Catherine received her undergraduate degree in English at Brigham Young University and taught seventh-grade Language Arts for a year before her first child was born. She earned a Master's degree in Humanities with an emphasis in literature from California State, Dominguez Hills. She and her husband, David, are the parents of five children and enjoy vacationing at Elephant Butte Reservoir each summer near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Catherine loves reading stories with her children, scrapbooking, exploring new places, and going on walks with her husband. She and her family recently moved back to Albuquerque after spending a year in the Boston area. This is her first novel.
The Ridiculously Long Version
First off, I have to say that this picture makes me look way more glamorous than I am. I am embarrassingly LM. That's low maintenance, meaning that I usually wear a T-shirt with jeans and let my hair drip-dry. I didn't even learn how to "do" my hair until the summer before I turned 40, when my stylish sister-in-law (I have several) Emily took pity on me and showed me how to both curl and straighten my hair. My 14-year old daughter, who is good with both hair and a camera, waved my hair and then took this picture.
I am the second oldest of six children, and come from a family of three girls and then three boys. I was born in Utah and briefly lived in Arizona before spending four years in California. We lived less than an hour from my grandparent’s home in the Ojai valley, which we lovingly referred to as The Hilltop. Set on seven acres which included a steep wooded bank, hundreds of pigeon coops, a picnic area and swing set, a screened patio, and sloping grassy fields, the Hilltop was a magical place to explore as a child. Though my granddad sold The Hilltop decades ago, it remains one of my favorite places in the world, and is where my subconscious often drifts off to explore again in those times between waking and sleep.
We left the California coast for the snowy mountains of Hailey Idaho just before I started first grade, and lived there until after my sophomore year of high school. Hailey is a small town just a few miles from the ski resort, Sun Valley, and has roughly the same winter temperatures as Anchorage, Alaska. In spite of the frigid, dark winters where my hair would often freeze on my way to early morning seminary, my summers were filled with beautiful camping trips and the carefree freedom of riding my bike down picturesque paths or to the nearby BigWood River.
I had two very formative experiences while I lived in Idaho. The summer after my ninth grade year, my granddad generously paid for my two sisters, my dad and me to spend eight weeks driving across the country and then touring Europe. My dad, who had lived in France and Germany and was actually my high school French teacher, was the perfect tour guide. While in Belguim, we stayed with one of my parents’ good friends who was serving as an ambassador, and I decided then that I, too, wanted to be a US ambassador so I could travel the world. The trip opened my mind to other cultures, sparked my interest in history, and sent me back to Idaho with dreams of exotic times and places.
The following summer I had the opportunity to attend Especially For Youth at BYU, and felt my testimony grow and my confidence expand. I had always been ridiculed for my beliefs and standards—my nick name in eighth grade was “Mary Poppins—practically perfect in every way”—so it was extraordinary for me to see so many happy, excited youth and leaders who weren’t afraid to share what they believed. I came home with a stronger testimony of the gospel and with greater confidence about who I was and what I stood for.
Our family moved to Bountiful, Utah at the beginning of my Junior year so my dad could start a career as a linguist for the Church . I had a great experience at Bountiful High. During my senior year I was a member of the female show choir, Xela, participated on the Debate team, and attended Nationals in Student Congress. I also made some amazing friends, including my debate partner and second cousin, the brilliant and fun Jennifer Nielsen who has published several great novels, including the NY Times Bestseller, The Ascendence Trilogy.
Within two months of starting school at BYU, I fell hopelessly in love with my future husband, David White. We went on our first date when I was still seventeen, and he gave me my first kiss on my 18th birthday, although he insists that that one didn’t count since I was blindfolded and my roommates put him up to it. He considers our first real kiss to be one month later on December 21st. We were married exactly three years later on that very day. The temple sealer kissed me after the ceremony, making Dave and the temple sealer the only two men who have ever kissed me on the lips.
Because I was so young when I started dating Dave, my mom was genuinely panicked when my sister and I came home for Thanksgiving break and Christine announced, “Catherine met a guy and she really likes him!” My mom’s panic turned to relief when she heard that he had not yet served a mission, and she said, “Good! I hope he leaves the country!” He was later called to serve in the Capetown, South Africa mission speaking Afrikaans, which happens to be as far away from Utah as you can possibly get, traveling either east or west. He thinks my mom’s prayers must have influenced his call to go such a long way away.
We wrote every week while Dave was on his mission, and during his two year absence I had the amazing opportunity to serve as a counselor at Especially For Youth for three summers. It was an amazing experience for me to give back a little of what I had gained while at EFY as an insecure 15 year old, and where I met a life long friend, Merikay Richardson.
I started at BYU as a Political Science major with crazy aspirations to become a US Ambassador, but quickly realized that it wasn’t a career that was compatible with my more important goal to be a mom. I decided instead to be an English teacher, since both teaching and writing seem to be in my blood. My Papa on my dad’s side, Roy W. Doxey, was the Dean of Religion at BYU and wrote over a dozen books, while my Grammy on my mom’s side, Venice Tidwell, was a poet and writer who received a master’s at Stanford and taught English for 42 years. I almost felt like I was getting away with something when I realized that English majors were assigned to read novels for homework, so I switched majors and earned a secondary education degree with English as my major and History as my minor. I taught seventh-grade Language Arts at Dixon Middle School in Provo a year before my first child was born. I loved teaching but did not shine at disciplining. I was certain that going from managing 33 unruly 12 year olds to tending just one sweet little baby would be a piece of cake. This is where all the moms who are reading this laugh.
I had serious complications with the birth of my son, Christopher, and like Lexie, I came close to bleeding to death internally. This introduction to motherhood, where I very consciously recognized that I was willing to give up my life for my new baby, awakened a fierce passion for and total commitment to each of the five children we have been blessed with. Each birth came with unique challenges, but each child has filled my life with immeasurable joy.
Dave and I somewhat unintentionally spread our children out over a 15 year age difference between our oldest and youngest. There are two years between our oldest boys, then three, then four, then five. Our oldest son is currently serving a Spanish speaking mission in Ogden, Utah, and our other son and three daughters are registered this year in high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool.
Since Dave and I were married just five months after he returned from his mission, we spent nine of the first 11 years of our marriage with either one or both of us in school. Not long after our first child was born I felt prompted to start an independent study program to receive my masters degree. By taking just one class a trimester, I knew it would take me four years to complete the degree. My mom gave me wise counsel in saying, “Four years is going to pass, whether you earn the degree or not, and at the end of that time, you’ll either say, ‘I did it,’ or ‘I could have had my master’s degree.’” Though I never once set foot on the campus, I earned an MA in Humanities with an emphasis in literature from California State Dominguez Hills just before my third child was born. I used literature to explore a topic that was clearly on my mind at the time, and entitled my thesis: “Art, Individuality, and Motherhood in Willa Cather’s My Antonia and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.”
Just after Dave earned his MS in Civil Engineering, he accepted a position doing computer research at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, where we have lived for fifteen years. From 2000-2003 we moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania so Dave could earn a PhD at Carnegie Mellon. This past year (2013-14) we lived in the Boston area while he completed a National Security Fellowship with an emphasis in cybersecurity at Harvard. Both were amazing opportunities where we made dear friends and experienced great growth as a family.
Life at the White house
Dave is passionate about fitness and is a Beach Body Coach who faithfully does P-90-X workouts. I don’t share his enthusiasm, but since I’m passionate about him, I have hopes to someday join him . . . someday. What I really love is books. I was a little embarrassed when I counted 21 over flowing bookcases of all sizes scattered throughout my house. I love to read books; I love to buy books; I love to write books; I love to edit books; and I even love to make books, which is evidenced by the 30-plus scrapbooks jammed on our bookshelves. My sister shares my passion for scrapbooking, and our husbands joke that we’ll soon need separate rooms just to store the finished products. I also love talking on the phone every day with my mom, who next to my husband is my very best friend.
I have a deep testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and love to study the scriptures and attend the temple. Like all faithful members of the Church, I have had numerous opportunities to serve which have challenged me to draw closer to the Lord and to those I serve. My first calling as a 17-year old freshman was as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, and the following year I was an inexperienced yet enthusiastic Relief Society president. Since then, I’ve mostly served in the Primary and Young Women’s organizations. I was partly inspired to write Cupcake Girl when I served as an advisor to the 14-15 year old girls. My favorite calling is usually the one I am currently serving in, but I especially loved being the Primary chorister and team-teaching with my husband as early morning seminary teachers to two of our own kids and to the great youth in Waltham, MA (we love you, Abbie, Mads, Hallie, Ben, Rachel, and Steffi!) My youngest brother once said, “Catherine is the most hard-core Mormon I’ve ever met,” and I only wish I could live up to that compliment! I love my Father in Heaven and will be forever grateful to my Savior, Jesus Christ.