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:
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:
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.
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.
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.”
“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…
“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 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.
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.
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?
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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
“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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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…
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.”
“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.
–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.
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:
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.”
“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.
After a day of texting, being on the phone, and realizing that I just had the best Valentine’s Day of my life–even though I was snowed into my house, with two kids, and with a dude I liked on the other side of the country; after all of that–I realized that I might just be in love.
Okay…you probably know it, too. But you have to understand: I had never met Homey yet! I hadn’t seen him in person. I hadn’t touched him, smelled him, anything! I had only talked to him and listened to him…for hours and hours…yet I was in love. Could this be???
It was an interesting situation. Being in love–with a dude–but he wasn’t really there. In some ways, I questioned myself…In an email that Homey wrote to me, he said: “And I just keep pinching myself to remind me that you are real.” This hit the nail on the head. I responded:
“We SHARE A BRAIN! Last night, when I was talking to you about being a little confused, but not, I think that this is EXACTLY what I meant. I’ll be at home, or at work, or in the car, or on the treadmill running to Wolfmother, and I’ll think “I need to tell Homey ________.” And we’ll talk, write, text, and have fun with all of our jokes and awesomeness. (I feel so bad for like 5,999,999,998 people right now), and I’m just obsessed with YOU. Then, I’ll find myself alone for a minute, and think to myself, “Is this even real?…PLEASE LET HOMEY REALLY EXIST!!!!!!!!” (me to Homey – February 15, 2007)
But those feelings of confusion/frustration would vanish when I said a prayer or when my thoughts were interrupted by a text or phone call from Homey. He was real. How was this possible? I didn’t do anything to be blessed like this!
But there was a benefit to the long-distance madness:
“And the thing I’ve learned–even before knowing you, but you confirm it, is that real is MORE than physical closeness (disclaimer: I LOVE physical closeness and hate long-distance relationships.) You can be with someone and see/interact with that person every day–yet you may not know the reality of that person. A ‘real’ relationship requires work on two sides. It requires TWO people playing for keeps. It requires a little bit of vulnerability, a lot of forgiveness, and LOADS OF GREAT JOKES…So, what I’m saying is–in some ways, this feels more real than anything I’ve ever experienced, even though I haven’t touched you. It’s just what I need.” – (Me to Homey – February 15, 2007).
All of these feelings, combined with lack of sleep (thanks to nightly marathon conversations with Homey) culminated in a DTR for the ages.
“You know…this is crazy,” Homey said to me, as we were trying to hang up, and doing all the kinds of mushy annoying things that people do when they’re in that drug-like stupor of new love.
“I know. But crazy in a good way.” I replied, half asleep, half giddy.
“There are so many things I want to tell you, but I have to wait until I see you in person.”
“What? You can’t wait that long. You won’t be here until March. That’s like three weeks away!”
“I know, but there are just some things that I can’t say to someone I haven’t even physically met yet.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” And I did, or at least I thought I did because I was feeling the same way. How do you tell someone that you love them when you haven’t even met them? I continued, “If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, and I’m figuring that you are since we share a brain, then I think that we should think up a code for now.”
“Then we can say what we want to say without saying it.”
“Yeah…I get you.”
“So…now say it. Just bleep out whatever it is you won’t say to me in person.”
“Well I can’t just say it now, there’s too much pressure. I can’t just say it on command.”
“Why the bleep not?” I asked, laughing at myself. (There is a lot of laughing at myself when I’m on the phone past midnight.)
“Oh…Catania. I think I bleep you.”
“Yeah, Homey, I knew that you were going to say it. I do, too…I don’t bleep me, I think that I bleep you, too.”
“This is strange. Can we possibly be in bleep this quickly, so far away?”
“I guess so. It’s bleeping awesome to be in bleep with someone I met on the internet.”
“Deciding to call it Bleep makes me bleep you even more.”
And somehow, I did it. I didn’t do it on purpose. Again, I blame the late nights for such a loss of inhibition, but I was laughing, and happy, and shouted, “I know! I bleepin’ love you!”
On my part there was silence. On Homey’s part, he was just laughing and laughing.
“Woops!” I exclaimed. “I broke our code. It was an accident, I promise!”
“I thought we were going to wait until we at least met.”
“Well, I guess that’s what it is now…I promise I didn’t say it on purpose. I meant to bleep it out. I meant to bleepin’ bleep you, but this is so bleeping confusing!”
“Oh…I love you Catania. It’s crazy to say it, but I’m madly in love with you.”
And that’s how the profession of love began, between two crazy people, 2300 miles apart, that had never met.
(Note: I don’t suggest this for everyone. In fact, I don’t suggest anything specific for anyone when it comes to dating or finding love. There is only one thing that I suggest: that you follow the Spirit. After everything with Rusty, I knew that I would naturally have “trust” issues with others. Yet, I found solace in the following scripture:
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Moroni 10:5
If you are familiar at all with the Book of Mormon, you probably recognize this as part of Moroni’s Promise. Sometimes I love thinking of verse five independently and remembering that the Holy Ghost will tell us the truth of everything. He doesn’t only testify of God, Jesus Christ, or Spiritual matters. But if we seek the Lord in prayer, and ask Him about anything in our lives, we will know the truth of what we should do through the power of the Holy Ghost. It’s pretty amazing…The point being: I didn’t need to worry about trusting anyone–I could simply trust God. So, when you’re doing anything of any kind of importance, seek the Spirit, it will tell you the truth of all things. It will help you to know all that you should do…And I can see that meeting Homey in the way that I did, while unconventional, was exactly what I needed. The Lord knew this about me, and throughout the entire courtship I prayed and sought the Spirit.
I told Homey I bleepin’ loved him on February 16th. Don’t take the time to figure out how (little) much time had passed between our first email and now saying I bleep you because it was an embarrassingly short amount of time. It was so Mormon of us!!!
In addition to openly admitting our love to one another, we also had a confirmed date to finally meet! He’d be flying to Pennsylvania on March 9th.
Because of the sharp increase in mushiness and declarations of love (which would make anyone barf all over the place, but I love thinking about this time in my life, really I do), I was on cloud nine. Most of the time. Except for when I wasn’t. Because the thing is, I started to realize that this might be for real, and I didn’t really know what that meant.
Homey would be coming to PA, and I wanted to see him. I wanted him to be real. But I also knew it would be a moment of truth. When I met him, either everything with him would come crashing down, or the life in PA, as I knew it, would be crashing down, and I’d be itching to move to Mesa. It was kind of scary. It would have been really scary if I wasn’t actually in love.
So…in one of the rare moments when I had some sense I found a list of “interview” questions that people who are seriously courting one another should discuss. These were the nitty-gritty questions like “Who will balance the checkbook?” “How do you feel about debt?” “How often would you want to be intimate?”…you know…the kinds of questions no one thinks about while they’re in love, but then become the center of strife during the first year of marriage. Because I had been divorced, and because I was a child of divorced parents, I knew that there was no way I would get into another marriage unless I was as sure as I could be about everything. It seemed counterintuitive to be considering Homey as marriage-able material, but since we were declaring love, I knew that I needed to think about it. And since we were doing so much emailing, I found email to be the perfect medium for these interview questions.
So…pretty soon our emails got even more involved–we were still discussing subjects like buffalo wings
“Yeah, So I’m walking back in from lunch, and I got totally jealous of this conversation that these two construction workers were having–about Buffalo Wings. I have decided that I should definitely discuss Buffalo Wings WAY more often. (I should also eat them more often). What are your feelings about Buffalo Wings, by the way?)” – Catania to Homey, 5 March 2007
and we had added in paragraphs and paragraphs of super-duper-sappy-cheese-o-matic-mush:
“You know how much I love you? So much that I CALL YOU ON THE PHONE AND I’M SO EXCITED WHEN YOU CALL ME THAT I ACTUALLY PICK UP!” – Homey to Catania, March 6, 2007
and then there were paragraphs of “How do you feel about movies/vacations–are these luxuries or necessities?”:
“In general, I’d like to be able to have fun with money. However, I don’t want life to get out of hand. Basically, what I’m saying is: I want to live within my means. I’d rather live in a smaller more modest house, and be able to go on nicer vacations. I also want to be sure all financial obligations are met before I do fun things–ie: I want to have a food storage and be financially prepared. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go in debt for a vacation…” – Me to Homey, March 7, 2007
Although that last excerpt might not have been all that exciting for you to read, it was great to know what Homey’s expectations were and I was also happy to know that he knew my expectations. In fact, we had “rules” on these questions. I would ask him before hand, and we’d both answer in emails–before we saw the other person’s answer, just so we weren’t in any way influenced by one another. Knowing how Homey felt about these various subjects helped me feel more secure on the path that we were taking so very quickly.
“Well, Bishop, he’s coming out here to meet me.”
“Really?” My bishop asked, both incredulous and excited.
“Yeah. It will be my first time meeting him.”
“Wow, how do you feel about it?”
“I’m really excited. We’ve been writing and talking, and we’ve gotten to know each other really well.”
“So, when will he be here?”
“Where is he staying?”
“He’s got a hotel room at the Sheraton in Exton.”
“Tell him to cancel the reservation.”
“Um…okay,” the Bishop could sense my confusion as I said this.
“He can stay at my place,” the Bishop explained.
“Okay.” I said, as I began to understand what he was getting at.
“It will be better for both of you. If this is getting serious, then you don’t need the temptation. And if this guy isn’t what he seems to be, then you won’t be put into a dangerous position.”
“That’s true,” I stated.
“Just tell him to cancel his hotel reservation. Look at it this way. If he’s a good guy, then this solution will be an answer to his prayers. If he gets upset by the idea, then he’s a creep, and you can tell him to just cancel the entire trip.”
“Alright,” I said, finally.
In a way I was grateful for the offer that the Bishop made. I knew that if Homey was staying at my Bishop’s house, then there would not be as much of a temptation to do anything that would break my covenants or commitment to chastity before marriage. I also was a little afraid. What if Homey was a creep? What if he would insist on staying in a hotel? Would I have the strength to tell him to cancel the whole thing?
I didn’t need to worry.
“So…I was talking to my bishop, and He told me to tell you to cancel your reservations at the Sheraton.”
“You can stay at his place instead. Which actually happens to be closer to my house, anyway.”
“Are you serious? I can? Is he sure that it won’t be a problem for me to stay there?”
“Yes. He insists.” A serious downplay of what the Bishop actually said!
“Catania, this is honestly an answer to my prayers.” I leapt when I heard Homey say that. I hadn’t mentioned to him the details of my meeting with the bishop. But with Homey’s response, I was once again reassured that Homey was the right dude for me.
In fact, I was pretty sure that Homey was the right dude for me for eternity. Now, I just needed to meet him.
On Saturday Afternoon, around 12 PM or so (maybe it was 1), four days after giving Homey my number, my phone rang.
I wasn’t doing anything in particular at the moment. I was just watching a movie or hanging out with the girls. I excused myself from them, and went to my bedroom to talk. To say that I was nervous or excited is the understatement of the century.
It was a relatively awkwardish-nervous conversation, and I can’t remember how, but the conversation turned to Greg Ostertag (former NBA Player for the Utah Jazz), and how he had a tattoo of Fred Flintstone on his calf.
As soon as Homey mentioned it, while laughing, I told him, “I’m so glad that you know about Greg Ostertag’s Fred Flintstone tattoo.”
“AHHHHH!!! I hate that I know that! I don’t even care for Greg Ostertag?!”
[More of me laughing at Homey ensued].
We couldn’t continue on in this vein as Homey had to go–he was getting ready to play tennis with his brother. And although the phone conversation had an “awkwardish-nervous” tone to it, I didn’t feel really embarrassed or worried after. Instead, I was happy, breathed a sigh of relief, and I knew that the next time we spoke (which I hoped would be soon), we’d be able to feel more comfortable and free to speak.
I texted Freckles.
“He called me.”
“He called me!”
“I know! I’m just…how was it?!???”
“Well…he’s funny. It was a short conversation. But…yeah!”
“So. When will you talk to him next?”
“I have no idea.”
“This is crazy!”
“I know…and all I can say is, he better be on Verizon…let’s just say that If he is on Verizon, then it’s probably meant to be. ;)”
Throughout the next 24 hours, I was in heaven. Not only had we spoken on the phone, but we had texted a few times, too.
On Sunday, I went to church, and my bishop told me about a Single-Adult Fireside–Elder Bednar would be speaking. It would be on during the middle of the Super-bowl, but I didn’t really care much about the super-bowl, and I love Elder Bednar so I told him to count me in.
After church, I got a text from Homey…We started texting back and forth. After a few messages, I asked:
“Hey…just curious, who is your cell phone provider?”
[Fist pump!] “Sweet. Me, too.”
With this news, I felt like I didn’t need to hold back, the texts, the phone calls, it could all flow freely.
A while later, the Superbowl began, and we were texting pretty much constantly.
“Don’t mention a single thing about the game because we are watching it on our DVR on a delay.” Homey stated.
“So you don’t want to know that the Colts just got a touchdown?” I teased.
“hahah. just kidding. That’s cool.”
“I’m actually watching the game with my dad–the Silver Fox.”
“Ha! I’m at my mom’s house. And I’m only marginally watching the game. Mostly I’m just here to eat.”
“My parents had me over, so I could cook.”
“What are you making?”
“Pasta and red sauce.”
“Nice. I need to get some.”
“Come on over.”
“But if you do, bring a cannoli.”
“Why don’t I just get a cannoli, and you bring the pasta here.”
“Let’s meet…in the middle.”
“So…what…Omaha, Nebraska then?”
And yeah…it went on like that for a while, until I sent a text, “So, I have to go for a while–I’ve got another engagement.”
“Another engagement, during the Superbowl?”
“Well…yeah…I’m actually going to a fireside.”
“The one with Elder Bednar?” I was impressed that he knew the Fireside I was talking about.
“I’ll be watching that one later…Thanks to DVR.”
How I wanted a DVR right then.
So, I went to the fireside, and I was feeling a little bummed because as pointless as the texts were, I really wanted to keep talking with Homey. I got to the church, and it was just me, the Bishop’s wife, and the Bishop. “I had a feeling that this fireside might have less attendance.” He mentioned, with a smile.
We watched the Fireside, and Elder Bednar’s talk was amazing. (You can watch it here.) After the fireside, I chatted with my Bishop, and told him about Homey for the first time.
“Well…Bishop…I’ve started talking to someone online.”
“Really?” He said, with a smile.
“Is he nearby?”
“Nope. Mesa, AZ.”
“You’re right…That’s not nearby.”
“We’re just talking right now, though. Nothing really serious. I think he’s pretty cool. We’ve started with emailing for little while, and now we’re just starting to talk on the phone.”
“Well, keep me updated on this.” He said, and then we all went home.
“K. I’m back.” I texted to Homey. “What did I miss?”
“Well, the halftime show was interesting…Prince came out playing a guitar in the shape of his name…How was the fireside?”
“It was…interesting…Elder Bednar came out playing a guitar in the shape of his name.”
[Just so you know, neither Homey nor I can watch or listen to Elder Bednar without thinking of his imaginary BEDNAR guitar…]
After a while, I received a text: “Can I call you a little later tonight?”
“Sure…call me late, though. Like around 8:30 your time.”
“Will you be up?”
“I don’t want to call you too late.”
“Don’t worry about it. I need get a few things done first.”
“Okay. I’ll call you then.”
So, before the Superbowl even ended, I packed the girls up and went home. I wanted to have our bedtime routine done before I got a call from Homey. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to talk to him or take care of the girls if I was trying to do them both simultaneously.
My timing worked out perfectly. I was able do everything I needed to get my kids and myself ready for bed before I got the phone call.
Homey called, and we talked.
And talked and talked and talked.
No lie: We talked on the phone for six hours. Six hours.
I have never spoken on the phone with someone that long. But we talked, and laughed, talked, and laughed some more. In fact, there was one point in the conversation where we were both laughing so hard we were crying. I didn’t want the conversation to end, but it was about SIX AM and I could only sleep for an hour before going to work! (I have to admit, I was so excited, it was hard for me to even sleep that hour.) On the way to work, I called Freckles.
“I’m not tired, even though I should be.”
“Stay up late watching the game?”
“I watched the game, but it isn’t why I stayed up late.”
“What are you saying?”
“I talked to Homey for six hours last night?”
“I talked to Homey until 6AM!”
“How are you awake now?”
“Because I have to be. I’m going to work. Keep talking to me, so I don’t fall asleep at the wheel…Don’t worry, I’ve got my hands-free set on.”
“Oh…and I forgot to mention. He’s on Verizon.”
“You’re gonna get married.” Freckles started teasing in a sing-song way.
“Not so fast…I haven’t met him yet.”
“I know. I can’t believe I like a guy that I haven’t met.”
Despite my lack of sleep, Monday flew by. I was happy all day long, then went and played volleyball. After volleyball, I kept thinking about Homey. The high I had been experiencing all day long was starting to wane. I looked at my phone, willing it to ring. I got home, started changing, keeping my phone within two feet, hoping it would ring. And I realized, I talked to him on Saturday. Then Sunday for six hours. He called me both times…I doubt he’s calling tonight.
I started getting ready for bed, but I couldn’t go to sleep.
I was calling Homey.
And he answered after the first ring…and so began our second six hour long conversation.
The next morning, I went to work, to find another email, too…
“CCCCCatania, ok…so I should probably try to sleep, but I know I have too much on my mind right now. I honestly can’t believe that we have talked on the phone for so long the last couple of nights…my first thought is Wow, I hope Catania doesn’t get bored of me. Then I remember who I am and that it is just not possible. And about now should be the time that I tell you that the one thing I NEVER pray for is humility. Cause I already have so much…;)
It went on for a while.
I was on cloud nine. forget cloud nine. I was on cloud 159.
One evening, after a class I was teaching at the church, I was speaking with my Relief Society President*. She always took great interest in me and my life, and she really was (and is, for that matter) a great woman. She asked me how things were going, and I told her:
“You know…it’s funny. I met a guy online, and I think that I’m interested in him.”
“Great! Where does he live?”
“That’s the thing. He lives in Mesa, AZ. It is all kind of strange–to meet online. We have been emailing a while, and now we have started talking on the phone. Anyways, I’m not sure what will come of it, and I know that meeting online seems really strange, but I have to admit that getting to know Homey has been fun.”
“You know, Catania, a lot of people are meeting online these days. It isn’t a bad thing at all. You just need to be careful.”
“That’s true…although, I’ve realized that I need to be careful even when meeting people in real life!” I said with a chuckle.
“Exactly. Staying close to the Spirit is so important. There are no real guarantees unless you follow the Spirit.”
“I totally agree.”
“However, I have an idea for you. You ought to get the Bishop to call his Bishop. He’s LDS, right?”
“Yeah, we met on an LDS website.”
“So, you should just have the Bishop call his Bishop. Mention the idea to him. If Homey’s a good guy, then he probably has some of the same concerns you do, and having your Bishop talk to his will bring him some peace. On the other hand, if Homey is uneasy or reluctant about the idea, then cut him off right away.”
It was a good idea. I told her so, and then found the Bishop right away–letting him know of the plan. He loved it. After I got home, I called Homey for another marathon phone call. (These, in addition to loooong emails were happening on a daily basis). During the course of the phone call, I told him about the idea–to have my Bishop call his Bishop.
“That’s a great idea, Catania. I don’t have my Bishop’s phone number right now, but I can get it to you.”
“Sounds good. And I’ll email you my Bishop’s contact information.”
I was happy that he was responsive to the idea.
Here is where I’m going to take a break to get preachy. Having my Bishop call Homey’s Bishop was SUCH a good idea. You single ladies out there, people besides your parents and friends really care about you. It may not seem like it, but your Bishops, your Relief Society Presidents, others who lead and serve you love you and care for you. They are blessed with the ability to do so as a part of their callings. I would say that in the majority of cases, if you got your Bishop involved in this way, they would be happy to help. It was nice to have a third-party opinion of Homey–especially because I couldn’t get one in my own circumstances. We were separated by many thousands of miles. And in a single phone call, my Bishop could talk to his Bishop, and I got some reassuring news about this guy-Homey-that I really was falling for.
“Well, Catania, I had a nice conversation with Homey’s Bishop last night.” My Bishop told me one Sunday at church.
“You did?!” I was elated. Homey and I had exchanged information about a week before, and we had continued the rapid pace of communication.
“Yeah. Homey sounds like a good guy. He is responsible in his calling, and he a very faithful home teacher.”
“Great!” I responded. I have to be honest. I was already expecting to hear good things. I had a good feeling about Homey, just based on our conversations. But it was really relieving to get a completely unbiased opinion of Homey.
“So…he lives in Mesa?” The Bishop asked. “Tell me more about him.”
“Yeah. He lives in Mesa. It is far away. But he used to live out here, in New Jersey, crazy enough. He was working at PriceWaterhouse Coopers in NY. Then he decided to move out to AZ so he could golf more.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, with him all the way out in AZ, I’m guessing that you two don’t get to see each other very much.”
“Not really…I still haven’t even met him, but with the way that we write and talk to each other, I already feel so close to him.”
“It’s not a bad thing to be far apart. I dated my wife only a few times before I was about to study abroad. Before I left, this is going to sound crazy because I only knew her 3 weeks, I told her I felt like I was supposed to marry her.”
I was amazed…three weeks.
“We didn’t get married yet, but she agreed to keep dating me long-distance, seriously. We really developed a deep relationship through letters and communication–without some of the physical distractions that comes from being so close in proximity.” I understood what he meant, and I felt that my own experience was echoing his…at least with getting to know Homey without some of the physical distractions. He continued, “Will you be seeing Homey anytime soon?”
“Well, his mom works for USAirways, so I think that he’ll try to get out here next month.”
“Make sure you keep me updated on that!” the Bishop remarked.
Homey and I continued on our pattern of nightly marathon phone calls (probably 5-6 hours most of the time…crazy, I know. It is almost embarrassing, but hey…that was the way that we were able to court!)
Before Homey, the hardest part of my day was the time period between my girls’ bedtime and when I fell asleep. The house was so quiet. I would read scriptures, pray, paint, watch an episode or two of Arrested Development. But mostly, I did whatever I had to do to ward off the discouraging feeling of loneliness. During those nightly hours, it was hard to ignore the thoughts that haunted me. It was hard to keep from feeling a little depressed about being alone. Before Homey, those hours were hard, but I had become relatively effective at distracting myself from the negative thoughts.
After Homey and I started talking, I began looking forward to 9PM. By then, the girls were in bed, I had done any needed chores, taken a shower, and had gotten ready for bed/a phone call with Homey. Even though I was really curious about meeting Homey in real life, the emails and phone conversations were so fulfilling, I looked forward to every moment I could spend talking with homey, reading what he wrote, writing him, texting him, or communicating with him in any possible method.
Not only was I looking forward to my previously lonely nights, Homey was starting to put off other social engagements so he could talk to me, instead. One night, Homey decided to ditch all of his friends for their weekly get together to watch The Office. Instead, we just talked on the phone. I apologized for making him miss out on hanging with his friends. He assured me that it was his choice. Later, he put it this way:
“I’m getting tired of my friends, too…they just don’t do it anymore now that I know you and know how totally radically we get along. I’d prefer to just communicate with you, and I seriously LOVE my friends (maybe they can listen in while I talk to you…;)”
There’s so much that I could write in this story. There is so much that I don’t even know what to say. All I know is that I was happy and amazed that I could be so happy with a person that I had yet to meet. Homey and I knew so much about each other. And I loved talking with him. The physical pressure was off, and we were able to be as real as possible. It felt pretty risk free, too. If something happened, and I decided that I didn’t like Homey anymore, then all I had to do was stop emailing/calling. We didn’t live in the same state, we wouldn’t “run into” each other. It isn’t like we were hanging out, and if things stopped between us, I’d have to figure out something new to do on a Friday night. We were free to be ourselves. I’m not suggesting that every relationship be a long-distance online relationship, but I am suggesting that Heavenly Father knew me, personally and what I needed. He knew that because of my prior experiences, I had trust issues, and I’d need to know a person the way I was getting to know Homey. And for us, this happened through the blessing of modern-day communication across thousands of miles.
To end this excessively long post, I’ll write a few more little things. This will help to set the stage of what will happen later.
One – Excessive Communication is A-OK!
“it’s funny. I can talk to you for like 3500 hours, text you, and write you emails, and I’m not getting sick of you at all. (did that come out wrong?) seriously, though. Usually, I get sick of people after 35 minutes.” (Me to Homey, Feb 8, 2007).
“it’s funny. I can talk to you for like 3500 hours, text you, and write you emails, and I’m not getting sick of you at all. (did that come out wrong?) HAHAHA NO. IT DIDN’T COME OUT WRONG. I FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. And the funny part is, I would even phrase it the same way ;)” (Homey to Me, Feb 9, 2007)
Two – Playing for Keeps
During the movie Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby tells Jean Girard, I play for keeps!
After watching this movie way too many times, I started adopting it as my dating mantra. I hated how single people played all these games when dating. Forget that. I play for keeps! Not only did I adopt this mantra, I repeated it as often and as annoyingly as possible. I even told it to Homey on several (thousand) occasions.
“So, since I am now playing for keeps…I decided that I like you. It’s official. And was unofficial already, but it is definitely now official. And I’d rather just get it out of the way really fast. I’m sure you already knew this, but just want to tell you in email format. 😉 … These past few days/week have been really amazing for me. I hate to profess my feelings in an email, but hey–it’s really late, so why not? 😉 We are so much fun together…I’ve never known anyone like you and I seriously and honestly 100% am SO excited about things right now…I konw that right now Heavenly Father is OK with my plan to get to know you as best as possible—I’ve never been more sure of something in my life, and you have no idea how happy it makes me. (My belly is all warm as I’m writing this…and that’s not just because my laptop is blowing hot air onto my stomach…)” – Homey to Me, Feb 12, 2007
“Okay, so, I’m also playing for keeps. (it’s just what I do). I think that I should let you know some of what I’m feeling. (I love expressing my feelings in the warm, personable, charming realm of email!!! haha) (no, I don’t mind, really…I don’t mind at all. And I’m really grateful that you wrote all of what you did, too.) It’s awesome because I’m also VERY VERY VERY VERY happy with everything that is happening between us. It is kind of mystifying to me, that we could have so much in common. I love that. I also feel like I’m supposed to pursue this relationship with you. No, it’s not even “supposed”–that makes it feel forced. It’s more or less like, DUH, Catania. HOMEY IS SUPER DUPER RAD. I’ve never met anyone like you, and I’m really stoked about our friendship so far…I really think that we were put on this earth to be happy…so…i FIRMLY believe we were put on this earth to be happy. Even though this is a veil of tears, trials, and hardships, the Lord wants us to have a good time, too. He wants us to smile. He constantly tells us to “be of good comfort” or “be of good cheer.” So, I try to do everything I can to be happy. In general, I would classify myself as a very happy person. Ever since I’ve started really talking to you, I”m at least 12,136,549,165,432,064,951,356,981,651 times happier…I feel that Heavenly Father has heard hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of my prayers, and while he has always answered my prayers, I can see that he is answering them now in a way that brings me more happiness than I ever could have expected.” – Me to Homey, Feb 12, 2007
Three – Why-even with Homey 2,000 miles away–Valentines day 2007 (in which I was snowed into my house with my kids) was the best one ever…
On Feb 13, it had started snowing. At about 6 AM, I got a call that my office was closed due to snow. After another marathon conversation with Homey, I snuggled into my bed, getting some much-needed rest.
A little later on in the day, I texted Homey, telling him that I wasn’t working, due to snow. He was in Mesa, and loved to rub in the fact that it was 70 and sunny.
A few minutes later, I got a phone call.
“Not today. That’s the only good part about snow!”
“Wait, does that mean you can’t get to your email?”
“No email for me today.”
“Darn it! I wrote you something, and I want you to read it.”
“Well, now I want to read it, too.”
“You know, you can just read it to me.”
“No…I can’t. That’s okay. Let’s just talk for a while. Then you’ll be able to read it tomorrow.”
“You can’t?…Yes you can.”
I goaded him for a while longer, and he finally relented.
He read me a beautiful, funny, sweet, and super-mushy email. I was so happy, I could cry, jump, and everything at the same time. And I was just amazed as I began to realize that I was falling in love with someone I hadn’t even met in person, yet I knew him intimately. This Valentine’s day there were no chocolates, no roses, no diamonds…There was no fancy dinner or kisses good night, but none of it mattered. Being alone, snowed into my house, but knowing that Homey was there–on the other side of the country–feeling the same way I did was the best Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever received.
*** I needed to meet him.
*In the Mormon Church, we have an organization for women called the Relief Society. A volunteer from the group is called to lead it in each parish of our church. The title is: Relief Society President. Usually, a woman will serve a few years as a Relief Society President. Every woman over the age of 18 is a member of the Relief Society. You can find out more here.