9 minutes reading time (1858 words)

Under Oath: Cathy Huston

Cathy and I met in her office on a busy Friday afternoon. Amongst flying files and ringing phones we sat in her office to enjoy our lunch.

Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A. "Honestly, its going home from work after a good day where I won all my cases, the kids' homework is done and I had time to work out. Just knowing that we are on the status quo. As long as all my loved ones are doing well and we are all healthy… that is happiness."

Q. What is your greatest fear?

A. "Right now it's not living long enough to get my adopted children where they need to be." Cathy talked about how she adopted her grandchildren. "When they graduate from high school, I will be older. I have to ask myself am I healthy enough to see them through college and young adulthood? I am not young or shall I say, not an age-appropriate parent."

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A. "You wouldn't believe this, but I have a tendency to talk a lot! You know, in the 50's there was a doll named Chatty Cathy… I'm sure it has nothing to do with where I got my name though," she joked. "My voice, well, when I get emotional my voice gets high and loud. I have to keep that in check when I am in the office. I have a voice and I use it… a lot."

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A. "Probably bad manners. There appears to be a generational disconnect where no one taught their children manners. Simple things like opening the door to the courthouse, being courteous, just simple respect for anyone older or even each other. There is this air of entitlement. Everything is apparently owed to these people and I can't figure out why."

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?

A. "Probably my clothing. I like to shop and I like fashion. My greatest extravagance is probably the time I spend watching shows on fashion and staying in trend. When I can't sleep, I organize my closet and pair together my outfits. Sometimes I'll be in there at 3 or 4 am."

Q. What is your favorite journey?

A. "I am on my third career. I started in hospitals, went to high tech, and now I have been in law for over 20 years. Everything I do now has piggy backed off of what I learned in the past two professions. My careers have carried me through my life and I have enjoyed everything along the way. Well, almost everything!"

Q. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

A. "I fear I am not that virtuous. I can name the 7 deadly sins, but it makes sense that the virtues are opposite the 7 deadly sins. I'll say fortitude to correlate with my previous answer about what trait bothers me in others. Similarly to how people feel entitled, they are also so pushy. It is not brave or bold; people are just being obnoxious! They feel like they can just push themselves around to get what they want."

Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

A. "I'm too short!" I went where no interviewer should ever venture. "How tall are you?" She looked at me and confidently replied, "In heels I am 5'1", AND I'M SHRINKING! I've already lost a half-inch. But my husband is shrinking with me; we are shrinking together so our proportion to each other stays the same."

Q. Which words of phrases do you most overuse?

A. "'Just saying.' I don't know why I don't just say what I need to say, but I have to add that at the end."

Q. What is your greatest regret?

A. "I used to play musical instruments and I let that go. I can hardly read music anymore and I use to be really good at it. Now the kids are in band and I can't really help out too much. I wish I would have kept that up."

Q. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A. "My husband Tom. When I worked at the computer corporation my boss introduced us, we went on a date the following week, and we have been together since. He has always supported and encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, whether it was law school, adopting the children, or opening my own practice. We have been married 26 years this year and together for 30 years. Now that he is retired, he works with me at the office and that helps us maintain a healthy relationship and work-life balance."

Q. When and where were you happiest?

A. "I think I am very happy right now because I am in a good place. To list specific occasions: our adoption happened over the phone to New Hampshire; that was a really happy time. Generally, I am happiest on vacation… an extended vacation. If I can chill out for the first few days and unwind, I become truly happy. We have a rule that we go somewhere every year. I like the beach and Tom likes Europe, so he gets to pick where we go one year, and I get to pick the next. It works out nice."

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?

A. "Is public speaking a talent?" We agreed that it is. "I wish I were a better public speaker. I still tend to get nervous if I am speaking to the court on an issue that I am not the most familiar with and all my colleagues are sitting behind me. I twirled a baton once for a New England Patriots pregame show all by myself, didn't drop the baton once and wasn't a tad bit nervous, but then I can't speak without getting nervous at court where I appear every day. I have really had to work at it. It is embarrassing!"

Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement?

A. "My greatest achievement is sustaining a career for 19 years in a community I was brand-new-to as a change-of-life attorney. I went to law school in San Diego in my 30's, graduated, and came here while waiting for my bar results. Archie Bakerink was the first person to give me a break and took a chance on me. Archie recommended that I join as many committees and sections at the San Joaquin County Bar Association I could; join Rotary and other Associations to get my name out there. And now I am sustaining what I believe is a good family law practice in the town I where I have relocated to."

Q. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would you like to be?

A. "I probably shouldn't pick a person—a waterfall in Hawaii. Everyone is always happy when after a long hike they finally reach the beautiful waterfalls. You forever get to look upon people full of happiness and wonder. Wouldn't that be great?"

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

A. "I have two treasured pieces of jewelry; a charm bracelet and necklace. The necklace was my mother's and is full of charms she collected through her travels. The bracelet is full of charms I collected through my travels. I could never replace them if they were lost and I plan on giving them to my daughter."

Q. What is your favorite occupation?

A. "In my second career I was in charge of corporate event planning on an international level. I traveled a lot to Europe. It was a wonderful experience and a really fun job for a single person in their twenties. However, law has been the career to sustain me and offers the most intrigue and challenges."

Q. What is your most marked characteristic?

A. "My most marked characteristic—I think—well, I very rarely say no, I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. I just try to be a nice person. I think my colleagues might describe me as reasonable or nice. Of course others confuse nice with stupid, but I like to think that gives me an advantage… they don't see the fight coming!"

Q. What do you most value in your friends?

A. "Probably the fact that all my friends are always there. I value that they give me their time. Whether it is a text at night or a call; they are there."

Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. "I just finished J.K. Rowling's Casual Vacancy. I never read any of the Harry Potter books, but Casual Vacancy was amazing. I also read The Goldfinch, which I loved. I like the Grisham books and of course beach fare, whose authors' names will go unmentioned."

Q. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

A. "Most people who know me would guess Scarlet O'Hara, but I'm gonna shock them and say Rhett Butler. In this field, you have to have a thick skin and he put it so succinctly when he said, 'Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!' The transference of emotions like anger and pain is so prevalent in family law because people are hurting. Also, they offer too much information. Divorce is painful and sometimes clients vent to you, but sometimes it feels like they are venting at you. So you have to know when not to take things personally and not let it get to you."

Q. Who is your hero in real life? Which living person do you most admire?

A. "I would have to pick my dad. He died young at 64, but he taught me probably more about honoring my word than anyone else. For example, he was in the Navy for 21 years and went out on patrol when he was serving overseas. He took an oath of confidentiality. During my early adulthood, I would ask him about what it was like and specifics of the missions and he would always say he could not tell me. This was after he was out of the service and the Cold War was over. Still, he held fast explaining that he took an oath to his country and that was an oath he was going to keep. You just don't find that integrity anymore. I had a very nice childhood. I was the oldest of four kids and I had to do a lot of work taking care of my siblings, but I never felt deprived even though we didn't have much."

Q. How would you like to die?

A. "Erma Bombeck, a humorist who wrote for newspaper columns, wrote a poem near the end of her career titled If I Had My Life To Live Over. In the poem she listed about 20 things she would have done differently; she would have kissed her children more and other little things. If I could, when I die, I don't want to have a list like that. I want to die content knowing that I don't have any regrets about those kind of things."

Q. What is your motto?

A. "The Nike motto: Just do it! And I think that should be for employees, clients, kids, everyone. Don't give me excuses, by the time you finish giving me excuses it could have been done already. Just saying."

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