he was “settling,” he’d say something like this:

“Why are we getting married? Pregnancy, financial security, loneliness or wanting to get out of the family home are not valid reasons for getting married.

We’re getting married because I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved and God’s plan for us is that we are married to one oanother to obtain all the eternal covenants, blessings, and ordinances that Heavnely Father has outlined for us. I want to be with you all the time. And if I HAVE to go to work, then I want to be with you the rest of the time (other than maybe a round of golf here and there… 😉 I really truly love you. you’re not pregnant, we won’t have (much) financial security, I’m not lonely, and I don’t live with my parents…so it must be love. 🙂 – Homey to Me, 29 March 2007

Even though our meeting was unconventional, it was right. Through the process of the cancellation of temple blessings, I was learning that all of the afflictions I had experienced in life were consecrated for my gain. (See 2 Nephi 2:2.) I began to learn (and frankly, I’m still learning this) that I didn’t need to fear. I could trust God, and I could trust Homey.

Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary

Besides the constant reminder of my divorce and the process of the cancellation, I was facing a third challenge: the Adversary. This challenge proved to be the most difficult.

It seems like from the second that Homey proposed to me (well, the second he got back on the plane to AZ), I was bombarded with doubts. I have already discussed some of the doubts (about divorce, etc.) I constantly worried about my worthiness. I worried that the cancellation of temple blessings wouldn’t happen. Some of the people who should have supported me proved to be the biggest problems. I was constantly second guessing myself.

Worst of all, my cold feet returned, and with a vengeance. I began to wonder, Do I love Homey? Really? Will I really be happy with a man, or am I happier without one?

I came to the conclusion that I was in love.

Which led to another doubt, Should I really be marrying Homey, or am I blinded by Love? I have always been so blind. I’m a terrible judge. Perhaps I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.

I wanted a “big” sign that this was right. But instead I was simply feeling a quiet sense of peace. I had to remind myself of the miraculous nature of a quiet sense of peace.

One Saturday, I went to the temple. I was feeling burdened with all of the stresses coming in my life. By then, I had quit my job, and I was already living with my mom again. In some ways, major decisions had been made that I couldn’t “unmake.” I still didn’t know if our wedding would happen. I was still waiting to hear from the First Presidency on the cancellation. I was overcome by my emotions and stress.

I walked into the temple sad. Sadder than I had been in a very long time. Would I be able to feel peace without the nagging of doubts?

I attended the temple, and my heart began to settle. I was reminded that I could trust God. He is a God of Miracles. He created the Earth; surely He could perform the miracles I still needed in my life. I felt his love, and by the time I was leaving the temple, I without really knowing it, I started singing a song in my head,

“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.
f there’s sunshine in your heart,
You can send a shining ray
That will turn the night to day;
And your cares will all depart,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today. – You Can Make the Pathway Bright, Helen Silcott Dungan

I hummed the song as I walked to my car. When I got in the car, I sat down and said a silent prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for the chance to go to the temple. Suddenly, the song I was singing dawned on me. I know that the song was Heavenly Father’s way of telling me that things were okay. Instead of worrying, I could make the pathway bright by allowing God’s sunshine in my heart.

I also realized that we have agency. Even when the Lord blesses us, we have agency. We don’t have to accept the gifts that God gives us. Heavenly Father had personally answered my petitions and prayers (and Homey’s), and allowed us to meet and court one another. While this was an answer to my prayer, I didn’t have to accept the gift. I could still walk away. However, I knew that Homey was a miracle and a gift, and if I chose to walk away from this blessing, I might not receive another.

Though so much of my future would be an act of faith, I could trust in God. I could be happy. I could scatter sunshine. I knew that His hand had been in my life up to this point, and that as long as I continued to come to Him, His hand would stay in my life–guiding me, stabilizing me, reaching out to me in love.

***

A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:

“I read a quote today–from Boyd K. Packer. It included the following scripture, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). I realized that I need to take this to heart. Sometimes I get afraid, Homey. Sometimes I’m afraid that the temple cancellation won’t happen. Sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t be able to get married for a while, and that we’ll miss Cancun, and that it will be difficult. Sometimes I get afraid that moving is going to be too difficult and hard. Deep in my heart, I know that these fears are unfounded and wrong. They are, quite honestly, Satan’s stupid whisperings. He’s trying to get me down. He tries in so many ways. But today’s quote helped me to know how I can overcome my fears–BE PREPARED. I have a bit to do for preparation, and it’s a good thing that I have 53 days to do it. That’s plenty of time. And this helps me have confidence. I’m grateful for the adversities that we are facing together. It helps me to love you even more. It helps me to see that our love and marriage are wonderful things. I know Heavenly Father is happy about them. He is the one who set us up! I know that we still have more to overcome. And I know that if I continue to put my confidence in the Lord, supporting you as you also put your confidence in the Lord, then we will be able to work together. It is exciting, Homey. I’m realzing–instead of me being the only one–the only one to receive revelation, the only one to feel the Spirit–I will have you, too. I know that you can lead me, and that I can trust you. It’s exciting–we’re going to be married. We’re going to be “one flesh.” We’re going to be united. I’m really happy about that. I have a lot to learn about this. I think that I come from a deficit because I learned bad habits. This experience will help me to learn how to be a good wife, I think–and how to truly trust in both the Lord and in His Priesthood.” – Me To Homey, 27 March 2007

And this is what happened…we struggled as we waited, together, on other sides of the country, to see if we would be able to get married in the temple. Every day, I checked my mail. Every day I prayed. Every day I wondered, will we be married at the Washington, D.C. Temple in May? Will we be able to celebrate with friends and family? Will we go to Cancun? or…will we tell our friends and family to cancel their plans? Will we have to postpone the trip to Cancun?

Will we have to wait?

Click here for part 32.

Italian Dinner for St. Patrick’s – Part 30 of the HaM – Homey and Me – Love Story

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part thirty of the Homey and Me Love Story.

Homey’s trip to PA was short, but nothing short of amazing.

When he got back to AZ, we returned to our break-neck pace of texting, talking on the phone, and writing emails.

In fact, on the morning of Monday 12 March (the day after Homey arrived back to Phoenix), I arrived to work with an email. The tone of the emails were more serious. Now that we had met, we were discussing marriage. Oh, and not like some distant-far-off-fantasy-marriage, but a real marriage that would be happening in the very near future.

It was very exciting.

I mean, seriously, what single woman, who wants to get married wouldn’t love to receive an email saying this:

“So I just have to say that this weekend was the absolute greatest time of my entire life. In soooooo many ways, I felt confirmed over and over to me that you are the right woman for me to marry. It was really great to go to the temple with you. That was the most powerful experience I’ve had in a very long time, and I want to thank you for it.”

Eeeeeeeekkkkkkkk!!!!

or this:

“I am sooo glad that we had a chance to spend time with Tiger and Panda. They are the raddest kids. I really can’t describe how natural and easy it was to be with them. It really felt like I have met them before. And I’m pretty sure that things will work out fine in that department. I’m a quick learner and will hopefully pick up on the father-ing thing fast. This is an opportunity I am really excited to start. I LOVE YOU.”

blaiohagleiboigaspohtasooaisdpfiha!!!!! (That is a good sentiment, I promise!)

I mean, seriously. Did you just read that last paragraph? Even as I read it now, seven years after it was written, I’m totally amazed. Dreamy-land amazed.

After the visit, Homey talked to his mom about me, and she was adjusting to the idea that he was falling in love with a woman, a single-mother, on the other side of the country, that he had met online. (That’s a lot to take!!!)

On my end, things were really feeling great, too.

My children loved Homey. Tiger was over the moon because he had brought her a stuffed-animal monkey and some candy. (Kids are so easy to please!) And Panda’s reaction to Homey was the even bigger surprise. Even though Panda was excruciatingly shy (she still is), she warmed up to Homey immediately, and I think that she had a crush on him. After he left she kept proclaiming, “Homey is cute, momma.”

When Homey was in PA, I was watching him. We didn’t spend much time with my kids, as I didn’t want them to really develop any kind of attachment to him before I knew if I really liked him or not. I was always guarded about the men that my children met while I dated. That being said, I wanted to see him with them. He was pretty perfect. More of the Dreamy-land feelings for Homey. 🙂 🙂

Not only did my kids like Homey, but my mom seemed to legitimately like him.
With the men that I dated in the past, she usually had nothing positive to say about them.
On the first Monday after homey’s visit, when I was picking the kids up from my Mom’s house, she asked, “How was Homey’s flight? Did he get back to AZ okay?”
“Yes. It went without any problems at all.”
“Great.”
“Yeah…so, what do you think?” I asked, a little worried about her opinion. I never could tell what she would say/think.
My mom sat there for a second and then said, “I’m glad he smiles.”

My little brother Sam also liked Homey, and Sam was probably one of my closest friends at the time. Sam laughed at Homey’s jokes and even drew a picture of Russell Crowe wearing a kilt and riding on a flying lion for him. Naturally, Homey loved it.

My dad still didn’t know that I was thinking about marriage, though he knew that I was receiving a visit from Homey.

My Relief Society President seemed to really like Homey. I trusted and valued her opinion. She remains one of the most faithful, intelligent, and with-it women I’ve ever known. I want to be like her. So to get her approval was nice.

My Bishop, however, still hadn’t met Homey, and I wanted to know what he thought, too. I was hoping to find out his thoughts after Homey’s next visit.

Now, I know that it might sound strange, that I wanted the approval of all of these people, not because I was worried, but it was my safety net. I knew I was in love, and I wanted other, objective opinions. Another reason I was looking for approval was because I was starting to get cold feet about everything.

Hot and Cold, and it was happening all in my head

There is no doubt about the fact that I was in love with Homey. No doubt about it. And I was super happy about being in love, too. But I was learning something new…love scared me.

Love hadn’t really scared me in the past, or at least I didn’t think that it had. But then, I started to wonder. What ifffff…….?

What if he changes his mind?
What if he realizes that I’m not really the woman he wants?
What if he changes his mind about children?
What if, when things get hard, he gives up?
What if he is addicted to p*rnography and s*x and has been lying about it?
What if he starts to hate my idiosyncrasies?
What if he is passing up the chance at a better woman?
What if he decides to cheat?
What if he realizes that I’m tainted meat, then leaves?
Can he really love me? Is it even possible?

These thoughts aren’t helpful. And instead of leading somewhere good, they led to worse thoughts (Imagine that!?)

What if I change my mind?
What if I realize that he’s not really the man that I want?
What if I change my mind about having him be the step-father to my children?
What if, when things get hard, I give up?
What if I have been so damaged by past experiences, I destroy him and make him turn to p*rn?
What if I start to hate his idiosyncrasies?
What if I’m passing up the chance to meet and marry a better man?
What if I decide to cheat?
Can I really love him? Is it possible that I’m in love?
What is love anyways?
What is the point of marriage?
What is the point of anything?

Ahhh…the fun of thinking.

But the thoughts were there, and I knew that I shouldn’t ignore them completely because that doesn’t actually solve anything. I needed to answer them honestly for myself. The thing is – every relationship is a risk. There is no way around it. I had been burned pretty badly before, and although I was ready to take another chance, I hadn’t forgotten the pain of the last burn. The scars were still sensitive.

So, I made it a matter of prayer.

I wish I could tell you that my prayers were answered immediately. I wish I could say that a light came down from heaven, and a voice proclaimed, “Catania, stop it! You can trust Homey. He’s amazing. Everything will be fine.” I even would have accepted a voice saying, “Catania, stop it! Don’t talk to him! You’re an idiot! Don’t you know?!?!?! You can’t trust men!!!”

Neither of those things happened for me. Yet I wasn’t left alone.

As I prayed, I would feel quiet comfort. I felt reminded of the fact that I was making my choices prayerfully, and that the Lord wouldn’t let me go astray. I also felt that I would need to learn to trust in God, and that it might even mean making myself vulnerable to other people.

Homey’s Second Visit

Homey was scheduled to arrive to PA on March 16th–the same day that a massive ice/snow-storm was scheduled to arrive.

The ice storm actually arrived ahead of schedule. I was getting a little worried, but received a text from Homey when he had boarded his plane and then explained that they were taking off. Phew. We’d be spared the trouble of cancelled flights.

Or so I thought.

I left work, and decided to head straight to the airport. I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to get there with the horrible combination of freezing rain and sleet. It was one of those storms that were too wet for salt/trucks to make much of a difference, yet just cold enough to make everything slick. The traffic was beyond horrible, and I saw three different cars slide off the road.

It took about an hour for me to travel about 5 miles. I was beginning to worry. Even though Homey would make it to Philadelphia, I wasn’t sure if I would!

After seeing a fourth car slide off the road, my phone rang. It was Homey. I was at a stop anyway, so I answered.
“I’m sorry!” I exclaimed. “We’re on our way to the airport.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “Just head back home.”
“No. I’m already on my way. It’s no trouble.”
“No. I mean, don’t come to the airport. Our plane was diverted. I’m in Richmond.”
“Virginia?” I asked.
“Yeah.”
“That’s like five hours away.”
“I know. I’m going to let you go for now because I’m losing battery, and I’m not sure what they’re going to do, but I’ll call you back in like 15 minutes.”
“Okay.”

I wanted to cry. Curse the stupid snow!!!!

I turned around and started to head back to my home. I called my mom and explained what was happening. Then, I started thinking of a plan in my head. I’d just drive down to Virginia to pick him up. I hated the idea of him not coming to PA. It wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just get the girls, get some snacks, and head down to VA. The weather wasn’t bad south of us. As soon as I got south of the storm, everything would be fine. It would be an adventure.

I was still trudging through traffic when I got Homey’s next call.
“Hey.”
“Yeah, so they have cancelled the flight completely.”
“So you’re just stuck in Virginia?” I asked.
“Yeah. They are offering to re-route us in a day or two, or give us vouchers and send us back to Phoenix. Of course, I came on my mom’s buddy passes, so I am not sure what they’d do for me.”
“Oh man. That sucks. I can’t believe it. They can’t even get you in a little later?”
“No. They’ve completely shut down the Philadelphia airport, so there are no flights in or out for the next 24 hours or even longer.”
“Okay. Well, you know what,” I began, “I’m on my way home. I’m going to get the girls, then I’m going to head down to Virginia to get you. It will take me about five hours, but then–”
“No. Don’t. You can’t drive down here.”
“It’s no problem at all.” I said, committed.
“No, Catania. You don’t understand. I’ve already rented a car. I’m going to drive up.”
I was a little flabbergasted. I hadn’t thought of that solution.
“Okay.” I said. “Great! But be careful. The weather is much worse here than it is in VA. I mean, everything is horrible here.”
“All the more reason that I don’t want you to drive, then, Catania. Just get the kids and get warm.”
“Okay. And I want you to stay safe, too. Don’t try to drive here tonight if it is too icy. Just stay in Washington, D.C. or somewhere along the way. Don’t risk getting in an accident. The roads are worse when you get further north.”
“Okay. I’ll do that. Thanks. Hopefully I’ll make it tonight.”
“I really don’t think you will. It’s a five hour drive, and the roads are the worst. Tomorrow, when the storm is over, it will be better. Drive for a while, but please stop when it gets bad. We’ll just see you tomorrow. I can pick you up from the rental car place tomorrow in the morning. Then you don’t have to have the rental for more than a day.”
“Alright…Look, I need to go. I’m running out of battery. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”

In that phone call, the concerns I had about marriage, trust, and commitment were beginning to evaporate. I was truly worried about Homey’s safety. And I was completely amazed by what he was doing: driving up to PA, in a snowstorm, to be with me. As I drove home, I was feeling emotional. Homey was doing all of this to be with me.

***
I finally made it home, and then I decided to stay the night at my mom’s house. (Our little white house was always soooo cold, plus the girls were already there). I talked with Homey throughout the evening. His drive was smooth sailing up to Washington, D.C., then, just as I had predicted, he met the storm, and was going nowhere fast. He decided against risking it, and just stopped at a hotel.

We talked on the phone for a short time. We wanted to save our energy for when we were actually able to see each other. So, we spent a few minutes cursing the weather and lamenting the fact that we were so close to each other, yet so far away.

March 17, 2007

In the morning, I got a call from Homey, and knew I had a few hours before he’d be in Philly, so I decided to go for a quick run. It was cold, but the road crews had been working all night long. The road was clear and run-able. I decided that I’d release a little bit of nervous energy before Homey arrived.

I went on a typical run – to the Church and back home. Thinking about it actually makes me ache for Pennsylvania.

The view on a run.

The view on a run.

You can’t really tell from this picture, but it is hilly in PA. My mom’s house, in particular, is at the top of a really big hill. No matter what route I took, I’d have to go uphill at the end of the run back to my mom’s house.

Running up hills are particularly hard. Your legs and lungs are burning. You wonder why you’re doing this, yet you also think, I’m gonna make it up this hill!!! In order to make it up the hills, sometimes I’d visualize certain things. At first, I’d visualize my kids, my bishop, or Snoop at the top of the hill–cheering me on. If I made it to the top of the hill without stopping to walk, I’d give each of these imaginary cheerleaders a real high-five. (It probably looked odd…)

Throughout my time as a single-mom, it was encouraging for me to think of the people who were waiting for me, cheering me on. This idea gave me the strength to keep pressing forward. It might sound strange, but it really helped me on both my runs and in my personal life.

This cold March morning, I found myself at the end of a run–about to face the dreaded, steep hill that leads to my mom’s house. I wanted to walk. I was tired. But then I told myself, Imagine…Homey’s at the top. He’s cheering you on.

As soon as I told myself to visualize him at the top of the hill, another part of me realized that he wasn’t there. I realized that, if this was real, and there were people standing at the top of the hill, cheering me on, Homey wouldn’t be in that throng. Instead, he’d be along-side me. Cheering me on as he took those final steps with me up the hill. Even though we weren’t officially committed, I knew that he loved me and wanted to be committed to me forever. The commitment he wanted wasn’t like the companionship of a fair-weather friend, sex partner, or even a pet. The commitment he desired was more. He wanted to be the person who would help me move forward as I struggled. He would truly rejoice in my victories because he had suffered with me.

I realized what I couldn’t put my finger on the day before when he announced that he was driving up to PA. In the past, I had relationships with men who were happy to stand by and wait for me. I was happy and willing to do the work because I believe that’s what we do in relationship. I was happy and willing to do the work for Rusty in our sham of a marriage. I was happy and willing to cross the ocean to see Markus. I was happy and willing to listen to Roger, drive down to cheer him up, or calm him during his anxious moments. I was happy and willing to spend time, money, and energy on men who were only willing to stand at the end of the line and cheer me on…maybe.

And for the first time, I was courting someone who wouldn’t stand idly by, but was happy and willing to work to see me. He’d rent a car and drive to me, even though he had already flown 2,000 miles. In my mind’s eye, I could see Homey running along side me up Glenside. And at the top of the hill were my kids, my bishop, my parents.

I knew that despite my many concerns and fears, I could proceed with faith in this relationship that would change my life.

***
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind. I picked up Homey, and we hung out at home playing games with the girls. They were delighted because he had bought each of them giant Easter baskets filled with Reece’s peanut butter eggs. We watched movies, and tried to stay warm in my cold little house.

As evening fell, I took the girls to my Mom’s house again. She’d babysit while Homey and I went out. We got dressed nicely, and went to dinner at a little Italian Restaurant named Anthony’s. It was a nice night. (Live in PA?…I suggest Anthony’s in Malvern. Great Stromboli.) Even though the Stromboli at Anthony’s is practically perfect, I was able to refrain from scarfing it down because of nerves. I couldn’t help but wonder:

Is he gonna propose to me? When will it happen? What will he say? What does the ring look like? I thought he was going to propose. I hope he didn’t change his mind.

We ate dinner, exchanged pleasantries, then headed back home.

We talked (okay, mostly kissed), and Homey seemed to be nervous. He’d stop to say something, then start kissing me again. Then, he’d pause, gaze into my eyes, shift like he was going to say something, then change his mind, and kiss me as if kissing was the only way to relieve his nerves.

Finally, he was able to stop for a moment. He made a quick movement down to the ground. He got down on one knee, pulled something from his pocket, and then, he made a proclamation that I’ll never forget.

Click here for part 31.

***
This post is also my response to the Weekly Writing Challenge – Cliffhanger. Click on the link to find other entries.

Love at First Sight (Part 29 of the HaM–Homey and Me–Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part twenty-nine of the Homey and Me Love Story.

It was March 8th. In less than 24 hours, I’d be picking up Homey from the airport and meeting him for the first time. Nervous doesn’t begin to explain how I was feeling.

“When I pick you up, I’ll be wearing a red shirt. Unless I change my mind and decide to wear black. Or green.” I said.
“Don’t worry. I think that I’ll recognize you.” Homey was right. Even though we met online and hadn’t met each other in person, it wasn’t as if we hadn’t seen one another. We had sent pictures to one another.
“Still, I want to be sure. Actually, I think that I’ll be wearing a pink shirt. And blue jeans.”
“Sounds good.”
“I know!” I shouted, “I’m just gonna stand there, at the end of the escalators, holding a sign up that says your last name…LARSON…as if I’m your driver.” Homey laughed. I was serious.
“You realize, Catania, that tomorrow we’re going to meet one another. How exciting is that?”
“So. Exciting.”
“And you know what’s really cool, Catania? When we see each other, it’s going to be love at first sight?”
“Wow. That is cool.” I was in such a dream-like stupor that I couldn’t think of anything funny, smart, or impressive to say.

I felt like Moki when Johnny Lingo offered 8 cows for Mahana.

I felt like Moki when Johnny Lingo offered 8 cows for Mahana.

Finally, at some point, we said our good-byes and well wishes.

March 9, 2007

I put on my pink shirt, blue jeans, and really cute strappy pink sandals. I actually dried my hair, then ended up putting it in a pony-tail anyway! I put on make-up, perfume, rushed the kids over to my Mom’s house, then headed out to the airport.

I couldn’t just sit in the car and listen to music while driving to pick up Homey. I had to call friends. I called everyone I knew.
“Guess what??? I’m getting Homey right now!!!! AAAHHHHH!!!” It was nice to have the support from my friends. They were as excited as I was. I tried to get all of my craziness out so I could appear cool when Homey arrived.

I had also printed out Homey’s last name on a piece of paper. LARSON. It looked very professional. I was pleased.

I went inside the airport and waited. As I waited, I noticed a man from my ward–Brother Larson. He saw my sign (LARSON) and had an ultra-confused expression to his face. I made the connection as soon as I saw his confused look, and just put the sign behind my back.
“This is for another Larson!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah…Strange…I mean, I parked here at the airport.” He started to say.
“I know.” I said, “Well…no, I didn’t know that. I mean, I had no idea you would be here. This is really strange. I’m just picking up my friend, and so I made this sign kind of as a joke, but it’s not a joke. His last name is Larson. So, I thought it would be funny. Anyway. It is funny, and now it is funnier.”
“Your friend?” Brother Larson asked, knowingly.
“Yeah. My friend. I’m sure he’ll be here any second.”
“Well. This is funny, in any case.” Brother Larson said as he made his way off. “See you Sunday. Will your friend be around at church?”
“Yes. He will. I’m sure you’ll meet him then.” I said, laughing. Seeing Brother Larson, of all people at the Philadelphia International Airport, while I was holding a sign that said LARSON was a hilarious coincidence. It calmed my nerves and I was still laughing about it as Homey walked up.

I wish that I could tell you we ran to each other’s embrace. But it didn’t really happen that way. I was in too much shock. I’m pretty sure that I was doing the Moki face again.

I felt like Moki a lot around Homey.

I felt like Moki a lot around Homey.


Homey came up, and I honestly can’t remember whether or not we hugged. We didn’t kiss or anything. We just said “Hi.” Nervously. In some ways, he felt like a stranger. Though I knew him, I didn’t know anything about his physical presence. It was like my spirit and soul knew him, but my body and senses thought This is a stranger. It was a surreal experience as I kept telling myself, Don’t be nervous. He’s not a stranger. He’s HOMEY!

Homey laughed about the sign, and I began to tell him about how just a few minutes before he came down the escalator, Brother Larson had passed by, confused.

We got to the car, and started into our drive. It was then that I was able to feel really comfortable. I think it was because we were sitting in the car, driving, and just talking to each other. I heard Homey’s voice, his familiar voice, and his laugh. And I could quickly peer over at him. My first real physical impression of Homey is how he looked sitting next to me in my Volkswagen Jetta. I remember his profile. The way his smile looked as he laughed and talked. He wasn’t looking at me, he was just natural. I realized, I know this guy! He’s not a stranger. It’s Homey. I love him! And now I think that I love him even more!

*
We arrived home where he met my mom and the kids. We chatted for a bit, then Homey and I left to go get a bite to eat then we would drop his stuff off at my Relief Society President’s house. (Even though he was originally going to stay at the Bishop’s, the Bishop had to take a business trip. So, the Bishop kindly arranged for Homey to stay at The Relief Society President’s House!!!)

I had decided to take Homey to my favorite Pizza/Cheesesteak Place: Caln Pizza and Pasta. Of course, since Homey was visiting the Philly area, he needed a cheesesteak. So we ordered up some food, and began to eat. We were getting even more comfortable, laughing, and chatty.

Now…even though the food was awesome, I have to warn women about getting cheesesteaks on the first date with a guy you are trying to impress.
pfw2i
Obviously, I had set out to “impress” Homey, but then all of that was out the window when cheesesteaks were involved…

So, I was wolfing down my cheesesteak, laughing at Homey’s jokes. And Homey was wolfing his down, then he paused, while both of us had GIANT mouths full of Cheesesteak goodness, and kissed me on the lips. So…our first kiss was while were in the middle of eating a cheesesteak. Literally-in the middle of masticating a greasy, salty, cheesy, scrumptious, cheesesteaks. In other words, it was the best first kiss ever.

After getting some grub, we dropped off Homey’s stuff at the Relief Society President’s house. She was having a meeting with a bunch of other women in the ward (including the Bishop’s wife), so they were all very happy (giddy!) and excited to meet Homey. He was such a great sport about everything. He was kind, complimented me, and was polite. It was pretty great.

After that, I took Homey to my two favorite places on earth. Wegman’s and Wawa. And that was our first date together…

Philly

Of course, no trip to Philly is complete without an actual trip to Philly. Homey and I hung out with the girls through the course of the day, then in the evening we decided we’d go into Philly to walk around and eat dinner.

I know that it might sound lame, but I think that one of my absolute favorite ways to spend the time is to walk around Philadelphia (New York and Boston are good, too). I love watching people and absorbing the energy of the city. In fact, as I write this paragraph, I long for that feeling. I miss the east coast so much!

So, we went into Philly without much of an agenda. We went to Reading Terminal Market. We walked around the city. I took pictures of things I found interesting. We finally ended up at a Greek Restaurant on South Street.

The restaurant is good, but the experience we had there that evening was miraculous.

This restaurant is super duper tiny, so the tables are jam-packed together. No one can really have a private conversation. It might not have been the best choice for two people who wanted to chat and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. Luckily, Homey and I didn’t have that in mind.

We sat down, looked over the menu, etc. and two men were seated at the table next to us. They appeared to be 17 and probably 32. There wasn’t a huge age difference between them. At least it didn’t seem so.

When they arrived, they ordered beers, but the waitress wouldn’t serve alcohol to the younger man. They tried to sweet talk her into it but she didn’t budge. Still, they worked their magic on her:
“Is there anything that you’d like tonight.”
“I’m looking at something that I like, but it ain’t on the menu.” (The man proceeded to look this woman up and down.)
The hilarious thing about this is that the waitress was a Greek-no-nonsense woman who was probably in her fifties. She just raised her eyebrow at him and stared him down.
“I’ll have a gyro.” He finally relented.

Homey and I just looked at each other, smiling.

After flirting with the waitress, the two men started talking with each other. It turns out that they were father and son. And the Father was about to give his son a talk for the ages.
“Son, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your girl.”
“Yeah.”
“You’ve got to give her up. She’s no good for you.”
“I know. But I just have to see her one more time.”
“No man, that’s what I’m trying to say. Stop seeing her. She’s no good. All you do is smoke weed and get high with her.”
“I know, but she knows I want to change.”
“Man, you say that, but you still using dope. You’ve got to stop. Finish school. Get a job. You got to get rid of her. You need to straighten up.”
“I didn’t know that she’d be trouble.”
“What you talkin’ about. Yes you did. You knew she was trouble ever since you met her.”
“No, man. I didn’t know. And now, it’s just like, we’ve been together for a while, you know? I mean, it’s hard to just leave her. I didn’t know that she was on crack.”
“Man. Yes you DID! You knew she did crack! You was doing it with her when you met her.”
“Oh man. That’s right. I know, but she wants to change. She wants me to change.”
“You say, ‘She’s gonna stop. I’m gonna stop.’ Boy, you won’t stop until you leave her. She’s no good for you. She smokes crack!”
“I know, but she’s gonna stop.”
“You just need to give her up. You need to give all that &*#@ up.”

Homey and I couldn’t believe it. It’s okay for people to have these discussions. I’m not saying that the discussion was uncalled for. If my son was dating a girl who was smoking crack, I’m sure that we’d be having a similar conversation. But it’s another thing to have this conversation in a restaurant that’s probably 500sqft of dining space, yet packed with people. Everyone in a 10 foot radius knew that this boy’s girlfriend smoked crack!

Homey and I tried to stifle a laugh. We just started texting each other.
–Wow!
–I feel bad for listening in, but I can’t stop.
–I know what you mean. And I’m not trying to be judgmental, but it’s not everyday that you get to overhear a conversation like this.
–I know!
–This entire conversation is so foreign to anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.
–Yeah right. I know that the Silver Fox took you out when you were 17 and told you to stop smoking crack with your crack smoking girlfriend.
–haha! Can you even imagine it?!
–I need to eat so I can leave. I don’t want to laugh out loud or look conspicuous. I don’t want to be rude. It’s good that this dad is giving his son a Pep-talk. He’s like Danny Tanner.
–Yes…exactly like Danny Tanner.

Homey and I quickly finished our meals, then left the restaurant.
“I’m amazed, Homey. I’ve been to Philly so many times, and never have I had an experience that could come close to that! You are so lucky. Philly was on her best behavior for you tonight.” I explained to him. This was not a usual occurrence.

We walked around Philly some more, then headed home–completely entertained. I was so grateful that I was able to witness the Danny Tanner talk with someone as awesome as Homey.

D.C.

One of the days during Homey’s visit, Homey and I decided to travel down to Washington, D.C. We would go to the temple and then we’d meet up with Homey’s friends: Jack and Jackie.

The ride from my house to the Washington D.C. takes about two hours. I take a scenic route, so the ride is actually a little longer, but is so worth it because you drive through scenery like this:

One reason why I love PA...and miss it like crazy.

One reason why I love PA…and miss it like crazy.

Click for source.

Click for source.

Despite the distance, I loved driving to the D.C. temple.

Homey and I weren’t expecting to go to the temple together the first weekend that we met, but it worked out that way. I think that at first, we were thinking it might be a little bit awkward as the temple is such a personal and sacred experience. By the time Homey came out to PA, however, we were very close and personal–we were already talking about marriage.

So, we went to the temple and had a great experience. I felt a little overwhelmed by the fact that I was going to the temple with someone that I loved. It was an interesting experience, and I knew it would be a real test. If I can still like Homey after this, then I really think it is the real deal.

I still liked Homey after the temple. In fact, I liked him a whole lot. It was the real deal, which was both amazingly joyful and also a bit overwhelming.

After going to the temple, we went out to eat with Homey’s friends. Jack and Jackie met us in D.C., where we ate at a really yummy Thai restaurant. It was fun meeting Homey’s friends and seeing him interact with them. I was impressed because both Jack and Jackie were so smart and interesting. I wanted to make a good impression on them, too. I wanted them to give me the “stamp of approval!” As the lunch proceeded, I felt more comfortable. I loved how funny Homey was with his friends. And I felt like I could laugh and joke with them, too. Even though it was a short visit, it was insightful.
As we lunched, we talked about tentative future plans. (ie: marriage)
“So…we’re thinking of getting married in May. We’ll go on a honeymoon, then Catania and the girls will move with me to Mesa.”
“Wow. What do you think about that, Catania.” Jack (or Jackie, can’t really remember who) asked.
“I’m pretty excited about it.”
“Where are you guys going on your honeymoon?”
Homey replied, “You know, we’re thinking of Cuba.”
“Cuba, huh?” They replied with a chuckle. “That should be interesting.”
“Yes, it’s this new thing that they’re doing–where you can go in and visit Cuba. Catania and I are going to do it.” Homey went on.
“Really–” Jack and/or Jackie said with a smirk
I quickly chirped in, “Yeah they are doing this really cool new travel program in Cuba. You might have heard of it…It’s called Guantanamo.”
We all laughed, and I felt like I did get some kind of “stamp of approval” from Homey’s friends. I was grateful to meet them. Mostly, I was proud for the opportunity to tell one of my best ever jokes. 🙂

After meeting with Homey’s friends, we travelled back to PA, and spent the rest of the day hanging out with the kids and fam.

***

The rest of the weekend followed suit. Homey and I spent a lot of time snuggling together and being so mushy that you’d probably barf, ralph, vomit, and yak all at the same time. It was perfect. Everything that being in love should be.

***

The time finally came for Homey to return to Mesa. Tiger, Panda, and I took him to the airport. We even parked the car and walked him inside. I was holding Panda’s hand and Homey was with Tiger. As we approached the escalator, I didn’t realize it, but Tiger froze at the top. She was afraid of it. Homey shouted, “Catania. Tiger is stuck at the top.”
Without thinking, I picked up Panda, tucked her under my arm (like a football), and ran up the down escalator. I retrieved Tiger and we safely travelled down the escalator without incident.

Homey was impressed.
“Wow. I can’t believe you did that.”
“Did what?”
“Got Tiger like that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was just going to go down the escalator then up the other one.”
“Oh…well, this was faster. And she was crying. No big deal.”
I really thought it was no big deal. It’s what any mom would have done. But it made an impression on Homey.

Throughout the course of the weekend, Homey was able to see me in my element. He saw what kind of mother, woman, and person I was. He saw my home, my favorite places, my city, my life. I was also able to meet Homey in person. I was able to see his big, blue eyes in real life. I could smell him, feel him. I noticed the tremors in his hands, his crooked pinky finger–from jamming it too many times during basketball. I was obsessed with his smile and his profile. But most of all, I was amazed that Homey was a real, living human being. I knew that I was totally in love with this mystery I had met online, and now…he was real.

***
I said good-bye to Homey. On my way home, I got a text.
I’m coming back next weekend.

I drove home happy that there was something new to look forward to.

Click here for part 30.

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