From The Edge of America… East Coast!

Tail feathers2020 has surely shaken so many tail feathers! But from the eyes of this 61 year old Baby Boomer, Cold War/Cuban Missile Crisis/Vietnam (etc) but did miss out on Flower Child label… I’ve seen much and been blessed to be here. I’m of sound … body? So Covid hasn’t been a huge worry for me but definitely aware of those around me who could be susceptible or just fearful. All the same, it is a balancing act for us all. Growing up, I’ve had little to no vaccines to remedy my adaptation back into the general public, no stimulus check, no free medical care but somehow… here I am. Weathered the sunny times, and knew there was still a sun when it was cloudy.

I grew up on the fringe of JFK, Martin Luther King and the examples of all the American generations who strived to push forward and become a unified country. The words of Martin Luther King still ring in my soul: “Not separate but equal…” My American Indian root wept as they walked the Trail of Tears. My Irish eyes were shining as my daring immigrant Great-great grandparent sailed past the Statue of Liberty seeking the American Dream. Those are just a few of the puddles that my persons contributed to this American Mutt.

We all have history. My great grandmother grew up very poor in the hills of West Virginia marrying at the age of 14 to rid the family of a female to preserve the male value to the farm. (Me too?) She survived and sustained her sons each decade of wars and economic struggles. I was blessed to walk in the shadow of my parents’ patriotic calling– US Navy. Many have no idea the discipline required by the family circle due to instability of community, humanitarian sacrifices, or just plain old resilience to weather a missing father for all these reasons. (Not the ideal Leave it to Beaver)

So, I tried to dive into this time of isolation and quarantine to start novel #3 but somehow the only thing effected was my creativity. My independence physically was less stressed than my ability to preserve another memory on paper. The memory of my friend, Evelyn Thompson Wybenga’s journey to go even farther behind my memory of weathering the storms of life. She was born 1906 in North Carolina, found a career in NYC by the age of 26 and eventually swept off her feet in her late 40’s by a Dutch radioman for Holland America Line.

But, I’ve pulled the books from my “to read pile” and resonated with Cassandra King Conroy’s love story with Pat. Fortunately, I’m isolated with my soul mate who shares a quirky sense of humor. I’ve revisited my journey as a woman looking for her self image in Barbara Probst’s Queen of the Owls and lighting incense as I return to the 70’s with Clover Blue by Eldonna Edwards. So, all in all… as I have quarantined I shout a big AMEN that the sun still shines whether I write or read. I thank even the cloudy days because the sun is there regardless of the clouds.

How are you weathering?

Pairing of Words and Music

The most common feedback I get from readers of Gardenia Duty is the very one I used in my Acknowledgement: Nostalgia. As I researched the time period for my Higgins family, I not only read and dove into so many historical rabbit holes… but heard songs from the past. My favorite local radio station plays predominantly Babyboomer music. In various stages of the book, I would keep post-its in my car. If I heard a song that resonated with a particular scene, I’d jot it down. Most had a common plea of love of self, familial or romance that was a focal point of my novel.

I decided I would create My Playlist songs if other readers who inject reading as I do…a pairing of words and music– which are still words! Here I go and reveal my top #35 songs that resonated with my effort to share the life of the Higgins family! Bon Appetit! It may seem long but easy access to what I watched and heard as that oldest child in a complicated social and familial transition: From zero to 61 years….

  • Gardenia Duty – “This One’s for the Girls” by Martina McBride OR “He Didn’t Have to Be” by Brad Paisley
  • Prologue – “You Could Hear Me” by Jocie
  • Chapter 1 – “In My Life” by The Beatles
  • Chapter 2 – “Good Riddance” by Greenday
  • Chapter 3 – “What is Life” by George Harrison
  • Chapter 4 – “Wink & a Smile” by Harry Connick, Jr.
  • Chapter 5 – “I Got You” by Leona Lewis
  • Chapter 6 & 7 – “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy theme song!)
  • Chapter 8 – “Butterfly Fly Away” by Hannah Montanah
  • Chapter 9 – “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Chapter 10 – “Satisfied” by Jewel
  • Chapter 11 – “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
  • Chapter 12 – “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
  • Chapter 13 – “Time” by Alan Parsons Project
  • Chapter 14 – “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars
  • Chapter 15 – “The Deployment Song” by Emay Holmes
  • Chapter 16 – “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel AND “Kind & Generous” by Nathalie Merchant
  • Chapter 18 – “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Chapter 20 – “Dumb Blonde” by Dolly Parton
  • Chapter 21 – “He Didn’t Have to Be” by Brad Paisley
  • Chapter 21 – “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (Audrey’s loss)
  • Chapter 22 – “Guess I’m Falling 4 U” by Michael Bublé
  • Chapter 22 – “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore
  • Chapter 23 – “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
  • Chapter 26 – “Home” by Michael Bublé
  • Chapter 28 – “Head Games” by Foreigner
  • Chapter 29 – “Stronger Woman” by Jewel
  • Chapter 30 – “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes
  • Chapter 31 – “Roar” by Katy Perry
  • Chapter 31 – “The Rose” by Bette Midler
  • Chapter 32 – “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds
  • Chapter 33 – “There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill
  • Acknowledgements – “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

There are so many others but I narrowed this handful down. My memories growing up during the same Cold War period as the Higgins family is full of music that my mother filled our home with. My sisters and I danced and performed to our own 33-1/3 and 45s. Like my characters, the music is women empowered, spiritual musings, metaphors to scenes, and even melancholic. But, I find real-life full of all ranges of emotion and personal growth. Leave me a song that came to you while reading Gardenia Duty. Cheers!

Don’t wash that man out of your hair…..

My friend, Evelyn Thompson (Wybenga) of 55 Morton Street worked for RCA in the Engineer Department. It was an amazing era of scientists competing for the Empire of the Air— radio, telephones and television. She left Concorde, NC in 1932 when she was twenty-six years old. Little did she know 1953 would be the year of the fight for her spinster’s heart by a middle age Dutch radioman. He was balding, lonely but blindly in love. Within the pages of her lover‘s onion skin letters, he begged her using a commercial jingle— “to not wash him out of her hair.” Here is my unedited prologue as I sit isolated during our pandemic in Charleston, SC:

Prologue


On the heels of the Higgins family in my current novel, Gardenia Duty, created through the box of a US Navy Service Record— I stumbled upon a small David and Henry UPS box that had over 100 love letters. They were a time capsule of my late friend, Evelyn Thompson Wybenga, and her soulmate, Pieter Wybenga. Scattered within the onion skin airmail envelopes were exchanged photos, New Yorker cartoons, articles about healthy and late life marriage.

Apparently blindsided and falling in love in 1953, Pieter courted and became Evelyn’s knight. Estranged from his Dutch wife, for years Pieter’s mistress had been the SS Nieuw Amsterdam. Now, it was the American woman standing in the window of 60 Broad Street waving to the Dutchman. Simultaneously, he searched for her with binoculars from the bridge of his deployed steamship.


Ironically, he often referred to “the iron in her spine” and “her golden heart” as he navigated the Atlantic route as the radio man. Meanwhile, a nervous Evelyn sat in her office wrestling with the relationship. She played out various scenarios. There was possible scandal of alienation of affection or falling for a possible immigration fraud. Did she want to give up her liberties as a social butterfly in Manhattan? Also, was she compromising her security clearance?

Meanwhile, after hours of receiving and replying messages for passengers, every day Pieter sat at the typewriter. In spite of weary Morse code fingers, his infused love letters plead for patience and trust. He assured her he was honorably pursuing a discreet divorce. As a result, he hoped to grow old with Miss Evelyn Thompson of 55 Morton Street.


As I catalogued and googled the letters, they were chocked full of historical mile markers. In time, I put together social, philosophical and legal hurdles. In addition, books, LPs and heartfelt gifts were memorialized and glued hope in their hearts. His words left an intriguing road map of how little we know of our life’s journey. They wove their choices through each intersection they encountered finding their way to each other. In the words of Pieter….

Myn liefste Evelyn…. Queen of the Skyscrapers, My sturdy Belgian brewery horse…. Love, Pieter

Last Week to Grab Gardenia Duty for Only 99 Cents!

There’s not much we can get for under a buck these days, so it’s really exciting that we could put the ebook on sale before Christmas! That’s right – the e-book version of Gardenia Duty is ON SALE now, for only 99 cents – until December 15th!

Here’s your chance to grab a great read for under a dollar!

Reader’s Favorite says, “This is such a beautiful tale of love, acceptance, familial bonds and just becoming a family…An absolute gem!”

Please CLICK HERE to grab your copy OR to leave an honest review of Gardenia Duty – and thank you so much for your ongoing support and reviews

Hmmmm… L.T.D.B.!!!

The finished book after five years of much research…boson’s pipe please! Gardenia Duty has left the pier! I keep trying to thank all the amazing people I’ve had lunches with, shared wine or a draft beer. L.T.D.B… or as a sailor would say sarcastically— Living the Dream, Baby! But, thankfully and serendipitously with all the hard and good times… I am living the dream, baby!

Inspired by generations of loving family and friends!

I was blessed with a great father, mother and bonus dad—as they walked dutifully as career military sailors. If you have to move every couple of years, they provided me with a tribe of sisters that were a constant in the journeys. I look back and smile at the idea of a childhood with much less technology. Yet in the 60’s and forward television, phonographs, radio and movies were a bombardment of technology.

I was sheltered from the messiness of becoming an adult. We lost family, found family, integrated into new neighborhoods being the new kid while trying to find security of who I was becoming. Ironically, all that I was experiencing as a military dependent was depositing resilience, spontaneity and pride. I forged my way to marriage, parenting or executing my duties as a legal assistant of a private adoption attorney.

So, Gardenia Duty encapsulates birth order, transient lifestyle, and nature vs. nurture. When my father could no longer be present, my step-father eventually took over the helm— he didn’t have to! And, the joy for him and my mom to step into the role as grandparents was another part of the new chapters of their adult life. My aunt, Joyce Van Pelt Sprouse, finished Gardenia Duty in one sitting texting me her reactions several times last Friday. An author’s dream reaction!

I shared with her my desire to create a playlist for various scenes and chapters. I have local DJs helping me and I asked her if she thought of a song that would fit. She suggested He Didn’t Have to Be” by Brad Paisley. Yep…. ! When you venture into the world of the Higgins family and think of a song…. let me know!

Working with a Professional Dance Instructor!

Here we go! I have been blessed to dance with Andrey Gergel, owner of International Ballroom Dance Studio.

So far, we are running through basic rumba, waltz, shag and swing steps. There are more to choose from and so little time to decide! As a huge fan of Dancing with the Stars, I’m still pinching myself that the Charleston Chapter of the American Lung Association has offered me and my husband a chance to raise money for those who are hindered by various lung disabilities via our lowcountry version of Dancing with the Stars.

And it stays local… like us.

Each time Andrey introduces me around the studio, he always prefaces it by asking, “Do you know my celebrity, Kat Varn?”

It always makes me giggle and ask myself, Celebrity? Of what? I’m just Kat. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth– more of a blue-collar legacy. I can’t label myself in that I feel as if I have lived many lifetimes in my short 60 years. For me, Andrey is the celebrity.

So, not only do I get the joy of dancing with someone like Andrey whose body and passion for dancing will be a wonderful help — I can give back with help from friends and businesses. https://katvarn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Kat-Varn-Vote-For-Me.pdf

I’m so excited for this journey and promise to put my heart into the challenge for such a serious cause. I hope you will follow our progress and go on the website and vote for Kat and Andrey! Hopefully, we’ll strut our stuff March 29, 2019! Dance and song to be announced soon. Who knows? I could be the next Bobby Bones of Dancing with the Stars!

Vote for Kat & Purchase Event Tickets

Visit CharlestonOxygenBall.org to learn more (sponsorships also available).

Taking a Breath: Lowcountry Dancing with the Stars Oxygen Ball

Okay, so I need to take a deep, deep breath (maybe ten or twenty) and conquer my stage fright, because… wait for it…

I am dancing in the Lowcountry Dancing with the Stars Oxygen Ball on March 29th!

Along with my fellow celebrity dancers, I will be paired with a professional from International Ballroom who will teach me how to tango, waltz and salsa my way around the dance floor, all in support of lung health.

The evening starts with a cocktail hour and silent auction, followed by dinner, a live auction, and the dance competition!

I need your vote!

Every $10 donation equals a vote for me:  The more you donate, the more votes I receive!  Ticket purchases also count as votes (on checkout page you can designate the ticket purchase is in support of “Kat Varn.”

Funds raised benefit lung health programs in South Carolina, lung disease research, and healthy air initiatives.

Vote for Kat & Purchase Event Tickets

Visit CharlestonOxygenBall.org to learn more (sponsorships also available).

Thank you so much for your help towards this very worthy organization

For more info you can also view/download the pdf here: https://katvarn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Kat-Varn-Vote-For-Me.pdf

Entrances & Exits

“…..humanity is bound by the shackles of time and aging, it also believes deeply in the sacredness of a life, however imperfect. We are all coming and going on this planet as quickly as the wind. We’ll be gone before we know it… But our lives still matter” — Brett McCracken

2018 has been a year of my own exit and my entrance to a new transition. I left my fifties and began to write of my sixth decade in order to experience more of the splendor of God’s Creation. Each phase of my life has pushed me in and pulled me out of responsibilities and blessed me with joy and laughter.

But, the path is not blazed perfectly clear or with tangible inspiration.

Sometimes, it was what it was. And I had to trust the transition and not the process— in the above picture are the words on the wall that I stare at when I treat myself at a local hair salon, lying back in the shampoo bowl. The phrase invites me to pause…and extract myself from the heaviness of hurts, disappointment or absence of clarity of this next phase of life. A simple act of a lovely cosmetologist massaging the crown of my head and rinsing the soil from life is cleansing.

I am looking back and looking forward. The passing of time blesses me with aging. With age, I realize that I have a scrapbook within the walls of my heart that my soul’s eyes nostalgically visit. I revisit times when relationships with diverse people and personalities were part of the process in my transitions. Childhood, adolescence, marriage, motherhood, career, divorce, dancer, writer, photographer— among so many other little milestones of life’s metamorphic nature.

Some of us fear change but I have tried to not fear the process. I see it sprinkled with serendipity, faith and exhaling for that much needed quiet pause: a sunset, a hawk sitting outside my breakfast room, or a silly fish turning upside down as he poses for my camera on a scuba trip. Yes, even a shampoo at my hair salon. It is collectively part of helping me get through the unavoidable process of aging and leaving my legacy.

Whether it is noticed or not, I will leave a footprint. From the judgment of others, not necessarily a deep or historically impactful one. It will not be a straight pathway but one filled with imperfection. I want to cultivate self-acceptance and patience within my limitations. I hope it is soft and kind and one that is aromatically laced with patchouli…

To you and yours, let’s exit 2018 and anticipate our transitions into 2019 with the joy of new adventures to come… Happy Holidays!

Smooth trunk fish, taken with an Olympus digital camera

Can You Journal Your Way to a Book?

The simple answer is, YES! And I’m humbled and honored to be part of the Innovation Zone at the upcoming Write On! Literacy Festival at the Charleston Library to talk about that very subject:

Attention all book nerds, tech geeks, and creativity lovers: end the summer right by attending the first ever Write On! Literacy Festival at the Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun St.

Featuring headlining authors Nic Stone, Grady Hendrix and Hannah Barnaby, this all-ages festival will include additional author talks, panel discussions, book signings and sales, and a special Innovation Zone where people can explore literacy in all its contexts and potential.

Kathleen Varn

Kathryn Taylor

LILA will be in the Innovation Zone, represented by local authors Kathleen Varn and Kathryn Taylor, who will both be on hand to talk about the writing process, specifically journaling your way to a book, which both authors did; Kathleen Varn with Ameera Unveiled and Kathryn Taylor with the soon-to-be-released Two Minus One.

The first 100 visitors to the LILA booth will also get a pen and a journal all their own, FREE!

Barbara K. McNally’s “Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife”

My thanks to fellow author Dean Robertson for this guest contribution that first appeared in its entirety on her site in December, 2016. This was a book I loved as well… Dean’s thoughtful review speaks volumes!

unspecified-1A more unlikely group of healers you couldn’t ask for. There they are, laughing and lounging at a luxury hotel in Southern California, where they have come from all over the country for a few days of rest and rejuvenation that they badly need and have certainly earned… Continue reading