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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
“…..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!
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.
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!
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!
A 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 →
I’m on the cusp of finally wrapping up a story of four little women and their life with the U.S. Navy…. through the eyes of their step-dad. Ironically, I used the gardenia bush that was not fictional, one I grew up with in my childhood and eventually into adulthood.
Even writing the scene of the totem gardenia bush in our backyard, I teared up and tried to suppress the lump in my throat. My writing coach, Shari Stauch, encouraged me to use it to layer each character’s life lesson. So, I did.
Being the fan of symbolism, serendipity or totems… pick your verbage… I decided to Google the gardenia. My step-father purchased a home in my senior year of high school. His green thumb was a gift to our back yard. He turned it into a Utopia for not only Mother Nature but the neighbors. We reaped from his vegetable garden to his infamous banana plants. Many birds bathed in the mists of his irrigation systems. But, among these endeavors— his wisdom to bring a scraggly gardenia bush to a thriving fragrant Spring gift paralleled with his presence in our lives.
He married my mom with four daughters in tow. He saw promise in each of us. He cultivated and groomed the soil of our souls. Looking back, I see the pruning and fertilization of a parent who led all of us into our futures. Resolve, resilience, and resourcefulness were active words. We always celebrated the fragrance of Daddy’s gardenia bush for decades. Now, I look back this New Year’s Day and realize that it was serendipitous… God’s nudge…. that we were blessed to have the wisdom of our step-father’s ability to cultivate the gardens in his life.
I pray we can all find the small messages in our life lessons that say…. stop and smell the gardenias.
The Middleton High School Class of 1976 cried for a ’40th reunion…’ in January, 2016. Not much time due to Charleston, SC becoming the hot event destination with brides flocking in their bridal gowns like our local egrets. But, as the heirs of the Reunion Committees resigned, we went into War Room mode, rolled up our sleeves, pulled out my weary duct taped folder of years of searching for classmates and met to discuss logistics at Bobby Bernstein’s office.
Strategically, Bobby strolled to the kitchen fridge and brought a cold bottle of Chardonnay and one glass. He sat it in front of me at the head of the table and gave me a healthy pour. What came next befuddled me as we had to choose the date to back into for location, catering, rentals and of course, hunting classmates. We knew it would be sometime near hurricane season. A non-negotiable for a Charleston Fall event. Continue reading →
My friend and author Millie West and I recently shared a table at the lovely McIntosh Book Shoppe for a two-day book signing in downtown Beaufort, SC — two days of talking up our books and meeting new readers during the Beaufort Water Festival.
The annual festival attracts hundreds of people including vendors and entertainers. When Millie invited me to join her July 20-21 for a book signing, I confess I felt the same pressure as my protagonist in Ameera Unveiled. Spotlight and stage fright. Despite being eager to attend, I couldn’t help those old feelings of nervousness and anxiety.
But obviously it was an opportunity not to be missed. I choked down my trepidation and headed 60 miles south from Charleston to Beaufort.
When I arrived, the staff at McIntosh were friendly and encouraging. Millie and I sat in typical southern summer heat with relief from a box fan. I was impressed with the ease Millie had in drawing pedestrians to the table. She promoted her two novels, The Cast Netand Catherine’s Cross, and I shared Ameera Unveiled.
At the end of the day, we had laughed, signed books, and found new connections with dozens of passersby. The stagefright was gone as I remembered that this is one of the wonderful things I love about being an author.
With my favorite character, Lara Forte!
As I rolled my suitcase back to the car after the long, but enjoyable event, I reflected on our two days. Just as Ameera emerged from her journey by being pushed into a spotlight, I left Beaufort with the same message as my book: Face those forbidden zones. Enjoy the power of female bonds. And never lose your sense of humor.
My sincere thanks to Millie and the McIntosh Book Shop for two special days of book signing in Beaufort!
During the afterglow of my belly dance troupe’s performance during the North Charleston Performing Arts Festival on April 29, 2016, my husband flashed a mobile picture of me. Normally, photos of me dancing make me a little nervous, but this time, the internal reaction for me? It was a money shot.
For those that know me or have read Ameera Unveiled, the journey to free myself to embrace the spotlight has come with many battles: The Battle of the muffin tops. The Battle of It’s-All-About-Me. The Battle of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood gap. Sound a little like a Civil War? It was and is! In any uprising to find freedom from oppression, sexism, racism or any other ism…. did freedom ever manifest without a rebellion? There is no such thing as free.
Not to digress, as I stared at my money shot on hubby’s phone, I couldn’t help but revisit my dance journey. The journey to find the Freedom to Dance. Part of my seasoning was mastering choreography, accepting my rank within Palmetto Oasis and stepping onto the battle field (the dreaded dance stage). In 2008, Private Ameera was drafted and participated in Operation Jamaica. She was assigned to gypsy duty under the leadership of Lt. Nasreen and Lt. Parvaneh. Eventually, the Jamaican performance looked tightly put together and sassy. But, I knew my part was rote and my joy was still stifled under the pressure to get it right.
Here I was, eight years later performing the same dance as a duo. Nasreen and Ameera were good friends and had served in the trenches. On April 29 as we dueled as sassy gypsy girls, I finally was able to surrender and abandon perfect choreography for the joy of dancing with my friend. After two and half minutes, we did our final pose and pranced off stage. To my surprise, my dance partner hugged me and planted a big kiss on my cheek in front of the audience.
Still staring at the shot, I realized that standing up to a life’s footprint that denied the Freedom to Dance, I’d finally won a battle. My performance was not relative to the term perfection. I surrendered perfection and embraced being an achiever of excellence—baby step by baby step. I could look at my hubby’s photo and realize that for the moment, I’d won the freedom to dance. His picture painted a thousand words to support my 400 word blog…