Top Ten Discoveries of 2012

Okay, I admit, this will be a very subjective list. They are not in order of importance, and I only chose ten because it’s a pretty number.

1. Vanilla-rose tea. After leaving my beloved loose-leaf tea shop to teach Latin, I began drinking tea with even more abandon. I NEVER thought I would enjoy a floral tea, but there’s something addicting about this sweet/rosy black tea. A little milk and sugar, and it’s like I’m drinking dessert. (Rooibos is still my go-to tea for all my non-caffeinated needs.)

2. Joan Didion. 


There are some authors who speak to you, and then there are other authors who keep speaking to you even after you’ve finished their books. Didion is one of the latter. When I think of a memoirist I want to emulate, she is high up on the list. Some quotes that stuck with me:

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

On Self-Respect

(I keep reminding myself that this one is only half-correct; we realize that perhaps we don’t like ourselves, but this is only helpful if we choose not to remain here, choose to reach for the truth.)

[Writing is] hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture…Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

The Paris Review

3. Teaching. Sometimes, I think surprises are funny. Sometimes, I think there are too many surprises going on in my life. Teaching is one of the biggest ones this year. While I don’t know (yet) what this will mean for me longterm, I do know that I am loving learning the language of children again, sharing my love of learning, sharing a language that will shape how they approach their own language from here on out. Decline puella? You got it. Explain how Latin uses the Dative Case? I can do that, too. I have a lot to learn, but that’s the exciting part.

4. Directing. I don’t know if I can count this as a discovery, per se, because it hasn’t officially started yet. But a week before Christmas, I went in for an interview to teach voice lessons at the YMCA, and left with a job directing the Y’s children’s musical. “Have you ever directed anything?” “No, no I haven’t.” “Are you interested?” “Yes, I guess I am.” I went home without giving an answer yet, afraid that I was – again – biting off more than I could chew. That night, we got Chinese for dinner. I read my fortune (which, let me tell you right now, I do not hold ANY store in), and was a little shocked to read: “If you understand everything you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.” Shoot. So I emailed her Yes, yes I would love to direct the musical and rehearsals start in a few weeks. More on that later, I’m sure.

5. Tom Cruise. 


Okay, true confessions: I have a celebrity crush on Tom Cruise. On The Crazy. I’ve decided to afford myself this one, bizarre luxury. I don’t understand it, and I don’t expect anyone else to. The first movie I ever saw with him was “Far and Away.” I was so caught up in the story that I forgot for the moment that life was beyond the confines of this one world, and when Tom’s character falls, hitting his head and seems to die, I screamed. Literally. I ran up the stairs, angry at my brother and sister for not warning me. “Why didn’t you tell me?!?!” I shouted. Because, it wasn’t just that he died. He and the woman he loved were running for land in Oklahoma, striving for a dream together. That is my favorite image of love, and I know it’s romanticized and American and probably wrong. I can’t help it.


Needless to say, Tom’s character isn’t dead, and the movie has since become one of my favorites. So far, I’ve watched “Top Gun,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Rain Man,” “Valkyrie,” and a handful of others. For some reason, I am able to forget the fact that Tom is a Scientologist, that he’s had some crazy bouts of weirdness, that he’s made some terrible life choices. That’s the point of movies, after all – to suspend your disbelief and get swept up in something.

I feel lighter after this confession. Thank you.

6. Blogging. Yes. Writing this blog has been fun. Digesting the experiences, the blessings and the harder times, through this blog, has been really rewarding. Reading other people’s blogs and learning about their lives and what they think has broadened my own thinking.

7. Parenthood. 


I. love. this. show. Sometimes, I sit there, tears in my eyes, and I wonder, Why do I do this to myself? Why do I watch things that make me so incredibly sad? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but there’s something about it. The characters are annoying and lovable and funny, and even though they make some terrible choices, they love each other. The writing is strong, the characters are believable, and I love it. (Other shows I’ve been loving: “Mindy Project,” “Ben and Kate,” and “Raising Hope.” Tuesdays are good to me.)

8. Homemade granola. I wrote about this last spring. I have to make another batch; I’m going through withdrawal. There’s nothing more delicious than a little granola with Greek yogurt, homegrown (homemade? home-what?!?!) honey, and dried cranberries. Delicious.

9. Music. Fleet Foxes. Lumineers. Florence and the Machine. Ingrid Michaelson. Bob Dylan. (Some) Adele. Of Monsters and Men. Judy Collins. Joan Baez. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Ray LaMontagne.

10. Living at home can be exactly what you need. I never would have thought this. As graduation approached, I stared at the possibility of moving home, and I was scared. I thought I would hate it. I thought my family would start to hate ME. I thought I would never see my friends. I thought I would turn back into the girl I was before college, and that was not good at all.

But what I’ve discovered is that sometimes God gives you what you need, even if it isn’t what you want. I needed to be home this year. I needed to remember what it feels like to know your family has your back, no matter what. I needed to feel loved and safe, especially as I faced uncertain health issues (all is good, praise the Lord).

Above all, I needed to trust.

I discovered that trusting God looks different in different situations. For some, trusting God looks like moving far from home and going out on your own. For me, trusting God looked like moving home. It looked like allowing my picture of my future to change.

Trusting God is a constant discovery. It’s a pretty big one.

Bring on 2013. I’m ready.

How Last Friday Changed Me

I sat with the kids, even though I probably should’ve been with the parents.

It was my first elementary school Christmas concert ever – of my whole life – and I was pretty sure I was in for some poor quality. Five and six year olds look adorable, so it (kind of) makes up for the three different keys going on at once. The church was filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, and the room was lit up with bright reds and greens, just to prove we were in the Christmas spirit.

I sat with my colleague and friend, the fourth and fifth and sixth grades surrounding us. I could feel their adrenaline

I didn’t play a role in the evening at all. I got to sit back and enjoy their company (with only a few whispered “hushes” and shaking of my head). Each grade got up, Pre-K-6th, and I sat there and thought, there is so much.

I wanted to be sitting right there with them, my students, the pews and pews of them. Some coughing, some sneezing, but healthy.

I wanted to give each one a hug, to remind them that God loves them, that He is in control.

But instead I clapped and smiled, and hid the sadness until I got to my car.


Scrooge at a Christmas Concert

Last weekend, my sister and I went to our college’s Christmas concert. We met up with some friends of mine – my roommate and her boyfriend – and we sat on the side of the sanctuary, eager to see what our Alma Mater sounded like without us.

For four years I performed on that stage, up on rickety risers, in dresses of varying attractiveness (the black sacks they made us wear in Women’s Choir were pretty hideous). I sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “On This Day Earth Shall Ring,” “Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and every year I remember the lights on my face and the full crowd of Christmas-ready people.

I was so excited to be back, to be watching. Lanterns hung from the ceiling over the stage, punched through with holes so when the room got dark, the lights inside would bounce off the walls. My roommate and I hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks (okay, not that long, I know), but we had a lot to talk about. Music, old friends, the concert, our lives. We laughed and whispered and talked. My sister joined in, too, all three of us chatting away in anticipation of the music.

Some prelude music began, soft and low. No conductor, no dimming of the lights, just simple mood-setting music. I laughed again, and the man in front of me turned around. Not just with his head. Not just with his upper body. He pushed away from the pew and rotated his ENTIRE BODY so he could look at us, and he said:

“Could you talk somewhere else?”

His tone was so demeaning, I was shocked. And embarrassed. I had certainly been enjoying myself, and that often entails a little loudness. We weren’t the only ones talking, though; everyone around us was chatting.

“The concert hasn’t started,” I said. I know I said it kindly because I can still feel the slightly scared smile on my face.

“Well, I hear music,” he said back.

My roommate quickly diffused the situation: “We were going to stop talking when the concert started, but we’ll stop right now.”

I was fuming inside. It would be one thing if he’d asked us kindly, assumed we didn’t realize we were disturbing him. But his body language and gruffness made it obvious that he thought we were stupid.

I kept thinking about the incident, thinking, Don’t let that ruin this, Catherine. Let it go.

I don’t remember the first few pieces, though, because I was consumed. I kept trying to let it go, but it filled my head and made me self-conscious, even when I shifted my body or rustled the program.

When the time came for the audience to sing (which I’d been doing internally since the concert began), I leaned over to my roommate and whispered, “Let’s blow this guy’s ears off.”

And we belted those Christmas harmonies like it was the last time we’d ever sing them.

He and his wife didn’t sing a word, just stood there silent and motionless. I would go so far as to say e-motionless.

So, I didn’t really stand up for myself. At the same time, I didn’t conquer him with an un-ruffled Christian spirit.

But I did sing his ears off.


(The concert was absolutely lovely, and I left proud of my school, lonely for music, and filled with joy. Take that, Scrooge.)

Christmas Joy at 6:28am

I woke up far too early for a Sunday morning. I was mad.

My alarm was set for 8:00 – the perfect amount of time to shower and get ready for a 9:30 church service. But the clock said 6:28, and there was no hope of falling back to sleep.

So I spent the first moments of Sunday, December 9th, realizing that I am entirely and completely not ready for Christmas.

Yes, our tree is up. Yes, I went to the Christmas concert at my Alma Mater this weekend, and yes, it was “aesthetically pleasing in every way.”

Yes, I went to the first Christmas party of the season last night. Yes, I have already eaten too many cookies.

But did I decorate the tree? No, I was at work.

Did I sing in the concert? Yes, but it annoyed everyone around me. (Just kidding. I contained myself.)

Did I bake the cookies? No, I just consumed them.

Today will be the day I regain some holiday spirit.


First step: coffee. I am not addicted. It’s half-caff.

Church. I am not really in the mood. But I will say, every time I have dragged myself there, every time I have prayed that God would open my eyes, it has been worth it. (It doesn’t seem worth it now, in my cozy pajamas with the candles burning and the tree lit…)

String popcorn and cranberries. Unnecessary, you say? I think not.

FIGURE OUT WHAT I’M GIVING TO PEOPLE. Oh. my. gosh. I have no idea what I’m gonna do. My little brother is leagues better than I am at gifts – he’s been done for weeks. So annoying. The only gift I have is a sweater I made my other brother (that thing counts as so many gifts, I’m set for years.)

Lesson planning. NOOOOOO!!! But I’m thinking of working mostly on Christmas songs in Latin. The grammar school kids have been begging me, and I have a sneaky idea of making my high schoolers carol around the school. (What’s the point of power if you don’t use it?!)

Music. I’ve had enough of this everyday music junk I’ve been listening to. Bring on Messiah.

Prayer. Scripture. How can I be surprised things feel so harried and “un-Christmas-y” if I haven’t taken the time to soak up the moments?

And, last but not least, family. Working six days a week is okay when you like your job, but that doesn’t mean other things don’t suffer. I can’t wait to sit on the couch with my family and watch a Christmas movie. Maybe a little Bananagrams, if they think they’re up for the challenge.

Is it hard for everyone to take a breather and enjoy this time of year? People have told me for years that it “goes so fast,” they can’t believe it’s Christmas, etc. etc. I just hope I can grab a little bit of the calm and joy.


Hot Mikado

The show is over.

It was so much fun. After four weeks of being exhausted, being scared I would never learn the part in time, and wondering why the heck did I say yes to this?, it’s all done.

When my friend called me up one night, asking if I’d be willing to step midway into the Hot Mikado, I hesitated. I haven’t really sung in a year. I’ve never had a lead role in a musical before (Beauty and the Beast “silly girls” and Magic Flute “second ladies” up the yin yang but no leads in sight), and, most of all, I was afraid I couldn’t do it.

That’s when I knew I had to do it.

I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I could learn the gospel solo. I could remember all the little lines that sneak up on you in the middle of songs and dialogue. I could learn fairly complicated dances (complicated for this free-style-lovin-dancer) and DANCE WHILE SINGING HARMONIES.

It was a quest. I worked hard, I was given a lot of grace from the director and cast, and I prayed that God would help me. Because a lot more than the show was riding on this.

[The doctors have decided to wait and see. See what my body does. My body has been given so much power over my life. Maybe that’s the way it should be?!]

Did I mention I was the sassy sister? The gospel-singing, sassy sister who stands up to the ugly old lady? Yeah, that’s right. Bring it.

After three shows, many rehearsals, and a lot of personally-inflicted stress, I stood on stage with the lights in my face, and I was overwhelmingly grateful.

He did it again. Thank you.