I’m not so good at listening.

I used to think I was good at listening.

I used to think I was good at a lot of things like math, and cooking, and soccer.

If you are confident enough, sometimes you can tell yourself that confidence itself means you’re good and you believe yourself.

People have told me, “You’re a good listener!”

And I am, if the thing being talked about is something I’m interested in – like me, for example. I can hear about me all day!

This semester, I took an acting class.

I’ve never known before that I know so little about acting.

I’ve been involved in theater since I was seven, so naturally, I imagined I was an expert by now! This class would just be a breezy, easy-A, for-the-fun-of-it class.

I’ve never known before that I know so little about acting.

I’ve been a performer all of my life. I still am – I perform writing papers, I perform scanning books at the library, and I’ll perform straightening shoes this December.

I’m a natural performer.

But I’m a lousy listener.

I’ve always lived as a one-man-band. A team player, yes, but I always found a way to steal the show.

I make my appearance – like Alfred Hitchcock – when I need to be humble, in the background, the ensemble of a situation, but I say to myself, “I know who I really am!”

If I’m being real, I’m a puffed up, cocky-eyed prig!

And I need to remind myself of that more often!

Some people at school think I’m happy all the time.

I’m not.

I just like seeing other people being happy, so I try to make them happy.

I’m very good at acting.

I mean the smiling in-the-face-of-depression kind of acting. The kind where I craft a masterful mask and wear it with the proper tone of voice so nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.

But in Acting 1 class, the masks come down, the truth comes out, and the stray cats come out of the bag and fish out all the rats.

Listening means giving space of mind to another person.

It means the thinking about that other paper, or that other chapter to read, or that other thing you could have said, or that other lunch you’re going to have – it all must melt away.

It means dedicating a moment, a minute, to someone else.

Not. You.

Not me.

Especially not me.

Listening’s tough when you’re holding a mirror.

As with any kind of learning, the more you find out, the more you find you know so little.

I’m not sure why I decided to write all this.

I guess I was hoping someone might listen.

To me.

Someone other than myself.

Becasue, I hear me talk all day.

I’m not so good at listening.

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A Student of Grass

The more I learn about the world, the more I realize how ignorant I am.

For instance, just casually looking at a blade of grass might not send me into an existential crisis, but once I learn about photosynthesis, the color spectrum, and vascular plants I can’t help but stare in wonder at the grass and almost cry!

Or there’s watching a movie. Most people just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, but once you know about location scouting, gaff tape, crafty, foley artists, shutter speed, and exporting files, you can’t help but sit back in awe at the end of the credits wondering how they all came together.

Or clothing. Most people just buy and wear clothes, but once you know about the grain of fabric, setting seams, polyester vs. cotton, pleats, serging, hems, invisible zippers, and gathered sleeves, you wonder who manned the machine behind the needle.

I could go on about sports broadcasting, phonetics, script writing, kerning, the Dewey Decimal System, the water cycle, and other things I don’t understand!

What a world we live in! What a time to be alive!

The more I learn about things, the more I know I want to be a student of the world the rest of my life.

So, I’m going to the Olympics…

My University has had an internship program connection with OBS since the 1980’s.

A preliminary step into applying for the program was writing an essay about why I wanted to apply. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you know me then you know I grew up without television. The earliest memory I have of the Olympics was when I saw water polo for the first time, (at age 10 or so) and I was transfixed to the screen because I’d never seen shirtless, grown men doing something so comical.

The long and the short of it is, I got accepted.

I’ll be flying out the end of January and back at the end of February.

I’m so honored and super thrilled for this opportunity!

Yes, I know South Korea is south of North Korea. But this Olympics will be safer than the last one in Rio, to be honest.

I’m excited for this new adventure, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell.

Breathtaking: An Essay

Life begins with breath. One by one, we all started out the same way breathing the same air, yet one by one we stray away from each other. Breath breeds fighting words which lead to further dissonance dividing continents and countries. And yet, despite divides and crimes of lies, the world watches breathing as one once again. We stare, we gasp, we hold our breath in silence then in roaring cheers we embrace the loves we forgot we had. Swells of pride bridge divides and open eyes to the hope of humanity. Remember why we watch. We watch to remember that the greatest of the world are human too. We may sigh and idolize, but after the game we catch our breath as they catch theirs. Why do I desire to enter in? I wish to share in the burden of sharing the world.

As athletes take to the ice with skill and grace in the lights of glory, I would work in the shadows as a servant seeing that all goes well. Taking orders to and fro, I would relay messages, or run cameras, or write references for these memorable games. No request is below my dignity, for I am proud to serve. If I could play any small part, I would bravely wear a determined smile. Some say they perform best under pressure, the skaters and film crews alike. With live deadlines these historic times unfold seamlessly, or so it seems. The world to watch, the others to live and breathe feeling the pressure.

The games are much more than diversion. Diverse as the sports are the people. The people who breathe just like me. The games are a torch of hope shining light on what could be. Though countries compete, together they complete a world that breathes as one.

A Story by Catherine Age 6

While cleaning today, Mom found an aged manuscript bearing the words of a grand tale told by a six-year-old. With Mom as my scribe, this story was captured exactly the way I told it. Now, in digitally remastered glory, I present to you:

The Witch in the Kitch

There once was a pumpkin, a big pumpkin. Everybody wanted it. But there was a problem. Everybody could not have it because there was only one pumpkin. So, there was this little girl. She wanted it so much to make it like a jack-o-lantern. A happy one. But really, she said to herself,

“I want to make it my costume.”

But her mother said, “How can you ever make your pumpkin, a real pumpkin, your costume.”

“Cut out the head. Cut out the arms. Cut out the legs.”

So, her mom agreed with that. So, guess who got the pumpkin? The little girl! Hip, hip, hip, hip, hip, hip, hurrah!

And she was the fashion princess, because anyone who got the pumpkin would be the fashion queen, king, prince & so she was the pumpkin princess.

But that is not all. There was a villain in the town.

Guess what he was? He was a vampire and his wife was a witch so the vampire and the witch wanted to attack Dentaltown & so first they wanted to attack the little girl that got the great big pumpkin & so they said,

“We should kidnap the little girl that got the pumpkin.”

They had kidnapped lots of kids. But mostly the little girl escaped.

So, the wich said, “At night we should kidnap her.”

So, they woke up very, very late at night. But they hadn’t even known that it was morning. So, it was dark so, they thought it was night, but it was morning and so, the “Whos” forgot they left the stove open.

So, the witch smelled the roast beast so, she got caught in the oven. So, the vampire called, “No, no, no, no, no don’t go there!”

So, the vampire was all alone. And there was a net in the house and so, he want to the front door where the net was.

He got caught in the net. So, it was all morning so Cindy-loo-who, that’s the girl that got the pumpkin, she woke up very early in the morning. So, she tasted the roast beast. She said,

“This roast beast tastes like witch!”

So, she said a little rhyme:
“A witch in the ditch
I don’t kitch!
I just want roast beast!
A witch in . . .
That’s what I need
but not a witch
in this roast beast!”

So Cindy-loo-who went to the front door. She said,

“There is a vampire in this net!” So, she said, “I think that I should save the boys and girls, I should save them right now! I really want to go there.”

And so, she went on 259 the street. So, she found the house. She was so surprised their address was 259 she went into the house.

She said, “This is the very yuckiest house that I have ever been in!”

So, she crept to the tower she was so shocked she said, “There’s lots of boys and girls in this. Who stole you?” She said.

The boys and girls shouted together, “A witch and a vampire stole us!”

The little girl said, “I could help you get out of here!”

“No, you couldn’t!”

“Why not?”

All the boys and girls said, “Because, the witch and the vampire will catch us.”

“No, they won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” said the little girl, “The witch got caught in our stove and the vampire got caught in the net!”

So, the little boys and girls just stared at her.

So, she said, “Don’t stare, just come on! Follow me!”

So, they followed the little girl. So, they got back home again.

The End.

 

My Winning Essay

A short while ago, I submitted an essay to a scholarship held by Feldco, and they gave me a call to tell me that I won! The topic was: “How has your family contributed to who you are today.”

Who I am Today: 2017 Feldco Scholarship Catherine Haws

     Depending on where you first meet me, your first impression might be that I am thoughtful and reserved or boisterous and fun-loving. Either impression is correct. I’m a walking, talking ball of contradictions, which I guess is what you get when you scientifically combine two attracted opposites. I was the tomboy who liked church dresses (as long as they were sturdy enough to climb trees in afterward.) I am the studious class clown. I am the outgoing, friendly person who keeps to the wall and snack table at parties. I am the confident girl wearing bright colors and no make-up while internally anxiously reviewing my insecurities. Through all of my messes and contradictions, my family has loved me into who I am.

I’ve lived my whole life at the same little house on the same little street with my same little family: Mom, Dad, and big brother Ben. I could go into the good old story of how my parents met, but for now, I will just say that two “sevenths” married each other. Dad is the seventh of seven kids, and Mom is the seventh of nine. After all that, they decided to calm down and just have Ben and me. They thought that I was going to be a Joseph. Good old Joseph and Benjamin like the brothers in the Bible, but no, I went and spoiled it all as a Catherine. They soon forgave me, although Ben took a bit more convincing, but he has since come around.

One of the largest influences on my life has been my education. My parents chose to homeschool Ben and I, and I am forever grateful for that choice. Now, I imagine you have questions. Do you have friends? Are you socialized? Is it true that homeschoolers wear pajamas? I am happy to ease your mind with three easy answers: yes, yes, and oh yes. I am also happy to say that as one entering my junior year of college this fall, I am doing just fine.

With my Mom carefully planning my upbringing utilizing various curriculums, my education has been unique. No one else in the world has had exactly the same education that I have. Mom researched the books I read, organized field trips, enrolled me in 4-H, and drove me to theatre practices.

Something I love about Mom is that she supports my interests. Early on, I displayed my affinity for the written word by scribbling my first book with a black crayon at age five. She encouraged my endeavors by reading my stories, critiquing plot holes, and correcting grammatical mistakes. Although I did not appreciate the frank advice at first, I treasure it now.

Along with my scholastic education, my Mom has educated me about myself and about life. We’ve shared many a heartfelt conversation on the couch, in the car, and in the kitchen. Mom is now like a friend, and I fondly look back on all it took to get us to this point. I will always be her little girl, even if I am a few inches taller.

Now for my Dad. Again and again I try to explain my Dad to people, but I conclude that you just have to experience him. Dad is like a character from a book: larger than life, quirkily endearing, and absolutely unpredictable. He has been known to wear seven layers of clothing at a time (I counted), he enjoys watching chick-flicks, reading me bedtime stories (even though I’m in college), playing board games with extravagant house rules, and most of all he loves people.

Walking with Dad through the grocery store takes longer because he always sees at least two people he knows. The best thing about him is that he loves making people feel special. He can talk to anybody, and when he walks away, they are left smiling. He is the most encouraging man I know. Every piece of my work I’ve shown him is hailed as if I’m the next Shakespeare (which gets balanced out by the blunt critiques of my Mom and brother.)

I am sure that my level of confidence has been boosted and polished by my Dad. He has always believed in me, and I know he always will. I have never been given reason to doubt his love for me, and although I will never quite understand him, I dearly love him and will always be his little girl.

Now for the brother. I know I’ve got less space for this guy, so I will try to convey an encyclopedia’s worth into the words I have left.

I have always looked up to Ben (both physically and metaphorically.) As kids, we played for hours creating elaborate, swashbuckling adventures with stuffed animals. I watched over his shoulder as he began his filmmaking endeavors editing together his stop-motion action figure films. He takes me on dates to the movies, and we stay until the last of the credits roll, pointing out the MPAA number, the fingerprint of the film. We take long walks and stay up late talking about anything and everything. When he came back from college during his breaks, he’d try to educate me about everything he loved: aperture, aspect ratios, ancient history, philosophy, cinematography, and symbolism to name a few. Ben has a way of making film equipment sound like God’s gift to humanity. He reads my work, freely giving his opinions, and encourages me to keep creating. From our early days of squabbling, Mom always reminded us we are a team. I look forward to every opportunity I get to work as a team with Ben now.

If you have made it this far through this memoir, thank you for hanging with me. The instructions said to write in my “own words”, and I have done just that. My beautiful family has made me curious, courageous, creative, and caring. I am thankful and blessed beyond all these words.

Psalm 23

So, recently the book of Psalms has been popping up in my life a lot. In my poetry class, we had an assignment to write a “between the lines” poem. Not that I pretend to be anything like David, but this exercise helped me creatively look at this old familiar poem in a new way.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

With Him I have all I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

In the calm of the morning,

He leads me beside quiet waters.

With songs He reminds me I’m alive.

He restores my soul.

Without Him, I am nothing.

He guides me in paths of righteousness,

Out of sheer joy and pleasure,

For His name’s sake

He smiles as we become one.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

When torturous mysteries surround me,

I will fear no evil,

I reach out and feel your warmth

For you are with me

My protector, my guide, my God,

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Despite my meager humility,

You prepare a table before me

We feast together as kings.

In the presence of my enemies

I can stand shameless and proud

You have anointed my head with oil

I am one of your chosen.

My cup over flows

Your generosity never ceases.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me,

Even when I turn confused,

All the days of my life

Until my last given breath.

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

With Him I have all I need.

In the calm of the morning,

With songs He reminds me I’m alive.

Without Him, I am nothing.

Out of sheer joy and pleasure,

He smiles as we become one.

When torturous mysteries surround me,

I reach out and feel your warmth

My protector, my guide, my God,

Despite my meager humility,

We feast together as kings.

I can stand shameless and proud

I am one of your chosen

Your generosity never ceases

Even when I turn confused.

Until my last given breath.

Gypsi with a Needle

A poem based on my story.

 

I creep from behind

Quiet through the door.

Here sits my Gypsi on her bedroom floor.

 

Stench of cheap perfume

Drowns me to a cough

Mozart on repeat. She never turns it off.

 

Gingerly I step

Sitting on her bed.

Gypsi just doesn’t care – doesn’t turn her head.

 

All around, all about

Scattered here and there

Lay cutthroat pieces of a dead teddy bear.

 

In goes the needle

Out comes the thread

Deep through the flesh of the teddy bear’s head.

 

Granny smith eyes

Shot blood red

Tears stain the pillow on her unmade bed.

 

Poised pen in hand,

“Far as I can see,

Didn’t make friends when I made up you and me.”

 

Green gaze flashes up,

“Author, tell me why

You killed my baby sister

And left me with a lie.”