Tin Can Sailors – A National Treasure (Part II)

FatherDaughterDanceClip2It’s easy to live in the past, especially when it so colors the present. But, since I was privileged to be my father’s date at the recent 7th Annual Liberty Call Goose Creek Tin Can Sailor Reunion (April 11-12), I felt compelled to shift my view from that little girl in a military family, to an adult woman with new perceptions. I was blessed to meet and mingle with my father’s peers.

I learned so much by observing. The bond of these tin can sailors was a brotherhood from serving on a destroyer, always together in cramped quarters. I didn’t see the faces of senior men, I saw the boyish twinkle in their eyes as they reminisced about being bachelors, chasing girls and general cruise antics. I joined them touring the USS Laffey at Patriots Point climbing ladders to the Chiefs’ Quarters. I saw the enlisted berths and all the various spaces they were forced to share on rough or calm seas. I heard them relive so many stories that happened in the engine room or conditions when the boilers were cranked.

tin can sailor (2)The smell of grey paint and fuel recalled my childhood memory of Dependent’s Day. On Saturday morning, I even tried to get to the American Legion to partake in breakfast – shit on a shingle.

As a proud daughter of two career Naval fathers (my biological father, and later, my stepfather), I finally have a deeper appreciation of the jobs and duties and of these proud enlisted men. And this was all during a time of no internet, unlimited cell service, microwaves or hundreds of television channels. It seems unimaginable now, doesn’t it? We all relied on snail mail or family grams.

I’m in awe of their pride and passion for standing in the shoes of a Tin Can Sailor. If you know someone that served at that time, gather their stories! They are National Treasures.

Do you have a story about our parents’ generations? Please share it with your comment below!

Tin Can Sailors – A National Treasure (Part I)

Part I – From the eyes of a Tin Can Sailor’s Daughter

l_lzumus-navy-tin-can-sailor-1-inch-pinBeing raised in a Navy career family, I’ve developed a sense of duty and pride to shoulder responsibility. My childhood was a mix of consistent moving to new Naval bases but adorned with innocence and imagination. On weekends and during summers, I and my sisters were ordered outside to find something to do. We’d ask for a sheet and make tents across the clothesline along with our tea sets and play pots and pans and other role playing games. Continue reading

Dear Pen Pal

The Iconic Mailbox

I grew up in the days of pen pals. Looking back, the closest I got to social media were ads in the back of my comic books or Mad magazine. There were little postage stamp size ads with addresses to find a pen pal in another part of the country. I’d use loose leaf paper and start with “Dear Pen Pal… How are you? I am fine.” I probably asked what was their favorite television show, cartoon or share what book I was reading. I’d give them to my mother and she would show me how to address the envelope. I’d lick my stamp before depositing in the classic blue tin mailboxes. I can still hear the clunk of the door when I released it from tip toes. Ahhhh… the days of snail mail have been left behind by the internet energizer bunny! Continue reading

First Booksigning Jitters!

Performance at Green AppleWhen I hear the word performance, it stimulates my imagination and relevance in my life. In hindsight, I guess I’ve performed in some way shape or form since birth. Taking my first steps, learning to talk and playing well with others. I remember suppressing tears of fear as I was walking to my first day of kindergarten. As the oldest daughter, I was the first to perform in many new venues.

As a newly published author, I knew I would face another performance—a public appearance at a bookstore. I knew I’d have to do it one day. The weekend before I was to vacation in San Francisco, I isolated myself, looking up Google advice on ‘how to perform at a book signing.’ My publisher had hinted they were trying to get me into a book store while I was on the west coast. As I jumped from website to website, my stomach nervously cringed. My inexperience raised questions faster than I could find the answers.

red glitter shoesTen days later, I was planning my reading/appearance at Green Apple Bookstore at 6th and Clement Street. My husband and I took a cab to preview the location and get direction from our contact, Nick. The reading room was amazing and intimate. It brought my performance terror down a notch. While my lunch gurgled in my stomach, I made a trip to Kinkos to print documents, including a blog I wanted to open with. I exhaled in an effort to get my nerves off the ledge as I dressed. I’d decided that I would always perform in my favorite red glitter stilettos. It helped me get in character—author.

I was surrounded by my travel buddies and some of their old friends. The cherry on top was the appearance of two audience members that attended voluntarily. Any script that I may have thought I’d prepared went out the window. It was relaxed, spontaneous and I loved the questions. What did I learn from my first book promotion?

  • Have fun engaging with the readers! Accept the spotlight but share the stage with potential followers. I wanted my room to feel like they were sitting with me in my living room.
  • Prepare but be flexible. To read or not to read? I felt the pulse of the room and used the reading materials I’d marked in my book, and had a website blog ready if I needed it.
  • If this had not been so last minute, I would have used my social media more. One of my readers was an old acquaintance I met on a dive trip in 2005. She saw it on Facebook only a couple hours before the event. The other visitor was associated with my publisher and book coach. Subsequently, she followed me with a message on Twitter.
  • Thank the organizer. I brought San Francisco’s Ghirardelli chocolate for the staff. I followed up with a thank you and tagged their bookstore in photos.

Having experienced my first book promotion performance, I now look forward to another. And, I will be wearing my glittery red heels!


“It was never just about the cards… Patricia Sands”

Recently, I was honored to be on Southern Writers Magazine’s must reads list. Gary Fearon graciously alerted me and I hit his link. Penning and marketing a book is still an unexplored territory for me. Seeing my cover beside a blog by Patricia Sands regarding her message in The Bridge Club, put a lump in my throat.

It was never just about the cards... Patricia Sands

It was never just about the cards… Patricia Sands

Three years ago, when I approached my writing coach/editor, Shari Stauch, with my story idea— without hesitation she pushed me to my laptop to learn my character’s voice. Continue reading

Falling in Love With Your Inner Child

Like clockwork, after 2-3 years, my dad’s duty station was to be reassigned, I had gotten a peek, a taste and a temporary spot in my classroom, neighborhood kick ball team or Dark Shadows Soap Opera buddy.  The next best thing was to resign myself to accept the oldest daughter’s calling– Chief of the Ya Ya Sisterhood of the Hall girls.  At the next duty Kathleen Varn SW teaser - July 2013station, my sisters were always still on the journey, sharing a bedroom and fighting over the bathroom.  Inadvertently, my tribe taught me many life lessons that revealed themselves decades later.  Emotional management, selflessness and resilience were among the list.

I talked to God, a lot.  I talked out loud, with my heart, my tears and my eyes.  I danced in the pine clearings in the neighborhood woods. I thanked God for the beauty encircled by Creation and the way it was fearfully and wonderfully made, like me.  I loved the simplicity, the complexity, the color, smells and honesty.   As Einstein said, “God doesn’t toss dice.”   Mother Nature’s Order demonstrated it wonderfully.  From childhood to adult responsibilities, I believed my prayers had been best wafted to the heart of God on the wings of a sea breeze.  If the only prayer I cast over the Atlantic Ocean’s endless horizon was Thank You, I believe God heard the volume of my heart’s petition.

A little more than halfway through my first marriage, again fighting multiple circumstances attempting to isolate me, I had been on an introspective journey to deal with erosions of female worth and lack of self esteem.  I was missing the power of self image.  Sitting in my dining room, working on a sewing project, I was talking to God about needing to love myself so that I could love my neighbor best.  The Christian Gospel had said to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  I didn’t love myself as well as I should and one of the demons from my baggage of the past, Isolation, kept putting out a stick to trip my Hopeful spirit when she tried to move forward.  I had been tripped by the Guilt stick, again, and deferred Hope cried from my heart “Why do I feel so unloved?  I know that I am supposed to love me first, so I can be whole to love the way I know You love—unconditionally and wisely.  Being a good steward is not a life sentence to being chained to unrelinquishing responsibility.”

There was a lump in my throat but as a sole tear made a trail down my bowing head, a peace washed over me.   Sacred oil being poured on my head, sweetly flowing to the soles of my feet.  I stopped what I was doing and closed my eyes, inhaled, exhaled and saw a vision in my mind.

There she was, a little blonde girl in a yellow polyester bathing suit, stooping at the edge of the beach surf, sea breeze blowing her long blonde hair in a way I could not see her face, intensely watching little precious clams dig themselves back to safety.  She was peaceful and quiet but I felt her joy inside with the simplicity of each time a new wave deposited a new cast of Diggers.  She was protecting the little vulnerable sand jewels.  Isn’t she cute, pure, loveable?   Adorable, I love her!  So, do I.  And as I saw her hand gently brush the windblown hair from her eyes… I heard a Still Small Voice say, “She’s you”.  My cheeks were flooded with salty tears.  Liquid prayers of thank You, thank You.

I wanted to protect her, hold her, laugh with her, and show her understanding when she needed correction.  There was a scar on my heart from years of isolation and this simple vision healed it–forever.  I knew what I had been seeking.  It was to have and be loved by The Perfect Parent, The Perfect Lover and The Perfect Friend.  The Perfect Lover who would not use shame, guilt, neglect or cruelty to get their way.  It applied to roles as father, mother, husband, wife, daughter, friend, boss or employee.

There was an understanding – crystal clear understanding of acceptance we owed each other even with the stutters, wobbly baby steps, sloppy first kisses or any other awkward graduation.  I wanted patience and tolerance to allow myself to learn through mistakes without guilt or shame.  I had wanted to be an Achiever of Excellence without the pressure of judgment, timelines or measuring sticks.   It was the day I knew concretely that if no one else would love me, I did and with it, came the responsibility to protect that adorable, simple and vulnerable little stooping girl from being harmed in unhealthy environments.  Even bigger, it was the day that I discovered how to use the word “I.”

Memories of the Edge of America……

All you need is loveAs a young child growing up on the edge of the East Coast, I had access to long summer days playing on the sea shore, learning the art of sand castle construction, beach combing and body surfing.  At least once a week, Mom packed a cooler with plastic cups filled with cottage cheese from the Coburg Dairy Farm.  When the contents were consumed, my three sisters and I kept an exciting addition to our cupboard. Each of us took a turn to claim our very own jewel tone glass.  If it was my turn, I crossed my fingers for a fabulous new color like red, aqua blue or amber yellow.  Yea! It was purple…!

The multi-striped beach bag bulged with PB&J sandwiches, a bag of chips, sometimes fruit and cookies. We carried it to our beige Comet station wagon along with a plastic jug of Kool-aid, awkward to carry but as you drank it from your new cup, it left the flavor of the day mustache.

If it was a particularly exciting beach day (mom had family in town), we stopped at a gas station and purchased soft drinks to savor in the afternoon sand when Mom gave us the nod.  I was all about the Yoo-Hoo!

Driving to Folly Beach, we would see the Coppertone billboard, brazenly displaying a Shirley Temple type beach babe with her bathing suit being pulled away by her cute little Scottie dog, blushing as her little white toosh demonstrated how well the suntan lotion worked.  Naturally, my mom carried a bottle in our beach bag, slathering us often, enabling everyone to experience a long and painless day on the beach.  Each trip to Folly, I fantasized that I had been chosen to model for the Coppertone billboard but resigned the spotlight fantasy in lieu of my pretty Irish twin, Kerry.  I knew it was really Kerry who’d win the audition.  Besides, she owned the only two piece bathing suit.  It didn’t come in my size.

In a yellow striped polyester one piece bathing suit, I marched behind Mom with my three younger sisters in our terry cloth cover-ups across the hot asphalt, matching flip flops sounding like a cadence.  From a distance, I am sure it would mimic little ducks trying to catch up with mom for a day of splashing and preening in the sun.  Situated between the Folly Beach boardwalk and weathered Atlantic House, our beach base consisted of an old bedspread, cooler, towels and occasionally one vinyl float that we shared.

If my sisters and I were getting along, we waded to knee-deep surf, lined up side by side, gripping the front of a float and waiting for a wave to bump us to the porpoise grey sandy shore.  If there was angst in the sisterhood, bound by the duty code, I as the oldest took the blame, which allowed the younger ones to have more raft time.

Rather than watch, I would scour the edge of the dunes or granite boulders for an abandoned cup.  Banished, I stooped quietly with my tattered cup at the finish line of the lapping tide.  As each wave crashed through the sandy ribbon, small jewel like coquinas were washed ashore, naked and vulnerable, earnestly digging back to the safety of the granular catacombs to escape a sandpiper or two legged beach bucket predator.  I felt like a Sentinel keeping prey and thieves from interrupting my beautiful buddies seeking safety.  Occasionally, I would borrow a purple one to give me a private show in my recycled cup.

One low tide, one high tide and it was usually time to head home, which meant I had to release my borrowed coquinas, watching them dig to safety and back where they belonged.  What was the magnetic charm of the tiny gem-like clams, the rhythm of the waves, salty sea breeze tussling long blonde manes of little girls, children’s sacred sand castles, skim boarding teens and battery operated pocket radios playing 60s tunes?   Whether I was with a group or wandering the tidal pools reflecting on its hidden secrets, the beach always wrapped her arms around me.  There was always a rebirth.  Hope.

Each childhood summer included a beach memory for us.  And every summer, the beach still did what it had always magically done.  The elements numbed my lonely heart and the sea breeze blew away the cobwebs in my soul.  Mysteriously, the beach refreshed and quieted the inability to find myself in the midst of my family’s uprooting due to the military occupation of my father(s).  It wasn’t dad’s fault, it wasn’t mom’s fault.  I was born with a personality that desired to be part of a flock, a litter, a herd, a congregation, a club, a team—a tribe. Our beach summers offered me that tribe of sisterhood; I’m forever grateful…

On June 26, 2013, I’m walking the grey sands of Folly Beach during my husband’s coveted summer month at the family beach house listening to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Jann Arden. I smile when I pass a little blonde girl stooping as she investigates the mysteries of the surf. Still magical…




Ameera’s Cover Unveiled

BEA New Title Showcase

Ameera Unveiled (for real!) at Book Expo America last week…

One of the supposed traits of a Virgo is an eye for detail… (Okay… being a perfectionist). I love having that Virgo’s eye for detail but look at a challenge with a safety net that allows me to fail. I’ve substituted “Achiever of Excellence” for perfectionist. When I hit detours or situations that require flexibility, it gives me a little damage control: Plan A was a bust, let’s start over. Or, in the case of my book project, there was a better cover than I originally envisioned.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible writing team. From conception to printing, there’s been guidance of short term and long term goals to tell Ameera’s story. One of my favorite phases was designing the cover. Being the achiever of excellence that I am, I dug in on the concept that when a reader finishes Ameera Unveiled, the cover will be even more significant.

Yes, I want to make someone look twice and ask, “What’s going on in that book?” But I also want the cover to embody the story from start to finish. As we searched the globe for the perfect image, my beautiful non-accommodating belly dancer hit my email box. (Teaser for the reader… and all the way from the UK).

Through my own journey towards embracing dance (specifically, belly dancing), it confirmed and reaffirmed my own little girl’s desire to feel pretty and wear costumes. As a product of the 60s and 70s in a traditional gender role, forbidden zones abounded in my life. Thanks to a wonderful cast of characters as I’ve journeyed through so many phases of my life (both supportive and adversarial) I found the stock and symbolic visual to represent the words to my story.

In summary, I’m thrilled with Ameera’s cover because it demonstrates the inner dancer my main character wants to become… perhaps that we all want to become…

The Birth of a Book…

doula_henna_design_belly_expecting_motherAfter two years of trying, I got the news last October. I’m pregnant!

Well, but, I’m also an empty-nester who has already raised a son and a daughter. I started juggling being a mom, wife (and many other plates) at the age of 20 and I like to think I learned through my mistakes and rejoiced through the milestones of mommy-hood. I wrote on the pages of my children’s hearts and recorded chapters of their experiences in journals.

So, in my late 40s, while they left the nest to pursue their own life goals and dreams, I turned my sights to a late life “baby” goal. It wasn’t that I had an unhappy marriage, or lacked outside interests. My life was thriving. But I’d always wanted to conceive and deliver a new story. The longing and yearning to fulfill my late life golden child pushed me into a relationship with a writing coach. After a one hour consultation, I conceived.

Under the watchful eye of my publisher, BQB Publishing, I’m now anxiously awaiting my due date in July, 2013. The story has survived and improved under multiple edits. And… it’s a Girl! Continue reading