If you have any of those catalogs left that are dated prior to December 19, you can double-click on one of those catalogs and Lightroom will open it. You will be at the point you are at when you closed and backed up that catalog. Of course, any work that you did in later catalogs will not be there. You will be starting over at that point.
Since LR was obviously saving my editing somewhere b/c I was able to close/reopen exactly where I left off...
Is it possible for me to get back to any of post-Dec19 state??
If you deleted the catalog that was in use approx 10 days after Dec 19, your work after is probably gone.
You might be able to recover some of the work you did if you were saving the metadata to XMP. This is not a Lightroom default to do this, so you must have specifically turned on the global option to do so, or if you were using the menu command Metadata->Save Metadata to File.
If not, your last chance would be to find an "undelete utility" and see if it can recover you most recent catalog. If you plan to go down this path, stop everything that you are doing, the only thing you should do on your computer is find such a utility program, download it (to a different HD than your catalog, if possible), and run it.
@ Hal - I had emptied it out soon after
@ David - The other files in the Dec. 19th folder do have 12/30/12 stamp but I think it's b/c I re-imported that catalog and did a few things with it?
HOWEVER, looking at my backup files (in Crashplan), I do have some Catalog Preview files which I FEEL CERTAIN were saved during my most recent edits.
I attached a screenshot of it.
(disregard the fact that it says Lightroom 3.. i'm using LR4)
Big thanks guys
Appears you have been working with a Catalog inside of the folder of one of your backups. There is a file there with the same name as the catalog file but with a .lock extention.
If this screen shot was taken with Lightroom closed then it is probably what is not allowing you to restart Lightroom, if this is the situation then delete the .lock file and see if you can restart Lightroom.
However I believe there is more you may need to do to restore the structure within your Lightroom sub-folder. I do not think that the present structure is correct.
Maybe Hal or dj_paige could offer some advice.
I, too, consider this screenshot rather promising.
As DdeGannes suggested, first delete the "Lightroom 3 Catalog-2-2.lrcat.lock", then double-click the "Lightroom 3 Catalog-2-2.lrcat" and leave it open for a while, because it still has to process what is inside the "Lightroom 3 Catalog-2-2.lrcat-journal".
This journal-file should vanish.
Then you can close LR, ideally doing now a new backup including optimization.
Then copy the new backup over to your normal working catalog storage space and continue from there.
Change the backup settings to "Every time LR exits" and choose to skip it whenever you did not do more than you would agree to loose.