Long ago I started folk dancing to satisfy my college gym requirement. Little did I know that it would lead to meeting my wife!
In 1988 I was living in Durham, North Carolina, and every week I would go to the Chapel Hill International Folk Dance Club. Suddenly, a mysterious (and very attractive) woman started showing up. She was obviously a very good dancer. Who was she?
I finally mustered up the courage to talk with her, and then we went out for lunch. I found out that she had in fact been one of the original members of the folk dance group, back in the late 1960s. But then she had gone off to college and lived for ten years in southern California, before deciding to move back to her hometown.
Somehow, everything went very rapidly from there. By the end of 1988 Kay and I had gotten engaged, and in May 1989 we were married at the Carolina Inn. We’ve been together ever since.
I have been so grateful for her support during some difficult times. When I was denied tenure at Kenyon College, she was the one who encouraged me to fight the decision. When I decided to change careers, move across the country, and gamble on becoming a freelance writer, she supported me 100 percent, even though it meant that she had to get a J-O-B. When people asked me what you need to succeed as a writer, for a long time I used to say, “A spouse with a regular job and health insurance!”
However, we finally got to the point where Kay could retire from her job and follow her own dream of writing. In 2003 she started Quilt Puppy Publications, subsequently renamed By Kay Mackenzie, and she began selling her own quilt books. At the end of 2006 she retired from Cabrillo College (retaining our health insurance!) and ever since then we have both been self-employed and loving it. As she often likes to remind me, “These are the good old days.”
Kay and I have no children. We do have a somewhat klutzy and very affectionate cat named Max. He has many talents, which include kisses, hugs, fetching toys, and coming when he is called. I think he is the most dog-like cat I’ve ever known. (That’s supposed to be a compliment, by the way.)
We have had pets more or less continuously since 1990. First, a trio of calico cats followed us home from the woods one day in Ohio and stayed with us through eighteen-plus years and a relocation to California. Their names were Maikai, Chutney, and Pixel.
In 1995 we were joined by another furry companion, a papillon puppy named Willie. He lived to the ripe old age of 16 before finally passing away in 2011. If you’re not familiar with papillons, they are one of the smartest and also one of the calmest toy-dog breeds. If you’ve always wanted a small dog but thought they were too high-strung, maybe a papillon is what you want.
I could write lots and lots about Willie, but I don’t have to because he had his own blog! Of course we are no longer adding to it, but you are warmly invited to go and read his life story at The Most Excellent Life and Times of Willie the Quilt Puppy. You can also read about the cats there, although Willie called them Klingons.
Kay and I have volunteered for many years at the Santa Cruz animal shelter, and in 2010 we started fostering kittens for the shelter. These are typically five- to eight-week old kittens, whom we take care of for three or four weeks, until the shelter vet determines that they are big enough to be spayed/neutered and put up for adoption. We started jokingly calling ourselves the Mackenzie Finishing School for Felines. We’re pleased to say that every single “graduate” of the finishing school has found a permanent home.
And finally, one of them found a home with us. Max came to spend Christmas with us in 2011. After two years and 36 foster kittens, he was the one that we couldn’t say goodbye to… the best Christmas present that we ever gave ourselves.
You can watch a video of Max below, and I suspect that we will be adding more videos to this one over the years.
“If I Can Do It, So Can You” Dept.
Besides writing, the two interests that have stuck with me the longest are chess and folk dancing. I mentioned already that Kay and I met through dancing. In 2005 I joined the Hula School of Santa Cruz and started to learn how to dance the hula. I have found it to be both the most challenging and interesting form of folk dance that I’ve ever done. It is also one of the best ways to learn about Hawaiian culture. The Hula School is a warm, supportive, and family-oriented group. I strongly encourage any of you who have ever experienced the aloha spirit — especially you kane (men) — to find your local halau and give hula a try. It really is different from your preconceptions.