Before there was language, stories were told aloud with the hope they would be passed from one generation to the next.
This got us thinking about how customs are shared, and we thought there was no better person to ask about family traditions than Catharine Mi-Sook.
Catharine is known around the world for her exquisite Instagram account that captures stories and moments through dynamic photography and the words that she carefully curates to accompany them.
In the pen community she is known for her exceptional heart, pure spirit and generosity. Often sought after for product collaborations, Catharine is also highly respected for her design and branding expertise.
But, if you look very closely at her Instagram feed you will find that family is Catharine’s primary source for inspiration, creativity and solace.
And since it is the holiday season, we asked her to share some of her favorite holiday traditions, creative practices, and her wishes for 2020.
What are some of the holiday traditions from your childhood that you like to share with your son?
My dad was the one who really brought the wonder and magic of the holiday season to life for me as a child and that was one of his legacies and gifts that would carry on throughout my life and now onto my own son. He taught me about the spirit of the holiday and to look deep within my heart about what it meant to me. Each year we would come across a person or a family who was struggling and I would ask my mom and dad how we could help them, and as a family we would come up with creative ideas on how we could bring the magic of the holiday into their lives in some small way. This is something I do with my son each year. There is never not an opportunity or someone in need, so the possibilities and opportunities for this are endless. This year my son took the initiative in working with two orphans that are his age, and we have been coming up with ideas on how we can bring a little holiday magic into their lives.
Other holiday traditions include baking chocolate chip cookies, which leads me to answer the next question:
What is a recipe that you make that reminds you of a specific time or person?
My mom is the one who cultivated this heartwarming tradition in our family, and homemade chocolate chip cookies always connect me to this, even though no other homemade cookie can beat my mama’s! Each year she would bake hundreds of chocolate chip cookies for friends, family, neighbors, as well as anyone who she felt needed a kind gesture extended. I liked helping her (and sneaking spoonfuls of cookie dough for both my dad and myself, which she of course knew I was doing but warmly obliged by simply smirking and not saying a word), and somewhere along the way when I was a young adult and on my own, I carried this tradition on each year using the same recipe as well. Now it is something that I do with my son, who is such an enthusiastic helper in the kitchen. He has already made a list of a few people that he wants to deliver cookies to in order to brighten their holiday. There is something about preparing food with our hands and hearts that reaches and connects people together in such a beautiful way.
Do you have any holiday traditions that would surprise people who follow you on social media?
Hmm, this is a good one! We drive around looking at all the holiday lights each year, followed by making hot chocolate with a mound of whipped cream and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on VHS, but that is probably not all that surprising. We do, however, unapologetically leave our holiday decorations up way past the appropriate time frame. 🙂
How you choose your writing tools and accessories is similar to choosing ingredients for a recipe. What is your approach for this?
I love these questions! And yes! I like writing tools and accessories that somehow connect with my heart, whether it be that a particular pen reminds me of my grandpa, or that the people behind the brand have been a blessing in my life somehow, or maybe it connects to something in my soul on an artful, intuitive and abstract level. In any case, every instrument and accessory I have has a connection to something that brings meaning to it, and it therefore becomes part of my story and journey unfolding each day. It is the meaning behind moments that give them their quality, and it’s not so much about having a specific repertoire as it is the story behind the repertoire (for me).
Are there any traditions from your family or childhood that have found their way into your creative pursuits?
I think in a connective sense there is. Even in just a creative expression through a simple photo or capturing a moment at my desk, there is a part of me and my heart within that visual element, and I share my thoughts behind it with others in the hope that something resonates on a deeper level, or on a human to human level in some way that encourages, uplifts or just feels like a friend who is sitting beside them quietly throughout the varying terrains of life.
Does your son enjoy using some of your tools? If so, which ones is he gravitating towards?
Yes! My son is a creative wonder with his own sketchbook and his journey is constantly evolving within that. He used to do many abstract acrylic paintings on canvas as well as pencil sketches of elaborate castles and ninjas (because hey, what is better than that?), and now he is enjoying the art of collage. He likes to cut out snippets from magazines or old comics and paste them in his sketchbook. He still prefers pencils to pens, though the other day he did ask for a pen, so perhaps this might change. He also loves using my watercolors and water brush pens. And of course, this delights my heart beyond expression, so he has pretty full access to my repertoire (within reason), which is also due to the fact that he also has an intuitive reverence for the beauty and value of a good creative instrument.
How would you describe your perfect holiday season?
Having as much unplugged quality time with my son (and baking cookies with him!) family and those I love and seeing the magic of the holiday season (that sense of awe and wonder) infiltrate their hearts. Giving quietly to those who need to be reminded that there is enough love in this world to reach them and being able to successfully extend that in a gift or gesture. My absolute favorite part about the holiday season is seeing the best in humanity rise up in a spirit of giving simply for the sake of blessing others and bringing a smile to their hearts.
Do you have a favorite quote that celebrates winter or the holiday season?
“Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” -Mister Rogers
This to me is the essence of the holidays. We can give the most valuable and meaningful gifts to others without spending a penny. All it takes is the one minute of effort to step out and say something kind. Sometimes that is the one thing each of us needs more than anything else. And kindness is a gift that fits all budgets.
Do you and your son make New Year’s resolutions?
No. Instead, we say out loud what we do not wish to carry into our new year, and we literally open the door and use a throwing hand gesture to symbolize our letting go of those things. Then we say out loud what we welcome and wish for the new year and we say thank you out loud and dance to one of our happy songs. We have made goals and accountability a part of our lifestyle, so that is something that is ongoing and doesn’t necessarily reset on the first of the year because growth is an ever-evolving journey!
Is there anything that you are most looking forward to in 2020?
Creating more memories with the people I love. The dreams that come to life. The good fruits of growth and perseverance. Discovering the hidden wonder every day. Being more thankful with each day gifted.