Can you tell me a story?

For the past several years around my birthday I’ve had a thought. It goes something like, what impact have I made in this world? And with that thought, I almost had the courage to ask people if I left any impression upon their life, or just had a nice moment where we laughed together, or helped them without realizing it (or remembering it) or just did good in some way for them, or maybe just share a moment that sticks out in one’s mind for no good reason.

And then I chicken out. Maybe because we’re not supposed to ask those kinds of questions? I don’t know.

But why do I have to wait until I’m a ghost at my funeral haunting the egg sandwiches to hear a story people remember about me? Why? No reason!

So even though it isn’t my birthday. And even though I am NOT dying tomorrow… I would like to ask:

Can you please tell me a story?

Was there a moment between us you remember – big or little? Did I ever help you when you needed it? Did I make any kind of impact on your life? Or say something that stuck? Did I ever make you laugh? Or did I do something wonderfully stupid? I’d like to know. I’d like to know what the day was like, and how you were feeling, and what we looked like back then, and why we were there together, and what happened. I’d like to hear a tiny story. 🙂

And yes, I realize that there are plenty of stories where I fucked up and hurt people too. The ones I know of, I think about still. The ones I don’t, well I guess I don’t. And if you feel the need to tell that story, I get it. But don’t, please. Yes, this is a very selfish post, I agree.

If you have a story, you can leave it here in the comments or on my facebook page. If you don’t, that is a-okay too. I don’t know what to expect. Crickets? Nothing? A little, maybe. I know many of you are not commenters. But if you feel like trying, I feel like reading.

Thank you so much. Please consider your story an awesome gift to me.


49 thoughts on “Can you tell me a story?

  1. When I found you I just wanted to hug you…I’m old you are so young….why! Loved your family adventures on the trains…in your writings I felt joy. Now there’s a sadness of the unfairness of it are such a bright light Catherine! Xoxoxox Joanne

  2. Lovely Catherine, straight away I remembered that time Denise DH and I came to your flat in Portswood to try and fathom out what the hell to do with our Creative Writing Masters anthology. It was an absolute nightmare and so bloody finickety, but you did it. There was a look in your eyes that said ‘this is a hideous job and I hate it’. I think you’d not long moved in and were up to your eyes in all sorts, but you explained the process so slowly and carefully to two very mature students who really didn’t have a clue. And somehow the job got done (never again!), the book was published and there’s still one on my bookshelf with all our names on it as proof.

    Somehow, some way, I believe we all leave an indelible mark on at least someone. That thought I had about you comes with memories of happy times at Southampton Uni, amazing friendships that still make me smile (thanks Facebook) and, at that moment in your flat, sincere thanks for sharing time with a very kind, patient and sweet soul.

    I’m so pleased you asked the question. I suspect you’re going to be inundated now.

    Much love, Louise x

    • Ha! I love hearing your memories about the book! I think that was really one of my first ‘freelance’ jobs. And you know what, I remember you sharing a bit of your time to help me learn more about freelance writing in general. That helped me get my first foothold into the field, and as a result crazy good things have happened. Thank you for helping me with that. It truly sent me in the right direction.

      And yes, that book did drive me crazy! What a crazy way of formatting I was working with. InDesign would have been soooo much easier.

  3. Catherine, the story I want to share with you is as follows. I’m not sure if it’s what you are looking for but I hope it is somewhere along the line of it. For a long time I have debated about commenting, because I want you to know the impact you have, but I also feel awkward and shy and as though I might not really be able to find the right words. I have never actually met you. I have read and followed your blog ever since I came across it. As I read these little pieces of your story that you share, I am moved and deeply affected. I cry and I laugh out loud and I feel on some level like I know you and like we could be friends and, yes, I am aware of how creepy that may be. Hahaha. When I read your writing I feel as though I see life a little more clearly. There’s a shift that happens in me, like a re-centring maybe, and my perspective changes. It isn’t an easy or a comfortable thing necessarily… seeing life so clearly can really hurt actually, as I imagine you know. But it is also liberating, empowering, and also just simply awesome. I feel closer to what is meaningful, to what is truly important. As I suspected I don’t feel my words do justice to the impact you have had on me, to what you give through your writing, but I do feel it was worth it to try. Thank you, so sincerely, Catherine.

    • This is … it’s moving. I never stop to consider how my writing might impact others, so to hear your thoughts and how you have engaged – I really appreciate this. So thank you so much, Caitie. I’m so glad that you are reading along.

  4. Hi Catherine, here is my story about “us”, although we don’t know each other that well 🙂

    I met you at karate when my boys wanted to take lessons and their dad & I joined in with the “kids” class as it was a lot more practical for us. That’s where I met your brother Daniel as he took lessons too and I also met your parents when they would bring you and watch the class. I am sooo blessed that my boys took those lessons as I met you all through them.

    How you helped me: You babysat my boys a couple of times and that was such a blessing as they were getting to an age that was hard to find a babysitter and they both really enjoyed you, and that alone was HUGE! So thank you for allowing their dad and I a night out without worrying about what was happening at home 🙂

    How you have sooo inspired me: I have been to a few workshops with you and when we shared some of our experiences, you are wise beyond your years. There is one share that still inspires me and helps me everyday, so thank you for sharing that with our little group that time. Also reading your posts (which I have neglected the last couple of years since we moved to the farm), some are inspiring, some a very touching, some are funny and some are …

    You certainly have a big gift in your writing, I’ve always enjoyed reading whatever you write.

    Thank you for sharing your life with “us” and I am sending you tons of courage and as much spiritual healing as you need (and all other kinds too of course)

    You are a blessing Catherine Brunelle 🙂 xoxoxox

  5. I don’t know you but I’ve read your blog for a while now, maybe a year. I am continuously impressed by your spirit and tenacity whether it’s regarding your book, your many projects, your amazing relationship with your husband, or your joy of life. You are a very inspiring person to me. I know this is not what you asked for but I hope it’s nice to hear. I mean it sincerely. I look forward to many more blog posts from you! All the best, Tanya

    • Well, this is a cheat, but can I just say that Tanya above has said exactly what I want to say! Especially the bit about your husband; you and Zsolt seem to have an incredible marriage and I love that you share bits of it with us through your beautiful writing. THANK YOU for all your blogs, I love it when the email lands in my Inbox to say another has been posted! Love from a stranger (also happily married, childfree – through choice, lucky us – and with wonderful friends and family also) xx

  6. Hi Catherine,

    This is a great idea to ask for stories. It is natural to wonder what positive impacts we have made on others, and often we agonize over small negative actions which the other person may have long forgotten.

    You have made a wonderful impact on my life.

    1. Met a young shy girl named Catherine Brunelle at the Success Workshop of Ottawa. She was a greeter. I admired how her greeting made nervous attendees feel safe and welcomed. She says she is shy, yet I see how warm and sincere she is with the strangers she greets at the workshop.

    2. At some of the workshops, she wore simple yet trendy clothes that looked good on her. She has a good fashion sense. Picture a long, dark blue, flared denim jacket that reaches just above her knees (like a sargeant coat), over a dark blue pair of denim jeans.

    3. Her “BumpyBoobs” blogs are written from the heart with openness, honesty, and sincerity on difficult topics that most people find hard to discuss. Her blogs show wisdom that way exceeds her youth … wisdom which I am just discovering in my senior years. How does she do this? Where did this wisdom come from?

    4. Catherine draws cute, imaginative, simple illustrations for her blog which reflect her mood and the theme of her blogs. I like her style of drawing which I am trying to emulate as I develop my own style for drawing and water colour painting

    5. Her novel, “Adventures of Claire Never Ending,” is an impressive piece of literature where each chapter is a story onto itself, yet many themes are woven expertly throughout the chapters to create surprise and delight. Beautifully written in terms of style, plot and character development.

    6. Catherine wrote a short story for me about a lady who lives in the Rockies who wakes up to find that all her cats have disappeared … as this lady searches for her cats, she meets spirit animals who help her find the wisdom she needs to live a happy life. Catherine wrote this story with insight into my soul. It is a very treasured gift to me.

    I am writing a book about the cats I have rescued–their personalities, antics, medical conditions and treatments–as a labour of love and therapy for my depression. When I finish writing this book, I’ll add Catherine’s short story to the published version because it is a great story that is close to my heart, and because I want to showcase Catherine’s talent as a writer … I should not be the only person who has read Catherine’s short story.

    7. There is a quote that Catherine shared with me, which I use often to cheer myself up, and which I share with others when I write or talk about depression:

    “Look up to the sky and smile, and recognize how wonderful your life is.”

    Catherine’s wisdom, enthusiasm for life, and determination to overcome her obstacles shine as a beacon of inspiration for me on the days when depression tries to make an appearance in my wonderful life.

    Thanks Catherine. You are a very cool person. 🙂

    Love Francoise 🙂

    • Thank you so much for this Francoise. I have always appreciated your enthusiasm for all of this. And am so very, very glad that the story worked well for you. It’s not easy to write a story for a person, and that fact that it fit you was wonderful. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Years eve, with great things to come in 2017.

  7. Every year when I’m going through the posts for Blog Out Loud I find lots of really great stories, but usually there’s only one voice that really speaks to me in a Kindred Spirits kind of way. The year you read at BOLO, your voice was the one for me – I loved your thoughtful tone and your positivity and your quiet command of beautiful phrases right away. I added your blog to my reader immediately and dug through your archives, and when Claire came out, I was first in line to order a copy (and consider my original-cover version to be a highly prized collectors item!).

    Your writing continues to inspire me, but what I love most about it is your approach to life. The way you are so thoughtful about things – pondering the deeper meaning of the everyday without getting too lost in the details. I love the way you can turn small moments into real stories, stories that make me think about my own place in this world and what it means to relate to others. It’s so inspiring to me, the way you weave creative moments into your life every day, the way you’re always looking for the next big project, the way you always have a little something cooking in the back of your mind that is going to be something wonderful. And I especially love that you’re not afraid to share your creations with the world.

    You’ve shown me that a writer can do a lot to make a difference in this world – that you can use your writing talent to build a community, to bring people together, and to bring attention to issues. I can only hope to be half as wise, as thoughtful, as involved, and as creative in my life as you have been every day in yours. I’m hoping to publish a (very short) book of stories this year and although I can’t compare it to yours – it’s too intimidating in terms of quality! – the fact that I would even think to do this comes from you, with Claire, showing me that it is possible. Thanks so much for all you’ve done, and continue to do – without being anything other than wholly yourself.

    • Lynn, thank you for this. You know, BOLO is/was such a good thing. I truly admire how you took it on and helped champion the value of blogging. Your commitment to the community always left me amazed, and I know many, many people appreciate your voice and writing. Congrats on the book coming out – THAT is EXCITING!

      By the by, being able to read on that state was a dream come true. Never did I imagine that I could be ‘good’ enough to stand among the writers who have appeared at the festival. Because of your vision, it happened. Thank you.

  8. I remember when we both read at BOLO. You were so great – Tim’s and my favourite that night. You were with Zsolt and you were so cute and obviously in love with each other. And you were wearing VERY cute rain boots that I coveted.
    Then we met for tea at the art gallery coffee house in Hintonberg. I learned more about your writing and your book (which I own have read and love) and the fact that you worked in the Rosemount Library. I love libraries and books. And I loved meeting you.

    • Laurie, do you know that the interview for Lives Affected by Cancer, where you and I connected and I wrote it up for the magazine, is one of my favorite/best pieces of writing? I’m so proud of the story we managed to share through that article. And then I remember BOLO and feeling SO nervous to meet you in person. You have been an inspiration to me. Thank you for your story – and I’m glad you like the boots!

  9. When you started working at Chapters, you seemed to be a very serious, businesslike person. Before long another (male) colleague who had actually interacted with you reported that you were in fact a very easy-going, friendly person with a good sense of humour. He did, however, also say that you were majoring in psychology at university, which made us both leery, as we thought you might try some psychoanalytic witchcraft on us without our knowing. In spite of that, when I did get to know you, I was able to confirm that you were an extremely likeable person; you were universally liked, which, at that time and place, was a rare thing.

    Someone later told me you had a black belt in karate. This surprised me, as I figured (following my thought process re: your university studies) that if you really were a black belt you’d be throwing your weight around in the lunch room, threatening customers, locking us in closets, etc. One day I asked you about it, and I remember your head snapping up and you looking at me with a mix of amusement and suspicion and asking me who’d told me that. I sang like a canary and braced for a beating, but none came.

    Still later you were trolling for book recommendations, and I suggested Lolita, which is always a dicey choice. Months afterwards you were passing by and said, “Oh, hey! I read Lolita!” “Oh, really?” “Yeah! It was *terrible* . . .” I was about to apologize for liking and recommending a terrible book, but you told me you were kidding. Once again, I felt relieved to have escaped with my mind and person intact.

    One other time you were putting books on a cart to shelve and mentioned something about some nerd or other (maybe a famous nerd, like Steve Urkel or Pope John Paul II), and then added, sort of self-effacingly, “But actually, I like nerds.” I was about to say, “Um–are you coming on to me?” but I guess I remembered the psychology and karate and decided against it.

    It seems all these memories involve me narrowly dodging some sort of low-frequency menace on your part. Yet the more I got to know you, the less I feared you, until I ultimately reached the conclusion that you were neither a violent psychopath nor a manipulating sadist. What’s more, although we haven’t chatted in person for a number of years, I imagine you’re still the kind, intelligent, terrific, upbeat person you were back then.

    Glad I checked your blog today (for the first time in a while). Sending you all the positive vibes and mental puppy swarms I can.

    • Oh my goodness this was FUN to read. So fun. But you had it right from the very beginning. I’m way into that psychoanalytical witchcraft! However, even so, I’m glad you saw past it eventually and let the fear slide. It was always such a relief to go into the backroom and have a proper conversation with you and the others there that day. Whenever I was assigned a job back there, I would milk that work assignment all day long! Good company is hard to refuse!

      I hope you are doing well – and enjoying yourself immensely 🙂

  10. You don’t know me, and I’ve never posted, but I’ve followed your blog for a long time. Like you, I was diagnosed young (29), and even though that was 3 years ago, it’s still something I struggle with almost every day. Reading your blog has helped me manage my doubts and fears … I so admire your grace under pressure and hope to be as brave as you someday. Know that there are people out there thinking of you and rooting for you every day.

    • Thank you so much. I very much appreciate you taking this moment to post for the first time. Right now, I am rooting for you too – rooting that you realize, when you are ready, that you are already so brave, and it’s all there inside you right now. (That’s my hunch, at least. Because in reality I too am scared sh*tless half the time, and yet we carry on.)

  11. You are an incredibly gifted storyteller and so many of the stories you have shared here have transported me to magical places. But of all your stories the one that has made a lasting impact on me is the story of the love you share with Zsolt. It has made me believe again in a pure, beautiful and lasting love,

    • Oh I do like that. Thank you so much, Marie. You and your blog were my first venture into the world of online community, and it has made all the difference in my life and how I have coped. I imagine if you asked for stories of impact, your server would crash!

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  13. Dear Catherine,
    I’ve loved connecting with you over the blogosphere. We connected over your writing of your book and remember sharing my photo with you when my copy of your book arrived. You inspired me to keep writing. You’ve inspired me too with how you embrace life. Sending you much love from Edinburgh.
    Your friend

  14. Oh Catherine – there are too many moments and stories to recall – all those cups of tea at Trago lounge or the little bookshop in Portswood, book club, writing club….chatting about books, writing, food, travelling, feminism, weddings…. picnics on the common and in the garden…and now our skype dates 🙂 still the same topics. Ha – and that drive on those windy roads to the Chawton House with my colleague! You really are a great friend and kindred spirit, inspiring in your lust for life.
    So, my little story for you is this. I was in Chile, preparing to return to Southampton to start a Masters in Creative Writing. I had only just joined Facebook and my friend Dave said he worked with this Canadian girl Catherine at PWC who was also starting the same Masters.. so I think we exchanged a few fb messages in advance. What a coincidence! But life is full of these wonderful magic moments if you let them happen. I had no idea if we were going to get on, but as soon as I walked into that huge lecture theatre, and found your comforting face amongst all those other unknown people, I knew we would. And the rest is history, as they say: the beginning of a very much valued friendship.
    Lots of love xxx

    • Ulrike, I will never forget that moment in the lecture hall. I was so scared, and then you showed up and sat next to me. And then, in class, you kept sitting next to me. It just somehow amazed me – since you were simply the coolest person in the class. Our friendship has meant a great, great, great deal to me. From when we first met and just clicked – and yes, even before when Dave connected us! Driving through the new forest at night towards our very special writing group. Those cups of tea at Tragos and the picnics in the common. When you hosted a birthday party for me and helped make the day special (even though I was having a hard time). Whenever I’m with you life feels simple and safe, reasonable and doable. And you know what, I love that we talk about our passions and pleasures. There are only a few people in my life I’ve connected with in this manner, and you are one of those few.

  15. I wish I had something more profound to say than this: I’m not a cancer patient, but I found your blog when I was caring for my mom who died recently of breast cancer. That’s just how I originally found your blog — but the reason I kept reading it because reading your blog makes me feel a little less daunted by the world, and a little less alone. If you can square your shoulders and stay yourself, while facing some Very Difficult Things, I feel that I, too, can face what life throws at me without having to wait to transform into a super-hero. That’s the positive impact you’ve had on me.

  16. You are a person who will sing in the rain! I love your spirit.. It is something that I always remember. You could focus on only one thing but you choose to make your life so much more. I love hearing about your adventures, especially with your dad! Thank you for sharing and always being a shining light:)

  17. Catherine, I don’t have a particular story in mind to share, but I do have very fond memories of the times I spent with you and Catherine, like the first time we met dancing at the Babylon Mod night; sipping tea and chatting during our short-lived but successful book club meetings; Catherine’s birthdays and Christmas parties. Your writing is honest, pure, refreshing, simple yet deep and some has moved me to tears- happy and sad. Cheers to you and wishing you a very Happy Birthday!! Annie xox

  18. Hi Catherine. We have never met, but I have been reading your blog for a few years… I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37, with two young children. The diagnosis came out of nowhere (as it always does). Those early days were so dark. I was devastated, petrified, and overwhelmed. And I felt alone. I did have loved ones trying to help me, but it felt like they couldn’t quite reach me. Like I was behind some sort of glass, trying to catch my breath all by myself.

    I stumbled upon your blog one evening and read it for hours into the night, catching up on your story. Your words spoke to me, they reached me and made me feel less alone.

    You love story with your husband filled my heart. I also count my husband as one of my biggest blessings and believe our love story is one for the ages too…

    Your outlook on life, your ability to see the good, to feel blessed, to be grateful… It’s contagious! It has helped me to change my perspective many times when the darkness creeps back in.

    My cancer was caught “early,” but – as you know – that doesn’t mean much. The greatest loss for me has been the feeling of safety. I hate that I can no longer picture myself growing old. I hate that I am afraid to talk about “someday.” I hate that I worry all the time that I won’t see my babies become adults.

    Reading your blog has actually given me a feeling of peace about some of this. Watching you handle what has come at you with so much grace gives me hope that I, too, will be able to do the same when I need to. It makes me feel like I have the tiniest bit of control.

    I am rooting for you, sending positive vibes into the universe for you all the time. And I have a lot of hope. I hope that your days are sunny and pain-free. I hope that you get many more days, weeks, months, years with those you love…

    I also hope that scientists and researchers have really good days too and that someday soon, you can really kick this thing to the curb.

    I just wanted you to know that you have had an impact on me – someone you have never met – from many miles away. That’s my “story!” 🙂

    • Natalie this is beautifully said and I’m grateful you expressed it. Let’s root for the scientist and researchers. Let’s root hard. GO team anti-cancer. And in the meanwhile enjoy each moment with your family. May you move further and further away from that moment of diagnosis, so that one day it really is a memory, and not one that haunts as it might now. I hope this for you very much. But no matter what happens in the future, sounds like we are both very luck for our love and families today. This is a blessing. 🙂 Thank you for your story!

  19. Hi Catherine- I’m sorry I’m a few days late, but I wanted to share this because it tells exactly the story of how connected

    And here is the story which you wrote about our connection and your book 📚
    I especially love you talking about how we engage with each other’s stories.
    Sending you heaps of love from Africa! ❤️

    • Oh wow. THIS is why I so love blogging and community. I’ve had to pull back from too much #BCSM talk over the past while. I cannot emotionally cope so well. But reading this post, it reminds me why it matters. And how it has helped me so much. Thank you Philippa for sharing these posts.

  20. In May 2012 I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer of the eye. I searched around online for some cancer support groups, and I found one that I liked and joined it. You reached out to me privately with kindness, support, and thoughtfulness and cyber-hugs. I am twice your age, but you were mature and kind and welcomed me and comforted me like a child. I appreciated it during that scary time of my life. Later, I had the privilege of proofreading your wonderful book, Claire Neverending. Thank you for making me feel safe and cared for, something that comes naturally to you. Much love, Julie

    • Thank you. I appreciated so much how you ‘got’ my story, in a way that others hadn’t. It was a relief to find you as an editor! And I’m so glad that that forum experience helped you. So very glad 🙂

  21. Hey you, I love the request. We’ve not met in the flesh, only in words. In a way, that’s what makes it a bit magical. You have influenced me in more ways than you can imagine. Witnessing you write and then publish Claire Never Ending was such an inspiration. “Just do it” is the Nike ad but you’ve taken it to a new level by letting nothing get in your way. Because of you, I’ve adopted the same attitude. This is a one way trip and I’m taking it all in. You live your life 100% even with all of the road blocks laced with pain and disappointment. I love your honesty and enthusiasm. With that I will say, “Tell me more.”

    I love the idea of mental puppy swarms and so I’m sending some too in your direction!

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  23. Hi Catherine,

    I have so many stories i could tell you about….i will try to just focus on the ones that I think are funny and stood out as special bonding moments between us.

    Lets see…
    when we were children…. the time you used me to try and get something that was unreachable behind your dresser. Well i went in head first and was able to get a hand on the object (i forget what it was). Too bad you were not strong enough to pull me out of the hole because i got stuck there for quite some time before, i think dad, freed me.

    the time first and only time i allowed you to give me a haircut… you literally put a bowl on my head and used it like a ruler to cut a line around my head…wow, that was a scary moment lol….

    the time i was dressing in drag and paraded me down the street like your little sister and really confusing the neighbours… not sure if Shannon’s dad knew who i was? heheheh

    the time you would tie Belle’s leash around my waist and you would swing me from the stair banister…i thought it was fun….looking back it was probably another bad idea!

    all the times we went to the store to get a popsicle and candy…i think the store was called Annies?

    all the times we would sneak out right before dinner and we would grab some crazy bread from little ceasars, or some chicken nuggets with the sweet n’ sour sauce.

    all the times when we would rock out to the Metallica album ‘Ride the Lightning’ in the car… For Whom The Bell Tolls….I remember you were screaming the lyrics and making eye contact with the car in the other lane…wow that was priceless…lol.

    all those countless hours playing Monkey Island together… I think we can thank Megan for the copy of the game?

    going to Europe together… that was an awesome trip!

    Overall, you are a really fun person to hang around… thanks for always pushing me to do things that i probably wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for you.


  24. Catherine,
    We have not met, but I am a regular reader of your blog. I discovered you when my good friend Lynn Turtlehead loaned me her copy of Claire Never Ending. We have very similar taste in books and she knew I would love it as much as she did – and I did! 🙂 Your writing, whether in your book, or your blog, is always so creative, thoughtful, and so very mindful. My best wishes to you.

  25. Once upon a time I opened a small package and inside was the most adorable tiny painting I had ever seen. I shrieked in delight as I placed the painting in a special place on my fireplace mantle next to miniature felt versions of my dogs. The End.

  26. I’ve followed your story through my own cancer assessments, and your clear and concise explanations served as a comfort and a guide as to what would follow. You also reminded me to live during these periods, never to forget that as well as a patient, I was also a wife, mother, daughter and friend. I think of your blog as updates from a friend I haven’t met yet.

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