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.

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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.