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

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

The Title Page

The Title Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Title Page

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

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

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

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

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

I’m the Canoe

canoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

I’m the canoe.

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

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

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

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

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

docked canoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Holland taught:

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

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

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

Elder Holland continues:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

I am the canoe.

Grandma

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

This is how I think of my Grandma

This is how I think of my Grandma

This is my Grandma.

She passed away this Friday.

Grandma and Me

Grandma and Me

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

Women.

Strong Women. And a little baby.

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

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

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

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

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

Grandma and Grandpa on their Wedding Day

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

And she was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Pretty.

So Pretty.

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

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

So much attitude. I LOVE IT!

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

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

Grandma as a Child

Grandma as a Child

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

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

Fifty Years

Fifty Years

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

Grandpa

Grandpa

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

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

She was a different woman.

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

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

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

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

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa

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

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

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

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

Maker's Gotta Make

Maker’s Gotta Make

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

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

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

It was a true compliment.

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

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

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

I only hope to honor and uphold her legacy.

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

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

(super gross…I know).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding Preparations

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

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

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

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

The Bachelorette Party

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

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

Wedding Flowers!

Wedding Flowers!


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

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

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

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

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

The Wedding

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Yay! Newly Married!

Yay! Newly Married!

Our Family.

Our Family.

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Steps to Accessing the Atonement (Mosiah 7:33)

Lately, I’ve been studying the Atonement more. (See here and here). The thing that is interesting to me about studying the Atonement is learning that I need to know more: that it could be a more potent source of power in my life.

This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!

This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!

Now, I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life. I have felt a change in my heart several times over the years. I have been a recipient of miracles and blessings. I have a testimony in the Savior and the love that He has expressed through the Atonement.

But, I know that there is more and that I need it. Lately, I have become very aware of some of my weaknesses. I know that weakness is not sin, yet it is the same Atonement that will forgive and heal us from our sins and strengthen us in our weakness. I know that I need to learn to access the Atonement in order to become the woman I want to be.

So, I prayed about this…how do I learn to put my burden on the Lord? The Lord implores,

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Even though I have done this in the past, I needed to be reminded, How do I do this…how do I come unto Him so that he can make weak things strong for me?

The cool thing about sincere prayer is that it is answered.

So…today, I was reading:

“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” – Mosiah 7:33

I mean, in some ways I have already known this, but it is always great to get a reminder, and I’m comforted to know that no matter what our “problems” are, we always access the power and blessings of the Atonement in the same way.

So…here it is: the pattern to accessing the Atonement in our lives:

  1. Turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart – To me, this means prayer, scripture study. It means opening my heart to Him.
  2. Put your trust in Him – I find this interesting. I suppose this is where I really falter. We need to trust in Christ – which means even to trust in Him as we suffer. We need to trust that the difficulties we face are known unto the Lord and that they will help us as we strive to come closer to Him.

    There are times in my life that I’m tempted to counsel the Lord instead of trust Him. It is tempting to want to tell Heavenly Father what I think I need and what I think that He should do. However, according to this scripture, and in order to access the power of the Atonement that I seek, I need to trust Him and I need to realize that He understands where I am, the challenges I’m facing, and how my own weaknesses play a part in all of it. As I struggle to figure out what the Lord wants me to learn, I can trust that indeed He wants me to learn, that I’m simply being “pruned” “refined” or whatever you’d like to say. Though these things are hard, we can trust the Lord all along this process. If we put our trust in Him, and turn to Him, we will be made into better people – which is what I want, anyway…

  3. Serve Him with all diligence mind – This is where I can also take some action. There are times when I feel like I’m not doing enough, not serving enough. Yet, as I read this scripture, I realized that the work I do in my home is one of the greatest acts of service I’ll ever do, and that when I serve my children-through doing the dishes, cooking meals, teaching them, playing with them, bathing them, paying attention to them, driving them to activities, checking homework, the list goes on and on–when I serve my children, it is legitimate service, and that in serving my kids, I’m serving His children, and that this is the way I serve Him.

    I have a feeling that if I’m more mindful of how my daily service to my family is not only part of my duty, but can be consecrated in such a way that it will help me to access the power of the Atonement that I need, then I will be able to see my life change.

When we do these three things: turn to the Lord, put our trust in Him, and serve Him, then we will be delivered out of bondage. This may be physical bondage. Or, perhaps, it is the bondage of our weakness or other difficulties we face in our lives. No matter what kind of difficulty or bondage we feel trapped by, the Lord’s Atonement will help us to overcome it. We simply must access it in the proscribed method.

***
How do you find ways to turn to the Lord, put your trust in Him, and serve Him? As you have done these things, how has the power of Christ’s Atonement delivered you from the difficulties you face in your life?

Have I Done Any Good? Journaling Idea

I don’t know about you, but for me there are days when I struggle. I mean, really, I struggle.

One
I feel simultaneously over-and-under-whelmed. There is so much for me to do. I’ve got normal chores like laundry, dishes, bathrooms, tidying up the house, cleaning kids rooms, watering the plants, etc. Then there are other chores that ought to be done: organizing closets, cleaning drawers, dusting shelves and blinds, straightening up my garage. And then there are the chores that I’d really like to do: painting my house, putting some tile in the threshold between my bathroom and bedroom (right now, it is just a gap that’s about a 1’x3′ of nothing. Exposed carpet padding and floor. Really attractive), starting a garden.

So far, that’s just the chores. Then there’s exercise, prayer, scripture study, journaling, spending time with kids, making photo albums, blogging, writing, practicing the piano, getting my sunbeam lesson ready, making dinner.

Then there are these goals that I’d really like to do – paint, learn to surf, learn Italian, learn French. Write a book for my brother. Finish my New Testament Study Companions. Finish my brother’s quilt.

Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?

And then, there’s the under-whelmed feeling. I mean, I’m not a single mom anymore. I don’t have to work and support my family anymore. I have a husband who provides me with an excellent life. I have the luxury to get bored. I have the luxury to drop everything and bake cookies. I can make the choice to waste a good half hour on Pinterest without getting into much “trouble”. I don’t have to get dressed up or even shower if I don’t want to. I don’t even have to leave my house. On the other hand, I can spend the day out – doing errands, going to the gym. Whatever. I have a lot of freedom in my life. And I truly know that I’m blessed. This freedom, this lack of accountability on my duties can feel a little “under-whelming”. I mean, who cares about me and my life? I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck.

Two
Another source of “struggling” for me–as of late–has been a little bit of “loneliness.” I’ve moved a lot in the last few years. While the moves have been for the better, moving so much makes it hard to make good, close friendships. I’ve meet friendly people everywhere I’ve lived, but it’s hard when we’re moving around so often. You know how it is.

While I’m not overly extroverted, I’m also not really introverted. In the tests I take, I always find myself right in the middle. In some ways, this sounds nice. But what it means to me is that I need balance. Too much stimulation with friends and activities, and I go crazy. Not enough…and I go crazy. Sure, I have kids, but you know that it isn’t the same as adult conversation. I start to feel a little lonely, and then I’m left by myself with my thoughts, which-when I’m feeling overwhelmed/underwhelmed-aren’t really good thoughts.

Three
I have discovered that I have really negative “mental tapes.” Mental tapes are the things that we say to ourselves over and over again. Often, they are created when we are children…My mental tapes usually have to do with how I’m a failure, and, therefore, worthless. I know that this is a lie, but still seem to say them a lot.

So…when the balance in my life is just right – when I’m neither too over or underwhelmed; or when I’m stimulated but not over-stimulated, then things are great. But how often are life’s conditions “perfect”? Even when things haven’t been “perfect” in life, I’ve been able to at least keep some things in “control.” Either I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t have time to feel “underwhelmed” and bored. Or, I have friends, and then can spend more time ignoring how I’m feeling. In any case, I’m usually able to “control” my feelings by ignoring them and paying attention to some other pressing need.

Right now, because of the aforementioned conditions One and Two, I find myself exposed to these negative mental tapes that I’ve been able to control/hide for a long time. The thing is, they are getting the best of me. It might sound absurd, but it happening. In some ways, I hate myself for feeling so down in the dumps and frustrated with myself when life is so good. In other ways, I’m realizing that this “down time” in life is a good time for me to do a true reckoning of my Spirit. I’m beginning to see that I need to address the mental tapes I have and the underlying factors causing them.

***
Well, I have been praying for help, and since my mental tapes have a lot to do with failure/worthlessness, I realized that I need to do a better accounting of the good I do. But I didn’t really have my finger on what it was that I wanted to do.

A while later, I was listening to an past conference talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard – Be Anxiously Engaged and I was struck by the idea of being able to answer yes to the question: “Have I done any good in the world today?” I knew that even though I wasn’t going out and feeding thousands of hungry orphans, I was doing good every day. I had a feeling that I needed to do a better job recognizing it.

Finally, I came across the following quote on managing our “vexing feelings of inadequacy”:

“We can make quiet by more honest inventories of our strengths. Most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming ‘outside auditors.’ He who in the first estate was thrust down delights in having us put ourselves down. Self contempt is of Satan; there is none of it heaven.” – Neal A. Maxwell (quoted in Weakness is Not a Sin, by Wendy Ulrich, emphasis added.)

This was Me exactly!!! I realized, I’m not a honest bookkeeper. I let Satan influence my thoughts via deeply trenched negative mental tapes. Self contempt!? Try self-loathing! And of course it’s of Satan. When I get on the self-contempt/loathing train, I’m ineffective, sad, and moody. When it gets really bad, I’ll feel so discouraged about all of my goals/expectations that I’ll often do things that will have obvious and direct negative effects. For example, if I’m feeling really upset about my weight, I’ll start to get so down about it, I figure that the only thing left to do is eat a bunch of cake. Which, as you know, ends up making the problem worse. It’s a cycle. A pretty stupid cycle, but I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who does stuff like this.

***
So – on to the point of this whole blog post…

Have I done Any Good Journal Idea

Journaling Idea

Journaling Idea

I decided that I needed to become a better “bookkeeper.” I bought myself a cute journal, and have dedicated it to recording the good I’ve done every day. Every night, I ask myself, Have I done any good in the world today? And I mean this question in it’s simplest sense. I don’t mean to ask myself if I’ve done something that someone else would consider “service.” I mean good. Have I done any good??? And the thing is, usually the answer is yes. For most of us, usually the answer is a loud yes. Yes, I’ve done some good! Yes, you’ve done some good! But most of us don’t usually take the time to recognize the good. We don’t usually take the time to feel the happiness that comes as a bi-product of doing good. Instead, it is so easy to focus on all of the good things that “we haven’t done” yet. I might have done 1,000,000 things, but if there is something I haven’t done, I focus on that one undone thing so much that I end up convincing myself that I’m worthless because I’m not perfect. (What a lie!!!)

So…it’s time to change mental tapes. It’s time to be an honest bookkeeper. It’s time to be like the virtuous woman – who

“perceiveth that her merchandise is good:” – Proverbs 31:18

Or like the Lord who

“saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

As I’ve begun writing this journal each night, I’ve noticed that I’m able to take greater joy in even what seems mundane.

Have I done any good? Yes. I changed diapers. Imagine what the life of my little one would be like if I hadn’t. I’m doing something that is pretty much despicable. All because there is a little boy who needs my help. He can’t thank me. He fights me the whole time I change him. Yet faithfully, I change his diaper. It may not seem like a big deal, but this is service. I’m serving one of God’s children, and even though it isn’t glamorous in the least, I can take joy in the fact that I’ve dedicated a part of my day doing something that is literally crappy. I can take joy in the fact that Heavenly Father is pleased with my offering to Him, no matter how simple it is.

I’m noticing that when I take time to perceive that what I’m doing is good, then I’m happier. I notice that I’m not failing, but truly helping to build God’s kingdom in the way that I’m capable of doing. And that what I’m offering is good. I add value and I have value. When I take time to recognize my worth, I begin to feel it, too.

So…if you’re in a bit of a “rut”…try out the Have I Done Any Good? Journal idea. Let me know how it goes, too!

Drama: Too Much or Not Enough…And a Surprising Suggestion (Part 23 of the HaM Love Story)

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Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part twenty-three of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when I was living life as a divorced mom – a little while before I met Homey – but an important part of the story, nonetheless. (I promise we’ll be getting to Homey very, very soon!!!!)

Even after dating Odriew, I was undeterred in my “quest” to date. My kids were still out of town, and I wanted to use my time wisely. I liked having the chance to be social, and I truly hoped that I would find myself married again one day.

Too Much Drama

For a few months, I spent time dating a guy, Roger, that brought way too much drama into my life. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, listening to too much Coldplay, I drove down to see him (he was 5 hours away from me) once, and I racked up a huge phone bill.

I’m still not sure why I pursued that relationship. It was completely insane. Up and down.

Wait, no…I know why I pursued it. When I started dating Roger, he was living in PA, and I met him at a party thrown by a mutual friend. He was interesting and cute. You know. The usual thing. He was funny. Etc. He was also quiet, which made him very mysterious and attractive to me.

As luck would have it, he also found me attractive, and before you know it, we were dating. It was fun. He was smart and introspective. Every time we got together our conversations were interesting. He was artistic and thoughtful. We’d go for walks and talk, or we’d go into Philly and spend the time taking pictures. Roger helped me to renew my love for creative endeavors.

Of course, this guy was still in college, and when the end of the summer came, he was leaving. By then, we were in some kind of “relationship”, and we kept talking even when he moved away. I was very interested in following this relationship through–to see where it would lead.

It turns out that it led on a sort of emotional wild goose chase that ended very sourly.

I don’t want to get into the details, but essentially, I exerted way too much energy. I spent hours crying and hours rejoicing. I felt like I was being jolted between ups and downs, and I had no control. In all honestly, I think that this guy was experiencing some depression issues, but he didn’t want to get help, and I went along for his ride. For the most part it was painful, but it had started so well, that I had gotten stuck in this trap – the I know his potential, and I can help him trap that so many women get caught up in.

You just can’t “fix” another person.

The bottom line, after I “dated” (or whatever it is we did) this guy, I felt pretty defeated. I felt pretty sure that I didn’t want to date anymore. I didn’t like the way that it would affect my emotions. I hated how things could start so swell, then end so poorly. It was way too exhausting, and I had two kids.

Not enough drama

While I was spending so much time on the afore-mentioned long-distance relationship (which was just wrong, wrong, wrong), I was blind to what was right in front of me.

I had become pretty good friends with this guy, Matt. He lived relatively close to me, had grown up in Texas, and was just…cool.

When we first started getting to know each other, he was dating some girl and I was dating Markus. Matt and Markus were home teaching companions.* We would do stuff together every so often, and we all became friends.

I continued to be friends with Matt. He would date other girls, and I dated other guys. We would talk to each other as we dated, comparing notes, as it were, talking through things. I’d give him “girl” secrets and pointers; he’d give me “guy” secrets and pointers. It was a really convenient friendship.

Over time, we started hanging out more often.

When things started getting hairy with Roger (after he moved to VA for college), I wanted advice from Matt.
“I don’t understand guys at all!” I texted to him.
“Everything okay?”
“Ugh.”
“Let’s go to the batting cages.”
“Word.”

Matt picked me up, we headed out to Wawa, and then we went to the batting cages where we could talk, and unleash our fury (ha!…I unleashed my fury against the slow-pitched soft-balls…really scary…). Soon enough, we’d be having a great time, joking, laughing, quoting movies and comedians. He always tried to give me good advice, and I know this in hindsight, but I was a “stupid girl,” and had trouble seeing what was right in front of my face. Our conversations went something like this:
“So…what’s up?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t understand guys. And now I’m getting frustrated.”
“What’s going on?”
“Well, it’s just Roger.”
“He’s the guy in Virginia, right?”
“Yeah.”
“What’s with you and long-distance relationships?”
“I don’t know…I’m sure it says something about me, though.” I’d say, chuckling.
“So, what’s up then?”
“I don’t get it. One day, he’s like, ‘We need to break up. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.’ So I say, okay. Then, like at two AM, he calls me saying that he can’t sleep, and I make him ‘feel safe’ and he loves me, and he likes to think that we could get married.”
“Wow.”
“I know. I just feel like I’m getting yanked left and right. When he says break-up stuff, I think, Ok. I can get along without Roger. I cry for a second, then determine to put my feet in front of one another. Just as I get myself feeling “ok”, He calls and it’s 2AM. He’s professing his love and need for me, and I’m reeled right back in.”
“Just when I thought I was out…they keep pulling me back in…”
“Exactly!”
“Then, after I talk to him all night, calming him down, and I get back to bed, I’ll get a text or email or something the next day saying, ‘I can’t be with you anymore. I can’t date or marry a woman who has already been married and has kids.'”
Matt just looked at me, dumbfounded.
I continued, “And that really gets me because I understand. I know that I have kids. I know that I’ve been married. I know that it is probably a huge turn-off for most guys, especially Mormon guys. But I…I just don’t know what…Oh I freaking hate this.
“Catania, don’t say that. Trust me. You’re fine.”
“What? I’m not fine. I’m going crazy!…I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” we both start laughing.
“Todd, are you not aware that I get farty and bloated with a foamy latte?!” more laughter.
“Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” even more laughing…but then a pause…back to the conversation, sadly.
“Catania, that’s not what I meant. I know that you feel crazy. What I mean to say is that I honestly don’t understand Roger. What he’s doing and saying isn’t normal. Guys don’t usually do that, or at least I don’t think they do. And you–you are fine. It doesn’t matter that you have had kids or that you have been married. Any guy would want to date you or marry you.”
“Thanks.” I said, and as we reached the batting cages, I gestured to the building asking, “What is this? A center for ants?” The tension broke, and we went inside, laughing.

Matt took me to baseball games, batting cages, and Wawa on more than one occasion. We golfed at a little 3 par golf course and ate at Zwahlen’s for ice cream. When Matt didn’t have anything to do, (I never had anything to do), he’d give a call or write a text saying that he’d be setting up the projector and watching Talladega Nights. I’d head over to his house with the kids in tow.

At Christmas time, Tiger, Panda, and I took cookies over to Matt and his family. They were great people. Seriously. We always felt like we were welcome and at home when we were over at their house. A few minutes after I arrived with cookies, Matt’s dad said he had to run to Lowe’s really fast. We all protested, but he insisted. About ten minutes later, the doorbell rang. It was “Santa” (Matt’s dad in a Santa costume, complete with stuffed animals for the kids).

One night, Matt helped me do one of the strangest things I’d ever done in my life. I was looking for someone (my brother, actually If you’re interested in that story, read about it here.) who had been missing from our family for about three years. I told Matt that my sister googled my brother’s name, and we had reason to believe that he’d be competing in a dart tournament in Doylestown. Matt agreed to drive me to Doylestown to see if we could find my brother. We went, and it turned out another PJ was competing. But Matt and another friend helped me to feel better about the entire situation.

And the thing is, when I type this part of the story, I realize what a huge, stupid idiot I was.

Actually, even when I started to get to know Matt and eventually stop dating Roger, I began to realize I was an idiot. But, to me, Mark always seemed like a “friend” like a “brother.” I don’t know what my problem was. Whatever. It doesn’t matter because it wasn’t meant to be anyways. I’m just annoyed with myself because I did the typical “girl” thing – I dated a jerk, cried over/about a total meanie-head. While the nice guy was there, listening, waiting.

GRRR!

Interesting Advice

All throughout this time, I was seeing my Bishop* on a regular basis. I’d say about 1-2 times a month. He was my cheerleader; my champion. He’d give me words of encouragement, advice, and warning. He’d also give me Priesthood Blessings* when I needed them. He tried to help me to have clarity as I navigated this world of single-motherhood, dating, working, and all of that other stuff.

Usually when I met with him, he’d tell me to read something–a talk or a scripture. Or he’d tell me to do something–go to the temple, attend Institute classes, etc. And, typically, I did what he had advised. I usually tried to do it in a timely manner. One time, I visited him, and he gave me the talk Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence by Jeffrey R. Holland* (Read it!). I planned on reading it the night that the Bishop had given it to me, really – I did. But I hadn’t gotten around to it.

About a week and a half later, I had another meeting with my Bishop. I hadn’t really planned on it, but he wanted to tell me something.
“I know this is going to sound strange Catania, but I’ve been thinking about you, and I keep having this feeling that there is something you need to do – to give the Lord something to work with.”
“Okay.”
“I mean, I know that you’re working hard. You’re doing an amazing job, Catania. You are a wonderful mother. You are a righteous woman. I know that God wants to bless you. I don’t think that you’re not doing enough. It’s just that…well, maybe you could do something different.”
“Okay.”
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, because I don’t actually believe in it, but…what if you signed up on a website somewhere online.”
“Wait. What?”
“I know! I can’t believe I’m saying this! I think that you kids need to get off the computer! But this isn’t me. I feel like the Spirit is prompting me to tell you to go online.”
I kind of stared at the Bishop.
He continued, “I know. I know. It sounds crazy, Catania. But the thing is, I wouldn’t be bringing it up to you if I wasn’t sure that the Spirit prompted me to tell you this.”
“You know the freaks I’ve met in real life, right?” I said with a chuckle.
“Yes. I know. Catania, pray about it. Think about it. I’m not going to tell you that you must make an online profile. I’ve done my job. The Spirit prompted me to tell you this information. It is up to you to do whatever you want with this idea.”
“Okay, Bishop. I’ll pray about it.”

The idea of setting up an online profile was…intriguing. Several of my friends were on MySpace and Facebook, but I wasn’t into that kind of thing yet. (Remember…this was 2006!) I had become weary of dating and everything related to dating. Online dating, in some ways, seemed like more work with less reward.

***
A few days later, I was sitting at my desk during a lunch break – finally reading the article that the Bishop had given me a few weeks before. As I read this article, I had the thought, I wish I would have read this article when the Bishop had given it to me! I realized that if I had read it a few weeks before, then I would have made a better decision regarding Roger and his drama. I had good intentions. I meant to read the article. But I had put it off, and missed some knowledge that would have directed me in the right place.

I could see that the Lord indeed was trying to help me, but if I wasn’t obeying with exactness; if I wasn’t staying tuned into the very still, small whisperings of the Spirit, then I’d miss the direction that the Lord was trying to give me!

I thought about my prayers; my hope and desire to find a person to date and eventually marry. And I thought to myself, Am I obeying with exactness? Am I really doing everything that is required for this blessing? Or am I stopping myself short from a blessing that the Lord is willing to give?

I could imagine, in my mind’s eye, a divide of land and a bridge connecting them. I stood on one side of the bridge. On the other side of the bridge was the blessing I wanted. The Lord had provided a blessing and a bridge, but I was the one who would have to walk across it. In my mind’s eye, I could see that though bridge was a bit rickety, it was sure. It would be scary to cross. I’d have to leave a safe place, but if I was steadfast, then I’d arrive at the blessing that the Lord had in store for me, and was willing to give.

As I thought about the blessings, this “bridge”, and my willingness to obey with exactness, I thought to myself, Is there anything else I can do right now that I’ve put off?”

That’s when I remembered my Bishop’s counsel to go online. Inwardly I protested.
“This seems strange!” I said in a silent-prayer/tempting God fashion.
“Just obey.”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start.”
“Google it.”
I googled LDS dating sites, and several options came up. I sat, staring at the computer. Trying to decide what to do.
I did a little more bargaining with God, “Okay…I’ll check out one site. If it is full of freaky-dudes, then I’m not joining because this is crazy. But if it seems like the guys are okay, I’ll just join.”

So, I clicked on one of the sites, then I clicked a button that said, “Find 18-30 year old men.”
The very first profile listed was Snoopy’s!!!!
I think that I laughed out loud! Inwardly, I relented, “Thank you, Heavenly Father. I get it. I’m sorry for doubting, I’ll sign up.”
A part of me wanted to take this as a “sign.” But that thought was dismissed almost immediately.
“No, Catania, this is not a sign. But do say hi because it is funny.”
So I did. I wrote Snoopy an email (to his regular email) telling him how I had serendipitously come across his profile.

I was officially doing this internet thing…

***
*Home Teachers – In the Mormon Church, we have “home teachers.” A home teacher is a man in the congregation who is assigned to watch over and help fellow members of his congregation. Everyone in a congregation has a home-teacher. Home teachers visit monthly to deliver a spiritual message and offer (and give) service needed to the family. Often, Home Teaching assignments are given to companions – two men who go together to visit families. Matt and Markus were home teaching companions, and served other families in their congregation together. You can find out more about home teaching here.

*Bishop – The Bishop is the ecclesiastical leader of a Mormon congregation. In the Mormon church, the clergy is made up of volunteers who are members of the congregation. Mormon clergy are not paid and do not make church leadership their career. Find more information here.

*Priesthood Blessing A Priesthood blessing is a special blessing from God given by a worthy priesthood holder. Anyone (Mormon or not) can ask for and receive a Priesthood blessing. Often, these blessings are given when people are sick or are in need of spiritual counsel, comfort or healing. See here for a better explanation. I often received Priesthood blessings from my bishop and my home teachers. I still receive priesthood blessings (now from my husband). They always bring added clarity and comfort into my life.

*Jeffrey R. Holland is a living Apostle. In the Mormon church, we believe in the same organization that existed when Christ set up His church. We have prophets and apostles, and we believe that they are spokesmen for the Lord in our modern day. We believe that they receive revelation and are special witnesses of Christ–just as Peter, James, John, and all of the other “original” 12 apostles did.

Click here for part 24.

We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father

Don't You Love Her?!

Don’t You Love Her?!

As you may know, my oldest daughter turns twelve next month. I’ve been thinking about it a lot for well over a year, now. I’m feeling excited, scared, worried, happy…a little bit of everything. Last week, Tiger went to girl’s camp. I’ve been working feverishly on her Gospel Art Book (more updates to come on that very soon). I’ve been thinking about her testimony, how I’m pretty much handing everything over to her now. Of course, I know that I still have a profound impact and influence on her life, but I also know that she is going to have to rely less on “borrowed light” and begin to cultivate a testimony of her own. This scares me. Not in an I don’t trust her way, or even in an I don’t trust God way. But in a did I do enough? way.

Oh…and I don’t want to forget to mention…18 months after Tiger turns 12, Panda will be 12. I feel like it’s showtime.

So, they’re maturation and upcoming exposure to new temptations, experimentation, and soul-searching has got me thinking. What am I teaching them now? What do I need to impart above and beyond everything else? If there is only one thing that they really learn in the next six years, what should it be?

I think that Sister Dalton’s talk from this last General Conference (“We Are Daughters of Our Heavenly Father”) is the best place to start. If there is anything I want my children to know, it is that they are beloved Daughters of God.

Our Identity: Daughters of God

Regarding the statement made by young women each Sunday: That we are daughters of Heavenly Father- who loves us- and we love Him, Sister Dalton says:

“It is not only an affirmation of our identity—who we are—but also an acknowledgment of whose we are. We are daughters of an exalted being!”

I love this idea: Who we are and whose we are.

You may already be aware that there are times when I’ve got a bit of this whole “identity crisis” thing going. For the first 31 years of my life, I didn’t know my biological father. Although I was raised by a good man, a great father, I still didn’t really know who I was. The knowledge of my biological father remained a mystery for me. I didn’t want to replace my dad (who had adopted me). I love him. But there is something about not knowing your physical parent.

Because of this experience (and a few other experiences that I don’t really want to get into here), I found myself going to my Heavenly Father. Though I felt confused by my physical situation of fathers, step-fathers, and adopted fathers, I knew that there was no confusion in regards to my spiritual ancestry. I knew, and I know that I’m a daughter of God. This knowledge buoyed me up during times of difficulty and depression.

So much hope and peace comes from this simple fact: that we are daughters of Heavenly Father who loves us.

From Identity to Purpose

I have found that when I become more sure of my own identity–especially spiritual identity, then I also become more aware of my purpose as a daughter of God. In fact, I’m solidly sure of my divine nature: I know that I have a Heavenly Father, and I know that he loves me. Because I know this, I know that my creation and coming to this earth was not an accident. As a bi-product of this knowledge, I know that I have a divine purpose, and that He expects me to do the work that I was sent here to do. I feel that the same is true for all of us.

And, this is my personal belief, but I also think that as we grow closer to the Lord, His Spirit inspires our desire to do the work that we have been sent here to do.

I love what Sister Dalton teaches:

“As daughters of God we are each unique and different in our circumstances and experiences. And yet our part matters—because we matter. Our daily contributions of nurturing, teaching, and caring for others may seem mundane, diminished, difficult, and demeaning at times, and yet as we remember that first line in the Young Women theme—“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us”—it will make all the difference in our relationships and our responses.”

We do have a divine purpose and work to complete. Yet, we are not all expected to do the same thing. We have unique circumstances and unique expectations.

The thing I love about this quote by Sister Dalton is that she recognizes the importance of the “little things” that we do–how these “little things” matter to Heavenly Father precisely because we matter.

This is so hard for me to remember. As I spend my life changing diapers, wiping noses, saying things like, “please don’t lick the carpet”, driving to activities, stopping fights, cooking, cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning, I have to remember that what I’m doing matters. It matters that we live in a clean home, that my kids are clean, that they are developing, getting along, and eating. Though what I do may not seem powerful or important, I’m changing lives, one at a time.

Last night, T-Rex was in a crazy mood. (Cute but Crazy!) Homey wasn’t feeling well, and I wanted to help keep the T-Rex out of Homey’s hair. We made brownies. Then he was back to harassing his dad. So, I scooped this little two-year-old boy up into my arms and took him to the piano. We started playing and singing all of his favorite primary songs. Song after song. He patiently sat on my lap as we sang. It was one of rare those moments where I was able to recognize the blessing as it was occurring. I loved listening to the T-Rex’s voice quietly sing along with me (using his extra-cute-hard-to-decipher words).

What I was doing wasn’t really important–in a worldly way. It lasted only a few minutes. We didn’t sing particularly well or to practice for some upcoming event. The dishes still needed to be done, and the dinner needed cooking. But the T-Rex and I sat, singing, and spending time together. And though it wasn’t important in a worldly way, I knew it mattered. It mattered to me. It mattered to T-Rex. It mattered to Homey. Above all, It mattered to God. Though I can’t quantify my experience in dollars, I know it was more valuable than most material things.

I write this because it’s hard for me to remember that what I’m doing matters. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Sometimes I forget that singing a few songs, happily together, is more important than checking instagram (again).

From Identity to Purpose to Power

Some people have this mistaken notion that the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unempowered, belittled, and side-lined. Of course, the idea that women are marginalized in the church is nothing more than a fallacy.

Sister Dalton recounts her mother’s experience:

“She kept her covenants, and because she did, she called down the powers of heaven to bless our home and to send miracles. She relied on the power of prayer, priesthood, and covenant promises.”

We see a pattern here: When we keep our covenants, we receive power. This is how it works. The power of the Lord–the Power of the Priesthood–infuses our lives when we make and keep covenants. Sister Julie B. Beck reminded us: “Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood..” She continues to explain:

“God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants. Too much is said and misunderstood about what the brothers have and the sisters don’t have. This is Satan’s way of confusing both men and women so neither understands what they really have. Sisters and brothers each have every ordinance, every gift, and every blessing available to them to get back to our Father in Heaven, and no one, male or female, is left outside of those blessings to qualify for exaltation.” Julie B. Beck (2011 BYU Women’s Conference

The Lord empowers us through the covenants we make. I think that another name for this power that the Lord blesses us with is virtue.

Sister Dalton states, “Virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God.” This power is within us because we are daughters of God. When we understand our identity and begin to fulfill our purpose, we are blessed with an enabling power. Virtue garnishes our thoughts, words, and actions, and we become the kind of woman whose value is “far above rubies.” As we become virtuous, powerful women, we learn more of our identity and purpose, which strengthens our power for good.

***

This is a long blog post…sorry about that…but it is what I want my daughter to understand. It is what I’m still seeking to understand and put into effect in my own life. We are daughters of God. We have a divine purpose and responsibility. As we make and keep covenants, and as we do our duty, we are blessed with power and virtue. And the best part of all: this procession will make us happy.

***

Check out sister Dalton’s talk here. What stood out to you? What do you think about the identity of women as daughters of God? Their purpose? Their power?

Also, click here to learn more about women in the Church.

Life as a Divorced Mormon Woman (Part 17 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part seventeen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when I was living life as a divorced mom – a while before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.

i
A few weeks after my initial separation, a friend from my church invited me to go to McDonald’s with her and her children–the kids would all play in the Playland together while we talked. It sounded like a nice idea. She stopped by and picked me up, and we went to Mickey-D’s together.

For the most part it was a nice outing. She asked me how things were going. She asked me what I planned to do both in my immediate and long-term future. I was open with details. I told her that I had started divorce proceedings and that the timeline would be several months before we were divorced. I also explained how I was looking for jobs and once I had a job, I’d save some money until I could afford to move out of my mom’s house and find a place.
“So, you think that you’ll stay around here? In Pennsylvania?”
“Yeah. I really can’t imagine going anywhere else.”
“True. That will probably make it hard to date LDS people later on, though.”
“I know. I’ve thought of that. Sometimes I think that maybe I’ll move to Utah, but I don’t know anyone there. It’s hard for me to guess what I’ll do. I guess we’ll see what happens.”
“When can you start dating again?”
“Well, my divorce won’t be final until the end of summer, or so. Which is good-I honestly can’t imagine it right now.”
“That’s true…you know, my husband often goes to the singles ward with his calling*, most of the people in the singles ward are pretty young, though.”
“How young?”
“Like in their twenties.”
“Oh…well, I’m only 26,” I replied.
“Yeah, but…they don’t have children. Most of them haven’t been married before.”
“I figured that. I’ve thought about it, though. I don’t really mind dating anyone at all–even if they haven’t been married before.”
“I’m sure that you don’t mind, but do you really think that a young man who hasn’t been married before will really want to date a woman who has been married and has had children?”

Obviously I had thought of this before. I even told the Bishop that I felt like “tainted meat.” But I had been assured that everything was fine. I knew that I needed to trust in the Lord. I wasn’t tainted meat, I was a daughter of God. My past didn’t matter–the only thing that mattered was who I am. It took me a while to really believe this, then there at McDonald’s it all came crashing back down.

I knew that she didn’t mean to hurt me, so I just listened to her without saying a word. (If I had, I would have started crying)…She gave me “ideas” like moving to Utah where there were more divorced members of the church, talking to the Bishop who probably knew of a few other divorced members, or waiting out my life as a single woman. None of her suggestions involved getting to know some of the young Mormon men – who lived near me but had never before been married- and went to the singles ward.

When I got home, I called Spunky, and saying, “I’m tainted meat!” part jokingly, but mostly serious. (Heck, I was crying).

Life as a divorced, Mormon woman was going to be tricky.

ii
One evening, at a ward party, when I was still pretty recently separated, Brother Stone asked me, “Where’s Rusty?”
“He’s not here.”
I knew that many people still didn’t really know that we were getting divorced. There were some people who had caught on, but it’s not like the Bishop was going to go up to the pulpit and announce, “Catania and Rusty have gotten a divorce, people…”

I’m not idiotic enough to think that people are going around and talking about me in their spare time. But I also didn’t want people to feel like they had to dance around this issue or feel uncomfortable around me based on some rumor that they may have heard. So, I decided early on to take a painfully blunt approach.

When Brother Stone asked where Rusty was, his wife shot him a look.
He looked back at her with complete confusion. I knew that he was honestly wondering where Rusty was–that he had no idea why Rusty wouldn’t be at the ward party with his family.
“Rusty’s in Utah.”
“Oh…on business?”
“No. He lives there now.”
“Are you guys moving back?”
“Nope. We’re getting a divorce.”
He looked shocked. I didn’t want him to sit there and suffer, so I continued, “Not to sound rude or anything, but I found out that Rusty was living a very interesting life, so I asked for a divorce. When I asked for a divorce, he moved back to Utah.”
Brother Stone still looked pretty uncomfortable, like he was sorry for bringing it up.
“Hey. Don’t worry about it. You didn’t know, and I’m not sad. I’m gonna be fine!” We exchanged more pleasantries, and I could tell that both Brother and Sister Stone got it, they didn’t need to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel sorry for myself, and neither should they.

iii
While I was single, I was serving as the Primary Chorister*. For the most part, I loved that calling. The kids are cute. You get to stand around, act silly, and sing. However, it wasn’t always easy to do while I was going through such an emotional time.

One Sunday, I had to begin teaching the children Families Can be Together Forever. As I sang the song, I caught a glimpse of my own two daughters and thought about how my marriage, our family, was – in a way – ending. It was impossible for me to teach without crying. Thankfully, the kids were already somewhat familiar with the song. They couldn’t hear my voice cracking as I sang.

iv
My social life with church friends also changed. I was working full-time, so I didn’t go to quilting club. I didn’t have time to read for leisure anymore, so I stopped going to book group. I was already away from my kids 40+ hours a week, so I stopped going to “Ladies Night Out.”

We didn’t have dinners with families anymore, and my kids didn’t go on as many play-dates. It wasn’t because people were being judgmental. It’s because life had changed. Sometimes that was hard. But I want to write about this because if you are a single woman, especially a single mom in the Mormon church, I want you to know that it is okay. It gets better. People know you and people care about you. Some people might insensitive things, but it isn’t on purpose. People become uncomfortable when someone gets divorced because it wakes them up to how vulnerable their own marriages are. Now, I know that some people truly are jerks, but for the most part…they’re not.

v
I was assigned a new Home Teacher. His wife would come with him. We talked about running, and the Tour de France. They listened and laughed when I told them about crazy guys that I dated. They always said hi to me in the halls at church. They even had me over to dinner.

I knew that they were my friends.

vi
As time went on, many of the people in my ward started feeling more comfortable with the fact that I was single and that I was okay. More than once, I had a conversation that went like this:
“So…how are things going? Are you dating?”
“ehhh…it’s kind of hard to date here if you want to date Mormons.”
“I bet!”
“But it’s okay.”
“You know…I have a brother. He lives in California, but he is single, and he is so cool. I wish you could meet him. I’m going to have him come out here and visit. If he does, would you mind if I set you up?”
“No problem,” I’d say (with a laugh). “Let me know when he’s in town.” For the most part, these didn’t pan out. But it was nice to know that people cared about me and liked me enough to want me to date their brothers and friends. It is a little cheesy, I know. And sometimes I had to fight the temptation not to get annoyed. I learned to see these offers as compliments.

vii
One day at church, the primary pianist and I were chatting.
“You’re really looking good, Catania.”
“Thanks.”
“No…seriously…Have you lost weight?”
“Yeah…actually…about 200 lbs.”
“What? No. You–you weren’t that big before?”
I started to laugh, “Well, about 180 of that was my ex.”
We laughed together and she gave me a “You go, girl.”

ix
Another week, at church:
“Catania! I saw you the other day–running. I honked, but you probably didn’t realize it was me.”
“Where was it?”
“Over on Glenside.”
“Yeah…I think I remember. You drive a red van, right?”
“Yeah…Glenside is quite a hill. Did you run the whole thing?”
“I did.”
“Awesome!” Meg, the woman talking to me, exclaimed. I genuinely accepted her excitement because I knew that she was a runner. She continued, “You’re a pretty serious runner, huh?”
“I don’t know. I just like running. It really helps beat stress.”
“That’s true. But I’ve got to say, I saw you running a few months ago, too. And it was only 25 degrees. Only serious runners go when it’s 25 degrees.”
“Thanks,” I said, smiling.
“Have you run any races lately?”
“I’ve run a 10K.”
“You should run a marathon.”
“I don’t know about that…” I said, with trepidation.
“Oh…you can do it. You already run outside when it’s cold. And you can run up the hill on Glenside. That hill is no joke.”
“I know, but a marathon is so…far.”
“What is your longest run that you’ve run so far.”
“Ten miles, actually. I ran ten miles last weekend…it was amazing!”
“Ten miles! Then a marathon will be no problem for you. Just a little more training. You should do it!”

x
Another week at church:
“Cute skirt, Sister Ryan.”
“Thanks!”
“You always have the cutest clothes! I want to go shopping with you!”
“Thank you so much, Martha!”
(It was a young woman who said this…any woman—any Mom— feels cool when a cute teenager compliments you.)

xi
And another week at church, I was leaving the building with my kids to go home. Sister Kunz was also walking out. I have to admit, I’ve always looked up to Sister Kunz. She is faithful, smart, and talented. We made small talk as we left. I told her how much I enjoyed teaching her son Matt in primary. He was a cute kid.
“Thanks,” she replied. Then she asked, “So…how are things going?”
I knew that she was referring to my life as a single mom, the divorce, etc. “Actually, they are going really well.”
“You know—I can tell.”
I smiled as she continued. “I mean, you look great–obviously. Whatever you’re doing is working.”
“I have lost some weight… I started running!”
“No. It’s not just that. You look really happy. You look lighter-like you aren’t weighed down anymore, but are free.”
“It’s true. That is how I feel. Even though a divorce is a sad thing, living a lie is even worse. Even though I’m alone, I’m so much happier now.
“That’s amazing…You’re a strong woman,” she said, with a tear in her eye.
I had one in my eye, too.

***
Even though things were kind of uncomfortable at first, over time people in my ward got used to my being single. Nothing was ever “the same”, but that was okay. My life wasn’t the same. Everyone accepted me as I was, and I felt grateful that there were so many people who cared about me and were cheering me on.

The Singles Ward

Okay, I have to be honest, I never actually became a part of the singles ward. Since I had two children, I always stayed with my home ward. But, when I was finally officially single, I started going to singles functions. My first singles activity was institute.*

Sister Schmidt, the institute teacher, was going out of town. She called me and asked if I’d substitute. I said yes…so my first singles activity wasn’t just going to institute, but it was teaching an institute class. It was kind of interesting.

I can’t really remember what I taught about, but I remember that the lesson went well. The students seemed receptive. And I remember telling myself not to check out the dudes while I had to teach the class…Just teach the lesson…afterwards you can flirt.

I noticed a few guys. One was a smart-allecky kind of guy–funny, but not my type. One guy looked like he was 18, a baby. One guy kept falling asleep during my lesson! One guy was super nice and had contributed a lot to class. He had a really preppy look: naturally blonde hair with blue eyes. He wore a golf shirt, tucked in, and Sperry top-siders. He had contributed a lot to the class, and had an infectious smile. His name was Dan. Then there was this dude who was in an orange and white striped golf shirt–with the collar popped. He didn’t seem anything like the other dudes. He almost seemed European. His eyes were icy-blue a -la Daniel Craig. He didn’t say much during class (and by much I mean anything), but he seemed to listen intently.

Of course, I noticed these dudes while I was teaching class, so I didn’t really get to talk to or interact with anyone until after the class.

When class was over, everyone scattered. I gathered up my papers, and Dan came up to me, asked me a few questions, and told me that I had taught a really great lesson–that he had felt the Spirit very strongly. His compliment was genuine, and I smiled and talked to him for a while. Maybe I could have a crush on him? 🙂

Everyone else started to migrate out to the gym. A bunch of the guys were playing basketball. Other guys (and girls) were hanging out on the stage, talking. Dan introduced me to the group. He had to get somewhere, so he left, and I stayed and stood around–listening to all of these people talk about whatever was going on. There were a few people in this group that hadn’t been in the institute class. One was this guy, that was almost cute. I could tell he was staring at me. Finally, he asked, “You don’t look young. You look like your in your twenties.”
“Yeah…” he cut me off.
“Let me guess. You’re twenty-fi…six.”
“Actually, yes.” I said. (Just so you know…most of the girls in this singles ward were really young. Most of them were nannies from Utah. So…I kind of stood out.)
“Well…you’re pretty. So what’s the deal? Why are you twenty-six and single? What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me?” I asked, incredulous.
“You have to admit…most Mormon girls that are thin and good-looking don’t make it to the age of 26 without getting married.” I was simultaneously humiliated for myself, the girls who were around us, and him.
“Well…I’m divorced.” I said
“Figures…why? What happened?” I couldn’t believe it. I still didn’t know his name! He hadn’t asked for mine. I was getting so annoyed! Did he really want to know my situation? Did he really care? I figured that the least I could do was make him feel uncomfortable for asking me.
“Well…let’s see. I guess the reason why it didn’t work out is because even though we got married in the temple, even though he was a return missionary and we always held a temple recommend, he decided he was a sex addict and then cheated on me with several women.”
He stood there without saying anything. I guess he wasn’t expecting real baggage.
“So, after seven years of lies, and finding out about the truth, I got divorced. The way I see it is that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. There was something wrong with my ex, and I didn’t have to deal with it anymore…That’s why I’m here now–26, cute, and unmarried. Is that satisfactory?”
“Yeah…”he said sheepishly. “I guess that’s a worthwhile reason.”
I wasn’t sure about this whole “singles” thing.

It was getting late, and I had two children at home, so I excused myself.
As I left, I saw the Euro-looking dude in the hall–getting a drink of water.
“Hey, good lesson.” He said. He had an accent. I was right about the Euro-look.
“Thanks,” I said.
He wasn’t in his orange and white shirt anymore, but had changed, and he was about to walk into the gym. Before he did, I said, “Wait…weren’t you wearing something else?”
“Yeah. I changed…I’m going to play some basketball.”
He was wearing a tee-shirt that said Toulouse, France. Even though his accent didn’t sound French, I couldn’t place where he was from.
I pointed at his shirt, “Are you French?”
“French?” He looked at his shirt, “No…this is where I served my mission.”
“Oh,” I said. “I bet that was a beautiful mission…So, I know that you’re not French, but I can also tell that you’re not American.”
“I’m not.” he said.
“Well, where are you from?” I asked, with a smile.
“Germany.” he answered.
“Awesome. Well, I hope you’re having a good time here. What’s your name?”
“Markus,” he replied. “You?”
“I’m Catania…nice to meet you.”
“Good to meet you, too.”

Markus went into the gym, and I went to the parking lot and drove home. I had survived my first night at a “Singles” event.

*****
*In the Mormon church, we call our local congregation a “ward.” Sometimes, if there are enough people, the A ward will be created specifically for Single Adults. Additionally, all of the priests and other ecclesiastical leaders in the Mormon church are lay-people. We have no paid clergy. So many people are called to serve either in their own ward or they may help with other assignments as needed.

*In the Mormon church, we have an organization for the children ages 3-12 called Primary. On Sundays, after we meet for our services, the primary children go to a Sunday School class where they sing songs and learn about the gospel. I was called and chose to accept the calling to volunteer my time to be the chorister for this group. It was a lot of fun.

*Institute is short for Institute of Religion. These are religion courses for adults (usually college aged). These classes are not a part of regular Sunday worship. In Pennsylvania, they usually were held on a week night.

Click here for part 18.

Six Month Wait (Part 16 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part fourteen of the Homey and Me Love Story. It is when my marriage to Rusty had just ended – a few years before I met Homey, but an important part of the story, nonetheless.
***
Divorce is death. It is death of a marriage, family, and even identity. In some ways, Rusty died. In some ways, I died. I had, after all, taken on his last name at marriage. My identity, as wife, as mother to his children, as his companion and friend died. Although none of us had physically passed, I was mourning a death-the kind of death that exists only in our minds and hearts. I was experiencing the death of an idea and my way of life.

I found out about Rusty’s infidelity in February 2005. In August 2005, my divorce was finalized. Those six months were vital to my healing and ability to move on in life. Here are a few significant parts.

One – Diving into the Wreck

I wrote a little bit about this before. Nearly every day, I would take some time to read through my past journals and make sense of my marriage. For me, the difficulty was knowing that everything was a lie. One day, when I was still talking to Rusty, he said something about “picking up the pieces.”

“You want me to pick up the pieces?” I asked him, laughing cruelly.
“Well, yeah. We can’t just walk away from this. We can pick up the pieces. We can make it better.”
“You know. That’s a nice idea. Someone drops a vase–they pick up the pieces, inspect them, and glue them back together. But it’s a difficult process.”
“I know it’s hard, but we can do it together.”
“That’s the thing though, Rusty. I want to pick up the pieces, but every time I bend over, to pick up a piece of this smashed, shattered, decimated vase–the vase that YOU smashed, shattered and decimated–I find that I can’t even pick anything up. Our entire marriage was a lie. The vase was a hologram. I have nothing to pick up. I’m bending over grasping at an illusion when I just need to walk away from it all.”
“What do you mean? It wasn’t a lie. What about our good memories?”
“What good memories?”
“Like going to Bear Lake with the Cutler’s?”
“Going to Bear Lake!? A good memory?! Ha! That’s a good memory I had with them, but not with you. We went to Bear Lake, our little family, camping in a tent. Like we were a family that cared about one another. Like I mattered to you. What a stupid joke. It isn’t a good memory. It is an embarrassment! It’s a lie that you had to tell me so you could keep on screwing girls at home. It’s a lie that I unwittingly told the Cutlers, myself, and my children…Good memory?!…HA!…Great memory.” I said, caustically.
Silence.
“What about when Tiger was born?”
“Yeah… What about when Tiger was born? And then less than two weeks later, you went out with Jezebel to a concert that I pleaded with you not to go to. You walked away from your wife, your infant daughter to some crap concert so you could go “get some” with another woman. Yeah…that’s a great memory…don’t you get it? There are no good memories. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. is a lie.”

Even though Rusty was out of the picture, I knew that I did have this shattered vase at my feet, and I knew that I needed to sort through the pieces and look to see if there was anything real left. One evening Panda came to me as I sat at the table, trying to eat. She simply walked up to me, looked at me with her giant blue eyes and gave me a hug good night. As I grasped her tiny body in my arms, I realized, there are at least two real tokens of the past seven years of my life: Tiger and Panda. I was so grateful for them. As much as I felt alone, as I wanted to feel alone, I knew that I had them. As much as I wanted to pretend that the seven years had not existed, I knew that I needed to face the truth for them (and for myself).

So, I chose to dive into the wreck–rather than live in denial. I chose to start the healing process. I knew that by “diving into the wreck”, I was able to start healing because I could pinpoint the real problems that I was facing. I could know what to pray for. All of this helped me to see more clearly so I could move forward.

Two – The Bonfire of Hatred

Sounds pretty extreme. And maybe it was, but I had a bonfire of hatred.

While I was diving into the wreck, there were times when I was consumed with hatred. I hated Rusty. I hated myself. I hated life. I hated that I had lived in Utah. I hated his family. I hated that I had wasted so much time on him. I hated my memories. I hated pretty much everything.

Thankfully, Heavenly Father has blessed me to be a pretty positive person. I also know that hatred really gets you nowhere. I knew that these emotions needed to be relegated. I knew that if left unchecked, the anger and hatred would destroy me. Now, this doesn’t mean that I ignored them because having anger and hatred is a real part of the grieving process. Pretending that you’re not angry is denial. It will get you no closer to healing. You have to address anger without actually giving in to it.

Pretty tricky.

At first, I dealt with my anger by writing in a journal dedicated to Rusty (a collection of hate-letters, essentially).

When I was in a particularly angry mood, I’d listen to the song “Sleep to Dream” by Fiona Apple on repeat. I’d sing/scream along. It felt kinda good.

All along, however, I knew that if I let the anger fester, I’d turn into a bitter person. Although anger is a phase of grieving, it is just that: a phase. I had to make sure I reigned it in.

So…I thought of a plan: In May, Tiger and Panda were going to Utah to visit Rusty. Since they were only 2 and 3 years old, I’d have to fly out there with them. Spunky was going to be going out to Utah at the same time. We’d go together, have fun and hang out. During our trip to Utah, we’d drive down to Moab, where I would have a bonfire of hatred. This would be the capstone of my exercise to “dive into the wreck.” I would be done with it all.

The idea made me giddy. More than a month before packing, I got out a suitcase, and started filling it with stuff. Letters, lingerie, and then, I got the best idea of all: my wedding dress.
“Catania, you can’t burn your wedding dress.” My mom chided.
“Why not?”
“You’ll regret it.”
“No way.”
“You could sell it.”
“Sell it?! I’d never sell this to anyone who is getting married. It would jinx them. … Are you kidding me mom? This thing needs to BURRRRNNNNNN!” I laughed at the thought of it.
“Well, if you don’t sell it, then you could use the material for something else.”
“You’re right mom. I am going to use this luscious material. I’m going to use it for heat. It will warm my cold heart!” I was having fun egging her on, but I was also very serious.
“Catania…this bonfire of hatred idea is silly.”
“No mom. It’s perfect. Don’t you see? My marriage is dead, and now it will finally be put to rest. This is it’s burial. I’m taking my wedding dress and all of this other stuff, and I’m going to burn it in the Utah desert, where it’s smoke will rise into the Utah sky, and it will all be done.” My mom shook her head as she left her room. I happily smashed my wedding dress into the suitcase!

*
Freckles, Spunky, one of Spunky’s friends, and I made our way down to Moab. I had my suitcase full of as many physical evidences of my marriage that I could find. Though we would be staying at a hotel, we found a campsite to build a fire.

We roasted marshmallows, talked, laughed, and cried.

Then it began. I started with the lingerie. Burn. Burn. Burn.

Then, I found letters. Letters I wrote to Rusty. Letters (often of apology) he wrote to me. Sometimes I’d read them aloud before dropping them into the fire. LIES! Burn.

I found the journal that I had kept while “diving into the wreck” — full of letters to Rusty. Letters on why I hated him. Letters explaining the dreams I’d had where I was trying to cause him physical harm. Letters on how horrible of a human being he is. Letters, letters, letters. I tossed the crappy, cheap Barnes and Noble Journal into the fire. BURN!

Then came the big moment.

This really happened, y'all.

This really happened, y’all.

A piece of advice: Never wear a wedding dress in a fire.

A piece of advice: Never wear a wedding dress in a fire.


It went up so fast! The heat was so hot. And, just like my marriage, suddenly it was over. There was nothing left other than a smoldering pile of ashes.

The evening was cathartic. It wasn’t necessarily easy. It was a moment of truth. Yet, I felt powerful. I wasn’t just letting something happen to me. I had let so many things happen to me during my marriage. I was done. I could start my own fire. I could be a strong woman. I was powerful.

Becoming a Runner

Throughout my life, I have prided myself on my feelings about running, “I’ll only run if I’m chasing a ball or being chased by someone.” What was the point? Running…it made me feel like a hamster on a wheel.

On the last evening before Rusty went back to Utah, I was driving home from his hotel. I was still in the midst of confusion and deep sadness. I listened to the music in my car too loudly because I couldn’t hear anymore. I kept the windows open in my van while driving home that chilly February night because I couldn’t feel anything anymore.

As I recklessly rounded a corner, I thought to myself, “Slow down, Catania, or you’ll wind up smashed into a tree or worse.”
I then, countered (to myself, yes), “Really? Worse? Going headfirst into a tree would be better than this.”
Immediately, I thought to myself, “Uh-oh…this isn’t good.” So I said a prayer in my heart. As I said the prayer, I felt a distinct impression. Go for a run. I knew that it meant to go for a run the next morning. I needed to do something with all of this nervous energy I had. I needed to do something that would physically lift my spirits.

So. That next morning, I went for a run. I hadn’t run any more than a few yards in years. I was overweight. I was weak with hunger (the stress had killed my appetite). Yet I ran. I ran one mile. Then two. I ran a third mile. Then a fourth. The fourth mile finished at the bottom of a massive hill. If you are from Southeastern PA, then you know what I’m talking about. I had one more mile until I would be home. And about 9/10s of this mile would be up hill.

I kind of felt dead, but I knew I needed to run this last mile. I needed to run up the hill.
I ran another 1/4 mile. Another 1/2 mile. About 2/3 of the way through this last mile, the hill became especially steep. I wanted to stop and lie down. And I thought to myself, “Just make it up this last hill. You can do it. Just keep running, no matter how slowly you go.” So I did. I ran five miles that day.

After I finished my run, I felt high. I was buzzing with happiness. I just ran up that hill! I just ran five miles! Amidst this time of confusion I realized: I was powerful.

I took a shower and realized the run was bigger than just that little run. I knew that metaphorically I was in a particularly difficult patch. I knew I was running up a big hill. But I felt comforted. The Spirit–the same One that prompted me to run in the first place–whispered to my soul: You can make it up this hill. It will be hard. But when you do, the view will be great. You will be happy. You are powerful.

Later that day, I actually ate. The need to eat from running was overpowering my lack of appetite caused by stress. And that night, I slept well.

After about a week (I was soooooo sore…remember–I was overweight, out of shape, and hungry!), I was finally ready to run again. That is when I became a runner. I started running six days a week.

Running cleared my brain, slimmed my bootie, and helped me overcome depression. Running saved me. God knew it would. I’m so glad that He inspired me to do so. I never would have come up with the idea on my own.

Getting a Job

The day I found out about Rusty and his affairs, I went straight to the bank, opened my own bank account, and withdrew all of our money–depositing it into my own account. We had a grand total of $121.00. I knew I’d need every single cent.

Fortunately, I was living with my mom already, so I had a place to stay, food, etc. But I didn’t want to mooch off of her forever. I knew I needed a plan.

The timing of my separation was perfect: February. I filed taxes, and had them directly deposited into my new bank account. Between being poor, having two children, and earned income credit, I would get a few grand for a tax return. That would help me get on my feet.

In the meantime, I began job hunting. It was a little scary–it had been five years since graduating college, and I’d never had a professional job. I was searching high and low, and then a friend told me that she worked at a temp agency, and suggested I fill out a profile. I decided to go ahead do it.

Through the temp agency, I landed a week-long gig at an environmental-regulation type office (where they studied ground water and other things for the government). It was boring. I copied papers and put them in three-ring-binders. But I was fast, and they liked me. They offered me a part-time job, but I held off because I knew I needed something full-time–with benefits.

Next, I worked for a month at a Pharmaceutical company. That gig worked out so well, I was rehired by them in another department. And after a few months, I was hired on full time by the actual company, rather than working as a temp.

With a new job, and money in the bank, I was able to buy a car and a cell phone. I started putting money away for my own place. I was getting back on my own two feet (with the strength and capability to care for my children, too).

It sounds funny, but having a job helped me to heal and move forward in life as much as any other blessing I had received. I knew that my job was a tender act of mercy from God to me. I had a job that was interesting, it paid well, and I made friends there. I had great benefits and was able to support my family. I wasn’t getting much (if any) support from Rusty, so I needed to have a job that could support my family. And I was blessed enough to find that job. Yet the job wasn’t so consuming that I had nothing left for my children. Things were still hard, but I could see that the Lord blessed me by strengthening me and enabling me to carry my load.

A Crush

About two weeks before my divorce was final, a new guy started working at my office. I should be honest. He was a new kid. I’m sure he was like 19. Whatever. Don’t judge.

I didn’t really notice him at first. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed men at all yet. While I had a crush on Snoopy–that was different, it was some kind of hope–some kind of extension of childhood that actually helped me for a while. But it subsided after time.

*
I had noticed men, sure, but I wasn’t really finding anyone attractive. I’d have long conversations with my friend, Spunky.

“There is a new guy that I’m interested in, Catania.”
“Really? What’s he like?”
“Well, he’s tall. He’s got dark hair. Dark eyes.”
“But what’s he like?”

*

When Spunky and I were in Utah, we hung out with a few guy friends that we knew in High school. They asked what we liked in men. I told them,
“Funny. Honest.”
They asked, “No. Not like that. What do you like in a man, physically.”
Spunky began answering, basically describing Ben Affleck or Antonio Banderas without saying as much. They noticed that I was silent.
“What about you, Catania? What do you find attractive in a man?”
“I already told you.”
“All you said was personality stuff.”
“Well, that’s what makes a man attractive.”
“Seriously, Catania. There has to be something you find physically attractive about a man.”
“Of course there is, but eye color and height…those are all relative. There are so many attractive men. There are so many hideous men. There are men who seem attractive at first, but then they open their mouths and either they’re idiots or morons.” The dudes started laughing.
“No…I know what you mean.” One guy chimed in.
“I like a nice smile. I like nice eyes. But a guy can have nice blue eyes, green eyes, or brown eyes. And his smile can be big and nice, small and nice, and even have a few crooked teeth and be nice. And it doesn’t matter to me if he’s 5’4″ or 6’4″ I’m short!…But if he tells a funny joke, suddenly his eyes and smile–everything– are even more brilliant.”
“Okay.” They accepted my answer, genuinely.
“Oh. And they have to have good taste in music.”
“Definitely.”
“I mean, what good is a “hot dude” if his music taste sucks, he’s a moron, and completely unfunny?”
We were all in agreement. For good measure, I said, “Of course, if a guy’s rich, then none of that crap matters.” (joking. kind of.)

*
Back to the guy at my office. I first talked to him casually in my little break room. I was cutting up my strawberries and eating them (along with Kalamata Olives) for a snack. Kalamata olives always seemed to get a comment from people: they either love them or hate them. He said, “mmm. Olives.”
well..it was more like , “oh-liives.” (or however you would write out olives with a French accent.

Suddenly, I became more aware of the situation.

I said a quiet thanks (or something), and he left. As he walked past, my nose made the second amazing observation. I didn’t know what cologne he wore, but I was instantly obsessed with it. I wanted to trail behind him, lapping up that scent, hoping for him to say more of anything in his foreign accent.

I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know his name. I just knew he sounded nice and smelled great.

*
I started seeing this mystery dude more often. He worked down the hall from me. I found out he was an intern from France. I’d make small talk with him when I saw him in the halls.

*
One morning, it was my lucky day. I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast, and I ran over to the cafeteria for a yogurt. I went outside to quickly eat it (I had a bad track record with eating food at my desk). It was a nice morning, for August, so I went outside to eat. To my delight, the young Frenchie was sitting out there, eating, too.

I got up some courage and said, “Can I sit here?”
“Euh…sure!”
We talked about something that was completely unimportant, and I’m not sure if I made any kind of coherent sense because I was intoxicated by his cologne.
At the end of the conversation, I asked, “I know that this is probably going to sound strange, but you smell amazing. What are you wearing?”
He blushed and replied, “Acqua di Gio.”

That night, on my way home, I stopped at the mall and went to the cologne counter, where I sprayed a sample of Acqua di Gio on a paper, and brought it home so I could stay high on this scent through the evening. Yum. Yum. Yum. (I know I’m idiotic, but hey…I was just out of a really bad seven-ish year marriage…so don’t judge me.!) 😉

This guy, let’s call him Francois, became a crush. I wasn’t technically divorced, so I knew that nothing would come of it, and I was fairly sure that I was at least eight years older than him. But he was funny and a little bit of a tease. I played along and teased him back.

He would look directly into my eyes when I talked, making me feel like I was the only woman who had ever existed.

He asked me when I’d come to France.

He remarked about the color and clarity of my eyes, saying,
“You were wearing glasses yesterday, but not today.”
“Yeah, I got new contacts.”
“So, those are green contacts?”
“No. They’re clear contacts, corrective – so I can see.”
“So those are your eyes?…Green?”
“Yes.”
“Wow…They are so…beautiful.”
And I know, as I write this, that it sounds like such a cheesy pick-up line. Maybe it was. But it didn’t feel cheesy or pick-up-y at the moment. It felt honest. Francois was classicly French, I suppose. He was so confident. He stood there, with an air of superiority, but never looked down on me, personally. He stood up tall, and looked down his large, European, and extremely appealing nose. But he didn’t stand straight, like a German. He was the perfect paradox. Both unassuming and proud. He wore untucked polo shirts with khaki pants and white pumas. His shirt was unbuttoned, showing the slight hint of his collar-bone and chest. His hair was perfectly messy. He asked me questions about the U.S. that sounded like backhanded compliments, and I found myself convincing him that I was more cultured. It was his honesty, His simultaneous posture and slouch, his untucked shirt and perfect scent, his smile, his designer glasses and un-plucked eyebrows that made me realize I wanted to pick up, move to Europe, and find a man that was completely different.

“Catania…I love your name. Are you Italian?”
“Yes.”
“Have you been to Catania?”
“No…but one day I’d like to go, and when I do, I’m going to buy a shirt that says, Catania.” He laughed, slyly. PERFECT!
“You should go. We go there every August. In fact, my family is there right now, and I will be meeting them in Catania next week.”
(Inwardly: what?!?!?! You’ll be goneeeeee!!!!! WAAAAAAA!)
“I would love to. One day.”
“Yes, you should. Do you speak Italian?”
“No. I speak Spanish, English–obviously–and I’m learning French.”
“I want to learn to speak Italian next. It is so beautiful. So passionate.” He looked down his nose at me, peering into my eyes, straight through to my soul, and explained, “It’s like a dance.”

How could someone describing a language make me melt?

I called Spunky and said, “I’m in CRUSH!

Francois went home. The crush ended. I had an Acqua di Gio sample and a new requirement:If I ever get married, that man will wear Acqua.

***
At the end of August, three days before September started, I was officially divorced. I was free. It was over. Something else was beginning.

I was alone. But I knew that I was powerful in my own life. And I was happy.

Click here for part 17

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