How many of you have never been to a pig race….?

hog trailerWell, my hand went up to the emcee’s question… at Boone Hall Plantation’s Strawberry Festival. Little did I know when my feet hit the floor this morning that I would not only witness a pig race but could possibly be awarded the title, Pig Queen for a Day! Unknowingly, I’d claimed my video spot near the starting line of the circular race track and had an excellent view. There was a gator board roster with piggish NASCAR names— Rooter Martin, Hoggy Stewart, Piggy Gordon and Squilling Earnhardt, Jr.

Naturally, being new to pig racing, I had questions for the little swine. How were they trained for the event? I’d hate if one of the cute piglets would pull a hamstring. What if it came down to crossing the finish line by a snout? God forbid serious injury because I wasn’t sure if Charleston had a pig racing hambulance.

Suddenly, my attention returned to the hoof track as Hogway Speedway’s announcer entered the inside field, wearing a hands-free mic opening the competition with the racetrack bugle call from the loudspeakers.

The announcer educated us on the possibility of pig pile-ups that could delay them from pigging out on the coveted cheese doodle at the checkered finish line. He assigned a sponsor from the audience to root for the anxious pigs that had willingly loaded in the starting gate.

After the bell and gate opened, he gave a broadcaster’s view of the pig pack’s arrival for cheese doodle trophies. For the next fifteen minutes, he presented laps by goats, rookie piglets and ducks. The final race was to be run by pot belly pigs and he announced he was picking five women to be given the proud title of Pig Queen. I don’t think I’d put that on my slop-bucket list.

As he looked our way, my niece encouraged him to pick her Aunt Kat. Note to self: I need to dig deeper into her belief that I’d make a good candidate—or I needed to be sure I didn’t have hog breath from the cheap corndog. Yep, I was given #5, Rooter Martin. To top the hammy privileged title, we were advised the winner would kiss her pig. (For some reason I heard the words to a Katy Perry song: I kissed a pig and I liked it…)

After three more contestants were chosen, Squilling Earnhardt, Jr. hogged the spotlight. I’d lost my chance of the title and kiss by a snout.

Sadly, I realized I wanted to be a media hog! I turned to my husband and we settled for a local pulled pork sandwich.hogway

Let’s name it, Hollywood!

Melkey

On April Fool’s day, 1991, a teenage tuxedo cat invited himself into my home at 10:00 p.m. I was still mourning the loss of my bottle fed tuxedo cat, Daniel. For exactly three years, I’d resisted the pleas of my young daughter’s request to rescue another animal. How could I turn it away?

For several days I kept my house guest safe. I posted on local bulletin boards to make sure a frantic owner wasn’t looking for the lost big personality cat. Meanwhile, it bonded with my children. There was no way to say ‘no’ to the new family member. His formal name? Melchize-cat…. Melkey. He was the feline version of Melchizedek, the mysterious Hebrew high priest. No one knew where he came from or when he would leave…

For eighteen years, he weathered relocations, my children’s growth, a divorce, my re-entry into dating and the remarriage and blending of households. He greeted my house guests and could’ve cared less when we integrated my son’s dog, Chaz, into the family.

But in 2009, as his kidneys began to fail, I had to let him go in spite of his tenacity to hang on—for me. After his euthanasia, my husband and I agreed there would be no new furbbies due to the age of our surviving pets.

Six months after Melkey’s passing, my rescue school horse went three legged lame. No one knew why but she was showing symptoms of white line disease in one foot. I was chasing the fast erosion of her hoof. On Sunday morning, my husband and I drove to Hollywood, SC where she was boarded. I asked him to stop at the convenience store to grab a diet Coke.

We pulled up in my S-350 Mercedes convertible. As we parked, a tiny, yellow mixed-tabby kitten headed straight towards us, and then ran under my hot motor. Spied by a loiterer, we were advised this little scruffy kitten had been quite the annoyance of customers and employees. And, in harm’s way.

“Don’t you want to take it home?” he asked.

I’d at least three adoptees in mind so I scooped it up, added milk at the checkout, and continued on our way to the farm. Cradled on my shoulder that kitten mewed the entire ride to the barn. I dumped it safely in the farm’s bathroom, trying to lure it to drink the milk and maybe (please!) stop the incessant meowing.

As we pulled off the farm, I re-cradled the little one against me and my husband broke the unspoken stray kitty code… “I know– we’ll name it Hollywood!”

My head shot up like a fired gun to cry, “WTFudge are you saying… you don’t name it!” I had adoptive families and was prepared to pitch after I cleared it with my vet the next day.

All I could think of was our furbbie pact after Melkey’s demise. Hubbie must’ve read my mind. “But he matches Chaz!” he added.

Twenty-four hours later, my vet instructed me to hold the worm and parasite laden female kitten in quarantine for ten days. Before the end of the week, my hubbie bought new toys, food and kitten size litter box.

Five months later I scheduled and dropped off my crazy-ass “female” kitten to be spayed and declawed. Thirty minutes later, I was called. “Mrs. Varn, we just want to let you know that we’re not going to spay Hollywood… she’s a he.”

Well, Hollywood has developed a huge personality, like his predecessor. He’s a cat but thinks he’s a dog. He follows me around like a toddler. When the doorbell rings, he fluffs his tail and growls as he and Chaz assess the stranger on the other side of the door. And they match, chase, play and share the dog bed. Luckily, his name was gender-free.

But my favorite belly dance troupe member’s comment when little “Hollywood” ran under the Mercedes at that Johns Island convenience store?

Sucker!”Hollywood

 

 

 

 

Story of a Husband-of-a-Bellydancer

Achmed 2011Retired from career and parenting duties, I decided to conquer a neglected area in my life—dance. As a child, I flunked my first ballet classes and missed the muscle memory years. So, when I saw a six-week belly dance class being offered on the campus of my Alma Mata, I went online to register.

My husband was more than supportive as I fought my way out of the old tapes that said, “You can’t dance.” Within the year, I reluctantly auditioned and was accepted into Palmetto Middle Eastern Dance Troupe. Little did we know, it was instant adoption into a tribe. Again, my husband was supportive and tolerant of my love of shiny jewelry, bindis and of course, wayward glitter.

However, within the next year, I came home from a practice centered on dances for an upcoming performance at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. As we were eating dinner, out of the blue, he states, “Dear, you know I love and support everything you’re doing with the troupe?” (I continue chewing waiting for the… but?)

“And I’ll be in the audience as your biggest fan… but (ah here it is) please don’t expect me go on stage and drum or anything.”

I assured him that it had never crossed my mind. He exhaled and finished his dinner.

One year later, practicing for a repeat appearance at the same festival, the girls in the troupe decided to do an “I Dream of Genie” dance. The choreographer looked at me and said, “Kat, ask Steve if he’ll be Major Nelson, please?” I immediately recalled last year’s plea to leave him off stage and informed them there was no way. With many more pleas, I conceded that I would ask but predicted the decline.

As I walked in from practice, hubbie started the usual query of how practice was and who was there. I jumped into the Major Nelson question and to my surprise—without hesitation, he said, “Sure, ok! What do I need to do?”

Three months later, in a borrowed Air Force uniform, holding a green genie bottle, local businessman Steve Varn participated in our dance show. We even featured him in our press release and program.

A few months after that show, my husband was pitching a real estate project to a banker. After slightly formal meeting between strangers, the banker sat back and folded his arms. Without a blink, the banker hit Steve with a question out of the blue: “So, you’re a dancer?”

Taken off guard and baffled by the question, he immediately denied it. They returned to the business at hand.

That night at dinner, my husband told me of the odd moment during his meeting with the banker. Immediately, I recalled the press release with his name and it was obvious the banker had Googled my husband’s name.  We both laughed and went to the computer to see whether the internet would confirm my theory. It did.

Husbands of belly dancers are amazing partners. Tolerance and the endless presence of glitter on their faces and clothes becomes second nature. They do the heavy lifting and set up electronics. Since Steve’s debut, he has been recreated in two more shows as Achmed, the janitor. His red coveralls hang proudly beside his business coats in the closet. Since my induction to this marvelous tribe, I noticed that each girls’ partners embrace the passion of our love of dance. Recently, I even discovered a website called Husband of a Belly Dancer.

When I look back at my online registration to take a six week dance class, little did we realize how much it would infect our marriage. Husbands and boyfriends of belly dancers are so much fun (and look cute wearing a little glitter, too)!

Feel free to leave stories of any other victims of glitter…

 

 

A Serendipity Lifestyle . . .

cdab9d14887aa33682bac9317c3bc2e5[1]I’d been divorced for about three years. Between running a single parent household and keeping a full time job, I loved my newfound adult social life. And, in spite of the freedom to enlarge my social horizons, I silently grieved the loss of my white picket fence dream. I didn’t have my sites on finding a new partner or breadwinner to allow me to stay home and catch up on the Soaps eating bonbons. Instead, I opened myself to meeting new friends, female or male, through line dancing at Desperado, scuba diving and traveling.

Each morning, I cleared my head and asked my heart to embrace a moment presented by… dare I call it, Destiny? Fate? My faith supported my belief that even hardship identified the dross in my life that could be used for self-improvement and reveal silver linings. Continue reading

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

Tolerance … Can’t We All Get Along?

Getting alongAs I walked through the bedroom, something caught my eye in the corner of the room. My dog’s bed had two bodies in it. I only own one dog– Chaz. Chaz had taken over my daughter’s hand-me-down Great Dane bed. His small 18 pound body was curled in one corner. My 16 pound kitty, Hollywood, was curled in the other one. They were color coordinated and separated by a red blanket.

As I paused, two sleepy heads opened their eyes as if they questioned my curiosity. It was obvious that a cat and a dog sharing a bed wasn’t a normal scenario to me. For them – no problem. This paled in comparison to the lion and lamb symbol of peace. But it did speak volumes to tolerating each other’s differences. Continue reading

I’m Retired from the Tooth Fairy Army

When I became a mom, I enlisted in The Tooth Fairy Army. I took the oath to defend the integrity and legend of Her Mini-highness.fairy08

I’d had a nine year headstart to practice on my daughter before I added my son to the family. As each tooth fell out, I improved on how and where it was placed so I could exchange it for a coin. I was developing a stealthy pillow op tactic. In the morning, a quarter impressed her unless her friends disclosed their tooth fairy left TWO quarters. So, as each tooth grew larger, I raised the booty to keep my Head-of-Ivory-State happy. Eventually, my daughter traded earning income from babysitting, rather than selling the last of her molars. Continue reading

Crossing Over…

Listening to:  Yellow Submarine, The Beatles and Isn’t Life Strange, The Moody Blues

As the ‘60s ended, my childhood experiences shifted from riding bicycles with playing cards clipped to the spokes by a clothes pin, kickball in the street, or trying to learn MAD Magazine songs put to the tunes of White Christmas … to a country divided by the Vietnam War and the development of a new culture called Hippies. With my three sisters, I’d eaten McDonalds hamburgers, sen-sen, yoo-hoos, hot toothpicks and candy cigarettes. I’d graduated from believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. As seen on TV, the ideal American family was “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons” or “The Patty Duke Show.” I overheard my mother tell a friend she wanted a divorce. That episode never aired.

My biological and step-father were sent to Vietnam the year I started junior high school. In the event something happened, we moved closer to my mother’s relatives. Continue reading

Ninja Moves in the Maldives

Rewind… Monday afternoon

Before vacation, I watched an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Eddie proposed to Tamara from a bungalow perched over Tahitian sapphire waters. I recalled the scene after we were escorted to our water villa at Komandoo Maldives Island Resort. The five hundred foot walk from Reception to the dock took at least ten minutes.

“Excuse me,” a stranger said to the resort employee as we walked. “Would you please ask someone to open Mantaray 9? We forgot our key.”

“No problem,” he answered, pulled out his cell phone to relay the request to Reception. As we approached the dock, he pointed at a phone hung on the first piling of a very long dock. “If you get locked out, please feel free to use the phone so you don’t have to walk all the way to reception.” I was getting a clear unspoken message. It wasn’t if we got locked out….it was when would we lock ourselves out? Continue reading

The Venetian

The last day of vacation in Venice: I was just eating gelato.  We had finished lunch served to the sidewalk tables.  Bills paid, napkins discarded.  But, now we were standing off to the side of the yellow gelato cart on a cobblestoned Venetian Calle.  In a soft voice, I discussed the morning with my traveling girlfriend and her two young children.  Italy perfected the art of gelato and my Italian Fodor’s guidebook insisted I needed to add the experience to my bucket list. Sweets never called my name, but how could I resist a cup of cafe gelato in Venice?

As a seasoned traveler, I’d hoped to present myself to the Italian community as a respectful American tourist.  I had read Fodor’s Appropriate Attire chapter as well.  I wanted to honor the local Roman Catholic.   No makeup.  Knee length Elliott Lauren khaki shorts.  White tank top and beige Salomon tennis shoes.  Ponytail pulled through my post-Greek cruise sun visor. Continue reading