I Was Once A Ninja

This evening I knew I had to work on my book. These things do not write themselves, after all. I refrained from an evening out with friends. I would, indeed, work on the narrative. Tonight
was the night.

While my laptop was warming up I looked around my bedroom and came to the conclusion that creative genius could not be cultivated in clutter. So, I began to clean. (Those of you who know me well understand that this is not par for the course. I was avoiding writing the book, and was desperate enough to avoid it that I cleaned instead.)

While sifting through some old papers I came across my first journal. It is written by a six year old version of me. Each entry is usually a picture accompanied by text that is barely passable for English.

I came across this entry half way through the journal:


Allow me to translate – “I love being a ninja. It’s rad. I love it.”

I can derive two things from this picture and text:

1. I was clearly a bad-ass at age six.

2. That little girl would not
be scared of writing the painful parts of the book. She had guts. She would tell me to stop being a wuss and slay the book with the stealth of a ninja.

I’m taking her advice. Chapter 3: prepare to be rocked.


20s Survival Guide: Breakup Songs

Tonight we continue the new series “20s Survival Guide” with Episode 2: Best Breakup Songs.

Unfortunately, all of our hearts will get squashed at some point. You’re certainly going to want to have something on to drown out the sound of your wailing and tears – and you really shouldn’t subject your roommates to Adele 24/7. Pop some of these songs on to spice the rotation up a bit.

[Disclaimer: This list, like any created about music (I’m looking at you, High Fidelity) is very subjective. The majority of these songs were selected by people who had one too many mimosas at a brunch that my friend Mallory hosted on Sunday or people who had one too many margaritas at dinner on Monday. I’d like to dedicate this list to you, my friends: without your unwavering dedication to day drinking and cheap Mexican food this list never would have made it on the blog.]

What Do You Mean This Relationship Is All Wrong For Me?

Oh, denial, you sly bedfellow. You make us think that we can change someone else, or ourselves. You make us stick around when we should run. You keep thousands of therapists employed. And you’ve also inspired some pretty great songs:

Ain’t No Sunshine- Bill Withers. Bill knows that he should leave the young thing alone. In fact, he tells himself “I know” no less than 26 (yes, 26) times. Bill needs an intervention, stat. (All kidding aside, it is brilliant that Bill Withers can deliver a message that sticks with you in a song that only lasts two minutes and four seconds).

With or Without You – U2. The ultimate song for co-dependency.

Ex-Factor – Lauryn Hill. Just put this song on repeat. Genius.

Dancing On My Own – Robyn. Body Talk is one of the best breakup albums I’ve heard in a long time. AND YOU GET TO DANCE TO IT.

Love and Happiness- Al Green. Love will make you do wrong. Love will make you do right. Ignore the title- this song is a melancholy tour de force set to one of the best bass lines of all time.

So What If I’m Chainsmoking In The Bathtub? At Least I Bathed Today

Ah, so it’s really over. You’re watching 500 Days Of Summer and Garden State nonstop on Netflix. The only thing in your fridge is an old block of cheese and a half finished bottle of Charles Shaw Chardonnay. You’ve reached the depressed phase.

Harder Now That It’s Over- Ryan Adams. Gold is one of those rare albums that felt honest from start to finish. You believed every word on the album, especially when he sings “You’re free/ free with the history” on this song.

Unbreak My Heart- Toni Braxton. Makes the list based on the video alone. 5 Stars, Toni and Tyrese.

Everything Reminds Me Of Her – Elliott Smith. Any man that can record this song and then stick a knife in his own chest must know a little something about pain.

Lover, You Should Have Come Over – Jeff Buckley. This song will always make my top ten favorite songs. The final line is delivered as a quiet plea: “It’s not too late.” Gets me. Every. Time.

I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt. I dare you to listen to this song and not cry. Bring on the chocolate and tissues, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Fake Plastic Trees- Radiohead. Really, I could have just made a list of Radiohead songs and you would have had a decent breakup playlist.

The Only Thing Stronger Than My Anger Is This Bottle of Scotch

You’re over the sadness. Now you’re just plain pissed. You’re out for blood. Might I suggest this: before you go throw a brick through your ex’s window, take a minute to live vicariously through these songs. You’ll feel better belting them out and you won’t have to deal with a court date.

Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know. The ultimate angry breakup song came out when I was eleven years old. Needless to say, my naïve little brain was a bit shocked by some of the lyrics. I think I learned more from this song than my sex-ed class, but only after my more worldly friends explained it to me. I’ve always been a little behind the times. Bless my little heart.

Under My Thumb- The Rolling Stones. The boys at brunch all grunted in approval about this one. You know that one girl who completely screwed you over? Now she’s under your thumb. Boom, how good it tastes when the tables are turned.

Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson. The inner sorority girl in me had to list this one. This may have been the most played song in the Delta Zeta house at the University of South Carolina in the spring of 2004.

Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood. Do not cheat on a woman that knows how to swing a Louisville Slugger and can wield a knife. And if you do, I hope you have really good insurance.

What are your favorite breakup songs? What did we miss? Let me know in the comments section!

Honorable Mentions:

Here I Go Again On My Own – Whitesnake

These Boots Were Made For Walking – Nancy Sinatra

How Do I Live Without You – LeAnn Rhimes (thank you, Kyle, for serenading this tune to us over brunch)

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison

Limit To Your Love – Feist

Out of Touch – Hall & Oates

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

When Your Mind’s Made Up – Glen Hansard

Legendary – Lou Barlow

Lack of Color – Death Cab For Cutie

Drumming Song – Florence + The Machine

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – Bob Dylan

Photo Essay: Joshua Tree

I love Joshua Tree. I love that a place 2 and a half hours from my house feels like a different planet, a place that time and the demands of modern life has left untouched. It’s somewhere I’ve always gone alone, to heal. I suppose you could say it’s one of my sacred places.

I knew I had to go there when at noon yesterday I couldn’t keep my mind still. My head was spinning, on data overload. I decided on a whim to point my car towards Joshua Tree and reconnect with myself, because I certainly wasn’t getting anywhere at home. I was too distracted to let myself think, to let myself just be.

Yesterday was a quiet day. A time to reflect and recharge outside the walls of Los Angeles. I wrote in my journal for quite a bit. I reflected on the loss of a great man, and prayed for his family. I realized what I could and could not change in my life, and made an active decision to let my heart move on from certain hurts. I befriended a coyote. I talked with a stranger about low exposure shots in twilight. But, mostly, I took a day to be quiet. I slowed down.

As much as I love my adopted hometown, sometimes I can’t help but need to escape its chaos and remind myself who I am. Joshua Tree is that escape for me. I hope you all have a place like that, too.

Just remember, darling: Wherever you go, there you are.
















Dear BBC: Please Make A Downton Abbey Snowglobe

Let’s talk about this, shall we?

Last night I had the pleasure of watching the Downton Abbey season 2 finale a few hours before the rest of America, courtesy of JP and his Blueray collection. It’s the little things, really.

Anyway, I will admit that I was a little put off at times by season 2. I realize that Julian Fellowes has a very large cast of characters, and that he needs to advance the plot, but some of his subplots this year left me incredulously Dowager Countess-esque. A sampling:

  • Lord Grantham and The Maid: No, I did not learn her name. Yes, I figured out her only purpose was to make our dear Robert seem fallible, as all heroes must appear at some point to be in their quest for honor and diginity and really fancy cufflinks. Seriously, though, made both me and JP scream at the TV in horror a few weeks back. HOW COULD YOU DO THAT WHILE LADY GRANTHAM IS NEAR DEATH? (also, so is that poor Lavinia Swire, but whatever, her death served a purpose so I am ok with it). Perhaps our mighty hero needed to fall in order to forgive Lady Cybil and The Chauffer and my homegirl Mary in the finale. Still, it felt forced and contrived cheap and made me, the viewer, feel gross and need to drink more wine. So that can’t be good.
  • The Redheaded Chick, The Hot Jackass (with an awesome ‘stache) and The Baby: Our favorite replacement redheaded maid (oh, DA, please bring back Gwen, I want to see what sort of adventures she’s been up to ever since receiving the post at the telephone company) got herself into all sorts of trouble when she hooked up with Clark Gable-esque officer-man. She, of course, gets knocked up, and he, of course, denies paternity. Then we go through this whole ordeal where Mrs. Hughes brings said redhead food and whatnot when she is removed from the household for being a hussy – such hypocrisy at Downton. Mary sleeps with a guy, he dies in her bed, and she gets to stay. Pshaw. Such is the class divide. Anywho, Bastard Dad dies in the war, and Redheaded Rita makes Mrs. Hughes unite her with his parents while they are visiting DA so she can thrust her loin fruit in their faces. And in the end, once they have offered her the parental equivalent of an Indecent Proposal, she decides, “Hey, whatever, I don’t need my son to have a future other than sitting in a dark room waiting for some nice old lady to bring us bread crumbs. Thanks, but no, thanks?” This storyline frustrated me, clearly. WHAT WAS THE POINT?
  • Lady Edith and The Farmer Man With A Tractor That She Drives: Enough said. Liked that Edith found herself this season, LOVED the trousers (they were Meryl Streep’s in “Out of Africa,” in case you’re curious), but was baffled a bit by that subplot.
  • Are You There, Robert? It’s Me, Patrick: Somehow I feel this storyline is not dead. I find it a little proposterous for a man to be presumed dead after the sinking of the Titanic, but then magically pops up five years later, but only after he burns half of his face off in the War and magically awakes from amnesia and remembers that he is not Canadian but an heir to a magical estate in Yorkshire. Puh-lease.

But, despite the above dalliances into the surreal, I thought last night’s episode was the cherry on top of this season. Maggie Smith stole the show per usual, but kinda loved this line from Mrs. Crawley: “It’s a nut cracker. So you can crack your nuts. We thought you’d like it.” A great line, and encapsulates why the show is so good when it’s good: succinct writing and great acting are all it really takes to make me fall in love with DA over and over again.

By the way, has Thomas not learned his lesson about being a Grade A D-Bag? You’d think he’d figure it out by now, but no, he continues to cut corners. If anything had happened to Isis I personally would have started a letter writing to Mr. Fellowes to write Thomas and his way too awesome hair off the show. I am sure all of Britain was agasp over the dog last Christmas. Dogs are one of the few things British folks can express feelings to, after all.

Back to good things, though. I’m happy that Lord and Lady Grantham are back in the groove. I love them as a couple – more than Bates & Anna and Matthew & Mary, to be honest – because of the first season. And because that relationship was healed she could FINALLY reveal Mary’s Big Fat Turkish Secret to Lord Grantham. And that reveal was the impetus for the rest of the episode. Rundown:

– Lord Grantham tells Mary to break it off with Mr. Sinister Richard, even if she will be labeled a hussy. Great father daughter moment. Probably my second favorite moment from last night.

– Mary tells Matthew her secret. Can you believe that girl was holding on to that secret for 6 years? No wonder she’s so skinny, the guilt must be eating her alive.

– Matthew punches Richard. I loved that both of their hair went all out of place. Loved it even more when Matthew apologized for breaking the vase to the Dowager.

– The Dowager’s “Do you promise?” retort to Richard’s “I am leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I doubt we will meet again.”

– And then, finally, after 8 years, Mary and Matthew admit their feelings to one another and, to our relief, smile. Such a simple concept, smiling is. Those are pretty people. They need to smile and laugh more often. All of that brooding is not a good look on Matthew Crawley. Still, a beautiful scene, what with the snow falling and the glory of Downton behind them. And, as many people have said, if BBC/PBS/Lord Carnarvon (the dude who actually lives at the real DA) don’t make a Downton Abbey snowglobe, then they are just plain bad capitalists.

Looking forward to next season- and a Maggie Smith/Shirley Maclaine show-down. Methinks my girl Violet is in for many days filled with fights with an American.

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The Shocking Way to Reduce Your Muffintop

Today I had a watershed moment. Must share.

This morning I put on “that pair” of jeans. Y’all know what I’m talking about. It’s the pair that you have convinced yourself that you still fit into, but know you’re a few precious ounces from qualifying for a fashion intervention by the crew of What Not To Wear.

Well, today I discovered that those jeans actually were on their way to fitting the way they should be. You can imagine my shock and overall happy dance that I did in my bedroom (which may or may not have been performed to Selena Gomez’s “I Love You Like A Love Song. If you’re looking for shame you ain’t gonna find it here). My muffintop had receded from its all-out, take no prisoners assault on my physique.

How did this happen? What secret diet had I been following? Don’t worry, I will tell you.

I have recently become aware of a crazy, fad diet. It’s called eating smaller, healthier portions, cutting back on the booze intake and working out at least an hour a day, 5 times a week.

Shocking, I know. Who had been hiding this crazy fitness tip from me for all of these years?

My friend Ryann suggested I share this groundbreaking discovery with my blog readers- so, for the 5ish people that read this thing, here’s a synopsis of our exchange. Consider Ryann my first fitness pupil.

Ryann: Catherine, can I drink a bottle of wine a night and still lose weight?

Catherine: No, but that sounds like a wonderful gateway to an evening of questionable decision making.

Ryann: Catherine, can I eat In ‘N’ Out for lunch everyday and still lose weight?

Catherine: Only if you barf it up later, but my super secret diet plan does not condone that at all. Next question?

Ryann: Catherine, I like to sit. It’s one of my favorite past times. I can do so much when I sit, watch movies, watch TV, work, watch YouTube videos, really, the possibilities are endless. See, the problem is I actually like sitting so much that I HATE getting up. Can I just sit and lose weight?

Catherine: No.

I changed Ryann’s life today. Hopefully I’ve changed yours, too. Now I will just sit back and watch the book deals, interviews and heaps upon heaps of money roll on in.

(sarcasm font off)

Photo Essay: Patriots v Broncos with Mom

Here are some photos from me and Mom’s trip to frigid Boston for the Patriots vs. Broncos playoff game. Highlights:

1. Dad agreed to pay for hotel and car as long as I paid for our food and drink. Mom and I couldn’t have lunch for less than 70 bucks. I think I got the raw end of that deal after looking at my bank statement.

2. Tom Brady punted a ball 48 yards. We stayed long enough to see it.

3. We drank beer in the bathroom to keep them from turning into alcohol slushies.

4. Hanging with Mom is always a highlight. She’s a throwback combo of wisdom and unpredictability. Love this quote: “Livin is like lickin honey from a thorn.”

5. My new jolly hat. What’s not to love?

Go Pats! Can’t wait for the Super Bowl.















The Nana

This is the first Christmas my family will spend without Marian Hall Plein. My grandmother was the quintessential family matriarch. Never shy about her opinions, always one to love you fiercely, she was and always will be looking over our shoulders. Christmas just won’t be the same without her.

Nana was my last surviving grandparent. When you lose the generation ahead of your parents you can’t help but recognize life is swiftly moving onward. And that’s ok- it is how life should and inevitably will be, even if I sometimes forget that.

I spoke at Nana’s funeral this March. I really wasn’t sure how I would get through it, but my brother gave me a steady look through my words, and I made it. Thanks for that, Bo.

So as I look back at this year I’ll remember the biggest moment- where we said goodbye to Nana. Below are the words I shared that day.

I love you, Nana. Merry Christmas.

The Nana

We’re all here to celebrate the life of a woman who left one very special mark on the world. We all knew her differently- she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend. To me, she was The Nana.

Nana wasn’t your typical grandmother. This wasn’t the sort of woman you could put in an ivory tower and admire from afar. Nana loved you up close, never letting you forget what was right or wrong, and never ever letting you forget how proud she was of you. She was there at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, telling you stories about listening to Giants games on the radio with her mother and rooting for Willie Mays. She was there in my classroom, reading books in a circle with a bunch of six year olds during story-time. She was there, playing Battleship with her scared eight year old granddaughter as she spent a week at Fairfax Memorial Hospital. She was there in the kitchen, whistling a tune and tapping her foot, while fixing her grandkids spaghetti and salad. She was always there, in the thick of everything, with everyone.

Nana was a mother, dear friend, advisor, and confidante to many. I never knew Nana and Day-Day’s house to be empty- family and friends seemed to be drop by at a moment’s notice. Nana loved that. Her house was as vibrant as she was, and the people that filled it were her community. I looked forward to the big family summits at their house during the holidays. There was always some sort of political debate, with guitars and a few songs thrown in for good measure, Nana bustling from conversation to conversation to the turkey. But I also loved the quieter moments at their house, where us kids would get a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and watch Murder She Wrote or Matlock with Nana in her bedroom. And that was Nana- in chaos or in the quiet, you could count on her to be there for you.

The Nana we knew may have been taken away by Alzheimers in the past years, but her big heart and essence was always there. Every laugh, every toe tap to the music of her childhood, and yes, every finger wag, reminded us of the Nana we knew. She was a lady committed to the community of family and friends she built from her childhood in Queens to the very end. And to me, that’s her legacy. We’ve lost a great light in our lives, but Nana’s fiery spirit and legacy will live on always within us.


Occupy Everywhere: my take


A lot of folks are talking about this picture. Check your favorite website. Pretty sure you’ll find it. And why not? It’s dramatic and what any movement lusts for – an iconic photo that will spread at the speed of Twitter.

But what does the Occupy movement really gain from it?

I struggle with the Occupy Everywhere protests. The former activist in me wants to celebrate their commitment to making their voices heard. I love that this country allows all of its citizens to assemble, to speak as one voice. The problem with this movement is that it doesn’t have clear leadership articulating WHAT that voice is. There’s no one saying exactly what should be fixed. And without that voice I fear that people on all sides of this issue will become more frustrated. They just become occupiers, not agents of change. Those opposed to it will keep jeering those who protest. Those who protest still won’t have a solution to their problem. And our government will sit back and squabble like little old ladies arguing over a game of Bridge.

My personal opinion is this: a society that cannot provide the basic framework for its citizens to have the opportunity the thrive will fail. Note that I said opportunity- it’s the responsibility of the individual to thrive once they’ve received that opportunity. The problem is that I haven’t heard a single person in this movement come up with a solution. The voices just get louder and the media sensationalizes the protests. Opponents mock the protestors, tell them to get a job and the whole thing spirals out of control.

We are living in a powder keg right now. I hope all sides find the right leadership before we explode. Until then this photo will live in a vacuum. It will represent a moment in time when America chose to sit back and watch itself step further away from the principles that once made this country a beacon of light for the world.

Missed flights, new connections

I’m writing this entry from Dallas-Fort Worth airport, when I should be in the air to Charleston, South Carolina. You may ask why I’m not on my flight. If you know me really well then you shouldn’t be too shocked by the next few paragraphs.

Turns out I overslept this morning and missed my 7:15 am flight from LAX to DFW. Nothing better than having the first words our of your mouth for the day be “Le Fuck.” (sorry for the language, Mom. You taught me better than that. But today it was appropriate).

I also had not finished packing (double shocker) so while I fluttered around my room trying to pull myself together in record time I threw whatever was in my closet into my suitcase. I’m looking forward to seeing what exactly I packed whenever I see my luggage again. Brilliant start to the morning. And it gets better.

Next up on Catherine’s Clusterfuck morning (sorry again, Mom. you know how much I love alliteration) was a mad drive up Pacific Coast Highway to the airport, where I was hoping I could hop the next flight. I really couldn’t have picked a worse day to miss a flight – getting anywhere on standby is near impossible, let alone a small airport in South Carolina with a few flights in every day the weekend before Thanksgiving. At that point I was hoping my horseshoe would save me again, like it has so many times in my mess of a life – more on my horseshoe and it’s uncanny ability to pull me through tiny disasters in a future post.

I got to to the parking garage where I usually leave my car for long trips, tossed my keys at the attendant and made a mad dash for the shuttle. Looked at my watch and gave myself a little smile because it appeared I would make it in time to fly standby. I then realized my license was in my back pocket and said “hey, silly lady, put that thing in your wallet before you lose it.”

And then I realized I had left my wallet in the car.

Any reasonable person may have given up on their mission to travel once they realized they were flightless, moneyless and batting .000 for the day. Not this kid. Why? Because I have plans to go see the Gamecocks tomorrow. Nothing would stop me from reuniting with my brother and watching the game with my best girls at Williams-Brice tomorrow. Onward.

I ended up getting the last seat on the plane (thank you, Platinum AA status) and dropped down in the aisle seat next to a fella. He kind of laughed when he saw me- and he had every right to. I was a mess of tangled hair, unbuckled boots and looked generally homeless. But still smiling, cause hey! I got a seat! Victory #1 for the day.

He saw my two phones and commented on my extreme connectivity (I carry an iPhone and a work Blackberry- kind of gives strangers the impression that I’m either 1. A workaholic 2. A serial cheater or 3. A drug dealer. I kinda hope they go with option 1 in their heads. But I digress.)

We began talking about politics and both agreed that our nation’s education system needed a reboot, that America could take some lessons from Britain on how to abdicate its world power status gracefully (ha). We talked about favorite TV shows (both huge fans of Dawson’s Creek), The Abbey, and our mutual love and obsession over Robyn. Discovered he was going to Costa Rica to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. I told him my story and he laughed. “God, that sounds like something I would do!” he especially liked the part where I said I may be sleeping at DFW tonight if I can’t get a stand-by flight to Charleston. Plane friend bond had been sealed.

But then he did something that was so incredibly unexpected: he pulled out his wallet, handed me a $100 bill, and told me this story:

“When I was studying abroad in Spain I ran out of all of my money on the day I was supposed to go home. I had no way of getting a taxi or catching a ride to the airport. A stranger saw me in that situation and gave me 50 bucks. We’ve all been there. Take it.”

I tried to decline his offer, but he insisted and told me to pay it forward. I was left with this overwhelming appreciation for a complete stranger who offered me help in a time of need. Too many times we sit next to people on trains, planes or even at work and dont take the time to get to know them. We look at each other warily, like the stranger could intrude on our self-contained bubble, mess up our tiny little lives. But every now and then we say hello to that stranger and get blessed with the gift of kindness, with compassion.

I may not know where I am sleeping tonight – I could end up in Charleston, or DC, or the floor of terminal D at DFW. I may not see my luggage for a few days. I may have other trite obstacles down the road. But I do know this: I have a new connection.

Thank you, Steve Cardenas, for restoring my faith in humanity. Thank you for making me laugh when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. Thank you for your random act of kindness. This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I met you and remembered what life is all about: bringing light to the lives of others.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. And Steve- if you ever read this: you’re the man.

Quote of the Day

“Oh, have you been to seven grand? YOU would LOVE it.” – e

“why would I LOVE it?” – c

“1. Whiskey bar
2. A pool table that is 150 years old
3. Taxidermed animals mounted on the wall and in show cases.
4. Rich dark wood walls
5. Bathroom attendants
6. Cigars on the patio

I don’t know why I think that your inner spirit is the dos equis man, but I do.”
– e