The Psalm of Nephi (Part 6/6) – Nephi Petitions the Lord – 2 Nephi 4:31-35

You can read 2 Nephi 4:26-30 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • 2 Nephi 4:15-35 comprises what is commonly referred to as The Psalm of Nephi.
  • Nephi feels sorrow because he has allowed sin into his heart.
  • Nephi remembers and praises the Lord.
  • Nephi forsakes his sin.
  • Nephi resolves to do better.
  • Nephi petitions the Lord.

Nephi Petitions the Lord

This is the sixth and final part of the study of the Psalm of Nephi. You can read:

Before we start this post—a quick recap. First, Nephi grieved as he recognized his sin and the subsequent loss of the Spirit. Nephi’s sorrowing was poignant and genuine, but he didn’t allow himself to wallow in it. Instead, he stated: Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. After making this mental shift – he began to rejoice in the Lord. His rejoicing led him to ask him a few questions that help to buoy him up and motivate him back to righteousness. These questions then cause Nephi to increase his resolve and dedication to righteousness.

Finally, today, we will study Nephi’s petitions and promises to the Lord.

Nephi’s requests

We read:

“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?”

May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. – 2 Nephi 4:31-33

So, here is a quick list of Nephi’s requests:

  • Wilt thou redeem my soul? – Nephi seeks repentance for his sins. I don’t think this is only some far of request. I kind of think he wants to be forgiven as he asks so that he can again have the companionship of the Lord’s Spirit.
  • Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? – Who are Nephi’s enemies – Satan, and in this instance, I think his brothers. It is kind of sad, but at the same time it’s just the truth. Nephi’s enemies (brothers!) have sought his life over and over again.
  • Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? – This is another “enemy” that Nephi wants to overcome—his natural reaction to sin. He wants to quash the natural man and become a saint by yielding to the Spirit, so he asks God for help.
  • May the gates of hell be shut continually before me – now Nephi doesn’t expect this to just “happen.” He understands that he needs a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
  • Wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me – Nephi desires to tread on the Lord’s path. He has sought throughout his life to do as the Lord instructs. He wants to continue in this manner.
  • Wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness – Again, Nephi is pleading for added strength from the Lord.
  • Wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! – More pleading for support.
  • Wilt thou make my path straight before me! – Sometimes the path is hard to find and hard to navigate. Nephi asks for aid. He wants to walk the Lord’s path.
  • Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way, but clear my way before me – Nephi pleads for assistance.

These are interesting questions. It might be nice to ponder each of them individually one day, but I don’t really have the time to do that right now. However, this part is really standing out to me:

“…Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.” – 2 Nephi 4:33

I am really feeling this question right now. Sometimes the faithful path seems so difficult – that it is littered with stumbling blocks and obstacles. I understand that these obstacles are part of the path, but it can be hard! I know that these obstacles need to be overcome, but sometimes they hurt us.

I remember going on a hike a few years ago in the woods in Massachusetts. I had lived in Utah prior to living in Massachusetts. Hiking in Utah – at a high altitude and with a lot of elevation gain in hikes – was much harder. Yet one day, on a leisurely hike in Massachusetts, I stumbled on a rock and sprained my ankle.

This rock was in my path. I needed to walk over it, yet it was my downfall.

I understand Nephi’s prayer – that the stumbling blocks be cleared from our path so that our ways are not hedged up.

This concept is really hitting close to home right now. I’ve shared in blog posts before that I’ve been having some troubles with my heart – or at least I think it is my heart.

I’ve had a lot of things that are like stumbling blocks that seem to be “hedging up my path.” And it is a temptation for me to let these things fracture my faith. There are times when I have prayed that this path would simply be easier, rather than littered with “ankle biter” stones.

But the path remains rocky, and I’m reminded of the quote by Marcus Aurelius:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

There are times when are path is going to be rocky. That’s just the way that life is. We can pray that the Lord will clear our paths, but it’s important to understand that the Lord’s “clearing of our paths” rarely means that He will miraculously move these stones and make our walk easier.

Sometimes it means that we will find a path around the obstacle.

Sometimes it means that the Lord will teach us how to remove the obstacle ourselves.

And other times, the “clearing of our path” is a new set of eyes – so we can see that the obstacles that hinder our paths are not stumbling blocks, but stepping stones.

And though we may stumble along our path, we can rest assured, just as Nephi did. He closes his psalm/prayer with the most powerful testimony:

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” – 2 Nephi 4:34-35

sunny phoenix february day

As we walk in our paths of life, we can follow Nephi’s example. We can ask God for help and be open to the answers that He gives. When we ask in faith (and not amiss), He will hear our humble and heartfelt petitions. He will help to clear our paths, or to give us the strength and wisdom to negotiate them.

We can take courage as we remember the God in whom we have trusted. God is our Father. He loves us. He delights in blessings us with his greatest blessings. His glory and His purpose is our eternal life and salvation; His joy is our success. We have no need to fear the trials and difficulties of our lives. As long as we always remember Him and trust in Him, He will be our guide, our rock, our path, and our salvation.

Joy is…5/52

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven’t listed 2-4. I have kept them up in my book, but I have been a bit delinquent when it comes to blogging… 😦

So, I’m just going to do my best, and write about a moment this week when I felt a lot of joy…

Temple at Night
Temple at Night

This week Homen and I went to the temple, and I felt a lot of joy.

I was reminded of a few things:
1) I was reminded of my value as a mother. I have consistently been reminded of my worth and value as a mother when I attend the temple. Again, last Thursday night, as I attended the temple, I was reminded of this truth.

I feel like there are forces that try to downplay the value and influence of women. I find this frustrating. I also think that there are people who try to claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) doesn’t value women. However, this has not been my experience. In the temple I was reminded that the influence of a woman is incredibly important. If it wasn’t for Eve, we wouldn’t be experiencing mortality. Adam and Eve would still be in the garden, alone, tending to it. Bliss, I suppose, but not joy.

Women, mothers, have a profound influence on the lives of their husbands and children. This isn’t some kind of subordinate role. It is incredibly important. What I’m doing is incredibly important! I know this, and I know that I have both responsibility and blessings to be able to do all that the Lord expects of me.

2) I was comforted regarding some of the goals I have in my life. There are things that I really want to do in my life. Some of the the things I’d like to do and be have to do with my spiritual and religious identity. Some of them may seem less religious. They may seem more “selfish.” I was reminded, in the temple, that these desires are not selfish, but that the Lord has blessed me with talents because He expects me to do something with them!

It was a nice reminder.

3) I felt peace about the course that Homey and I are taking in our lives. Homey and I are trying some new things – new “scary” things. I started homeschooling the kids. He’s working on creating his own business. This has been an exciting time, but it is also intense. It requires a lot from each of us, and it requires a lot of guidance from God.

It is great to go to the temple, and to be reassured about the decisions we have made – especially when they are so unconventional and difficult!

***
The temple brings me joy. I can’t say that I have had many “singular” experiences in the temple. I haven’t seen visions or any kind of spectacular spiritual experience. Instead, my temple experiences have been cumulative. Every time I go, I learn – degree by degree.

Elder Bednar compares this kind of spiritual process with night turning into day. The dawn doesn’t come in one major event. Instead, the sky lightens degree by degree, until finally the entire sky is illuminated.

This has been my temple experience. I learn a little at a time. It isn’t dramatic, but as I think of how my life has changed over time, I can see that each little ray of light that I collect from each temple visit adds up to an illuminated life.

***
So – this has been a joyful experience for me this week. How about you? How have you felt joy?

Family History: Three Easy Steps

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

Phoenix Arizona Temple
Phoenix Arizona Temple

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

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

One – Start!

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

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

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

Two – Do It Again and Follow Your Intuition

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

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

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

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

Three – Honor Your Intuition and Search!

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

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

One of the pictures I added was this one:

My Grandpa and His Cousin
My Grandpa and His Cousin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family History, I Am Doing It (Again)

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

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

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

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

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

This promise is all centered in the temple.

Mesa Temple at Night
Mesa Temple at Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

(super gross…I know).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This small gesture became a small ray of hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding Preparations

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

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

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

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

The Bachelorette Party

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

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

Wedding Flowers!
Wedding Flowers!

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

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

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

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

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

The Wedding

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Yay! Newly Married!
Yay! Newly Married!
Our Family.
Our Family.
Homey and Me
Homey and Me

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Project – Week 6 of 52

Week Six of the Joy Project

February 3, 2014 – Homey and Little Homey

:)
🙂

Lately, Homey has been researching the world of iPhone Apps. (He writes about it here.) The kids are actually loving this because it means that someone in this house is finally using their phones for games.

The T-Rex is the happiest about this. He is just as obsessed as anyone with the little games like Flappy Bird and Sheep Happens. I think those are the names of the games. I have not downloaded any game apps to my phone. I have no idea.

While I’m not really much of a supporter of iPhone game apps (I waste enough time as it is), I don’t mind that Homey is doing this to research his newest ideas, and, most of all, that he lets his children be a part of the process.

I was sitting on the couch, crocheting, when I looked over at these two. Aren’t they cute. The T-Rex is a spitting image of Homey, so I sometimes call him “Little Homey.” Especially when they’re hanging out together like this (which is pretty much anytime that Homey is home.)

Joy is having a son. I love my daughters, too. I have written about them and will write about them more. But I’m so glad that I was finally able to have a little boy. Joy is seeing him follow in his father’s footsteps. I can’t think of a better example of manhood than Homey. Joy is witnessing cute little quiet moments like these – while I quietly sit on the periphery. Joy is my “homies”.

February 4, 2014 – A Finished Project

Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series
Youth 2014 Scripture Study Series

On Tuesday, I finally finished my most recent scripture study series – Come Unto Christ based on the 2014 LDS Youth Theme.

I love working on these. They are actually a lot of hard work. Hours go into creating a study guide with questions that will help the user learn more about the scriptures. I create these for free, and I really hope that people use them and benefit from them.

I create these little study guides for two main reasons 1) I love learning more about the scriptures. 2)I know that I have been blessed to study the scriptures, and I want to share that talent with others. 2a) I don’t want to just share this talent with others by saying “look at what I know…”, but I want to help them to have their own experiences. I feel that with the right questions, they will be able to learn to ponder the scriptures for themselves. No one needs my commentary.

So…I finished this one, and put it on my blog. I sent it to Melanie at Sugardoodle, and I was pleased to see that she posted it on her Facebook. The post got a lot of hits and downloads. I’m hoping that people will be able to enjoy this scripture study guide, and that there aren’t too many typos!!!

Joy is working hard. Joy is starting a new project. I always have a ton of energy when I start something new. Joy is also muddling through the less exciting period of a project. Usually, I lose steam, then slow waaaayyyy down, but joy is making it through this process, remembering that even though the initial novelty has worn off, I’m still making progress. Joy is finally finishing and seeing that the work you have done is pretty good. Joy is finishing a project!

February 5, 2014 – The Gilbert Temple

Today, the kids had the day off. We cleaned the house, then went down to Gilbert for the Temple Open House.

Amazing
Amazing

It was absolutely amazing. The experience began with us meeting in the church building next to the temple. We listened to Mo-tab and then watched a short film about temples.

Afterward, we were escorted to the temple.

It was so cool to go to the temple with my children. Typically, temples are closed to the general public. In order to enter into a temple, a person needs to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he or she will go to the Bishop to have a worthiness interview. Then, upon recommendation, the individual may enter into the temple. One of the requirements is that the person who wishes to attend the temple must be at least 12 years of age. Even then, a 12-year old cannot experience every aspect of the temple.

It isn’t until you are an adult that you can go to the rest of the temple.

People are mystified by Mormon Temples, and I can see why. They are beautiful, and they are sacred. We live in a culture that doesn’t put much importance to sacredness, and I think that this is the reason people get so upset that we aren’t more “open” to what happens in the temple. I will say, however, that the temple is a sacred house of God; it is a house of prayer, fasting, faith, learning, and glory.

Sisters!
Sisters!

Before a temple is dedicated, it is open to the general public. We went through the temple. We saw the baptistry, rooms for instruction, and the room where a husband and wife are married and sealed to one another for time and all eternity. Sasquatch especially loved the chandelier in the marriage room. The crystals were so sparkly and beautiful.

Cute!
Cute!

Joy is the house of God. Joy is the temple. Joy is going to the temple with your family, and being reminded that this is what it’s all about. Joy is being able to envision a day when I’m at the temple with my children because they have also chosen to live worthy of the temple and to make and keep sacred covenants there.

February 6, 2014 – A Good Book

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

We are reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for book club. I just started reading it, and I love it. I love that it is about women, women’s relationships, and even a secret woman’s language.

I wish that our world would appreciate women more. And I don’t mean to say that we should be trumpeting the message that women can do anything…they can do men’s things, too. (That’s fine with me, but it’s not the issue I have). I wish that our world would love and treasure those things which have traditionally been considered womanly.

For example, I’m working on a crocheting project (that I’ll share with you soon), and I just love the intricacy of crochet. It is functional and beautiful. It is something that has traditionally belonged to women. Crocheting, quilting, knitting, gardening, cleaning, baking – being “domestic” shouldn’t be things we eschew, but should be championed. I’m not very eloquent right now. I just want to say that I love being a woman. I’m even grateful for traditional women’s roles and responsibilities although they aren’t really openly valued. Motherhood is a divine role.

Reading this book made me think about what has made me who I am–especially as a mother. It also made me soooo grateful that I wasn’t a woman during this oppressive time that the book is set in.

Joy is a good book.

February 7, 2014 – Scaring the Birds

Last year, we over-seeded our lawn. A day or two after Homey finished overseeding, we noticed flocks of birds picking in our grass–eating the seeds we had just thrown down.

Homey was frustrated. The birds were trying to ruin our lawn, so he created the perfect chore for the T-Rex

He takes it very seriously.

Joy is a little boy who will randomly bust out with a loud shout, “RAAAAWWWWR!” Joy is a son who will follow his father’s instructions. 🙂

February 8, 2014 – Chocolate

A fair dedicated to chocolate.
A fair dedicated to chocolate.
Sampling the Fudge
Sampling the Fudge
Sasquatch approves.
Sasquatch approves.
Homey likes it, too.
Homey likes it, too.
Panda loves the chocolate.
Panda loves the chocolate.

This boy is as sweet as his chocolate.
This boy is as sweet as his chocolate.

Glendale, AZ has a chocolate fair every year. You read that right. An entire fair dedicated to chocolate. Naturally, we went. We walked around, sampled chocolates, then settled on this fudge.

I bought three hunks(? not sure the technical name of a hunk of fudge) of fudge. I thought that it would last us a week or longer.

It was all gone by Sunday night…

Joy is chocolate. Joy is this bitter-sweet treat. Joy is living in a family full of chocoholics, fighting over every last piece of fudge.

February 9, 2014 – Children

No picture for this one. But maybe a video.

I am the primary chorister in my ward. It is my fifth time with this calling. I have never loved a calling as much as I love this one right now.

I get to teach children to sing. Not only that, but the songs we sing are doctrinally rich.

One of the best parts of my day is going into the nursery (ages 18 months-3 years). They are antsy and don’t really sing much. We sing several “wiggle” songs. I love seeing them wiggle their toes and noses. They take wiggling very seriously.

Every week, I end with the song I am a Child of God. I’m not sure the reason, but every single child sang this song so earnestly on Sunday. They sat in their chairs, arms folded, singing as hard a they could.

I was overcome. I couldn’t even sing! I felt their spirits so strongly, and I wanted to shout, “Always remember this: You ARE a child of God. The world around you will try to make you forget, but you must always know that you are children of God.”

Joy is knowing that we are children of God. Joy is being reminded that I am a child of God. So often, I forget or even doubt my true divine nature. Joy is seeing a group of children confident in the fact that they are children of God. Joy is learning a lesson from a group of toddlers that brings a tear to my eye even as I write it down right now.

***
What has brought you joy this week??? Please share!

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.

***
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.