Daniel Murphy and Veronika Catheryn

Recorded June 26, 2021 Archived June 24, 2021 37:34 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000962


One Small Step conversation partners Daniel "Dan" Murphy (44) and Veronika Catheryn (59) talk about their upbringings and being raised in single-parent households. Veronika talks about seeking out community through her experiences with WWOOF and shares her concerns about the environment, and Dan talks about his Roman Catholic background, becoming an attorney, and sharing his political beliefs with people in his community.

Subject Log / Time Code

DM and VC share their interest in recording with One Small Step.
VC talks about her work in intentional communities. She talks about traveling as a child and how it influenced her to join WWOOF as an adult.
DM talks about being raised in a Roman Catholic household. He remembers how difficult it was for his family, particularly his mother, when his father left.
VC talks about her mother and how she dealt with her role as a parent after VC’s father left.
DM talks about his path becoming an attorney and his experiences abroad that helped expose him to inequities in the world.
VC shares her concerns about the environment. She talks about how interacting with young people who care about the environment gives her hope.
VC introduces the “36 questions,” coined by Mandy Len Catron to help strangers get to know each other. She and DM describe their perfect day.
VC and DM give advice to their younger selves. VC talks about going to therapy sooner, and DM talks about seeing things in less of a “black and white” sense than he did when he was younger.
DM and VC talk about their levels of comfort when talking about politics with others. DM shares about feeling outnumbered by people who see the world differently where he lives, and VC discusses “deep canvassing” and talking to people about racism.


  • Daniel Murphy
  • Veronika Catheryn

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type




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00:06 Marantz good afternoon. My name is Dan Murphy. I am 44 years, old today is Saturday. June 26th, 2021. I am calling from Birmingham, Alabama. And my recording partner is Veronica. We have never met before, but our relationship is our one small step conversation partner.

00:36 And I am Veronica. I am 59 and 1/2 and today is Saturday, June 26th, and I owe 2021, and I'm from the Twin Cities today, and my recording Partners, Dan. And yeah, we are one small step conversation partners.

01:03 So I guess Veronica. What was it that interested you and doing the one small step program?

01:12 Oh, yeah, I think it's really important to have conversations like this, and I'm so happy that that storycorps is doing this. I travel often and need a lot of people and get to have conversations with people. I don't know, but to have a conversation with someone. I don't know who is also not at an event or a work or in any other situation that unites us. Just intrigued me quite a bit, and I think that if we have a lot more of these kind of conversations that America will get to know itself and other people better.

01:57 How about you? I think so. I got, I want to say there was like, a postcard mailed out about this or something. But my wife gave that to me right about somewhere between the presidential election and the January 6th riots at the Capitol. Around that time when I was feeling pretty, pretty down about the state of our country and relationships among Americans, and it's just seemed to be a great opportunity. When I saw it to talk to someone, I might, like you said that I might never encounter in my everyday life and it just seems to me, you know, going through this last year and not just this last year. But, you know, I, I look around the especially where I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and, you know, there's a

02:57 Lot of people who are my neighbors, who probably are not even close to me politically, but most of our lives are very similar and we have a ton in common. We're next-door neighbors. And it just, it just struck me that one-on-one, kind of conversations and more personal interactions can help kind of dial down. The temperature of what seems to be a pretty, you know, fraught time politically, especially in Sodus Pro-Am. This program seems like a great idea towards that end.

03:38 So, do you have any having seen my bio? Do you have any questions for me? I do go up to your okay, so

03:52 I was curious what you what kind of work you're doing on farms. And I saw intentional communities and I'm not. I will admit. I don't even know what an intentional Community is. I'd love to hear about that.

04:07 Oh, yeah, intentional communities are places where people have gotten together to like like the farm in Tennessee. They're they're people who made themselves into a small-town intentionally. They didn't just move somewhere. They got together with a group of people and said we're going to set up in this amount of acreage and we're going to do it for this purpose, whether it's to be an Arts Community or a political Community, you or a farming community.

04:41 It's up to you get a chance to check them out. Yeah, yeah.

04:46 That's interested. I never thought about it this way but I grew up in a town called Columbia Maryland, which is about. It's about halfway between DC and Baltimore and is really interesting cuz it was set up or it was started at the end of the 60s kind of right after the Civil Rights Movement and the person who set up this town the whole goal was to basically get as many people to live there who were racially diverse and a lot of things about the town, you know, are focused on trying to have a diverse community and so my parents just happened to move there, but I think they moved into an intentional Community unintentionally and, you know, that. Had a big impact on my life growing up in a place like that.

05:39 I'll bet it would ya.

05:42 Yeah, to the other, half your question about traveling and working on farms.

05:50 It was, that was something I always wanted to do as a child. I, my there was a point when I was 10, 8, 9 10, 8 9 10, where I live with my family on the road and my mother home-schooled me and I got to live in.

06:10 State parks among other places and sometimes we forage for food and that was, that was the most Blissful time of my childhood. And I always, I was when, when you asked a kid, what do you want to be when you grow up? I just wanted to be sure you got to drive around and check out new places opportunity and

06:36 Joined in with the woofers. Are you familiar with the wwoof opportunities on Organic Farms? Something like that. And that's where I was able to hook up with small farms who were looking for people to work for them. So I just decided to try this childhood dream. I made a tiny home inside of a van with the assistance of firsts and friends and I made my way around the southwest and then the east side of the country working with people on very small farms and working on some mid-level farms and learning a lot just about

07:22 Being homeless being tour of being with people who are, who are just living the best they could, it was quite an adventure.

07:35 Yeah, it sounds like so what's your so what you do now? Is it similar to how you grew up then?

07:44 Or in the evening for work. Oh, yeah. Like with you when you travel around in the work you do is it sounds like somewhat similar to when you were traveling with your your folks. I think so. Yeah. It's a

08:00 I try and get I try and do the to the living in the the national forest. When I can, I have been still in one place for the last five years, for medical reasons, and then for pandemic recent. So now I am starting out again. This this next month. I'm going to start to try and see if I can still. I'm almost 60 years old. I'm wondering if I like my energy. How will is I think I'll still be able to do this. So I want to live in a car again. I don't know. We're going to try and see but I'm itching to see friends and to get back to some of that work.

08:38 Okay.

08:40 Great.

08:43 I have a, I have a cognac, you, I'm intrigued by what I want to know. So, you're, you're a Roman Catholic. Did you? And what I'm wondering is?

08:58 I did you start out that way. Did you choose that religion? And if you started out that way, what was it like to grow up within a religion?

09:07 So I did not choose it. I was born into it and into, I would, you know, my family has been Roman Catholic for, you know, generation. So I didn't choose the religion and I would say I was not all that interested in it until until I went to college and went to Catholic University and found a lot of things there, that interested me when I was in college. I think I put in my bio sort of the social justice, particularly part of the Catholic church, and then I moved to Alabama. I'm not a southerner. What I found was there's a lot of there can be a very different story part of that church that, you know, is not what I was used to or what drew me to it. And it's another area of my life that, you know, I just sort of found, you know, trying to find common ground with

10:07 Do that. I'm in the same community and whether it's Americans or people from Alabama, or whatever, you know, we're in this. I'm in the same religion with people. I have very different opinions from. But anyway, so yeah, I guess, I don't know any different than what it was like to grow up in a religion, and I didn't choose it originally, but I suppose that, at some point, I did choose it when I kind of found my own kind of Pat into it in college.

10:46 Yeah, and I had a so I had another question for you. I saw that your parents, your mother. I guess your mother raised you on your own on her own and I had a somewhat similar experience. My my father moved away when I was about nine years old and you know that they had a big impact on my life that my mother had three kids and my father was a few states away and I saw how hard it was on her. And now that I'm a parent, I appreciate even more, what she went through, but was curious, you know, you're, you know, your perspective on that.

11:35 Yeah.

11:38 Pizza.

11:41 It was, it was difficult. My mother wasn't so good at having us work together as a family.

11:50 So that's one of the things that as an adult. I later learned, we had kind of extra difficulty because she really, she really took it all on, it was it was hard for her to set us down at a table and say, okay, like this is what's going on. Let's let's work through. What is everyone? You know, what what what do we need? And so like we moved around a lot. Like if she couldn't make rent for one place. We had a difficulty with one place. There were there were a couple times where we're literally I found out. We were moving that week or that day. So I appreciate it as an adult. Now is like, wow, she did so much and it was so

12:35 So difficult for her.

12:38 And,

12:40 Not having not having. Let's see where your your savior early 40s or 44? Yes. That's what it was like for your mom. But there were times where I like my mother at the time that my father left was 1970.

13:03 3. And she didn't have a credit card. She couldn't. She couldn't get her own credit card. There were still the inequities of even, even like a landlord can could say no. I don't want a single mom here. So you have somewhere else. There were, there were difficulties for Hershey to work. Two jobs. She went to law school at one point when I was a teenager and watching her work, the the jobs and then also go to college. Yeah. It's a lot of hard work going on.

13:55 No, I was just going to ask to, I went to when my mother was in law school. I went to a couple of her classes cuz our campuses were we're close to each other at the University of Minnesota. And I, I was in very intrigued with a couple of classes. Like, I went to a tortoise class and ethics class and I am shelter allowed out a little bit with her career. So I got to see a little bit about lawyer life, but I was curious as to what Drew you to that profession. And what do you like about it? And what do you not like about it? First of all, I want to say that your your job sounds a lot more interesting than my job up, but I'll tell you more about it, but I had a kind of come from a family of lawyers. My my grandfather was a lawyer, my father.

14:55 Was a lawyer briefly. Then he went into the FBI and my wife's lawyer, and there's more of them. So I started, I guess I was sort of born into that and I was, you know, as I did, I am glad I became a lawyer, what it, what I like about it is, you know, I think about sort of, one of the things I saw on the story. On the packet of information here is to think about your core beliefs and political beliefs, and in for me so much of it comes from a deep respect for the law, and our Constitution, and what it can do at its best for our country and our society. And so that, that's why I really I really believe that and I, you know, I lived abroad in.

15:45 I lived abroad in a couple of places in Germany and Austria. After I graduated college and one of the places that I lived was in Vienna Austria during the 90s and it was in a neighborhood where there were a ton of refugees from Yugoslavia moving there, in Turkish immigrants in, I think it was really when I lived over there that I appreciated, what can happen when you when you live in a country where there is no rule of law, or ethnic and clashes break, you break the society down things like that. It made me appreciate a lot more. What we have in this country, even though there are deep deep problems and always have, then I do think that, you know, that kind of high-level thinking about the law is really meaningful to me. I like it. Now, there's a lot that's really boring about my job. I go in

16:45 Everyday, and I said it, I said like this on Zoom calls and I read contracts and I write about contracts and it's a good year. It's a good job. It's intellectually challenging. But I think I kind of like what I kind of like what I'm hearing about working on the farms. I might have to look into that.

17:05 Even just like a like a summer vacation there there everywhere and the opportunities.

17:16 There there I worked on places where they just wanted me where to work a day or two and I had a place to stay and I got to do anything. I wanted in the rest of the community. And so it's, it is a great way to meet people and do some fun stuff there have been some times where I show up somewhere and it wasn't as advertised and then I'd have to make a decision. Do I want to stick it out or do I want to go? Try it again? If you you you seem to have a like to go places and and meet people. Yeah. Yeah. I have a question. I mean if he I don't think this is I'm looking at the issues you put on your bio and I don't think I see environmental issues, but I'm just curious whether that's something important to you, you know based on what you've done and just generally

18:14 Environmental issues are important to me. Yeah, it was in there. I just kept having asked because of the limited characters allotment and buy. It is important to me because we are essentially on a rock hurtling through space and there's nowhere else, we're going to go I mean week, who knows? Humanity if it survives itself could make it off Earth, but we're here and we have to take care of our home. And so I have I try and live as simply as possible. I bought shop at coops to try and

18:54 Reduce the amount of packaging. So trying to live, simply and responsibly and that way in my relationship to the Earth. And in other ways, to reduce my footprint. I try and encourage other folks to do anything. They can take small steps to see what you can do. I came of age in the seventies. So that's I had a lot of fun. I think we have to Water Crisis at one point. And then there there was an energy crisis. I remember. And so and I had the privilege of Fortune of Landing in a an experimental high school for the time. It was an open school here in the Twin Cities. And so we got to choose our own curriculum. We got to choose our own with the guidance of the teachers. We went to different countries. We went and worked on.

19:54 We would work for issues before. I had arrived at the school. They had gone to California to march with the, the grape boycott workers. And so they had very strong, strong political and and yeah, it was a wonderful opportunity. So I got a chance to get some environmental, makes a sound understanding at that point. I just keep carrying it with me.

20:19 That's great. Yeah, I'm confess. I'm a late. I'm late too. I guess being as interested as I probably should have been for a long time and environmental issues and live. A pretty personally I would say live a pretty wasteful life that I'm trying to work on more lately. But I'm, I'm curious. Do you have just with your experience? I guess going back to the 70s. Do you have any sense or hope that I guess the general public is becoming more aware? Or that there be no climate change that people are shifting at all and realizing it more or is it or you more pessimistic?

21:07 I'm I'm optimistic in my life. It has been. I've been going through pessimism optimism, kind of goes like this. One of the things about being on the road.

21:20 Discovering that there were pockets of people who were in their twenties and thirties, who were getting into farming and who it for whom it was a very important thing that they get back in touch and that they're they're building these little areas and so as I was looking good because this was 2000. Yeah, 2008-2009. When I when I started that until it's at that point in 2008/2009, we're going through all this financial stuff and it's just it's really difficult. People are losing their homes and all of losing their jobs and suit to roam around in to meet the people who were younger and I could see their energy in their interests and their hope. And so that that helped a lot and then with the the This Global flattening of the internet and really watching people, the young people

22:20 Who were the ones who are going to pave the future just working so strongly to to be in politics for the for the

22:31 Know what you call? It just affects just the ethics of people. I just see more and more people saying, hey, you know, week we can do something about this environment. Money job making Equity. We can we just have to work hard and we have to fight against tradition. If the fight against these people that don't want to change with the help, either help them or change our system and then help the people who want to be here. However, it has to work. I have some optimism about that.

23:05 Well, good. How about you? Yeah, I mean, I I am a real newcomer on this really but I've been encouraged. Its recent recent years. It seems like, you know, even on electric vehicles. It seems like that's really taking off. And, you know, it seems like that, that may be overtaking, gas vehicles. Be like the rest of the world is way ahead of us in terms of trying to, you know, make changes. But it does seem like to me that there's more. There has been more of a shift than any time. I can remember in my life, where, you know, unfortunately, it seems like, you know, we may be its it we're in a crisis and it probably is going to get worse before it gets better, but seems like there is a ship a real ship now, I hope

24:02 Yeah, people I think humans as a species are naturally that I have an Ingenuity and

24:10 And they try things and sometimes it's harmful and sometimes it's beneficial and if we can just steer more the enginuity towards the beneficial, I think we might just make it.

24:31 So, what is your have you heard of the 36 questions, which has a man? I love questions. I love conversation. But anyway, there's a set of these questions at somebody. What is Mandy Len, caitrin Modern Love essay, and that the title of the essay is to fall in love with anyone do this. And it's a set of 36 questions where you're where you start at these. Very gentle questions in your work. Your way through when you really just get to know somebody. But one of my favorite questions here is what would constitute a perfect day for you.

25:16 Oh, wow, that's okay. You know what? I for me, it's become simpler. Probably as I get older and you have got a family but if I wake I would wake up. I would go outside and read and have a cup of coffee, but I would go running and then probably spend the rest of my day doing something fun with my kids that does not involve screens and maybe even get a nap in there. That would be a great day. Nice. How about you?

25:54 It would involve being out in the garden. I love gardening it, one of my favorite.

26:02 Meditations, I guess is to just be in a garden in weed.

26:07 Just sit there and pull all the little guys that I really don't want to have with the other guys that I want to have. And then just look at all the little insects as they're doing their jobs. And yeah, that would be, that would be an essential part of my perfect day and then breakfast.

26:27 Right now, it's egg sandwiches. I am almost egg sandwich, kick. I'm trying to make all these cool egg sandwiches and I found some hot pepper Jam. So it would have egg sandwiches and then go out and garden and maybe go out dancing with friends in the evening of dancing. Anything particular.

26:52 You know, I do like slow dancing and and so, but I love dancing to to the blues or to reggae or yeah.

27:05 I have I'm tomorrow night. So I haven't been to any live music in a while, obviously, cuz of the pandemic. But I got this, I was down at the coffee store yesterday and there was a little flyer that this really good Blues. Musician from Mississippi is playing a free show Sunday night, and that'll be my first live music. I go to tomorrow night and I'm really excited about that. And it's going to be in this little. This is someone who could sell out like a big, you know, venue for some reason. He's just going to be like in the basement of this place playing Blues, pretty exciting for me. Anyways.

27:52 Advice for younger self. This is from Leah.

27:57 Do you have any advice for your younger self?

28:02 Yeah.

28:08 Couldn't there be sooner?

28:14 Yeah, that would be at.

28:18 My advice to my younger self would be to be more forgiving. See things as less black and white, be less judgmental. I don't know why I've always thought I'd, especially when I was younger. I had a tendency to be pretty, kind of Hardcore, whatever side I was on and that was it. And the older, I get, the more gray and nuanced, everything seems to be

28:49 And I even, you know, kind of related to this program, a lot of it is even political. You know, like I for a lot of my I'm I mean, I've never, I've never voted for a Republican president. That's kind of the side. I'm on, and it's always been easy for me to sort of think. Well, that, that group of people is just not. I can understand them and that's not the right thing. But recently, it's just occurred to me that, you know, I live around most of the people who are my neighbors and I think are really good people and I like are not on the same side as me. And I got family members who were the same thing and it just in that way, in a lot of ways. I've just realized, you know, it's not I don't think it's as black-and-white as I probably thought it was when I was 22 years old.

29:42 Yeah.

29:44 And as I get older, I am amazed at how just one more fold of life just kind of opens up. And I get a whole like understanding of like more colors. You get more confusing, more shades in receptions.

30:06 So,

30:12 It is hard for me to talk politics. What is a part of being here in in doing this and just in talking to other people and getting chances to speak with folks is to try and figure out like

30:28 What? What is leading you to make your choices? What is leading you to make choices that affect other people.

30:37 It's, it's

30:41 That's it. That's a conundrum for me with how the human brain works.

30:46 Yeah.

30:49 Yeah, I don't, it's it's hard. It's hard for me to talk about politics. I think, probably for most people. It is. It's become easier for me cuz I realized I got to get easier for me because I'm usually greatly outnumbered by, you know, people who are not on the same seat, the same way as me, so kind of gotten more comfortable and used to it. And what I found is that, you know, if you go on the Internet, or you look at the kind of ditch, we all we saw last year. People act like that when they can be anonymous, but when I'm talking to someone in Birmingham, who is someone I work with, who is a neighbor, you really do have a ton in common, if you just talked to them and it's just so much. It's it's hard to feel really badly about someone when you're face-to-face with them and talking and

31:49 Things even if there are absolutely on the opposite side of you. And so I really hope that this program and other things like it will proliferate.

32:04 I joined us there. Something else that I'd like to see proliferate that I'd like to see it happen. I joined a company at a company, a group of folks who are doing something called Deep canvassing.

32:20 Have you heard of it? Where it's where you go? If it's political canvassers you like when it's voting time and people go out and go door-to-door to talk to folks. This is kind of like going door-to-door. It's definitely going door-to-door and talking with folks, but you're asking a question that in it.

32:42 It's a very specific question of for the marriage. Equality, prior to that this organization got people out canvassing over the entire country, to talk to people, and ask them. How do you feel about same-sex people marrying and they get like from a 1 to 10. What is your feeling? And then they would have, then there's this five-question conversation. And then at the end, if you're just checking in with the people, like to see, if they feel any differently and what you're doing in the middle is sharing your story, and then you're asking questions about their experience. Do they know anyone who is same-sex? Want to get married? Do they? Do, you know anyone who is who is trans by it? So just to kind of get get people to open their their perceptions and their points of view. I did that on racism just a few years ago, and that was

33:38 That was as close as I got to having that deep political conversation. Cuz I did go into a neighborhood with white supremacist folks. And so there were there were a few points where

33:51 I barely got a knock on the door and both like no, we're not having this and they close the door, but then I got to talk to people who really told me how they felt and hula hoop my story and we were so opposed to to race to to race. Isn't it to white supremacy on our belief? And I talked to a gentleman who is just steadfast.

34:15 White people are a Dying Breed and I'm not going to let us die out. And so that was that was a conversation with a few different folks on that street was kind of like that. But you got to that we could spend 15 minutes talking about the neighborhood park and talking about other things and just kind of bring that out and end it was powerful. It was kind of scary. Yeah, and and it was still very cool because we at least got a touch. We weren't trying to change anyone's mind. We were just wanting to create the small little moments where I could see in their life and they could see in mine and that we were similar even though I do believe to radically different than what they did. Well that sounds like it took a lot of courage to go out and do that.

35:08 It did. I had a partner with a partner to stop.

35:13 And it was it was it was actually cool. Yeah, I would do that again. Now that we're sitting here talking of thinking, I should I should give them a call.

35:25 Yeah, it's pretty interesting. I, you know, on the younger self thing, you know, 15 probably even maybe I don't know, maybe just even started when I had kids. I don't know when, but when I was younger, I would have thought that having a conversation where no one change their mind, and you just talked about the parks or something small, like that. I would have just thought that sounds like a total waste of time, and it's touchy-feely. And what's the point of it? And now, I'm at the point now where I'm like, that's critically important and it's, you know, it seems like stuff like that is, the kind of glue is part of the glue that can hold us all together when we're under stress, whether it's politics or the pandemic and stuff like that. So, that's great.

36:17 I think so and that's what I do things. That gives me hope.

36:23 Power tools outside. I don't know if you can hear that. But okay, is that I would like to get to the point where it, when if Humanity gets to the place of having more limited resources, that more people will want to share then horde. I think having those conversations and getting to know us as humans is might lead to that.

36:54 Yeah.

37:05 So,

37:08 Yeah, I've had a lovely conversation. This was wonderful to get to know you.

37:17 The battery. They let us if they let people sign up more than once. But I would, I would do it if they let it. So this is been a pleasure.

37:29 But thank you very much.