all you need is love

Like most of the country, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about and praying for the town of Newtown, Connecticut.  All of us with small children in our lives who we love, nurture, and protect can't help but feel heartbroken.  But the one thing I keep returning to is how our society not only tolerates violence, but perpetuates it.  And yes, this occurs on a large-scale level: in the news, in movies, in video games, etc. - but the real problem is that this occurs on a small-scale level as well.

I've seen it countless times, the mother who verbally abuses her child in public because they can't "behave;" adults who display anger in harsh and lavish ways in front of small children; children who are taught to respond to situations that make them uncomfortable, sad, or angry by lashing out at the source instead of searching for a peaceful solution.  And even deeper than that, we are a culture of greed and immediacy, to the point that when someone doesn't get what they want in life, they feel personally insulted or attacked, and frequently respond with violent anger.

Obviously, I don't have a solution.  There is no way that I could, having no real training in psychology or child development.  But what I do know is that the solution is going to require all of us to change the way we see ourselves and our society.  We must strive to be optimistic in the face of uncertainty, we must look for the truth in one another, we must search for hope in every place, we must believe in love and share this love with everyone we meet through every action we take.  I am blessed to have a community of friends, mostly fellow musicians, who live the mantra of love to their fullest every single day.  They are raising beautiful, loving children, and through music teach many others how to live in love as well.  They inspire me.  They are making a dent against the culture of violence surrounding us.  And if the rest of us will follow suit, we just may see the day where individuals who are suffering and need help search for an alternative other than violence, because they grew up in a world where violence wasn't the expected immediate reaction.

All we need is love.


oh, how quickly things can change

Change is a rather simple word - only six letters long, easily recognizable in print, and familiar to everyone since we were small children (remember watching caterpillars "change" into butterflies in preschool?!).  And yet, change can easily become one of the most complex actions we experience.  I am reminded of this every single day.

Every year of my life since I was five years old, I have been involved in school.  For all but two of those years, I was a full time student, and for the other two I worked full time at UNCG.  Sun up, get dressed, go to school, work, come home, sun down.  That was essentially the routine of my life!  Then two months ago, it all suddenly changed.  My job in the band office at UNCG had run to its end, all of my course work and teaching obligations had been completed, and while I am technically still a student (but hopefully only for a few more weeks! *fingers crossed*) I no longer am part of the academic routine.  I *gulp* work at home.

No longer do I have to decide what shoes to wear based on whether or not I have to walk scantron tests across campus to the learning center for grading.  No longer do I have to wake up "extra-early" so I have time to review my lecture notes before a busy day of classes and rehearsals.  No longer do I experience the beautiful moments of joy in amusing exchanges between colleagues in the halls, helping a student understand a concept in a new way, or watching a friend achieve hard earned success.

Instead, I have work to do.  Work by me, done for me, and probably that no one else will ever care about but me.  Alone.  At home.  Me, my computer, a gigantic stack of books, a plethora of notes and reminders on post-its, and a little kitty cat who just wishes I would go away so he could go back to sleep.

What an abrupt, drastic, and unexpectedly depressing change in lifestyle.  I am so ready for this phase of my academic journey to end that I can barely stand it much longer!  And I'm coming to realize that it isn't the struggle, the relentless hours of hard work, or the endless torrent of questions needing answers that I want over - it's the loneliness.  I miss my friends.  I miss feeling like I'm part of something larger than myself.  I miss feeling needed and valued and respected.

Grad school is hard.  Grad school ending is harder.


seeing life through the mascara

I had an interesting thought this morning as I was leisurely getting ready for the day... makeup is so much more than just a bunch of "beauty" products that have their own special storage desk and mirror in my room.  It is a partnership, a means through which I view myself and the world around me.  So I started thinking about my own journey in wearing, experimenting with, and eventually loving makeup, and myself.

My first experiences with makeup were as a six-year-old dancer.  I hated it!  Bright red lipstick felt tacky on my lips and forced me to hold a smile much longer than was comfortable.  Mascara made my tear ducts swell in protest as Mom tried to gently apply it between my uncontrollable blinking fits.  This stuff was just a hassle!  But I loved dancing, so I continued enduing the three times a year the bag of stage makeup found its way out of the bathroom cabinet and into my dance bag.

This hatred of makeup slowly melted away into indifference.  As a ten year old, makeup wasn't so bad. On special occasions (and of course, dance recitals and competitions) it was actually fun, but it certainly wasn't anything worth a portion of my time everyday.  Oh, how hormones change everything!  That indifference slowly turned into a friendly acquaintance I liked to keep around.  And makeup was no longer something I donned for special occasions, it was something that made me special.  We've all read a plethora of commentary on the effects of media and pop culture on a young girls self-esteem and view of herself, and yes, it is unavoidable.  But it isn't all bad, all the time.  With makeup, I could go from the small town farm girl who bottle fed calves at 6:30 in the morning in blue jeans and boots to a well put-together, inquisitive, and naively ready to change the world young woman in about 15 minutes.  It helped me form an identity of self-worth and respect at an age where many of my friends struggled to discover this for themselves.

As I continued adapting to my ever changing life, so did my relationship with makeup.  In college, makeup was no longer necessary in defining who I was, instead it helped define my relationship with exterior forces.  In times of exceptional questioning, fear of failure and of the "judges" that constantly surrounded me, makeup could act as a bullet-proof vest.  If I look good, then I am good, no matter what anyone else thinks.  And while appearances have little to do with allowing the world to see your true self, having even just a speck of confidence in that regard goes a long way in learning to be honest and vulnerable.

Now I'm finding, with a little more world experience and a balance of failures and successes worthy of anyone following their dreams, my daily makeup routine is a labor of love for self, worthy of every valuable second of time it takes.  Those dark circles under my eyes can, with the help of a little makeup magic, become luminous reminders that we are not perfect, but with good faith and forgiveness in ourselves we can find light within any darkness.  That blob of lengthening mascara and strategically placed eyeshadow not only makes my eyes appear brighter, but reminds me to keep a wide-angle view of the day and to pay just as much attention to the small things as the oppressively large ones.  The hint of blush reminds me to be joyous, to laugh and smile as frequently as possible.  I'm not hiding any flaws, I am merely finding a way to make them part of a harmonious whole self.  And through it all, I'm still just a simple girl with big dreams, bursting to share my experiences with those who are willing to listen, and always searching for that next great shade of lip gloss.


cat scratch fever

So... all of you who know us well, know that I spent a lot of time talking about and laughing at the antics of my silly cat, Hutch-buddy.  Therefore, I thought I'd share a few photos from recent weeks...

Il gato dice, "Ciao ciao a tutti!"


the lessons of disappointment...

Well, this has been an eventful spring!  Noah has been playing lots of concerts and working (too much) to pay the bills so that I can finish school.  Which, I've almost done!  I'm officially "ABD" now - so all I have to do is finish the "D" part (that is, my dissertation) and then, only then, will you all refer to me as "Dr. Cat" forever more.  Ok, maybe not forever, but at least until I get tired of hearing it!  And after this semester, I may never grow tired of hearing that title. :-)

I am so fortunate to have had numerous life-altering experiences during the course of my time as a graduate student at UNCG, and I'm not tossing around the phrase "life-altering" light heartedly.  I truly mean it.  I have learned more about music, about teaching and helping others, and about myself than I ever knew was possible - all thanks to an amazing group of professors and mentors that helped me along this journey.  For them, I am greatly indebted, and I vow to continue their legacy through my own students.

It seems surprisingly fitting then, that the last journey I go through before finally crossing the finish line has become one that forces me to deal with perhaps one of my greatest weaknesses: disappointment.  Yes, that's right.  I am ending this amazing, successful journey by attempting to open myself up and really learn how to handle disappointment.  I think one of the great driving forces in my need to always succeed is just how terrible I am at dealing with the disappointment of failure - not failure itself, for I have learned the wonderful value in making mistakes, and I cherish those learning opportunities - but the disappointment that inevitably appears when something doesn't turn out the way you had planned.

Today, right now actually, I should be walking across the stage at May commencement, receiving my doctoral hood from Dr. Burke and waving at my parents who have so graciously and proudly supported every decision I have made.  Instead, I am sitting at home, in the relative peace and quiet (the washing machine is running!) staring at my dissertation on the computer screen and blinking back my tears over what a disaster this entire project has become; wrestling with the great disappointment that all because of this one infernally blasted document, the way I envisioned my time at UNCG ending will not come true.  Oh, there is the silver lining, of course.  I will finish this thing one day soon (even if it no longer feels like the project I intended it to be from the beginning) and I will have my 2 seconds of glory when I officially become a doctor of music, but it won't be alongside many of my dear friends and colleagues who shared this journey with me, it won't be while people still remember me and know who I am, what I accomplished, what I stand for.  It won't be while there are fellow students sitting in the commencement band to cheer for me as my name is called... no. There won't be all the loving, smiling faces to share this final moment with.  No hundreds of pictures on the camera roll by the end of the day.  No tearful goodbyes and well wishes.  Instead, I will be forgotten.  Just another one of the students who couldn't get her act together by the deadlines and is doomed to the bottom-dwelling label of "December graduate."  No one will be there, no one will remember, no one will care.  Disappointment.  Raw, unwelcome, bitter disappointment.

I can only hope that learning to deal with these feelings in a healthy, honest, and humble fashion will take me one step closer to being and acknowledging my true self.  And then, once I'm there, I won't feel there was anything to be disappointed about in the first place.  Because I didn't go through this process for today - for the pictures, sentiments of congratulations, and hugs - I went through it for me, to better myself, my world, and the lives of those with whom I am blessed to share a path with.  And when I finally become Dr. Cat in my own understanding, that is the real moment of glory I have been waiting for.


Is anyone still out there?

Hey friends!!

Ok. I have been terrible about posting on this thing. Noah has been worse. *wink* But I have an excuse - trying to graduate! So here is a visual description of what the past year has been like....

On a good day, I feel like this...

And on a bad day, I feel like this.....
Makes you want to go back to graduate school, doesn't it? :-)


Spring... er, Summer Cleaning, part 2!

So... some of you may recall a post earlier this season where I had been cleaning and discovered some things in need of a new home! Everything is in too good a condition to throw away (some stuff has never been used - ack!), and I'm happier knowing I gave you all the opportunity to claim what you could use before sending it off to Goodwill. Here's an update: from the previous post I still have the CD cases and the laptop computer InCase brand cover (I'd still like $5 or so for it, but at this point I'm willing to exchange it also... any offer will be considered!). Here is what I have to add to the "things to give away pile":

From left to right we have:
- feather boas... yes, laugh it out now... it's funny! But.. they would make GREAT additions to a dress-up room for some sweet little princess out there - I'm sure you know one!
- next is an array of hair products: an assortment of cute little clips (these were used by me years ago, but are still in great shape); a set of hair ties (not used); and two packs of velcro hair rollers (Conair brand, also not used! there are 8 total)
- a metal shower rack, was used for one year but has been thoroughly cleaned - no rust or tarnishing!... and it holds a lot of stuff!
In the back, from left to right:
- and OXO brand mixing bowl with a grippy handle on one side and a pouring spout on the other - it works great! we just have other bowls that we use more and need to clear up cabinet space
- a pearly white little trash can - clean, good for small spaces
- a stack of books and movies, which if you can't really tell in the photo are:
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
- Empire Falls by Richard Russo
- Breach
- To Die For
- Saw (Uncut Edition)
- Lord of War

Send me an email/facebook message/or text message if you are interested in any of these items. First to claim it, gets it!

Hope you're all having a beautiful end to the summer! As you can see, my day lilies were gorgeous this year. That's a photo I took when they were at their peak just before music camp started a few weeks ago. I was so happy that I didn't miss their blooms while I was busy with camp like last year.