By Barry Barbe

“Everyone is going through some form of recovery, whether we recognize it or not.” — Jay Lene Cornell Long, Hope Fest Arizona

Whether it is substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, being bullied as a child, or as an adult, or any number of negative influences in our lives, we all carry some form of regret and, as the result, self-judgment that often goes unaddressed and unhealed.

For Catherine Miller Hahn, her personal recovery took the majority of her adult life, and resulted in the publishing of her first memoir, Raking Leaves in the Wind.

The first in a series of three, the book begins with an honest and personal introduction through the “Author Notes.” Less than six pages long, the intro — which addresses dealing with the regret and debilitating effects for her having had an abortion — is striking, but also addresses the opportunity of relief and forgiveness.

What is most interesting is how Catherine’s description allows for most any form of personal pain to be used in place of her testimony.

“Abortion has always been a sensitive topic, and all women deal with the result in a different manner, but for myself and many women, it can carry a lifetime of guilt and regret,” Catherine explains.

“You do not write a memoir tomake money, you write it to learn more about yourself, those that influenced you, and events that you experienced. And, ultimately, how they made you the person you are today. It’s a treasury hunt of self discovery,” she explains.

And for Catherine, part of her recovery.

The title is pulled from one of Catherine’s earliest experiences in Prescott, where she attended a local church to hear a choir perform. With no intention of staying for the sermon, Catherine was welcomed to stay and, finding it uncomfortable to leave, she stayed. The message of the day spoke to her as nothing had prior.

Having been raised in a very traditional Catholic family, Catherine was unaccustomed to the “colorful, animated and soulful” delivery of a message that began Catherine’s personal Christian faith journey and the start to her road of recovering from a lifetime of guilt, regret and self-judgment … “Raking Leaves in the Wind.”

While the impetus of the book was her abortion, it is not the focus of the tome. Rather, Catherine delves into reliving personal experiences and along the way, personal celebrations and decisions.

While having a rather normal, but not idyllic, upbringing, Catherine knits together how these experiences created the person she is today.

Walking through her life, Catherine takes the reader along a path during which they are introduced to her doting and loving father, passive yet activist mother, colorful neighbors, and reminisces of sometimes seemingly minor situations and musings through the eyes of a child.

Peeling back the layers of our lives is sometimes like rose petals, and others, removing a bandage revealing a wound yet to heal.

“I recall sitting in mass, looking at the beautiful room, the windows and finishes, and I wondered to myself as a child ‘Where is God,’” Catherine recalls. “I decided the light reflected through the stain-glass windows is where God was.”

It wasn’t until much later and having moved to Prescott where Catherine began her personal faith journey. “Through time I learned that I was wrong in judging myself, it’s not my place to judge others, and most definitely not myself, while all I wanted to be was a good person.”

Growing up in the Midwest, Catherine’s family was not wealthy, and throughout her young life the family moved quite often. After college she spent 35 years as an educator, eventually moving to Phoenix and later Prescott in the early 1990s. Locally, she taught at colleges and the high school as well as becoming active in Community Theater.

It was here, in Prescott, where Catherine attended her first group recovery program at the Crisis Pregnancy Center and she began working through a series of exercises that began her recovery and processing why she had made the difficult decisions she had.

She would later go on to be a volunteer counselor for the program, introducing other women, and men, through their own experiences.

Why now? Why write a book so personal and honest. “I did it for myself first and, perhaps, to help anyone else who can identify with my situation,” Catherine said.

“Memory is history recorded in our brains, Memory is a painter, and it paints pictures of the past and of the day.” — Anna Mary Robertson Moses

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email:

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