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.

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

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

(super gross…I know).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding Preparations

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

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

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

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

The Bachelorette Party

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

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

Wedding Flowers!

Wedding Flowers!


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

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

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

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

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

The Wedding

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Yay! Newly Married!

Yay! Newly Married!

Our Family.

Our Family.

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was engaged…to be married.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elder Oaks explained,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One – The Process itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two – An Unwanted Reminder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary

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

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

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

I came to the conclusion that I was in love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:

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

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

Will we have to wait?

Click here for part 32.

Digits (Part 26 of the HaM–Homey and Me–Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

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

After seeing Homey’s sudden status change, I was feeling a little confused. I won’t say I was feeling depressed. I took Homey at his word, and it felt like a miscommunication; like some weird problem that you’d see come up in a romantic comedy. In my heart, I felt like there was no way that Homey could like the girl that he was physically dating more than he liked me! Strange, but true. So, I wasn’t feeling depressed. And I wasn’t feeling rejected because I wasn’t rejected by Homey. Even though he didn’t tell me he wanted me to “wait for him,” I could tell that in a way he did hope I would. I didn’t feel like a back-up option because the entire thing was circumstantial. However, it was the circumstantial nature of these problems had me feeling frustrated. Frustrated that Homey lived on the other side of the country. I was frustrated that I could meet this awesome guy online without any real chance of ever meeting him in “real life.” I was frustrated at myself for liking him so much even though I hadn’t met him in person.

It was strange.

So, I went home, a little upset and frustrated, and tried to act like I didn’t care about the entire thing. I tried to act like it was all just a “cyber crush” and that it was completely irrelevant: that the entire communication with homey was some kind of diversion.

I told myself that I’d just concentrate on my plans for the future. And I’ll tell you a secret. After meeting homey online, I was beginning to think that perhaps a move to a place like AZ would be a part of my future plans.

Thinking of the future was empowering and helped me to feel less frustrated by the Homey situation, so I decided to get up, go to the bank, and open a new savings account. I made a plan: by the time that Panda was starting school, I would go to graduate school. I had a few ideas of where I’d go: Villanova, CSU, or…thanks to knowing Homey: ASU. It would be a few years before Panda was in school, so I didn’t worry about which graduate school to go to quite yet. Instead, I decided to start putting money away for the big decision that I’d make later.

It felt good to go to the bank, open the account, and deposit some money. My feelings of frustration were starting to fade. I spent the weekend hanging out with my kids and my little brother. On Monday morning, on my way to work, I began to look forward to a new email from Homey. Then I remembered He’s in a relationship. There will be no email.

To my surprise, there was an email! It had been written on the Friday before the weekend. He was replying to my reply of his reply. I quickly read his email, and felt hopeful when I read the following paragraph:

“While I hate to say something lame like, ‘wait for me, k?” or something stupid like that, I DO know that I’m interested in you, too. I guess the most fair thing I can do is tell you that if (hopefully) you are still around once things resolve with my current situation, I would hope we can get back to our prior-level-and-more-communication.

I ran over to Mary-Kay’s desk and read her the email.
“Let’s take bets on when he dumps that girl.” She said, with a smirk.
I tried to play it cool. “Oh…I doubt he will. I don’t know. Maybe.”
Mary-Kay gave me her signature eye-roll and then stare down look that said, seriously…?
“Okay. I wish that he would have already, but I’m hoping that it is before the end of the month.”
“End of the month!? I don’t even give it a week.” Mary-Kay remarked. I smiled and hoped that she was right.

Mary-Kay was right.

On Thursday morning, I arrived at work and did my usual routine: I got a cup of water, began to boot-up my computer, checked my calendar for meetings and other things I’d have to get done that day. I turned on the lights and computer in my bosses’ offices. Then, I sat down at my own computer and began checking my work email. After getting a few things crossed off the list, I opened up my gmail…and there it was: an email from Homey.

“He wrote.” I calmly told Mary-Kay.
She was on the phone and smiled. A few minutes later, I had a new email from Mary-Kay: You own me lunch.

***
Homey wrote me again, and it was a long, funny email. There was no awkward mention of any girlfriend. Nothing was weird at all.
I read the email with a smile, then went to his online profile.
Status: Single
Upon reading his status, I did an internal fist pump…Okay…who am I kidding. I actually sat at my desk and did a fist pump.

***
We started writing again – on a daily basis. And the emails were getting longer and more interesting. In fact, we couldn’t even exchange emails through the ldslinkup website anymore because they were so big! (Instead, we were just using our regular email accounts). I would write a paragraph or two throughout the day–during lulls or downtime–at work then send it off at the end of my day. Every morning, I’d find another email from Homey waiting in my inbox. For the first time in my life, I dreaded the weekend because I didn’t have a computer at home, so I’d have to go an entire weekend without emailing Homey.

However, as excited as I was about all of the writing, I was also frustrated.

“This is JUST my luck!” I wailed to Freckles.
“What do you mean? Homey is awesome. What’s wrong?”
“That’s exactly the problem. Homey is awesome. But Homey lives in freaking Arizona!”
“True. How far is that?”
“Oh…I have no idea. I’d guess something like…2,308 miles.”
“Haha. No idea, huh?”
“So what’s the point? What’s the point of finding some amazing, hilarious, cute, and well…ahhh! I haven’t even met him! This is complete insanity. Am I crazy? Am I desperate?”
“No. You’re not desperate. Even though you haven’t met him, you actually know something about him. You’re not desperate. And don’t worry. He’s probably mad that you guys are so far, too.”
“I hope so.”
“Oohhhh…this is just so weird. In some ways, I just wish this wasn’t happening because he lives so far away anyways. It’s not like we’re doing to date. I don’t even know if we’ll ever meet one another.”
“Why not?”
“Well, I’m not against it, but I’m being realistic. I can’t exactly afford to fly out to Mesa.”
“Yeah.”
“But then, there’s this part of me that just wonders what if I could go see him. There’s a part of me that wants to call him or have him call me.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Well, I don’t have his phone number, and he doesn’t have mine.”
“Give him your number.”
“I’ve wanted to do that, but I’ve been waiting for him to ask me for it.”
“You know, usually I would say that the dude should ask for a girl’s number, but I think that it is different in this case.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you guys met online. You still don’t know him. And maybe he’s worried about asking for your phone number. Like he’d seem like some kind of online scammer or weirdo.”
I thought about it. And she was right. I’m not sure how I’d respond to him asking my phone number on an email. But I was sure that I wanted to talk to him on the phone.
“So…what do you think I should do? Should I ask him for his phone number?” I wondered.
“I don’t know.”
“No. I won’t ask him. I don’t want to call him first. Here’s what I’m going to do. Next time I email him, I’m going to leave my phone number. Then, he has my phone number without seeming like some weird online perv. And I don’t have to call him first.”

***

Dear Homey (W?)[Homey was trying to get me to guess his middle name] Homeyson,

I can’t stop listening to The Shins right now. It’s not physically possible. Really…in the mornings, when I’m driving to work, I’m HAPPY that there’s a traffic jam because that means I get to listen to more music. Then on the way home, HAPPY again. Perhaps I need to take a break…I don’t know. It’s funny because I had the cd a long time ago, then it got scratched, and I didn’t get it again. (I don’t have a computer or an iPod…trust me, I’m jealous of you)…so then my friend makes me a mix cd, and she includes “Kissing the Lipless” and I remembered how much I missed that CD, so I went out and bought it again, and now I can’t stop listening to it, and I love LOVE LOVE it. In fact, yesterday, at Book Club, I was starting to get irritated because I just wanted everyone to leave so I could do my most favorite activity in the world. Take a REALLY scalding hot shower while listening to music loudly. (The kids sleep through it!) I don’t think that there is anything more relaxing than that combo.

Oh – and I DID see the pink floyd laser show…IN FACT, It was while I was in the young women’s presidency*–we did it as a mutual (combined young men/young women) activity! RAD, RAD, RAD!!!!!!! i want to go and do that right now.

okay…so about you and The Arcade Fire. I won’t be offended if you don’t like it…however, make sure that you listen to the fourth track a few times (Neighborhood #3-Power Out). man, I LOVE that song. It is upbeat. To me, it is insanely good. Also I love Neighborhood #2–Laika. Man…I actually like the entire CD, so I could go on, but I’ll stop after mentioning one more song- Track 10. …

Krang was TOTALLY that brain-ish dude from TMNT. And Amine [a co-worker] has a purplish big/bald head, and I just realized that he reminded me of Krang. Luckily for me, I’m not his direct admin. He comes to me for technical help because his admin isn’t great at Microsoft office. I like to put it this way: Word, I excel at Microsoft Office. Anyway…Amine looks like Krang (to me) and it is a good thing that I don’t work directly for him because then I’d just be thinking about Krang all day long.

okay…you’re right. I LOVE Ocean’s 11, and not so much 12. I really liked how 12 took place in Europe, and I got a kick out of the French dude (probably because I work with so many French people), but I thought that 11 was better. After Ocean’s 11, I was pretty sure that I was going to completely give up motherhood and become a professional thief.

so…YES, you absolutely need every episode of Arrested Development. I’m such a believer of the show that I’ve already given away two complete shows (all three seasons) to friends. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? (This is my chance to prove to you how incredibly kind i am)… 1) I bought all three seasons, and watched them religiously. I had this boyfriend-type-thing-guy in my life, and I told him about AD. Anyways. I let him “borrow” all three seasons. Then he moves to VA. And then he gets REALLY depressed. I couldn’t bring myself to telling him to send me the DVDs back when I knew that those were the only things that were good and right in his life…so I let him keep them, but I was down and out. Plus, my brother was REALLY mad becasue we’d always watch AD together. 2) I bought all three seasons for said brother for Christmas. I am borrowing his right now, and I’ll buy myself another set when I get my tax return. (You can get all three seasons on Amazon for 50 bucks. Good deal). You HAVE to see these shows over and over again. They are brilliant. They play with jokes for episodes. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…

[The email went on and on in this crazy non-pattern-pattern.]

see-ya-wouldn’t-wanna-be-ya,
Catania

PS. My boss will be in Phoenix this weekend. He looks like a black version of Mr. Clean, in case you run into him.

pps. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? follow up: do you have a “coming of age” memory…like when you realized something, and as soon as you realized it, you also realized that you lost a little bit of innocence, so you wished you could go back in time and not realize the realization?

ppss. 484.356.6776

The email was fun to write, but I sat there, cutting, pasting, re-cutting, and repasting the last ppss.

Finally, I just pushed send, and wondered how long it would be before my phone would ring.

Click here for part 27.

Cyber Crush (Part 24 of the HaM – Homey and Me – Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

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

“So…I did it.” I announced to Spunky.
“What?”
“I made an online profile.”
“No way!”
“Yeah. The bishop told me I should do it.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah. I thought he was crazy at first.”
“Tell me about it.”
“But, even he admitted that the idea seemed crazy. He said the Spirit was prompting him to tell me this.”
“Wow. That’s interesting.”
“I know, right! Just my luck…I figure that it’s not like I’m going to be meeting a guy online, but it is good for me obedient just for obedience’s sake.”
“That’s true.”
“Wanna know the craziest part?”
“Huh.”
“So…when I was about to create a profile, I was still feeling really skeptical, but I didn’t know what to do. So I kind of said a silent prayer that if any of the guys on the website seemed like freaks, then I wasn’t going to sign up.”
“Uh huh.”
“So, when I click on to the site, guess whose profile shows up…Snoopy’s!”
“Are you serious? Maybe it’s like a sign.”
“You know, at first I wanted to think that, but really, I don’t think that it is a sign about me and Snoopy. Instead, seeing his profile just made me feel at peace about signing up online. I mean, Heavenly Father really answered my prayer. I know that Snoop is not a freak, but is a totally awesome dude. So, while there might be idiots online, I can see that there are also cool guys. It’s just like real life.”

After talking to Spunky, I had the same conversation with Freckles, Blythe, and pretty much anyone else that would listen. The next day, I had an email from Snoop. He mentioned that he forgot he even had a profile on the website I saw him on. Then he told me about a much better website: LDS Linkup. It was pretty much an LDS Facebook. I liked the idea of a social networking type of website rather than a dating website. So, I checked it out and signed up.

The whole ordeal seemed pretty anticlimactic at first. Almost all of my friends were online already. I already knew most of the people in the Philly area that were single. It wasn’t like I suddenly was exposed to new people, new Mormons, in the Philadelphia area. It seemed like everyone that was online was in Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, etc.

Online LDS Dating

Making an online profile was kind of interesting to say the least. At first I felt guarded about my privacy, but that didn’t last long because I was getting into social media. I didn’t want to upload a picture because the idea of strangers seeing pictures of me was reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard. Yet, I realized that I wasn’t going to give a second of my time to a man’s profile that lacked a picture, so I uploaded a picture. I found a flattering yet accurate picture of myself. I think that I was standing in my kitchen making a dumb pose. I wanted to be pretty, but still slightly crazy…just so people knew what to expect.

Then came the profile questions. How I wanted to be snarky and cool. But I wasn’t sure how a stranger would take it. I also wanted to be vague, so as not to give up too much information about myself, but that was counter-productive. Oh the pressure of a profile! How do you accurately represent yourself when answering “What is your favorite book?”, “What do you do in your leisure time?”, or “What am I doing with my life?” (BAM!!!) I just answered honestly. (Desert Solitaire; Eat Hoagies; I have no idea.)

After filling out my profile, I started checking out my friends’ profiles. Some of their profiles were completely accurate compared to real life. Other profiles made me think, “Mike? This is Mike? Well then, who is the Mike that I know?”

For the most part, I didn’t invest a ton of time online. I didn’t write to men or people that I didn’t know. Every once in a while, I’d get an email from someone.

Hey…I like you’re profile picture. – MacTruck0123

or

You have two children? Sounds like we have a lot in common. I also have two kids…and I also enjoy subway sandwiches. My favorite book is the Book of Mormon. Would you be interested in getting to know one another? -Waytooeager

or

You’re a hottie and I’m hot. We should chat. -ultradbag

I won’t pretend that I didn’t love messages like these.

For me, the best part about the website was finding new bands. (follow me for a second…this is kind of important, I promise). When you fill out your profile with the “things you like” such as movies, bands, books, etc, you could then click on the band name and find other people who also like that band, etc.

Now, I really love music, and I love learning about new music. I was in a little bit of a funk. Earlier in the year I had been pleased with my purchase of Arcade Fire – Funeral, and had been obsessed with it for the better part of six months. But I needed something new. So, one day I clicked on “Arcade Fire” and it brought up a list of other people who also liked Arcade Fire.

I noticed the profile of a woman and several of the other bands that she liked were ones that I also liked, so I clicked onto her profile. She had a few bands listed that I hadn’t heard of. I also looked at her “wall” and noticed a comment that was intriguing by a dude named “Homey.” He also had a cute profile pic, so, I clicked on to his profile. You know exactly how this happens. click, click, click. It’s so easy to do.

Wolfman (aka...Homey)

Homey circa 2006

Without a doubt, his was the best profile I came across. It was hilarious. What stood out most to me was how he answered the “I’m not interested in…” question… His response I’m not interested in skinheads or communists, unless you are a cancer survivor living the law of consecration*. hahaha. Homey didn’t have much else written on his profile, other than If you really want to get to know more about me, then read my blog.

Obviously, I clicked on that, too.

I scanned through his blog, but it was his post titled, Hasseling the Hoff – Artist or Engineer that really struck my eye. If you don’t want to read it for yourself, I’ll sum it up:

1. Germany’s greatest strength: engineering.
2. “The only conclusion I can draw on Hasselhoff’s musical popularity in Germany is that he is a musical engineer, not a musical artist. For those of you in America who have heard any of his music, you have probably cringed at the thought of Hasselhoff as an artist. I know this idea was hard for me to swallow. For some reason, I feel much better knowing that he is not an artist, but a musical engineer.” – Homey
3. “This CD is amazing. [Hasselhoff’s CD] At least the cover. Looks like he is standing on Kit’s hood, in the same outfit he wore when he actually was popular in the US back in 1986. His hair is feathered perfectly. And look at that stance…knees bent at just the right obtuse angles to drive those German engineer girls mad. The guitar looks about as unnatural in his hands as a t-shirt would look under that leather vest.” – Homey
4. Homey closed the blog with this statement: “So why do Germans love Hasselhoff? There are some things that those of us with refined musical taste will just never understand. I would vote for the fact that he has engineered his way into their hearts. Somehow. We need to commission someone to research the Science of Hasselhoff to find some answers. I, for one, am never going to understand it.”

Seriously, take a few seconds to read the blog post. It was funny.

So…I read this blog, and nearly laughed out loud when it reminded me of my own Germany/David Hasselhoff experience. In fact, upon reading the last paragraph, I realized that I had the answer to Homey’s question.

At first, I thought of commenting on the blog…but it felt weird to leave a narrative in the comments of his blog. I didn’t have anything funny to say. So, I went back to Homey’s profile, and chose to send him a message. It was an impulsive thing for me to do, but in my heart, I knew that he would truly appreciate the nugget of wisdom that I was going to impart.

So…I figured that I was already bored, and I might as well tell Homey the “truth” – since he seemed to be interested in it.

“Homey-
I just checked out your blog, and it’s quite thought provoking. (Read: I like it).

So – I just thought I’d give you some food for thought: last May I went to Germany to hang out with a friend. While there, they started singing a song: “Looking for Freedom.” They were singing in English, and I asked them what song they were singing.
“Looking for freedom,” they answered, very condescendingly – DUH. I was still puzzled, and they could tell because one explained, “You know – by David Hasselhoff.”
Then, I began to laugh out loud. I realized that IT’S TRUE – Germans DO ACTUALLY love David Hasselhoff. (I said that, too, and they were still looking at me like, “Duh…who DOESN’T love David Hasselhoff?”)
Immediately, I asked them why they loved David Hasselhoff so much. They were surprised, “Don’t Americans love him? … He’s American, after all.”
I said, “We love to make fun of him.” They laughed, but yeah…it was more or less a pity laugh. Then, one guy said (and I think that this is truly the key), well, He DOES have nice chest hair.

Anyways.
Catania

I re-read Homey’s blog and then my email, and laughed my head off as I pushed “send.”

Christmas, My Sister’s Wedding, and More Dating

Before I knew it, Christmas had arrived. December had been a crazy month because:

  • December is always a crazy month
  • I had totalled my car earlier in the month
  • I had broken up with Roger for the 455th time. It was annoying. And I still liked him! I would still listen to Coldplay, and think that somehow he would miss me, and realize that he made a mistake, that he could never go on without me, that all along I was the one he wanted to find, that he drew a line and crossed it but I’d take him back, and that no one said it was easy…blech
  • Even though I had broken up with Roger for the 455th time, and I thought I liked him, I also realized that I didn’t like him, I didn’t trust him, he wasn’t good for me, and whatever it was that I liked about him was a fiction/fantasy. I wanted to be in love, so I knew I needed to stop talking to Roger, listening to Coldplay, and instead just start dating other guys and being cool with independence.
  • I didn’t have much money, but I wanted to provide a good Christmas for my children.
  • My sister was getting married in Boston. I threw her a shower in PA, and I’d be traveling to Boston on the 26th.

And you get the idea…typical stuff, really.

***
Christmas was really great with just Tiger, Panda, and me. We had a humble and happy Christmas. I made Christmas dinner, and my mom, step-dad, and brother came over to my house. I can’t tell you how much I loved living in that little, crappy house. What it lacked in substance was made up with love. On Christmas night, I packed up my Jetta, and we left to Boston early in the morning on Dec. 26th.

***
Getting ready for my sister’s wedding was a whirlwind, and while there were some really funny stories, they don’t really have to do with this story, so maybe I’ll tell them later.

On my sister’s wedding day (December 29th), I was busy with being a sister to the bride. It was great. I was really happy for her. We stayed in a hotel in Boston, and then I drove us to the Boston temple for her wedding. After the wedding, we ate, took pictures, then prepared for the reception. My sister had a really nice wedding. The reception was at this historic mansion in Waltham, MA. We were able to relax and have fun at the reception.

Ever the…I don’t know what to call myself here…predator? Not sure…boy-crazy person?…whatever, I noticed that my sister’s photographer was pretty cute. She had mentioned that he was in her singles’ ward. I ended up talking to the dude, and we had exchanged phone numbers with the plan for me to go out with him the next night. All in all, it was a great night.

***
The next day (Dec 30), there was an ice/snow storm, so I spent most of my time at my dad’s house inside. It wasn’t the worst. After days of driving and preparing for the wedding, all of us just wanted to chill out. At some point during the day, I noticed that I had an email…from…Homey.

“That is quite an impressive story. I’m tempted now to go to Germany just to try to relive for myself what you went through. It had to be quite existential to be going through that. I mean, Hasselhoff? If I had to choose 1 country that would actually appreciate music by Hasselhoff, I would have picked the worst country in the world. Not sure how countries are ranked, but I would guess only 4th-world, uncivilized countries like Mongolia would be on the “Potential Hasselhoff Music Lovers” list. Wouldn’t you just think that Germany would be a little too refined for his style? But along with what your story illustrated, I think the whole point of all this “Germans love David Hasselhoff” hoopla is that we Americans have entirely given too much credit to the Germans. Apparently they are even much less refined than the rest of Europe and most of the rest of the world. (If you’re German, I apologize. Although this could be a starting ground for revolutionizing your country’s currently terrible musical taste.)

Thanks for sending along your experience…I’m honestly jealous. And impressed with how you handled the situation. BTW, how did you react when the guy said Well he DOES have nice chest hair …? I’m not sure what I would have done…maybe just cried.

-homey

The note was a nice highlight to a dreary day. I wasn’t sure what I thought of the whole situation, though. I mean, from the beginning, I knew that Homey lived in Mesa, and I really didn’t think anything of that. I just thought his blog was hilarious, and that he would like the story. I didn’t even really expect him to write me back. But he had written me back, and he had ended the email in a way that suggested that he might like for me to write him back.

In any case, I wasn’t worried. I was getting ready to go out on a date with the Photographer. Additionally, I had gotten a text from this guy Jack, who was wondering if I’d be available for New Year’s Eve (yes!). So…playing the field was beginning to feel kind of fun, and my field was in Pennsylvania (or Boston)…not Mesa, AZ.

***
I went on the date with the Photographer, which wasn’t all that bad, but it was revelatory. He was a nice guy, and he was asking me all kinds of questions that you’d expect to appear on a profile pic.
“What movie/tv character do you most identify with?” he asked.
“Uh…” I had no idea how to answer that. “Hmmm…”
“While you’re thinking, I’ll tell you mine.”
“okay.”
“Brad Pitt’s Character, Tristan, from The Legends of the Fall.”
“I love that movie. His character is awesome. Does this mean that you have killed a bear with your own hands? Pulled the heart out of a German? Are you going to go crazy or have you already gone crazy?” I asked. He answered seriously, and I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t seem in a joke-y mood.
“So…how about you?”
“I guess…I’m thinking that I’d probably have to say…Steve Urkell.” The photographer didn’t seem all that amused, but I was. I continued, “I’m relatively clutzy, and I love cheese.”
There was a pause that was getting kind of awkward, so in my most Urkell-y voice, I chimed in, “Oops…did I doooo thaaaaat????”

A few seconds later, I noticed that he had two Arrested Development by the T.V.
“Dude. I loooove this show.”
“Those belong to my roommate.”
“We should watch them.”
“I’m not really into it. My roommate is.”
(I realized that I wanted to be hanging out with his roommate).

The date progressed – getting more awkward by the minute. The guise of our date was that he would help me to start my own blog. I read his blog. Very, very serious. It was also quite uplifting. (I recognize that I have a very serious blog). I had nothing against his blog, but all I kept thinking was that I really wanted to be reading about David Hasselhoff, Goatees, or Loofahs.

***
On New Year’s Eve, my brother Chris and I drove home to PA. I went out with Jack and some other people from the singles ward in Philly. We played scrabble then, invariably, talked about the woes of dating life. Normal stuff.

***
Finally, I was back at work, and I saw my email from Homey again. I decided that, yes, I would write him back…


Thanks Homey,

Well, first of all – yeah, I don’t think I’d really pick ANY country to like Hasselhoff’s music. Not even Alabama (okay, I know, I know, Alabama isn’t technically a country). I’m just saying…I agree with you completely. And having been to Germany, I would think that they were too refined. I mean – the Germans brought us Bach, Beethoven, NENA…

I have to explain more about the truly existential nature of this experience. For the entire trip, I was absolutely immersed in German culture. I was staying with a friend who is German. Additionally, I was attending a German wedding. The majority of my time was spent nodding my head and shrugging my shoulders. (Ich spreche kein Deutsch). And then, finally, a conversation in English…and it’s about – DAVID HASSELHOFF?!?!?! And it ISN’T an IRONIC conversation – it is a truly serious conversation about the Hoff. We were bridging cultures there. It was for real…

When this dude said the Chest hair remark, I just laughed and nodded my head. I was absolutely stunned. I couldn’t have imagined it. The Germans all laughed, too. But I know that we had totally different motives. Then they started talking in German again. I said a silent prayer of gratitude for such a blessed experience.

Oh – and no…I’m not German

-Catania

And then, the next day, I found this in my inbox:

“Great point about Alabama…I have hoped for years that they would secede and just be their own country. Maybe Louisiana, too, cause every movie that I’ve seen that takes place in Lousisiana, the way pepole are portrayed it just sickens me to be from the same nation as they are. Ok, so maybe Waterboy is the only one I’ve seen that takes plasce there. Oh, and Joe Dirt had something in Louisiana, if I’m not mistaken. (For some strange reason, I think this isn’t giving you a fair representation of my movie taste…please believe me on that. There just aren’t any quality films done in Louisiana…)

Your Germany experience just amazes me. This is more than a ‘journal entry’ type experience…it’s almost worthy of its own web page. Maybe its own encyclopedia entry. If you paint, you should try to capture it on a large canvas w/oil. This is one of those events that could change lives…it must be shared somehow. I bet Pink Floyd’s pre-The Wall experience pales in comparison to this. It just strikes me as a very powerfully moving experience. Inspirational on so many levels. And it’s just plain hilarious. The more I learn about it, the harder I laugh. And the harder I laugh, the sadder I feel for Germany.

It’s not just about cultural difference, it’s about cultural disparities (not really sure what that means, but it sounds about right – just nod your head. Yes Homey.)

-Homey
Btw, are you italian? The name Catania has me thinking yes. And which came first – you or the mission?

And I wrote him back:

“Okay…I’d have to say, about the whole Alabama seceding from the country thing – I may be mistaken, but I believe that they already tried that. It’s too bad that hindsight is 20/20 because now I think that we know better. 😉 Regardless, what you said was hilarious.

Oh – I wholheartedly agree with you on the Germany thing. I mean, I had kind of stored it in the back of my mind for a while. I don’t know why. I guess I just hadn’t had the right moment to share it all. No…maybe I think I was surpressing it. Either way, it is absolutely monumental, and now I’m going to start working on a musical score. Really, though…I’m glad that you’re laughing. And it’s not a problem to feel sad for Germany.
(Just don’t be sad to their faces).

I’m trying to think of a funny remark to your ps. But I can’t. Here’s the deal – my name is catania, and I happen to be Italian – but it is simply a happy coincidence. The scoop – my mom kind of sort of had me out of wedlock. I was adopted by another man (who is American with Irish heritage) when I was four. I don’t know my biological father, but what I DO know about him is that – he was a young Italian Stallion – Jack (his name) from Sicily. WOW. It gets better, too. My mom liked disco dancing with him. He was a Wild Turkey (as in the alcoholic beverage) distributor by day, and a Disco dancer by night. Truly, I come from blessed roots.
So yes…I’m Italian. Sicilian even.

I know Catania is a mission in Sicily, too. And one of my dreams: To go there and buy a tee-shirt.

Anyways…thanks for the note. You are very funny.
Catania

And I’ll include one final email from Homey, just for fun…

“Yet again, good point about Alabama. We should have let them go…

I will continue to be sad for Germany by laughing at them. ..maybe someday they’ll do more for the world than introduce the Jetta. [Reading this was hilarious to me because I owned a Jetta at the time and absolutely loved it!] Because I’m not counting “appreciation of Hasselhoff’s musical journeys” as a contribution to the world. On the other hand, I don’t much like Jettas either…so maybe Germany doesn’t have any contributions that come to mind.

I have found writing to be such an amazing and therapeutic means of expression…I never really wrote anything until the blog (except accounting reports…), but I really find it to have become an important part of my weeks. (even as trivial as my topics are… 😉 Enough of my sappiness.

Anyway, what part of PA do you live in? I livd in NJ for a year before moving to AZ almost 2 years ago. Drove through PA a couple of times…loved the green. While I was working in Manhattan, I knew a bunch of people who lived in PA and commuted into NYC everyday for work. That seemed crazy to me. Um…that’s all I have on PA…

Your name is really pretty. I have a soft spot for Italian names (no matter how they came to be… 🙂 Quite a story about your bio-father…wow is right. That would make a pretty good post. And an even better movie. 😉
I feel like I’m using too many ;)s right now…sorry, it must be late. Talk to you later

-Homey

So…It was official. I had a cyber-crush.

***
*Law of Consecration – A lifestyle that Mormons believe will take place when Christ comes back to the Earth – the kind where everyone lives charitably and has all things equal. It is a “Zion” state – where there is no manner of division or inequality. It is easy to get this confused with Communism, but rather than having such a lifestyle mandated by the government, people give all they have and support one another because they have developed Charity, or the pure love of Christ.

Click here for part 25.

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.

The Worst Date of My Life–Adventures in Singledom (Part 22 of the HaM Love Story)

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part twenty-two 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!!!!)

There is only one romantic comedy that I really like, French Kiss. In some ways, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I like it, but I really do. Before traveling to Germany, I longed for the idea of Europe, love, and a release from the facts of my life as a single mom. Many nights, after a long day at work, then picking up the kids from my mom’s house, and feeding them, we’d all go to bed together while watching French Kiss. I must have watched that movie a dozen times before I went to Germany. I dreamed of meeting some European man who would challenge me in every way, yet we’d fall in love, and move to some picturesque part of France. The fact that I had just left a European man who challenged me in every way, we had fallen in love, but instead of us moving to France, I said no to the whole relationship– wasn’t lost on me. I knew that the movie was a movie, and that my fantasy was only a fantasy, and that it wouldn’t make me happy. When I came home from Germany, I didn’t watch that movie quite as constantly.

Instead, I slowly returned back to myself.

I started hanging out with my brother and kids all the time. My little brother was in high school. I’d pick him up from my mom’s house, and we’d hang out, paint, watch Arrested Development or Napoleon Dynamite while eating pizza or Chinese food. Sometimes, I’d take my brother and kids out to Wegman’s where we’d eat dinner then find cookies to sample. My brother would accompany me and the kids to the park and pretty much anywhere else (if he was in the mood). It was a lot of fun.

In some ways, I was finally calming down–becoming contented with single life. I remember one Friday night–the girls and I had picked up a pizza and were watching My Dog, Skip. We sat in the living room of this tiny one-bedroom house, all huddled up on the single piece of furniture I owned (a white chair..well bigger than a chair, but smaller than a love-seat) watching a movie on a TV that had an 8″ screen. In a word, it was perfect.

The contentment, however was short-lived, as the girls would be visiting Rusty for a few a little over a month that summer. In some ways, I didn’t want them to go. I mean, I would be all alone. Yet in other ways, I was looking forward for some time to breathe, some time to catch up, and perhaps some time to date.

When the Mice Are Away, the Cat Will Play

So, the girls went to Utah. Rusty came out to PA to pick them up, and we had agreed that about a month later, I would fly out to Utah to get them. I had over a month to myself. It was summer-time. I wasn’t sure what I’d do, but I knew I wouldn’t waste it. I can’t remember every detail, but I do remember that I never went directly home from work. I’d find something to do. Every single night, I went out. Every weekend I was gone. I went to Phillies’ games, the beach, or the movies. I did anything to keep me from coming home to an empty house.

For the most part the month was fun. I had a few laughs. I made new friends. I was able to start dating more–which both excited and disgusted me.

The Most Awkward Night of My Life, but I Didn’t Learn From It, so I Soon Experienced the Worst Date in My Life

A lot of my friends in PA were concerned about me finding love, and they did what they could to “help out.” One of my friends, Helen, had a brother-in-law who was recently divorced, and was visiting from South Carolina. She decided to have me over for her Family Night so I could meet him. She told me that he was recently divorced, and she told me his age–which was about ten years older than me. I didn’t care about the fact that he was divorced, and I tried to be cool with the age-difference. I wasn’t sure how it would play out. I figured I could have an open mind. Besides, Helen and her husband were really cool. Helen’s husband was cute, too, so I figured that his brother would also be cute. It was worth a try.

The family night was on the 3 of July. We did some kind of cheesy-but-fun-family-oriented activity. I knew and was comfortable with Helen’s family. But her brother-in-law–for our purposes, we’ll call him Odriew–had his children there, too, and I felt like an outsider at a family reunion. Plus, throughout the night, Odriew kept looking at me and smiling too much, and I didn’t know what he was thinking. It made me feel so uncomfortable. Thankfully the activity ended with a lot of illegal fireworks (Odriew brought them from South Carolina to PA). I have to admit, the fireworks were fun. Finally, the kids were put to bed, and I was left alone with this dude. We sat down at the table, and I could feel him looking at me, very happily, like too happy which made me instantly uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to be there anymore, but I had no where else to go, and I felt rude leaving because I knew that we were supposed to be getting to know each other. So I found myself at the table, with an overly happy guy and his creepy smile, ready to talk.
“So…thanks for coming over.”
“Yeah. I’ve had fun.” (lying) “The fireworks you brought were pretty awesome” (not lying about that part).
“Thanks. I got them from my home in South Carolina–they sell the good stuff there.”
“Yeah…those were good fireworks.” (Are you feeling my awkwardness yet?)
He smiled at me some more with a lot of full eye contact. This eye contact was not the really-amazingly-cute-french-guy-who-also-smells-good kind of eye contact, but the wow-this-guy-is-staring-at-me-and-I’m-getting-totally-creeped-out kind of eye contact. Naturally, I started fidgeting a lot.
“Well…So…tomorrow I’m running in a 10K, so I should probably be going pretty soon.” I said, fumbling.
“What? Not yet! We still need to talk.” (His weirdo smile cracked for a second.)
“Oh definitely, not right now, but in a little bit.” Dang it! I did mean right then, but for some reason felt bad about disappointing this dude.
“Okay. Good. A 10k. How many miles is that?” (Again, looking at me with a big weirdo smile).
“Just over 6.”
“Wow. That’s really great.” (Weirdo smile)
“Yeah.”
We sit there for a few seconds. I’m not all that great at small talk when I’m creeped out. Plus, I was truly tired.
“Helen tells me that you’re divorced.”
“Yep.”
“Do you have children?”
“Yes. Two. They are in Utah visiting their father.”
“Well, you know that I have two, you met them tonight.”
“Yep.”
Pause…oh, and don’t worry, he’s still doing that weirdo-smile and extended freaky eye contact.
“So…tell me about your divorce.”
Tell me about your divorce? What kind of idiotic question is that? AGGGGHHH!? What is this? I want to puke everywhere!
“I’m not sure what you want me to say.” Is finally all I can come up with.
“Well, how long were you married?” (weirdo smile)
“Nearly seven years.”
“How did it happen?” (weirdo smile)
Why are you asking me this? And what’s with the weirdo smile while you are asking me???

The thing is, I answered him. I spent like three hours talking about my lame divorce, and it was a strange situation for me. When I talked about my divorce, I felt detached from it, so it’s not like a sad thing for me to think about. However, even though I’ve processed it, and I’ve learned how to let it go, I still didn’t find it compelling conversation for what was supposed to be some kind of date-ish-thing-y. Worst of all, I got to bed waaaayyyy late, was really tired for my 10K, and ran it really slowly.

***
Okay…I said that the 10k was worst of all. But it wasn’t. Of course, I didn’t realize that until a week later.

I figured that Odriew was out of the picture because I didn’t return his calls for the next few days. Then he went with Helen and her family somewhere out of state (can’t remember…didn’t care). And yeah, I had no interest in seeing him.

In the meantime, two of my old friends from Utah came out to visit me: Mark and Julie. Julie was French, and I loved hanging out with her. She had an opinion, was funny, and has a passion that you don’t find in most Americans. I was absolutely tickled that they would come and visit me. We went to Philly, NYC, and had all sorts of fun.

One of the days that they were there, I got a phone call, and I forgot not to answer it.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hi.” ahhhh! Even though I didn’t know who it was at first, it only took me a second to sense his weirdo smile, “this is Ordiew.”
“Hi.” Why do I answer my phone???
“So, how’s it going?” he asked.
“I’m actually hanging out with my friends Mark and Julie from Utah.”
“You are?”
“Yes. I am.”
“I was under the impression that we were going to go out while I was here.”
“Uhh..”
“I mean, last week, we talked about getting together, then I tried to get a hold of you on the fourth, but you never called me back.”
“Yeah…sorry…it’s just that…I ran that 10K, then I was really tired…then I knew that you were out of town.”
“Well, I’m back in town today.”
“Yeah, I know, but I don’t think that I can do anything tonight, I have guests in town.”
“I leave tomorrow.”
“Oh, man, that stinks.” (total lie).
“So, who’s visiting you?”
“Mark and Julie.”
“Are they, like, a couple?”
“Yeah. They’re married. I knew them in Utah.”
“Great! I can be your date, we’ll double.”

That’s how I somehow agreed to go on one of the crappiest dates of my life, but it was all my fault anyway, and in retrospect, I simply hope that it was great entertainment for Mark and Julie, and inspiration for them to be grateful that they will never have to enter into the dating world again.

I suppose I’ll finish with the date.

Odriew shows up at my place
So, we wait for him to show up, and he does, wearing a Hawaiian shirt with that really strange weirdo-smile psycho-eye-contact combo. I was looking cute because it comes naturally to me. 😉 Although, I will admit that dressing nicely and looking cute may have given him the wrong signal.

After his arrival, I explain that we’re going to go out to a really good Thai restaurant, then Rita’s for water ice since it was a really good local favorite.
“I’m not sure where the Thai restaurant is.” Odriew states.
“No big deal. I know where it is. It’s really good.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know where I’m going.”
“Uh…I don’t think that you need to. We’ll just take my car and go together.”
“Okay…if you say so.”

We head out of my house to my car, and Odriew makes like he’s going to sit in the driver’s seat.
“Oh…you’re gonna drive?” He asks.
“Yeah. It’s my car.”
“But it’s a date.”
“But it’s my car.”
I get into my car, and Odriew is a little peeved. I don’t mind because he’s not doing that strange weirdo-smiling thing.

Fun at a Thai Restaurant
We get to the restaurant, and the tension diffuses–as the food is so good. I loved being able to talk to Mark and Julie. Every once in a while Odriew said something weird, with his creepy smile. We would pause for a second, look at him, then on with our conversation.

Eventually, the check arrives. When dating, one of the tricky things can be knowing who will pay. Actually, no, it’s not tricky at all. The dude should pay, but I was a nice girl, and was used to grabbing my pocketbook as if I was going to pay, but never intending to. Even when I reach for my wallet, I’m expecting that the dude should pay–especially if he asked me out for a date. Odriew saw me reaching for my pocketbook.
“Oh, you’re paying?” he asked.
“Are you su…” I started, already pretending to “insist” that he didn’t have to pay. Then realizing halfway through my sentence that perhaps I had it wrong.
“Great! Thanks for paying,” he continued. “I’m a teacher, so that means I’m poor!” (huge weirdo smile and even more penetrating gaze.)
“Uh…okay…sure.” And, I handed my debit card to the waitress. I could see the horror in Julie’s face. Mark was trying not to laugh out loud. I felt like I had just been…tazed…I was stunned. I was also thinking that clearly Odriew didn’t understand what made a man attractive to a single-working mother. We don’t want guys who stare and smile. We want guys who pay for dinner.

***
Rita’s was equally uncomfortable, and I was getting the feeling that Odriew wanted to do something like hold hands. Gross.

Back at Home, Where I Get Carried Away in Conversation, and then Pay for It
We went back to my place. This is when it really got hairy, and I’ll blame my personality on everything that ensued.

So, we’re sitting in my tiny white house, and we’re all talking. I seriously love talking to Julie. As I mentioned before, she’s passionate. She’s opinionated. You can have a heated discussion with her, and no harm is done. She’s French. That’s it. She makes no excuses for who she is, either, and I love that about her above all else. So, even though Odriew is there, freaking me out and smiling at me, I’m still full of life and conversation because I’m talking with Julie and Mark.

Occasionally, Ordiew would chime in, asking a range of questions (including controversial ones) that would get all of us worked up. I was in a chippy, talkative mood.
“So, you were an English major?” Odriew asked.
“Yes.”
“What did you like about it?”
“Uh…what do you mean?”
“Well, did you like writing? Reading? Are you planning on being a teacher?”
“I just love reading. And I like writing about what I’ve read.”
“What is your favorite genre?”
“I really like poetry.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Well, what’s you’re favorite poem?”
When he asked me this, I knew that it could get really problematic. Really problematic because perhaps he’d take my favorite poem the wrong way. But, at the same time, I can count on one hand the people who have asked me the question, “What is your favorite poem,” and I do have several favorite poems, so I jumped out my seat to find two of them.

Danse Russe
If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
again the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household? – William Carlos Williams

As I read the poem, Odriew made this huge-wierdo-smile. I noticed Mark and Julie smirking. Whoops? Did I just read a poem that said “naked” to Odriew??? What was I doing? But I already had the second poem in hand, so I couldn’t stop…

Flying
Sometimes,
on a plane,
you see a stranger.
He is so beautiful!
His nose
Going down in the
old Greek way,
or his smile
a wild Mexican fiesta.
You want to say:
do you know how beautiful you are?
You leap up
into the aisle,
you can’t let him go
until he has touched you
shyly, until you have rubbed him,
oh, lightly,
like a coin
you find on the earth somewhere
shining and unexpected and,
without thinking,
reach for. You stand there
shaken
by the strangeness,
the splash of his touch.
When he’s gone
you stare like an animal into
the blinding clouds
with the snapped chain of your life,
the life you know:
the deeply affectionate earth,
the familiar landscapes
slowly turning
thousands of feet below. – Mary Oliver

Were Mark and Julie snickering? Odriew’s smile was so big he looked like the Joker. He asked me what the poems meant, and I explained them to him, careful to mention that they weren’t about being in love. (They weren’t about him!) They weren’t about relationships or people. They still relatively introverted poems. Danse Russe is about being okay with you, your life, and even with a family, with loved ones, the poet, especially, is still all alone. It resonated with me. I didn’t know why. But I loved it.

Flying: it wasn’t about falling in love. It was about admiring beauty. A beautiful man. And you’re admiring that beauty simply because it exists. While admiring it, you get a little carried away, so much so that finally you are shocked back into reality.

These poems had nothing to do with him or any other man. These poems weren’t some kind of “hope” I had for the future. I loved them way before Odriew came along, and I would continue to love them long after he would (please) leave. But he didn’t know that. He smiled his weirdo-joker-esque smile, and I grew frustrated with myself for sharing with him.

Feeling awkward, I suggested that we all go for a walk outside. Mainly, I wanted to show Mark and Julie how amazing the lightning bugs were that time of year. My little white house was on a quiet country road in Southeastern PA. Only part of the road was paved. There were several fields and farms. It was perfect for seeing millions (I’m not exaggerating) of lightning bugs. Let’s just put it this way, all of the flickering lightning bugs were so amazing, that I don’t regret that stupid date with Odriew…So, I suggested we go on this walk, Mark and Julie agreed. As soon as I suggested it, Odriew’s smile was even bigger and more joker-y (if that was possible). I realized that he was really getting the wrong idea, and it was my fault. First I read him poetry, then I say lets take a walk in the dark!!!!!!!!!!!! What’s wrong with me?

We walk in the dark, and I’m pretty sure that Odriew wants to hold my hand. Yeah…I think that he tried to, but I didn’t really let him. I walked around, talking way too loudly. But we admired the lightning bugs and the humid Pennsylvania evening. Gosh I miss Pennsylvania.

After our walk, Mark and Julie headed for bed. Odriew seemed to want to talk, but I told him I was getting tired. That’s when he swooped in for a kiss. A KISS!!! After all of this weird-awkward-he-got-mad-at-me-for-driving-my-car-let-me-pay-and-I-shunned-his-hand-on-the-walk-date!!! When he swooped in, I did this kind of rolling-move, that helped me to deflect the kiss while still opening the door so he could leave.

I didn’t want to make him feel bad, so I stood there quietly without barfing, and then…HE TRIED TO KISS ME AGAIN. I managed to do the roll move again, and this time, I also put my hand up and said, “No.”

Then he left.

Mark and Julie were laughing upstairs. Julie was laughing and laughing and laughing. I admitted that some of this I did to myself, not because I was trying to send mixed messages, but because I was so horrible at dating. It was hilarious.

***
A few days later, at church, Helen came up to me with a knowing smile.
“So…Odriew told me all about your date.”
“Oh yeah?” I began, but I noticed that she was still smiling. Like in a good way. So I asked, “What did he say?”
“It was goo-oood…” She answered in a sing-song way.
“Um…I don’t know about that.”
“Oh no?!”
“I’m so sorry. I don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings. I just didn’t feel like we hit it off.”
“No. I’m not offended. Not at all. I’m just surprised.”
“Really, why?”
“Well, he thought you guys really hit it off…he even mentioned that you guys kissed.”
“What?! Are you serious?” I told her what happened, and she stood there, laughing.

***

This, my friends, is what dating life is actually like. It is awkward and full of misunderstanding. It is a man who smiles too much, and a woman who tries not to be mean, but in doing so sends the wrong signals to the man who then smiles even more. Dating isn’t sexy or exciting. It’s almost masochistic. If you are reading this, and you’ve been married for a while, and you’re feeling nostalgic for seemingly exciting times of your pre-married-life. Be honest with yourself. For every cute-french-fantasy-guy (whom I didn’t even actually date, just imagined dating) there are like 155 Odriews. And for all of the single ladies who are dating and know exactly what I’m talking about, hang in there. For all of the Odriews, there is one Homey.

Click here for part 23.

Ich spreche kein Deutsch–Part 21 of the HaM Love Story

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part twenty-one 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 soon!!!!)

It was the night before I’d be boarding a plane to Frankfurt, Germany. I had never been out of the country before, so I was excited. Markus lived about an hour and a half south of Frankfurt in a town called Linkenheim, so we’d spend most of our time around there and in another town called Karlsruhe (where he went to university). I knew that his best friend would be getting married, and that we’d be able to attend all kinds of festivities involving the marriage. It was the best possible scenario for me. I’d be able to go visit another country with a person who was native to that land. Instead of feeling like a tourist, I’d be able to see an intimate side of Germany. It was the chance of a lifetime.

Even though I was so excited, I still had some reservations. I knew that Markus was in love with me, and I also knew that I wasn’t in love with him. For some reason, I had the bright idea to call up Snoop. I hadn’t spoken with him in ages. I had kind of written him off. But, I found myself bored. I was scrolling through my contacts, saw his name, and pushed send. I wanted to hang up, but I didn’t. It went to voicemail…thank goodness.

The rest of the evening, I packed–cute clothes (even though I wasn’t in love with Markus anymore didn’t mean that I wanted to dress like a slob!), camera, books, and cd’s. I packed my “Learn to Speak German the Fast and Fun Way”–I guess I thought I could learn German on the flight. Then I packed clothes and supplies for my daughters (they stayed at my Mom’s house). It didn’t take me long to pack, so I found myself antsy as my kids slept, and I waited for sleep to come to me. My flight would leave the next night.

Around ten or so, my phone rang. Who could be calling me now? I thought.
I looked at my phone, and it was Snoopy. Yikes! I had almost forgotten that I had tried calling Snoopy earlier that night. I answered.
“Hey.” I tried to act like he was calling me out of nowhere.
“How’s it going?” He asked.
“Good. You?”
“Ughhhh…I just got finished with this long study session. I have a few huge exams coming up. Plus I have to get some papers in so I can have an internship at a law office next semester.”
“So…law school is…hard…”
“Yeah. I mean, some of it is. Some of it is just tedious. I don’t know. I’m a first year, and they treat the first year law students like we’re all idiots.”
“Man, I’m sorry.”
“It’s no problem. My first year is almost over, thank goodness. It’s just so stressful.”
“Yeah. That stinks…”
“So, what’s up? I saw that you called earlier.”
“Well. Nothing much. Just getting ready for bed. I go out of town tomorrow.”
“Really? Where are you going?”
“It’s kind of funny, actually. I’m going to Germany – even though I don’t speak German, and I never imagined that I’d ever go to Germany.”
“Wow. Germany. That sounds like it will be fun.”
“Yeah. I hope so. I’m really looking forward to it, but in some ways, I’m also really worried.”
“Why?”
“To be honest, it’s because of this dude.” (ahhhh! What was I saying? Why did I call Snoop? Why was I doing this?)
“A dude?”
“Yeah. There was a guy in the singles ward that I was dating here for several months. He was from Germany and was here in PA for an internship. He went home about a month and a half ago, and…well…now I’m going to visit him in Germany.”
“That sounds pretty awesome. Are you excited?”
“In some ways yes, in some ways not really.”
“Why not?”
“Well. He’s in love with me, but I’m not sure if I’m in love with him.”
“And yet you’re traveling to the other side of the world to see him?” Snoop had a point. I knew it, too. I felt like such an idiot.
“When I first made the plane reservation, I really thought that I lo…(I didn’t want to say that I loved another man to Snoop)…I thought that maybe there was something there, but now I’m not so sure.).”
“But your’e going to Germany to be with him?”
“I guess. Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve got the plane ticket. It leaves tomorrow. There’s no turning back now.”
“Well, have fun.”
“Thanks.”

AAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH! I didn’t know why I had called Snoop. It made me feel worse, though. It made me realize that I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing Markus, but only looking forward to seeing a new place. I realized that I was a jerk for calling Snoop and telling him about this. I could have pretended like “nothing was up”; that I dialed his number by accident. Anything. But, I told him, and I can’t imagine that it had felt good for Snoop. I was getting very tired, so I put my head on my pillow and began to realize that maybe calling Snoop was my subconscious’s way of telling me that everything with Markus was over.

***
Germany was…Amazing. Instead of trying to recount every memory; everything that happened, I will share a few pictures and a few key events.

Jet-lagged

Jet-lagged and in Germany.

Jet-lagged and in Germany.

When I got to Germany, it was nice to see Markus’ familiar face. But I was sooooo jet-lagged. Markus took me to this town called Bad Hambourg – a little north of Frankfurt. It was so cute, so amazing. It was just as I imagined Europe to be. The town was bustling with people getting their coffees and, well, whatever people do in the morning. I just wanted to walk around and drink in the experience. We stopped and got some breakfast. Despite the fact I was tired, the town seemed to infuse me with energy. I was happy. And with Markus with me, I was feeling in love…with him? with life? I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t care to decipher my feelings, either.

After walking around the town, we headed down to Linkenheim. The drive took over an hour, and the humming of Markus’ fiat on the Autobahn was mesmerizing…as in sleep-inducing. He kept trying to wake me up reminding me that the only way to get over the jet lag was to stay up until it was time to go to bed. I tried my best.

When we got to Markus’ house, he set me up in a spare bedroom. He wanted to take a picture of me, insisting that I was beautiful. I was starting to get annoyed. The charm of Bad Hambourg had worn off, and I was left with jet-lag and annoyance. I hid it well, explaining that I was tired. I needed just a short nap. Markus granted me half an hour, then we explored his town.

***

Karlsruhe

A statue at the palace in Karlsruhe.

A statue at the palace in Karlsruhe.

Markus was attending a university in Karlsruhe and had a few classes while I was visiting. One of the days I stayed back in Linkenheim – I went for a run, ate flammkuchen for breakfast, then explored around the town.

Another time, I went into Karlsruhe, which is a bigger city. (Linkenheim has a population of about 11,000 people; Karlsruhe – 300,000). While Markus went to his classes, I hung around the city. It was amazing. I went to the palace and took pictures of it’s intense statues. I walked in and out of shops (not really buying anything other than more flammkuchen and/or chocolate).

The Gardens in Karlsruhe

The Gardens in Karlsruhe

I hung out in a public garden and read the Book of Mormon. It was beautiful and absolutely peaceful. Again, I was filled with this energy that I hadn’t felt very often in the U.S. I dreamed of bringing my children here, learning to speak German, and living in a small European town where I’d walk and ride my bike every day–forever.

As I sat in the garden, two people approached me, speaking in German. Despite my best effort on the plane to learn German the fast and fun way, all I really knew was “entschuldigen Sie, bitte” (excuse me); “eine Flammkuchen, bitte” (One flammkuchen, please); “Dank” (Thanks); “tschüß!” (see ya!); most importantly, as I said to this couple,
“Sorry…Ich spreche kein Deutsche.”
They handed me a Jehovah’s witness pamphlet, and I showed them my Book of Mormon.
We smiled at each other, and they left.
I stayed on the park bench, admiring the flowers, basking in the sun on a chilly spring day. And loving life, life without Markus, but in Germany. It was confusing, but I didn’t want that to impact how much I loved being in Europe.

Moses.

Moses.

***

Strasbourg and Wissembourg

During a brief rainstorm, everything was packed up and people headed for cover.

During a brief rainstorm, everything was packed up and people headed for cover.

One of the days, we decided to Strasbourg, France. I was especially excited to go because I had been taking French lessons at work. Additionally, Markus would be a great person to have in France because he served a mission there, so he could speak French fluently. It would be fun. Strasbourg is only about an hour away from Linkenheim, so we decided to make the trek. First, we went to Karslruhe to rent a car…

That’s right. I’m going to take a break to brag about how I rented a car and drove on the Autobahn in Germany. It was spectacular, amazing…wunderbar. I rented a volkswagen Touran, which isn’t the best car nor is it the worst car. the fastest I dared drive was 200 km/hr. (about 125 mph). The roads were smooth. The drivers, perfect. I mean, I realized, right away, that here in the US we’d never be able to have unlimited speeds because we are horrible drivers. In Germany, people drive. The most amazing thing of all is that while I was driving along at a cool 200 km/hr, I’d notice a porsche coming along, so I’d pull into the right lane to let the porsche overtake me. (Which you must do LONG before they get close to you, so they don’t have to slow down). There is no way that the porsche was going less than 250 km/hr. Probably faster. I want to go back to Germany…and next time rent a porsche.

When we got closer to Strasbourg, I was counting on Markus to navigate. It took about ten minutes for me to realize that we were going in circles. He had no idea where we were supposed to go.
“I thought you said you knew where we were going?” I asked.
“Well, I thought I did.”
“Why didn’t you get a map? Don’t you guys have a map?”
“I was going to, but then ended up forgetting.”
“When was the last time you were here?”
“When I was nine?”
I was incredulous. “Nine! That was like 15 years ago. How can you say that you knew where you were going?”
Markus started to apologize or explain, I don’t know which, when I cut him off, “Look. You have to stop talking because I have to pay attention to where I’m going.”
Thankfully, I knew a little bit of French (and had experience in Spanish), so I could understand a lot of the words I read on signs. I followed the instructions to get to “centre-ville” then found places with signage showing a big “P”. We arrived into Strasbourg, but the tension was still quite thick. Markus was moping.
“Are you mad at me?” I finally asked.
“Well, it seems like you are mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you.”
“It seems like you are.”
“Why? Because I was a little frustrated in the car?”
“Well, yes.”
“Look, I was getting flustered because we were lost, and I’m driving in another country. Before we left, you assured me that you knew where we were going. I even asked you if we had a map before-hand, and you acted like we didn’t need it. I figured that you had been here loads of times…”
He just looked at me. Dejected.
“And it’s okay to get lost, I’m okay with that. But then, when we’re in the car, and you said that you hadn’t been here since you were nine, that irritated me. It felt like you had lied to me earlier. Why didn’t you just say that you didn’t know where we were going? It isn’t a big deal that you don’t know. Then we could have googled instructions, or as I thought you were going to do bring a map. I’m not annoyed that we got lost. I’m annoyed that you acted like you knew where we were going/what we were doing, when clearly you didn’t.”
Still, he brooded.
“And I’m over it now. It’s not a big deal. We’re here. We’re safe. I had to stop talking in the car because I knew that since you didn’t know where we were going, I needed to pay attention. Not only did we need to get here, but we’re going to have to be able to drive out of this town, too. So, I had to pay attention to where I was going so I can remember it for later.”
He wasn’t convinced.
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. It was just a stressful situation. You know what it’s like to drive when you’re lost.”
He kept moping, so I chose to ignore it as we started walking into town.

The clock on the cathedral at Strasbourg.

The clock on the cathedral at Strasbourg.

We toured the cathedral, and I tried to take artsy pictures (which really didn’t work out well considering I had a crappy camera). Markus was still quiet, and I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Markus…what’s the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“Are you still mad about the drive in?”
He looked at me.
“Look. I apologized, and I’ll apologize again. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m not mad at you, so please don’t be mad at me. Let’s just wipe that from the slate and enjoy the day. Look at this! Look at where we are! It’s amazing here. Let’s not ruin it!” I hugged him and kissed him, and he seemed genuinely convinced, and transformed into a much better mood almost instantly.

Lamps. Can I live here?

Lamps. Can I live here?

The rest of the day was amazing. We went to a small restaurant where I had steak frites. (I forced myself to branch out…even though the flammekuchen was so tempting). We walked around town, taking pictures (lamps, doors, buildings…oh my!), shopping, and, of course, eating more (eclairs and croissants from a small patisserie? Oui! Fromage et du pain? EUH…OUI!!!).

It didn’t take long for me to be in love again. In love with Europe, avec la France, and some of that spilled over into Markus. By the end of the afternoon, he was feeling more confident, as I was becoming more affectionate and happy.
“Isn’t this the best? Isn’t hanging out in a town in France, just the best?!”
He simply hugged me.
“I want to live here. I could live here forever. The kids and I would move here, live in some small apartment above a boulangerie. Every morning, I’d walk and purchase some cheese, fruit, and bread for breakfast and take the kids to school. I’d have a poodle and a cat. Then I’d spend the day walking around, painting, reading, studying,…”
Markus continued to hug me. He whispered in my ear, “You know…life could be like this.”
“Well, life is like this – right now!”
“No…I mean, it could be like this every day.” In an ironic twist, Markus’ promises were dashing my dreams.
“How? I mean, really? I’m crazy. Sure, I could move here, but it wouldn’t really be like this every day.”
“Catania, don’t you see. If we got married, this could be the life we live every day.”
Without thinking, I responded, “No, Markus. If we got married, our lives would be a lot more like the drive into Strasbourg.”
BAM! I then dashed his dream, shredded it, into thousands of tiny specks. He was sad. “Why would you say that?”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be mean. I mean to be realistic. Today is beautiful. But it’s vacation. Life…life is beautiful, for sure, but it is full of stress. For me, there are children to support, bosses to please, bills to pay. Life is like the drive into Strasbourg. You don’t know where you’re going, and you sometimes even get a little frustrated.”
Markus looked even worse than he had that morning.
“But that’s the thing, Markus…after a horrible drive in, you finally arrive to a place like this. Life wouldn’t be beautiful if we didn’t also have ugly experiences. The thing is marriage is like the ride in it is hard, there are times of frustration and miscommunication. You get lost. And the trick is to be happy – even while you’re lost. It’s easy to be in love in Strasbourg. The real test is to be in love when you’re in a car driving around in circles.”
I was sick of this balancing act. I knew that my honesty was hurting Markus. And his reaction was difficult for me to stomach. But then, I noticed this amazing Cobalt blue door.
“I need a picture of this door.”
As I began to take the picture, Markus insisted that I stand in front of the door.
“But I just want a picture of the door.”
“Why would you want just a picture of a door?”
“Well, look at it!”
Markus looked at it, and before we got in another argument, I handed him the camera and stood in front of the door. He happily took a picture of me.
“Now, take a picture of me in front of the door.”
I obliged, and now I have a picture of Markus standing in front of un porte bleu et trés jolie.

I loved this door.

I loved this door.

***
After spending the day in Strasbourg, we headed home, but took a little detour through a small town, Wissembourg, France (population 8,000). I bought beautiful Alsace pottery, and we walked through the town while I took picture after picture.

Sometimes you find beautiful green buildings in little alley-ways.

Sometimes you find beautiful green buildings in little alley-ways.

Vive la france.

Centre-ville.

Centre-ville.

While in Wissembourg, we ate dinner–the most amazing, creamy asparagus soup ever, more fammekuchen (Tarte flambée when you’re in France), and this delectable chocolate lava cake thing. After dinner, we walked around, then headed back to Linkenheim to rest up for the upcoming wedding.

I love things like this.

I love things like this.

***

A German Wedding

One of the main events to take place while I was in Germany was the wedding of Markus’ best friend Daniel. Markus was the best man. The wedding was pretty much the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life.

The night before the wedding, we went to a large Mormon chapel in Darmstadt (I believe it was there…can’t really remember). They had hired a döner truck, so I was able to eat my second favorite German food (I had eaten a döner earlier when visiting Karlsruhe…Btw, my third favorite german food? Totally, Bratwurst with curry ketchup…which I ate for lunch a few times at a biergarten in Linkenheim…not sure why I’m able to remember what I ate with no problem whatseover. 😉 ). The German people were festive and happy. They put on skits, danced, and played live music. Though this was at a Mormon Church, no funeral potatoes were to be found–only exquisite, rich, chocolatey German desserts, and I thought I was in food-heaven.

A fairy-tale wedding.

A fairy-tale wedding.

The next day, the couple was married at a courthouse in Heidelberg, Germany. (All couples are married in a courthouse in Germany first, then they can do religious services afterward). Heidelberg is absolutely beautiful. After the marriage, the bride and groom walked out of the courthouse, where children sang and played violins, others threw flower-petals, and finally someone released a flock of white doves.

The entire time I wondered, “am I in a princess movie?”

I can’t explain how amazing this wedding was. After the ceremony, we went to Heidelberg Castle where we ate, danced, and celebrated the marriage. Yes…Heidelberg Castle – on the top of a mountain overlooking the Rhine river and the rest of the town. Castles, doves, children playing violins…even though I didn’t understand a lick of German, I knew that this was the most beautiful event I’d ever attend in my life, and I loved every single second of it. By then, I was used to not being able to understand the language. I was also amazed at how much I could understand through body language, etc. I was finally starting to get used to the rhythm of the German language, even though I didn’t know what much of it meant.

For the most part, Markus didn’t translate. I just sat there, feeling dumb. And every once in a while, he’d take the time to tell me what was going on. Of course, it seemed like he only told me what people were saying when it was something that I could understand. I was starting to get a little frustrated. I felt like a trophy on his arm. A mute woman. I was feeling belittled and powerless. I felt like Markus’ American Girlfriend, like he had the power to be able to translate for me at his will, I felt like a stupid pet.

I hated it.

As the day progressed, I found reasons to stand on my own.
“Go…be with your friends. I’m happy to sit here right now and watch what is going on.” I honestly said this, too. I’d rather watch what was going on than made to feel like an imbecile.

I wouldn't mind driving this.

I wouldn’t mind driving this.

After the reception, we drove up to Frankfurt. I had rented a car and was able to drive on the Autobahn again. This car, however, was no porsche. 😦 Two of Markus’ friends rode with us. They spoke perfect English (one of them had served a mission in the U.S.) It was refreshing to be able to hear and speak my own language. I noticed how often Markus tried to speak for me–well, everyone noticed.
“Markus, I think that Catania can answer for herself, can she not?”
“I can.” I said, resolutely.
It wasn’t a big deal, so I laughed and made jokes with Markus’ friends while we drove up to the Temple.

***
The temple marriage was beautiful.

***
After the temple, a small group of us–only the closest friends to the bride and groom–went out to eat at a favorite Pizza place. It ended up being the highlight of my trip.

Of course, I sat there, unable to really understand what was going on. I didn’t mind either, I didn’t expect people to speak English to me. This was Daniel and Jana’s wedding day, I wasn’t going to be pouty or annoying about the fact that I didn’t understand German. So I sat there, listening and enjoying the experience.

At one point, one of Markus’ friends started singing a song…in English. I could understand! It was refreshing to hear my tongue! After a second, though, I was confused again. Even though they were singing a song in English, I had never heard of it.
“What song are you singing?”
“Looking for Freedom.”
“Oohhh….”I was stumped. “Who sings it?”
“David Hasselhoff.”
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. “Are you serious?”
“Yes.”
“So…It’s true! Germans truly do love David Hasselhoff!” I was amazed.
“Haven’t you heard the song?”
“No. Never heard it.”
“But David Hasselhoff is American.”
“Yeah, I know, but he hasn’t released any albums there…most Americans think of him…kind of as a joke.”
“But he was on Baywatch.”
“Yeah…I know…we make fun of that, too.”
“So, Americans don’t really like David Hasselhoff?”
“I wouldn’t say that we don’t like him, but we kind of make fun of him. We like him in an ironic way.”
“Oh.”
“I’m just amazed that Germans do like him so much! Why?”
Everyone was silent for a few seconds. One of Markus’ friends offered, “Well, he has really great chest hair.”

Everyone laughed…the Germans in agreement–not much to argue with. Me because, well, c’mon. You’re laughing, too. And we left it at that. The Germans, David Hasselhoff, and Chest Hair was a cultural disparity that simply wouldn’t be solved…ever.

***
On the way home from the wedding, Markus and I got into a huge argument. He was disappointed with me (can’t remember why), and I told him how I hated the way I felt when I was with him and his German friends. It was not pretty, and I won’t recount the argument. The point is: it was over. We both knew it.

***
The next day, Markus dutifully took me to the airport. He was still sad from the argument the night before. I kissed his cheek, then turned to leave-without looking back.

***

Markus was a good guy, a great guy. So much of me wanted more, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was confident about this choice. I knew it meant that I was back to being single–possibly forever, but I was okay with it. I was okay with being independent. I was happy. I had great experiences in Germany: I had driven on the Autobahn, gotten lost in france, ate loads of food, and (most importantly) I knew why Germans loved David Hasselhoff.

It was time to go home.

Click here for part 22.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes – Part 20 of the HaM Love Story

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part twenty 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 soon!!!!)

The sharp end came more dramatically than I had anticipated. I was so used to Markus. I was accustomed to meeting him for lunch. I had grown used to the idea him coming back home with me after work, eating dinner with the kids, reading scriptures and stories, and putting them down to bed. I had become familiar with spending evenings together–going out, watching movies, or just sitting around at my house. While it wasn’t really super exciting, it was so nice.

But he was headed back to Germany. He wanted a commitment, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted.
“Let’s just wait and see, okay?”
“Wait for what?” He asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“I would just like to know what we’ll do when I leave.”
I understood why he asked that.
“Markus. What did you want, when you came here to the U.S. for your internship?…Were you expecting something…like this?”
He thought for a second. “I wanted to come out here and have an experience that would be good for my resumé.” He answered, practically. But, then continued, “And in the back of my mind, I was hoping for something more than a good experience working.”
“Like what?” I fished.
“Well. I was hoping that I’d get the chance to see a lot of places and that I’d spend a lot of time meeting new people…especially girls.”
“Sounds like you were successful.”
“And I also hoped that I’d…fall in love.”
“You’ve had a really good trip, no?”
“It’s been better than I could have dreamed.” He stated, as he held me in his arms in my living room. We were watching a movie (most likely About a Boy, my favorite at the time). I was in one of the in love moments. I didn’t want it to end.
Markus continued, “I wish you could come back with me to Germany.”
“I do, too.” I said, genuinely.
“You should come.”
“Well, I can’t now.”
“No…I know that you can’t come with me next week…” Markus sat erect as he spoke excitedly. “I know you can’t come to live. But you should come to Germany. You should visit me there after I get back.”
I caught what he was saying, and I began to fill with the same hopeful excitement. “Yes!”
As we both settled into this idea, he wrapped his arms around me once again. Though both of us were a little afraid of our future, we were able to enjoy the moment, and look forward to another one when I went to visit him.

Before Markus left, I changed my cell phone plan to include international service. We went out. We cried. We dreamed. We went out to eat and both got food poisoning (our nausea). I took Markus to the Airport, sniffed his cologne one last time, and he left.

***

At first, there was this missing piece in my life. Even though it wasn’t quite (yet) a break-up, it was hard. I didn’t have my lunch date. Tiger and Panda asked where “Marky Sharky” was. I wrote to Markus, emailed him, Skyped him. During my lunch break, even though I couldn’t see him in person, we’d have a chat online or on the phone.

And as time passed, I grew used to his absence. By then I had other good friends, and I was hanging out with them more. I was having fun. I was claiming my independence. This growth caused me to question my relationship with Markus. As my head came out of the clouds, and I began to see more clearly, I wondered how long we’d keep this up; if we’d actually be able to cut it as a married couple.

I began to grow weary of Markus’ fantasies for our lives and his profuse reminders of his love for me.
“Ich liebe dich,” he’d text…nearly hourly.
I got videos of him almost every day. He’d croon into the camera, professing his devotion to me. And while a part of me knew it was sweet, another part of me was getting sick and tired of it. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t finding it appealing anymore.

Yet the idea of hope–hope for a future with another man, an exciting man, still had its grasp on me.

***
About two weeks after Markus left, I got my tax return. It was a big one. The year before, I hadn’t taken ANY deductions! And I was the sole-bread-winner with two children and child-care expenses. When I filed my taxes, I realized I had overpayed, and would be receiving a check in the mail that would be over eight grand. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

With the cash, I did three things.
One
Put a down payment on a rental house. I needed to move out of my mom’s place!

Before I go on about the love story, can I just say a little bit about this house? (Thank you!)

It was perfect. This little house was on a small partially paved (partially dirt) road in Chester County, PA. In my mind, Chester County, PA is the most ideal place to live…period. (I know I don’t live there now, but I would love to again. It is absolutely perfect).

Our Little House in PA

Our Little House in PA


This was a tiny one-ish bedroom house. I believe that it was once a spring-house for a farm or something because it was old. There were a lot of holes that allowed wildlife to come in as it pleased. (One day, I found a large pile of nuts next to the water heater–I mean – there were at least 60 nuts in this pile. Squirrelly never found his nuts because I called the maintenance men right away.)

During the winter, our house was cold, and during the summer it was hot (no air conditioner). We lived next to farms, and at night could hear horses neighing and goats bleating.

In summer, there were more fireflies than you could possibly imagine. I want to cry thinking about it.

The field in front of my house was used to grow pumpkins, so in fall, our yard was speckled with pumpkins. It was beautiful four out of four seasons.

This house was modest, and most people would hate living in it. (Cold, spiders, squirrels, crappy appliances, no dishwasher). But I loved it. This house belonged to me and my girls. Life was hard, but it was also amazing.

So, with some of the tax refund money, I put money down to rent this house. I would be living about four miles away from my mom. Tiger would be able to go to the same school that my mom’s house was districted to go to (important when it comes to riding the bus to school while I was at work). It was in the country. And being a lone, single woman, I felt completely safe.

Two
Before I could second-guess myself, I went online to Lufthansa’s website, and I purchased a ticket to Frankfurt, Germany. I would stay for about 11 days. The ticket was non-refundable, so I didn’t have the luxury to change my mind… 🙂

Three
I went shopping…naturally.

(Four I saved the rest of the money. I didn’t burn through it. I knew that I’d need it!!! So…be smart, ladies!)

***
About three weeks before I was supposed to go to Germany, I went out to a singles function with my friend, Wintur. I can’t remember the purpose of the function–other than I was interested in meeting new guys.

As we rode into Philly together, we talked about dudes, dating, and the like. She asked me about Markus.
“Well, I guess he’s still in the picture, but I’m not sure where everything is heading.”
“Oh…hmmm…I thought you were going to Germany?” I could sense her confusion, and was beginning to have an epiphany myself.
“Yeah. I know…I probably sound like a jerk right now. I’m talking about how excited I am to go to this activity–hoping to meet some new guys. I got all dressed up. And I’m sitting here still in some kind of relationship with Markus, even though I don’t know what it is.”
“How do you feel about him?”
“Well, he is a great guy. Great guy. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think that he’s for me.”
“Really? You guys seemed to have such a great relationship.”
“Yeah. It was great. There is nothing wrong with him. I think that I’m just learning more about myself. I hate to say it, but I think that he was a rebound relationship.”
“Totally. I get you. I mean, he is the first person you dated after Rusty, right?”
“Exactly. And he was the antithesis of Rusty, so it has been exciting. But I’m beginning to realize that perhaps the antithesis of Rusty isn’t exactly what I should be looking for. Instead, I should just look for the right person based on my needs, desires, etc. Rather than looking for someone who is the opposite of another ex…I’m not sure if I’m even making sense right now.”
“I think that I understand you. You need to find a person that you are interested because he interests you, not based on an ex or something along those lines.”
“Exactly. And Markus has served as a good person to date. He helped to restore my confidence. He is a good man. I want the person I eventually marry to be a lot like Markus, but not Markus.”

I hadn’t really said this out loud to anyone or admitted it fully to myself. But with Wintur that night, it just came out. In some ways, it was exhillerating. Yet, it was also horrible. I was supposed to go to Germany in just a few weeks! How could I face Markus knowing that it would go nowhere?

Not only that, but once I admitted my feelings to Wintur, it was like opening Pandora’s box. All of the sudden, the things that had irritated me about Markus and our relationship started spilling out, and I unloaded on Wintur.

The thing is, I am pretty sure that Markus was noticing that the emotional distance was beginning to grow. As time progressed, he became needier, more jealous, more possessive. It was turning me off. As I rode with Wintur to the Singles’ Conference, I realized that I was no longer in love with Markus.
“Catania, I know it will be hard, but you need to tell him.”
She was right.

*
The next morning, instead of going to the Singles’ conference, I chose to attend the temple with my ward’s Relief Society. It was a hard decision to make. I had met a few people at the conference that I had found interesting, and I really wanted to participate in the rest of the activity. But I felt the strong prompting that I should attend the temple instead. So I did.

I’m glad I did. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the temple. I learned more during this one session than I had ever learned. It seemed like years of going to the temple had culminated in this one time attending. I also prayed to know more about the course that my relationship with Markus should take. The feeling I had:
You know where it is headed, and don’t force the relationship to change. Just keep learning as you go along, but be honest.
But then I worried: what about Germany?!
The trip is already planned. Markus is your friend. Go. Have a good time. Give it a chance. But just be natural and honest.
Then I wondered, does this mean that we are meant to be together? Does it mean we’ll get married? Does it mean I’ll move to Europe?
Don’t worry about any of that! Learn as you go. But be natural. Be honest.

Markus knew that I went to the temple that day. He asked me how it went. I told him that it was the best experience I’ve ever had in the temple. He assumed it was because I had received an affirmative answer…and that we’d be getting married.

But I gently and honestly explained that I still didn’t know.
“Ask again!” He commanded, implored.
“I can’t. I just have to wait.”
“Well…you can keep asking as you wait.”
“But the answer is the same, Markus. I’m told to wait. To see. To be natural. To be honest.”
“Okay.” I knew he was confused.
“Look. I’m just as confused as you are. If I knew the answer, I’d tell you. But let’s look on the bright side, soon we’ll be together again. I’ll be in Germany. I’ll be able to meet your friends and see your home. I’ll hear your language. Maybe one day I’ll speak it. For now, we can look forward to my visit. I have a strong feeling that both of us will know our future after this trip.”
Markus seemed satisfied. “Ich liebe dich.” He said, meekly.
And I hesitated.
“Hello?” He asked.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes…I’m sorry, Markus. I don’t know what’s happening, but I can’t say it right now.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t, either. There is so much about you that I love, but I think that I have to stop saying that. I don’t want to be dishonest with you. And part of me feels in love with you. Another part of me just…isn’t sure.”
“Okay.”
“I’m so sorry. Let’s stop talking about this. Let’s just look forward. What will we do when I’m in Germany?”
“It is hard for me to think about this now.”
“I know…I know…but…really. I promise. I’ll be able to know better then. Let’s just stop talking about the future and see what’s happening in the present.”

Markus wasn’t happy (for the moment), but he agreed to back off with the “serious stuff”, and we proceeded with our relationship. I wrote him more letters, made him a painting, sent him packages, and counted down to my trip to Germany.

Click here for part 21.

I love him; I love him, not – Part 19 of the HaM Love Story

Homey and Me

Homey and Me

This is part nineteen 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.

After New Years, the date of Markus’s return to Germany loomed. In some ways, I think that neither of us wanted to admit it. I wanted to keep on dating, having fun, and being doted upon. Markus wanted me to pray to get more definitive answers about our relationship.

I wasn’t sure what to do. The more I thought about “us” the more confused I got, which I took as a bit of an answer.

But let me backtrack for a second.

Around Christmas-time, Markus went to visit his brother in California. I was sad to see him go, but I also found out that my old childhood friends were going to be in town–visiting from Massachusetts and New York. They were twins and my neighbors growing up. We hung out a lot as teens, and had kept in touch (somewhat) over the years. It would be great to see them.

Markus knew I’d be visiting them, and I realized that he was feeling a little bit jealous.
“They are just my friends.” I explained.
“I know.”
“Look, you have girl-friends that you talk to all the time, and I don’t care.”
“Yes. I understand, but I just don’t know them.”
“Please. Don’t worry about anything. These guys are like brothers to me.”
“Okay.”

He said okay, but he didn’t really mean it. He wanted to know every detail before hand. (“We’re going to a have brunch at a diner…at 10 AM“), and then, while I was hanging out, he was texting me again and again.
“Who keeps texting you?” Colin asked.
“Oh. This guy. My boyfriend.” As I said it, I noticed that I began to recoil at the word. Not a good sign. I have always hated the boyfriend/girlfriend monikers.
“Oh.”
“He’s in California.”
“Wow…isn’t early for him right now?”
The phone kept buzzing me. I ignored a few texts, and next thing you know, he’s calling.
I didn’t answer the phone.
“Is he okay?” Doug questioned.
“Yeah. I think that he is kind of jealous of the idea of me going out with you two.” They started laughing. I could tell what they were thinking, too… – that I was being treated like a possession. This guy was being a turd… I felt judged, But at the same time, I agreed with them. This was stupid. What was his problem? I turned my phone off. It was too distracting. I’d call him later.

Markus wasn’t always “checking up on me.” Of course, most of the time, we were together, so he didn’t have to. But I was really annoyed. I had looked forward to going out to breakfast with Colin and Doug, and felt that the entire experience had been tainted by what amounted to a jealous and untrusting boyfriend.

Lame.

While I missed Markus a little bit, for the most part I was happy enough without him. My brother came to town. We went to the movies, ate eleventy-billion Wawa hoagies, had all-night Monopoly competitions, and played at the batting cages. My daughters can’t get enough of their uncle, and I love hanging out with my siblings in a relaxed setting–laughing and having fun. Markus would try to call or text, but I’d explain, “I’m hanging out with my brothers.”

Between seeing Colin and Doug, and then my little brothers, I was feeling more and more like me. The me that I had always been, but had been systematically destroyed by Rusty. The me that I needed to re-find, but took a little bit of time because I was busy mending and trying to secure my footing as a newly divorced mom.

And the thing is, Markus was a big part of my “rediscovery.” I felt grateful to him.

After Markus made it back to PA, we tried to pick up where we left off. As I mentioned earlier, he went with my to my dad’s house. I picked him up, and we headed to Boston. On the drive up, he presented me with a gift. I opened up my package, and it was a tee-shirt from Hollister.
I was surprised, and I stifled a little chuckle.
I had never stepped foot into a Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, or the like, and was proud of that fact! I mean, I was a 27 year old woman, not a teeny-bopper. But Markus adored these all-american clothing stores.
“Thanks for the shirt.” I said.
“Put it on.” Markus remarked. I think he could sense my lack of delight.
“Um…Well I’m driving.” Which was true. The New Jersey Turnpike isn’t exactly the best place for a wardrobe change. Markus looked dejected, and I felt sad, so I quickly added, “I will when we stop to get gas.”
I could believe that I had agreed. First Markus couldn’t let me go to brunch with old friends. Now, he wanted to dress me! I quietly drove, listening to music, my music. (I had secretly formed strong opinions against Markus’ taste in music).

Eventually, the tension was cut down when I arrived at the gas station, and put the tee-shirt on. I will admit that it fit nicely, and Markus seemed very happy.
“Wow! You look…Wow.” Markus remarked.
“Thanks.” I said, shyly.
Markus made a whistle noise.
I said, “Thanks…I really like the shirt.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. I do.” I could sense that Markus was feeling a little…mopey. “Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Yeah.”
“Markus…seriously. Is everything okay? You seem so quiet.”
“Well. I just didn’t know what you thought about the shirt. It seemed like you didn’t like it that much when you opened it up.” I could see that I hadn’t hidden my thoughts as well as I had hoped. But still, I protested.
“Why?”
“Well, you weren’t excited to put it on.”
“I know. But I was driving. I can’t change while I’m driving.”
“Yes. I know. But maybe if you were excited you would have pulled over to a rest station, at least.” I felt bad. I didn’t want to hurt Markus’ feelings. But I was also feeling a little annoyed. I didn’t understand his expectation. Ultimately, I realized that this was only the beginning of our trip, and it would be a long one if he was mad. While I could sense that some things were changing about my feelings for Markus, I also knew that I deeply cared for him, and didn’t want to hurt him.
“I’m sorry, Markus. I love the shirt. I have never had a shirt from Hollister before. And I really like the way it fits. I didn’t realize that it was important to you that I put it on right away. If I had, then I would have done it. But don’t worry. I love the shirt, and I love you.” He was pleased and peaceful.

The rest of the weekend in Boston was like a dream.

***
The thing with dreams…you wake up.

Markus and I knew that we were on a deadline. Markus became more serious about me and our relationship, and I kept telling him that I’d have things figured out by the time he had to go back to Germany. We both agreed that no decisions needed to be made. I wouldn’t be able to return with him to Germany anyways. With two kids, there would be a lot that had to be done before we made any big decisions.

For the next two months, things kept going like they did in Boston. My life felt like the pendulum of a grandfather clock swinging back and forth. I would get snatches of an “old, original me,” and I could see how the real Catania wasn’t not quite suited for a guy like Markus. Yet, I loved being with him. He made me feel secure. He was such a good guy.

One night, we went to a basketball game with a bunch of his German friends from work. I loved being around the German people! They were interesting, different, they spoke another language. I was fascinated by their idiosyncrasies. We joked around and had a great time. On the way into the game, Markus took me aside and admitted to me how happy he was that he could bring me along with his German friends.
“Thanks. I love it!” I responded, genuinely.
“I mean, so many of the other girls in the singles ward are nice, but they don’t really understand my culture.”
“Well, I have to admit, I don’t understand it, either. I wish I knew how to speak German.”
“That’s the thing, though. You want to understand.”
“Of course I do! One thing I can’t stand is that I can’t speak your native language. It always makes me feel distanced from you.”
“You don’t need to feel that way. Besides, you can learn to speak German.”
“I know. Thanks.”
“That’s the thing, Catania. I’ve always wanted to marry an American. But sometimes I’m…apprehensive…about it.”
“Why?”
“Well, my brother, as you know, married an American. But she doesn’t really accept anything about his German heritage. He never speaks in German. They have been married for ten years, but she still doesn’t know any German either. She says she will never leave California, and he hasn’t even taught his children to speak German.”
“I think that’s crazy. You know that, right. That is stupid. I can’t imagine it. If we were to get married, then I’d learn how to speak German.”
Markus was delighted. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so accepting of his heritage or if it was because I said If we were to get married. (Fairly sure it was about 20% the former and 80% latter…or maybe it was more like 10% and 90%)…
When I said it, I couldn’t believe I was saying it, but I was open to the idea. And as the night wore on, I became more enchanted by the possibility of marrying Markus.

One more thing about the basketball game…

During half-time, the dancers came out to do their thing. They were cute, and men cheered. I noticed that Markus was looking down.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Fine.”
“Are you looking for something?”
“No.”
“Okay…I just hope that everything is alright…you’d tell me if something is wrong, right?” I wasn’t convinced.
He looked at me, and then explained, “Just tell me when the dancers are done.”
“Okay,” I said, confused.
“What’s going on? Why are you so worried about the dancers? Is that why you won’t look up?”
“It’s just that…they’re very…un-modest. And…well, when I went on my mission, I got in the habit of looking down at my shoes in situations like this. If you want to serve a good mission, especially in Southern France, you spend a lot of time looking at your shoes,” he said, with a laugh.
“Yeah…I see.” And I did. I was amazed. I remembered Rusty. He would stare at every woman – from waitresses to cheerleaders to some of the young women at church – and I could tell that he was mentally undressing them. I was so used to it, so conditioned, I had never made the realization that a good guy does not do that.

***A quick break…Do you hear me, women! A good guy, a guy who respects you, respects himself, respects his priesthood, and respects all daughters of God doesn’t mentally undress women–even if they are nearly undressed themselves; even if they don’t understand their value and worth.***

I never understood this fact before. I had never noticed that some men don’t ogle the women in every beer commercial, in the mall when you pass Victoria’s Secret. I didn’t realize that there was enough maturation and self-control in some men to look down at their shoes.

I realized that I wanted to marry a man like Markus. Even if we didn’t really have certain things in common — matters of taste, mostly. I knew that I wanted to marry a man who really honored the covenants he had made with God. I knew that he would be a good husband, a good father. I dreamed of this life that seemed possible. I’d move to Germany and live in Europe, with a man who was obsessed with me. What could be better than that???

***
While I knew that a part of me wanted to marry Markus, there was another side of me that I couldn’t convince.

1)
Markus’ ringtone for his phone often alternated between “I am Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, “Careless Whispers” by Wham, and “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. Originally, I thought it was hilarious…then I realized that he was, in no way, being ironic.

But that seemed stupid. Who cares what kind of music he likes? I mean, he’s a good guy. I’d have a good life with him!

2)
One night, we went to a singles dance, and it was beat. Markus loved dancing, and I thought it was fine, but there was a group of people who had decided to leave the lame dance and go watch an SNL special. Obviously, I opted for SNL.
“You don’t want to keep dancing?”
“Not particularly. I’m tired. And the music is horrible.” (Plus, dancing with Markus was a little rough at times, he was really precise, but not quite passionate…sometimes I didn’t mind, but when the option between dancing and SNL special with a bunch of other people came up, I thought it would be nice to watch something funny).
When we got to the apartment, we all realized that the SNL special would be on Sunday, not Saturday, so one girl turned on Arrested Development. I had never seen the show. This was back when it was still airing on TV, and she had the first two seasons on DVD. Seriously, the night changed my life. I still remember watching Tobias Funke, “Well…you look like a Pirate! I should say so…Look at the blouse, sir.” And I realized that Lindsay had already mentioned she had a blouse just like it, and I knew that it had to be her blouse, and later it was her blouse, and I realized that this was the most genius thing I’d ever seen, better than every SNL episode put together. Better than Seinfeld, or any other comedy. Arrested Development was it.
We watched four episodes, and Markus was sleeping. Finally he asked to go home.
“I need to buy this TV show.”
“You liked that?” he asked.
“I need it.” I continued.
“It was so stupid.”
I went out and bought the first two seasons of Arrested Development. I was dismayed to find that the second to last ever episode would be airing later on that month. But at least I had the DVD’s. At least I had been shown the light.
I tried to get Markus to watch it, but he kept insisting that we watch Notting Hill (which is a movie that I basically detest, with the exception of Hugh Grant’s flat-mate).

But this was stupid. I thought that his opinion of Arrested Development shouldn’t matter. I knew that was only a matter of taste. And we had so many other things in common. And most of all, I knew that if we were to get married, he’d be able to take care of my needs. He’d love me. I’d love him. And we’d be able to be happy…but I couldn’t get these little differences out of my head.

3)
After the success of the Hollister shirt (in Boston), Markus kept insisting that we go shopping together.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I like shopping for myself (when I have money to spend). I don’t mind shopping with my sister or another girl. Honestly, though, the idea of shopping with Markus seemed foreign to me. But I was open since he wanted to go so badly. We went to King of Prussia mall. I preferred department stores (sales!) and H&M. I didn’t mind checking the standard stores like Banana Republic, Gap, and Express. It was even fun to peek into a Forever 21 to see what kind of crazy trendy thing I could buy for CHEAP. However, I wasn’t sold at all on Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister. I guess they were okay, but it wasn’t my thing.

Markus was obsessed with these “all-American” stores.
“It’s basically American Eagle, but more expensive.” I said.
“They are so cool. You just have to go with me.”
“But, those stores feel so…high school…to me.”
“Just give it a try.”
As Markus was trying to convince me to go to Abercrombie, we ran into one of Markus’s friends from work–Johannes. Johannes was classically German. Black turtleneck. Black pants. Euro-loooking black rimmed glasses. He looked like Dieter from Sprockets (SNL skit starring Mike Myers). Markus had recently convinced Johannes to go to Abercrombie, where Johannes had bought some kind of shirt. Johannes was carrying an Abercrombie bag when we ran into him.
“Doing some shopping?” Markus asked, while pointing at the bag with a grin.
“Actually, no. I’m making a return.”
“What?”
“The shirt I bought last week is defective.”
“That’s too bad. We’ll go with you.” Markus offered.

So we schlepped over to Abercrombie where Johannes explained to the clerk that his shirt was defective. She pointed him to the rack where similar shirts were hanging. We went with him to look for a replacement.
“Look at this!” Johannes exclaimed. “Another defective shirt.”
“What?” Markus asked.
“Show me.” I chimed in. And Johannes showed us that the shirt was worn, even threadbare, in places. He was about to take the second defective shirt to the sales clerk, when I looked at the others.
“Wait, Johannes…that’s how they are.”
“What?”
“Look.” and I showed him the shirts.
“They’re all defective?” he asked, incredulous.
“Well no. They’re fine. That’s the way they’re supposed to be. Look.” I pointed to a hat that was frayed, some jeans that had holes.
“Who would pay this much for a defective shirt?” Johannes asked, and went to get his money back.

Markus laughed at the seemingly naive opinion of Johannes. I laughed in agreement with Johannes, but tried to pass it off as if I agreed with Markus by nodding my head. While Johannes explained to the clerk that he needed his money back, Markus led me to the women’s clothes, and insisted on buying another shirt for me. I hesitated at first, “No, Markus, you don’t have to.”
He insisted. And I let him buy the shirt, and I realized, I really didn’t like this. I didn’t like the store, and I didn’t like having some dude dress me.

And yet, what’s the big deal, right? So he likes Abercrombie? So he can’t laugh at the same things I do? So he has crappy taste in music. He still is a good guy. We had common goals–having a strong family, living a gospel-centered life, serving missions, etc. We had so much of the important stuff in common. I knew that if I wanted to, I could be happy with a guy like this. It would be better than what I had experienced before.

***

My mind swirled back and forth. I prayed to know if I should marry him (the answer was always, no…not yet). I prayed if I should keep dating him (the answer was yes, this is good for you). Then I’d pray again, “If it’s good for me to date him, then why not marry him?”
The answer would be, “don’t worry. Don’t rush it. You’ll figure things out soon enough.”

I was reluctant to let this chance–what I feared might by my only chance–slip away. I prayed that one day it would be right for me to marry Markus. I reasoned with God, “he’ll make a great husband,”
But the answer that came back was, “Yes. He will make a great husband. But wait. Just date him. Keep enjoying this time. Learn.

So, I tried my best to enjoy a time that I knew would be coming to a sharp end…In only a couple of weeks Markus would be going back to Germany. Then what would I do?

Click here for part 20.

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