What Are You Going To Do?

“I’m going to write a book.”

“I’m going to get in shape.”

“I’m going to travel the world.”

“I’m going to…”

No. Here’s the truth: Most people won’t ever do the things they say they are going to do. Not because they are incapable; we are capable of much more than we imagine. Not because their dreams are unreasonable; many people write books, fly on planes, lift weights and eat healthy food, etc. Not because they lack time; we make time for what matters most.

Why, then, do so many rarely make it past an announced intention?

Because doing things is hard.

I’m writing this only weeks after the fourth book in my and Josh’s Warpworld series was released into the world. Don’t mistake this declaration as smugness. This book was supposed to be published in March 2016, April at the latest. Five months late. Almost a year and a half spent grinding out words in a fog, wanting to quit, wanting to crawl under the covers and give in to the voices telling me my sadness was all that mattered. I even tried to talk Josh out of sending off our “final” draft to our editor (thankfully, he did not listen to my crazy talk), I just wanted it gone, out, over with. Writing, which is never easy, as any author will tell you, had become a dreary slog and I wanted to stop.

It is at that exact point, the point where you want to stop, to walk away and find something more immediately enjoyable, that you learn what your heart wants. You come to the brick wall and now you must choose: climb over or take an easier path?

To quote Randy Pausch from The Last Lecture

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

To be clear, wanting something badly does not mean you have to climb that brick wall alone. Me? I had Josh gently coaxing me on, refusing to stop, and insisting we follow the course I had once insisted we absolutely must follow. And then I had our wonderful, kind, talented editor, Candace, who pulled no punches but also patiently talked me through the work to be done. All that was required of me was to accept the help I was offered.

Help accepted. Wall climbed. Going to write a book becomes wrote a book. Easy? No. Satisfying? You bet your ass.

Part of the problem with going to is that we always see results, the end product of years, sometimes decades, of hard work, but we seldom see the drudgery and sacrifice it took to get those results. I think often of an interview I heard with Eddie Van Halen. He talked about how young boys looked at him and saw a rock star, so they went out and bought guitars and rocker clothes, grew their hair long, and went out to parties to drink, do drugs and get laid, all in the name of being a rock star someday. But when Eddie was a boy, he explained, he wasn’t doing those things, he was shut up in his room playing his guitar, playing and playing and playing.

If you want to be a rock star, or just famous, then run down the street naked, you’ll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play, and play! ~ Eddie Van Halen

And there is another layer to peel back: love.

Most parents understand the bond between sacrifice, work and love. When a parent says they love their kids that doesn’t mean they love everything about parenting. I’ve seen the look on parents’ faces in the grocery store as they try to cope with a toddler meltdown—frustration, determination, despair, embarrassment, anger, but not a lot of love. Even so, I know they love their child. Nothing about raising children is logical to me but, even so, I get it. The people you see on the other side of going to are there because they love the thing they chose to do. Eddie Van Halen isn’t a rock star because of long hair and tight pants, he’s a rock star because he spent all those years practicing, and he spent all those years practicing because he loves to play guitar.

I’m writing this today because tomorrow Prez and I move to Quadra Island, to a beautiful house looking over the ocean, thanks to an opportunity offered by a generous friend. While this move may seem like a no-brainer, we’ve lived on enough small islands and in out-of-the-way places to know that there are logistics and expenses that come with living in paradise. We looked at all of these brick walls honestly, talked things over with our friend and soon-to-be landlord, and weighed the pros and cons. In the end, the pros won us over.

Every time I think of our new home, I want to Snoopy dance. It still hasn’t completely sunk in that this is really happening. I’ve posted some photos on Facebook and you can expect more to come, knowing my penchant for enthusiastic sharing. But I’m writing this now as an antidote to that. I’m writing this, not as a cautionary tale exactly, but to show that the end result is not the whole story.

It is easy to look at someone’s life, especially through the heavy filter of social media, and see only luck and happiness. I’ve had more than one person tell me, over the years, how lucky I am and how wonderful my life is. Yes, I am lucky and I love my life, but I also want to show those people the stacks of failures, all the times the risks came with no rewards and sometimes a good dose of punishment. I want to show those people my sad bank account and non-existent retirement savings. I want to take those people job hunting with me and let them experience the frustration of trying to make an unconventional history fit into a conventional work world. I want those people to sit with me at 3am when I wake up in a panic about my future. I want to introduce those people to all the good friends and family I’ve left behind, some whom I will never see again, casualties of a nomadic existence. I want them to feel the ache in my neck and back at the end of a day of writing, and to read a list of all the fun activities I’ve missed in order to finish a work in progress. I want to show them that every going to I’ve turned into a done came with a price.

I love my life, it’s worth climbing the brick walls, it’s worth the stress and uncertainty…at least, to me it is.

Only you can decide whether your going to is worth the effort and whether you love whatever it is you dream of doing enough to climb the walls in your path. But it is worth taking a hard look at all your going tos and asking yourself what’s stopping you from doing the things you keep saying you’re going to do.

Me, I’m going to live on the ocean. Maybe I’ll see you there?


Posted in Family & Children, Friends, Ocean, Travel, Warpworld | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m Not Over It…and That’s Okay

Sliced red onion. Background close up red onion

Wow, has it ever been a long time since I’ve talked to you! You can blame whales and Warpworld in equal parts, as well as the occasional visit from friends.

So, I was in the kitchen one morning not too long ago and–

Oh, did you think I was going to do some kind of catch-up Coconut Chronicle? Sorry. Where was I?

In the kitchen. Chopping onions for a slow-cooker meal. (Basil chicken curry, a recipe I found on Facebook).  So, there I am chopping and sniffling, with stinging, onion-cutting tears running down my face, and suddenly it hits me: I can’t remember the last time I cried.

This revelation was right up there with the day I realized I could finally drive a standard transmission vehicle without having to think about the mechanics and the movements. One day you’re grinding gears, the next you’re downshifting instead of braking and not even aware you’re doing so.

One day you can’t stop crying, the next you no longer buy Kleenex in bulk.

Or so it seems.

The final one year anniversary passed quietly. I spent July 25th on Cortes Island with the California family, and there was lots of love, laughs, and life. I blinked and the day I had dreaded was over. One year without my dad.

Back to the onions.

As I put the tear-inducing onions into the crock pot, I asked myself how I was feeling. I’d been so busy, it had been a while since I had last checked in for a status update. The short answer was: better. Not “I’m completely back to my old self!” better, but better than I had been. I was sleeping well most nights, my appetite had stabilized, my desire to write was coming back, I experienced moments of genuine happiness, colour had returned to the world, and of course I was no longer frequently weeping at random intervals. Perhaps my writing partner Josh summed it up best recently, during one of our online production meetings, when he wrote, “I see you’ve rediscovered your exclamation points.”

Yes! I have!

The next question I asked myself was: How did I get better?

Time was the most obvious assistant. Without a lot of fanfare or hoo ha, time did what it does best and filed off the sharp edges of memory. Honesty had also helped. Writing about being in a depressed state, admitting that I was struggling, felt like someone giving me a big push on the swing set. Friends and family played a vital role–thank you all! Being busy and productive kept the momentum of that swing set push going. My Real Job was a massive help in this regard. Just knowing that I had to be at a place outside my house at a certain time, for a certain number of hours, and had to at least pretend to be cheerful, almost every day, prevented me from getting mired in my sadness. Exercise! (Which has been sadly lacking since the whale business got busy and the push to get book number four out the door intensified). I went to yoga, I went to the gym, I went for walks–happy body, happy mind. My husband–both from his emotional support and his new business, which went even further to alleviate the financial stress. Sunshine, the ocean, good books, keeping my visual entertainment on the light & fun side. (Yay, Kimmy Schmidt!)

IMG_3942Oh, and kittens. Two litters of foster kittens followed by two little furry munchkins that I fell utterly in love with and could not bear to give up. After eight years, Fred and I have finally re-catted and every day is now filled with spontaneous joy-gasms! #catnerd

The final question I asked myself was: Are you over it?


The depth of my grief has surprised me. I always believed that grief was a thing you experienced and then “got over”. That’s how it had been with every other person I had lost in my life, including my mother. I had been sad, and then I’d gotten over the sadness and moved on. Not this time.

And that’s okay.

See, what I’ve learned through this experience is that you can move on, be happy, enjoy every second of the incredible journey that constitutes being alive, and still grieve.

I’m never going to be my old self again. That Kristene is history. I will still laugh, tell bad jokes, drink martinis, talk about cats too much, devour chocolate like a boss, liberally use exclamation points in my online conversations (Josh!!!!), and share my cranial gumballs with the world, but I will always feel the absence of my sister and my father. I will never forget the profound sadness that settled into my bones when they died (it is still there), nor will I forget the people–those beacons of light, those Ridiculously Kind Persons–who were there when I needed them, who carried me when I could not carry myself.

I don’t think you ever “get over” something like that and why would you want to?

Despite all the delicious-sounding ingredients, the curry turned out bland. I won’t make that recipe again. That’s okay. That’s what life is after all. Not everything is good, not everything is bad, you try new recipes, you cry sometimes and then you don’t, you gain, you lose, you rejoice and you grieve, you learn, some things you get over and some things you don’t.

And that, my friends, is absolutely okay.

Sisters sleep.JPG

Ripley (front) and Serenity, making life better one purr at a time

Posted in Family & Children, Friends, Grief and Mourning, Health and wellness, Warpworld | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

On Failing

Kristene Perron stunts Millenium

Sometimes down but never out. *

No one talks about what happens when following your passion leads you off a cliff.” ~ Twitter user whose name I cannot recall

I suspect, because humans are creative and curious by nature, that we have been dreaming big and failing with equal bigness since the first primitive human decided hunting mastodons just wasn’t his bag and he was going to give it all up and become a cave painting artist. Some of that ambitious cave man’s friends and family applauded (or grunted enthusiastically) at his decision, while others thought he was making a colossal mistake. Sure enough, when our artistic ancestor realized–no matter how well he had captured the joie de vivre of the hunt in ochre on the cave wall, and how transported he felt in that moment of creation, and how he knew that this is what he was born to do–that nice paintings don’t fill an empty stomach, he despaired. Sure, he could still paint after mastodon hunts and on weekends (as soon as weekends were invented) but it wasn’t the same. He had dreamed of a life of art and he had failed.

Or maybe it didn’t happen quite like that but art, as a full time occupation, has been tempting innocent victims throughout the ages. The handful of famous writers, artists, dancers, and musicians that we remember are a dot on a flea compared to the hordes who passed into obscurity. And even many of the artists we call famous today were not appreciated (or paid well) while they lived.

Making a Living is the artists’ holy grail. It is that to which we aspire and when we summon the courage to seek that grail, to follow our passion, we do so accompanied by two big fears:

  1. That we are not good enough and we will fail.
  2. That we will have to display our failure to the world by getting a “real job” once more.

I am an old hand at following passions off cliffs. It feels great to tell everyone I was a professional stunt performer for 10 years but I was about two weeks away from giving up that pursuit forever in favour of a Real Job when I lucked out and snagged the final credit needed for my union membership. In fact, I was so broke and so frustrated that I had already started sending resumes out to veterinary pharmaceutical and food companies in the hopes of a lucrative job as a sales rep. It would still be another three years before I made enough at stunts to give up my part time job as a veterinary assistant, but union membership opened up enough opportunities to keep my hope and bank account afloat while I waited.

I got lucky. Make no mistake, it was pure luck. Yes, I know, I know, “the harder I work the luckier I get”, but I could not have worked hard enough in that two week window to generate any more luck than already existed.

Other passion following has not gone so well. My permanent move to the Bahamas with my husband…wasn’t. Obviously. (I’m still with my husband, we’re just not…well, you get it).

I haven’t put much thought into my recent transition from full time writer to part time writer and part time Real Jobber. Given the circumstances of the past year, I was simply happy to find employment with a decent wage, fun and friendly employers, and a healthy work environment. There was no time to angst or feel like a failure, there were only bills to be paid and a driving desire to overcome the state of depression and inertia into which I had fallen.

Then my artist friend Andy stopped by for a visit.

Luck was on my side. I had the entire day off to spend with my Alaskan Breakfast Squad-mate and the sun was shining. I made sure we did as many touristy things as we could fit in but that we also had plenty of time to catch up and talk.

Of course we talked about art. A lot.

At one point, Andy very delicately asked me how things were going and how I was feeling about returning to the Real Job world. He’s not only a mega talented artist but also a kind friend who has made his own crossover–from Real Job to full time writing–in the past year.

I assured him that everything was fine and here’s the strange part: it is fine.

Strange because for so long I felt as if the worst possible fate that could befall me was to admit defeat as an indie author and face big fear #2: my failure on display.

When my financial stress started getting the better of me in 2015 I fought an internal battle and after much metaphorical hand wringing went out in search of a regular paycheque. That felt like defeat. That felt like failure. That felt like shame.

Luck had passed me over this time around. Oh well.

And then my annus horribilus happened and I had other worries to occupy me. Bullet dodged but stress still 100% intact.

It was during that year, however, that magic happened. This magic came, as magic so often does, in the form of a book. Not my book, a book by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Big Magic played on audiobook as Prez and I drove home from California and I was transfixed.

I have recommended this book to many creatives and if you are a creative I recommend it to you now with my whole heart, liver, kidney and spleen.

Books with subtitles like “Creative Living Beyond Fear” usually sending me running for the hills, sometimes throwing up in my mouth a little as I do. I am not a “woo-woo” person. I am a hard work person. Thankfully, writer friends I trust and respect had read and recommended this book and so I took a chance.

Gilbert has many good things to say about creative living–some I already knew, some that I needed to hear again–but the section that resonated with me concerned money and debt. There was no “follow your dream no matter what!” rhetoric here. Gilbert was clear about the need to remove financial stress, even if that meant creating your art in tiny slices of time away from your Real Job. This was not about success or failure, this was about giving your brain the space to create without stress or pressure. One line in particular slapped me awake:

…debt will always be the abattoir of creative dreams.

Exactly. I had come to a point where the moments I usually spent daydreaming and playing with stories in my head had become moments where all I could think about was our bank account and how we were going to make it survive once we hit retirement age. I hated that my husband carried the  weight of our financial responsibilities almost entirely on his shoulders. I hated feeling as if I was a leech, not a partner. Day by day these feelings eroded the joy that had once come with my creative life.

By the time we made it back to Campbell River, the word failure had vanished from my thoughts, as had the two big fears. A Real Job would not mark the end of my creative life, it was the only means by which I could continue to have a creative life. Having a Real Job didn’t make me a sell-out and didn’t relegate my writing to the realm of the dreaded “hobby”, it was the path to longevity, the magic potion to enable persistence.

My Real Job, which is seasonal and will end in mid-October, makes me happy on several levels. The money isn’t huge but it’s enough to cover rent and some groceries. Stress is relieved and I can once again hold my head up high as a contributing financial member of my marital partnership. My Real Job empowers me within my marriage. Now that I have my own income again, I feel as if I have a right to speak up about how our money is spent. (And I can buy a few extra kitten treats without feeling guilty). My Real Job is fun! I get out of the house, meet new people, and talk about some of my favourite things–the ocean, whales, dolphins, eagles, bears.

If you are a full time creative struggling with the decision to “give up” and go find a Real Job or to keep banging your head against the wall of debt…stop. Take care of your finances. Tell those two big fears to take a flying leap and do whatever you need to do to alleviate the stress that kills your creative joy. If you are a creative who feels inferior because you still can’t make enough to leave your Real Job…stop. If your art is important to you, if creating is what makes you feel like a better person, then it doesn’t matter if your art is paying your bills, only that your bills get paid and your art gets made. If you are a creative preparing to leave your Real Job and pursue your art full time, good for you! (But remember it doesn’t have to be a one way trip).

My friend, the ridiculously talented author and publisher, Mark Teppo, in his most recent newsletter (you should subscribe–worth it!) talked about the frustrations he has dealt with in the past few years. He talked about thoughts of giving it all up, walking away to punch a clock and disappear, but came to the conclusion that he could never give up his writing.

…all of the whining and stress and rage has nothing to do with failing, and everything to do with being disconnected with who you are and what you truly desire.

This is the heart of it: Who are you? What do you truly desire?

I am a writer. I am happiest when I’m writing, even when I’m completely miserable (writers, you know what I mean). I am fulfilled when I write. I am a better person when I write. Anything that stands in the way of my writing must be dealt with–including money or lack thereof. When I clear the obstacles from my writing path, that is success.

Perhaps one day I will find myself in a position to write full time again or perhaps I will always need the help of a Real Job but, no matter what, I will always write.

*Photo: On the set of Millenium

Posted in Entertainment, Friends, Health and wellness, Indie publishing, Life at Work, On Scribbling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

All My Culture is Stolen


Crushing grapes in California

“Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, notably when elements of a minority culture are used by members of the cultural majority; this is seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity and intellectual property rights.” ~ Wikipedia entry for “Cultural Appropriation”

I’ve been watching the rise of this topic lately with great interest, primarily because I have no culture. That is to say I was raised without any specific cultural references, without religion or beliefs of any kind even atheism, and have only the barest awareness of my genealogy and biological history.

I understand the premise of cultural appropriation and respect the outrage felt by minority groups who see elements of their culture taken, distorted and even used for profit, but I don’t know how I, a cultureless being, fit into all this.

Every bit of culture I have or was raised in, by virtue of my adoption, is not mine. As for the rest, let me explain.

Religion and Belief

In the short time I spent talking with my dad after my sister’s death and before his death, I asked him if he had been raised in any particular religion. You see, religion was simply never mentioned in our house. My parents, to the best of my knowledge were neither believers nor atheists nor agnostics. When I went through my brief “born again” phase, after returning from a heavy-on-the-brainwashing Christian summer camp, there was a lot of smiling and nodding but I don’t recall any member of my family agreeing or disagreeing with me about God, Jesus, the bible, etc. Eventually, without the daily peer pressure and happy Jesus sing-alongs, I returned to my normal state of “whatever”.

The story Dad told me was fascinating and makes me kick myself for not delving into his history much earlier.

Yes, he said, he was raised to believe in God and his parents dragged the whole big Marrington clan to church every Sunday. I’m pretty sure it was a Catholic church but I could be misremembering.

My grandad, Stan, worked a lot of different jobs during the depression since he was not exactly a skilled labourer and jobs were scarce. (When I asked Dad what he knew of the Marrington history he said all he knew was that apparently they had been chased out of the slums of London). One of Grandad’s jobs was delivery man and one of the places to which he delivered was the church he and his family attended.

According to Grandad, security was tight at the church. He would deliver shipments of food and be met at the service door by one of the priests. The priest would lead him to a room to unload the goods and then bid him farewell. Grandad was not allowed to actually put the food in the big, locked, walk-in coolers and he was never left unattended.

But one day there was a different priest there to meet him and that priest left him alone to unload the goods. Grandad opened the first walk-in cooler and was awed by the sight of stacks and stacks of roasts, steaks, chicken, and seafood. This was a banquet! It was also food exclusively for the priests. Not the poor, not the hungry, just the holy men.

Remember, this was during the depression, there were a lot of poor and hungry.

Grandad looked at the bounty in that cooler and thought about the single mother he had seen the previous Sunday–one of those poor and hungry. She and her scrawny children had dutifully added their coins to the collection plate every Sunday even though they could obviously have used every last penny. Meanwhile, here were the priests, stuffing themselves like kings.

That, my dad told me, was the end of church, the end of god, and the end of religion in his family.

And so, I grew up in a household that did not badmouth god but simply refrained from any discussion on the subject. It was as if my family, collectively, slapped their hands over their ears and said “La la la, I can’t hear you” to erase religion from their world.

Ancestry and Heritage

If I could choose to be born into any particular race or culture, chances are my choice would be food-based. I’ve spent time with Italian families, Greek families, Croatian families, Dutch families, you name it. Even though these families were legally Canadian or American, their culinary heritage was alive and well. And, might I add, delicious.

But it’s more than just the food that bonds these families, it’s everything that happens around the food. Prez’s Italian step-family in California have get-togethers for making food and drink. Pressing grapes, standing barefoot in casks that are over 100 years old, it’s impossible not to feel the thread that runs through each member of the family, across the ocean, back to the home of their ancestors.

In my writing group in Nelson, our Norwegian member wrote a long description of the Christmas tradition of making lefse in her family. She made a batch for us and even showed us the special wooden, lefse rolling pin that had been handed down in her family through generations. So much history and tradition for one dessert.

Some of my friends have rules around their food that go back over a thousand years or more.

My dad’s side of the family was British, my mom’s Scottish. What were the food traditions in my childhood home?

Sunday nights we usually ate overcooked roast beef, which meant Monday nights were usually overcooked hot roast beef sandwiches. Saturdays were reserved for takeout–Chinese or pizza. Gram occasionally made Scotch Broth, which was tasty but nothing I’d call all my friends over for. And our few “traditions” gradually fell by the wayside when my sister moved away and I got older and less excited about family dinners.

Nothing was passed down to me. I have no recipes. I’ve never cooked or baked anything that my mother or grandmother cooked or baked. It is as if our family history was written in disappearing ink that is now beginning to fade into obscurity.

And that’s just food. My family had no art, no music, no style of clothing that marked us as a distinct culture. Everything about us was new, generic, bought at a mall or Kmart.

Stealing Culture

If there is one legacy that was passed down to me from my parents, it was a love of travel. My parents were not big adventurers and seldom went off the beaten path but they loved camping, car trips, cruises, sunny vacation spots. As an adult, I took that ball and ran with it as far as I could.

Every country I have visited or lived in–and I have not visited one tenth of the places I would like to–has made its mark on me. There are wonders in every nook and cranny of the world. Oh, and the language! I love language and I love the little phrases unique to all the pockets of the planet.

Nearly seven years after leaving the Cook Islands, Prez and I still say, “It’s hot as” on particularly warm days. (We also say it in a Kiwi accent, with heavy emphasis on the “as”). My day-to-day speech is peppered with Latin-American Spanish, some French, and bits of Japanese, American slang and, of course, Kiwi-isms–remnants of my other homes.

I’ve studied Japanese martial arts, Indian yoga, and Polynesian dance. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have grown up so close to so many other cultures, to have dipped my cup in so many rich and colourful traditions.

I’m not a souvenir collector in the traditional sense but, from every place I visit and everyone I interact with, I steal a bit of culture. Is it wrong, what I do?

And what of my genetic ancestry? From what I know, my biological mother’s side of me was German. Bio-Dad’s ancestry, like the man himself, is a mystery. In any case, I feel no blood urges related to my biological ancestry.

What am I? Who am I? Canadian? What does that even mean?

If you’re a blank slate, if you have no deeply ingrained culture and traditions, then isn’t your entire life culture appropriation?


With all the necessary talk around cultural appropriation, I have become hyper aware. My new workplace has a small gift shop area with a selection of goods decorated in First Nations art. The actual items–t-shirts, mugs, scarves–are probably made in China but the artwork is all from Pacific Northwest First Nations artists and they receive credit and payment for their work. This should make the idea of purchasing these items guilt-free for me.

It doesn’t.

I think about walking around in an obviously First Nations art t-shirt and wonder if I’m now being disrespectful or if someone will assume that the art I’m wearing has been plundered and that I’m exploiting an entire culture when, in fact, I just really dig the design.

I’ve never thought about the culture I steal before because a) I always thought what I took was done out of genuine respect and appreciation and b) I had so little culture of my own.

Now I wonder, where’s the line? Am I a thief or am I a woman patching together a quilt of identity?


Posted in Family & Children, News and politics, Travel | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Be Political!


On the list of things I suck at, you will find:

  • Baking
  • Math
  • Geography and navigation
  • Sewing
  • Not eating chocolate
  • Self-promotion and marketing

That last one is unfortunate, given that I am an indie published author and 100% of the marketing job falls on my shoulders. One area where I really drop the marketing ball is here on this blog, which I could be using as a promotional tool and instead fritter away with expressions of grief, rants about internet memes, complaints about the lack of decent hot chocolate at coffee shops, and any of the other million gumballs that roll out of my cranium.

Other authors do not have this problem. The minute a news story bursts into the public consciousness, they have something to say about it. They have an Opinion! People read and share the author’s Opinion. People debate the author’s Opinion. The author’s name is spread around the internet like icing on a particularly delicious cupcake. The author is not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get into the ring, to get political.

I have opinions, you may have noticed that. I also have the worst timing in the world. By the time I get around to framing and articulating my opinion on some hot topic, the 24 hour news cycle has long moved on and the hot topic is lukewarm at best. Who’s interested in reading my thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis? Anyone?


I’m not afraid of getting political I’m just, well, slow.

Actually, I’m afraid of being too fast.

On an internet forum, several years ago, I uncharacteristically jumped on a bandwagon. Remember Kony 2012? Wish you didn’t?

Oh, I shouted my Opinion from the rooftops. And when some folks pointed out the whole White Saviour Syndrome thing,  I fought back. This wasn’t about being a saviour, this was about the global community coming together to do the right thing! And when other folks pointed out that maybe the organization behind Kony 2012 was not without an agenda and were not exactly supported by the local population, I accused them of wanting to piss on the parade. We were going to do the Right Thing, haters or not! And when the truth came out about the whole ridiculous campaign and the leader of Kony 2012 had a very public and very naked meltdown?


Embarrassment was only one of the many emotions I struggled with. How could I have let myself get so caught up in this idea? I’m usually careful about which organizations and projects I support. I usually do my research. I usually listen to dissenting opinions rather than just shutting down any discourse that contradicts what I believe.

The Kony 2012 debacle was a good reminder and, as a result, I tend to avoid knee-jerk reactions to just about everything, especially if I intend to speak publicly on the subject.

Along with that wrist slap is the growing realization, which comes with age and experience, that everything–everything–is more complicated than the soundbites we are fed from the news and social media. While there have been a mass of people hating on the police for racism and violence recently, and another mass of people defending the police for risking their lives to keep us all safe, I happen to have some friends in law enforcement. These friends will not (cannot) comment publicly but the story they tell within their circle of trusted friends is complex, layered and far from black and white (yes, pun intended).

Hear enough of these behind-the-scenes stories from people on the front lines of any issue and it doesn’t take long to realize that all you’re ever getting from the news is the uppermost tip of the iceberg. Not an ideal foundation for an Opinion…in my opinion.

What makes this worse is that often the people we most need to hear from on the subject, to gain vital perspective, must remain silent. Frustrating for them and dangerous for us, as we are bombarded with an incomplete version of important events.

And then there’s the noise. Oh gods, the noise. Hate on me all you want but the minute I hear about a tragedy or a celebrity death my first thought is ‘Great, here we go again.’ By which, I mean that my social media feeds will be clogged with EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT THE THING!

If it’s your Thing–if your friend or family member has died, if you are the victim of a crime or have witnessed a crime, if you were involved in a tragedy, if your dog rescued a kitten from a burning building–I am eager to read your story, bring it on. But if you are simply one of one million people posting “thoughts and prayers”, I am scrolling on by. Or I am stepping away from social media until The Thing has settled down.

By the way, I am 100% guilty of being a thoughts and prayers person at times. Okay, maybe not “prayers” but you get the idea. And I get it. I understand the compulsion to share, to counteract some of the helplessness terrible events evoke. But thanks to a bit performed by comedian Anthony Jeselnik, I’ve even started dialing back on that reaction and questioning my motives.

Last and certainly not least is the growing understanding that I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind on some issues, I’m only going to drive people further into their belief and alienate friends who may not agree with me. If I’m going to risk losing friends, then it darn well better be over something that matters a whole damn lot to me.

Do I have opinions about Orlando and guns and Isis and terrorism? Damn skippy. Is it worth regurgitating them here and now? Nope. I’m Canadian. I like the gun laws my country has in place, they work for us. I am sad for the needless deaths but it is not my fight. America can do whatever it wants; I can let it go.

Oh, and I’m also kind of selfish and The Coconut Chronicles are my place, where I talk about what matters to me, when it matters to me. Fight the power, etc.

Put all these pieces together and what you get is me rarely ever blogging about big, political issues in a timely fashion. I watch other authors reaping the benefits of speedy, passionate responses to the news of the moment and in the space of a wing beat of a butterfly I might think, ‘I should really do that’. The moment passes and I go back to being who I am and doing what feels right to me.

Like eating chocolate and refusing to bake anything, ever.

I’m a lousy marketer and self-promoter. But maybe I’m an okay human being. I’d rather be good at that.

Posted in News and politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

One Year Later

Me and Kelly in VGH

I am writing this post two days early.  On June 8th, two days from now, I will remember. What that will look like or how I will react, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have the strength right now, two days before the anniversary of my sister’s death, to write about the first year without her.

What I want to share with you, first, is an unfinished post that has languished in my drafts folder since the day I received the news about Kelly’s leukemia.

This is what I wrote at the beginning of March, 2015…

I had a long and elaborate Coconut Chronicle planned for this week, to celebrate the release of the third Warpworld novel. (It’s out; I’m happy). Then I received a text from my sister, Kelly. Well, two texts actually. I missed her first text because I’d turned my phone to vibrate and had forgotten to turn the sound back up, like I always do. (Insert photo of Prez rolling his eyes).

My sister had gone to Emergency because she was so tired she could barely stand upright and her vision was starting to blur…at noon. She has since been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, has been transferred to a hospital in Vancouver, and is currently being tested up the wazoo to figure what’s going on and what treatments she’ll need.

I have a workshop to teach this weekend and the truck needs new tires so we don’t kill ourselves driving on the highway, but first thing Monday morning I will drive to the coast to be with my sister and everything else in my life will have to wait for a while.

If it seems strange that I’m taking time out to blog about this, it is. I’ve been in a state of shock since I received the news. Oh, I’m sure Kelly will get fantastic care and I know the doctors in Vancouver are top notch. I hate that I know she’s scared and that she has to be poked and prodded in ways that make my palms sweat but until I hear otherwise I don’t have good reason to panic.

I’m in shock because in those first few moments, when I realized my sister was not just run down or low on iron, that something was really, seriously not right, it struck me that there are only two people left in this entire world who occupy the innermost circle of my life: my sister and my dad. When my mom died, we three latched onto each other because I think we sensed it then too. There’s something about the parent/child/sibling connection that no other relationship in your life can exactly replicate. We three are an island; we have a history that no one else understands. And I can’t bear the thought of losing even one person from our small island. This feeling transcends love or genetics, it’s about the million million little moments that we have shared. When we are gone, those moments will also be gone.

These are the things I never think about.

Only when life reminds me, in seventy-two point red font, that the people I love most are finite, does this brand of fear get the best of me.

But it’s good to remember, now and then. It’s good to take the hands of the people who share my little island and squeeze tight and let myself be afraid to let go.

I stopped there. “Stop being such a drama llama!” I chastised myself. “You don’t even know how serious this is. You don’t have any facts and yet you’re acting as if the world is about to end.”

What a fool I am. I knew. Some part of me knew this was serious business and desperately needed to get all the feelings of panic, helplessness and fear onto the page. And I, ever logical, told that part of me to shut up. Now, it’s all lost in a blur of memory.

I think that’s why I have not deleted the text messages sent between Kelly and me over those final three months, and I probably never will. While I do not believe in ghosts, technology has created a ghost of my sister and locked her safely away inside a little magic box. Whenever I want, I can visit that spirit and travel back in time with her.

Screen 1

Sometimes the conversation was serious.

Screen 3

Sometimes we found humour in the situation.

Screen 2

There were frequent kitten updates.

Screen 6

And then, like a bad cliff-hanger, it ends.

Screen 7

I would receive the answer to my question in the Nanaimo hospital.

Since June 8, 2015, I have never let go of my sister’s hand. I am holding it now. Squeezing so tightly. There are no pithy life lessons here, only a raw emptiness and a void that will never be filled. So I am, more than a year too late, giving myself permission to be overly dramatic on this page.

That little island is empty except for me. Those million million little moments exist only in my head. And when I am gone they will vanish. It feels like holding a wounded baby bird in your hands, knowing you cannot save its life but trying to make the end comfortable.

One year later, what I know is that it gets easier but it never gets easy. One year later, I see that losing Kelly cut a clean line through my life—before and after. From this point forward, no matter how wonderful or terrible my life is, it will always be my life after Kelly.

One year later, I miss my sister every day.

Every day.

Posted in Family & Children, Grief and Mourning, Health and wellness, Love | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Bag of Necessity – Why I hate purses

Big Purse

Consider the purse, female treasure chest, fashion accessory, urban survival equipment. I carry a purse, grudgingly. This most non-sequitur of posts comes from a description in Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, where the male protagonist describes the contents of his recently deceased wife’s purse. The “litter of Kleenex and makeup and keys and half-finished rolls of Certs” transported me back in time; that was my mother’s purse he was describing!

My mother’s purse was a Hermoine Granger level of magic for young me. Not that I was allowed to rummage through it randomly, but every now and then Mom would tell me to fetch something from within the vault and what bliss! I remember, with absolute clarity, that there were twelve thousand and six separate compartments in my mother’s purse. Each compartment contained endless and ever-changing treasures and the sanctity of it–hey, there was actually print money stored in there–made my brief and infrequent explorations even more thrilling.

Looking for something in my mother’s purse was not a chore, it was archaeology! You could fill two solid hours on that adventure: Indiana Jones and the Purse of Mystery.

My first purse is memorable only because it was purchased in Tijuana, when I was six. It was made of thick, cheap brown leather and had “Tijuana” stamped on the front, and I adored it!I have two other memories of that single-day jaunt south of the border. The first is the tacos that I BEGGED my parents to buy me, which I cast aside after a single bite. Remember a) tacos were considered exotic cuisine for middle class suburb-dwellers in Canada in the 70’s and b) I was six. The second memory is of my mother desperately trying to find a washroom for me that was clean enough for her standards (I’m pretty sure she asked to use one at a bank, it was really clean), and then her furiously warning me in a hushed-yet-aggressive voice, “DON’T SIT ON THE SEAT!”

I’m pretty sure I sat on the seat.

My second purse (yes, I actually remember), was a big Hefty Bag of a thing purchased for my trip to Hawaii, where I traveled with my dance class in 1982, without the benefit of Mom’s purse to hold all my super important treasures junk. The purse was also white, which I remember because my blue pen panicked at the change of pressure when the airplane ascended and squid-inked all over one side. I like to imagine that the moment it happened, wherever my mother was, she let out a sigh of despair. “Oh, Kris, can’t you keep anything clean?”

More purses followed until something strange began to happen. I looked around and noticed that men walked around unencumbered by purses. In fact, a man carrying purse on any day besides Halloween would likely face a storm of homophobic violence. Purses were for women, for girls.

And yet.

How many times had I seen my dad ask my mom to carry something in her purse that he couldn’t be bothered to lug around? Not just my dad, either. Many men seemed to rely on the purses of their wives and girlfriends in order to maintain that streamlined “I’m so manly I need nothing but oxygen and clothes” look. Children also used the purse as their personal mobile storage locker. Everyone was happy to use a purse as long as the woman was the one carrying it.

Like Roddy Piper in They Live, it was as if I’d put on special glasses but it wasn’t aliens I saw through them, it was pack mules. Women, somehow, somewhere, had been tricked into becoming beasts of burden. We were carrying everyone else’s shit and expected to be excited by that fact.

But what about when you want to ride the rollercoaster, or dance at the club, or spontaneously perform cartwheels in the park? What do you do with your purse? The answer was usually that you find another woman to hold it or you simply don’t do the fun thing you want to do. Ever see women dance at a club, forming a circle around their purses on the ground, placed there like holy relics? Weird, right?

After that, I became anti-purse. I got myself a man-style wallet that would fit in my jacket or jeans pocket, and that was it. Sure, once a month I’d have to break down and carry something purse-y to accommodate Shark Week supplies, but I tried to carry a small backpack or something that was distinctly not a purse.

My plan worked well for a while. When I was young, when my responsibilities were fewer. But it became increasingly clear to me as I aged that there were real benefits to having something to carry one’s things, especially when one is nomadic. Thus began the current era, which I call: Find a purse that looks as little like a purse as possible. This is tougher than you think.

For the record, Prez wears a fanny pack. Go ahead, snicker, but the man always has dental floss and a Leatherman when he needs them, so there.

I hate fashion. I mean, yes, I like to look nice when I’m in places and doing things where looking nice is part of the deal, but I hate the constant change, the constant rules made up by people I don’t know and don’t care about. I don’t want a purse to be fashionable. I want a purse because it’s a practical item that benefits me. Heck, it benefits everyone but yay gender stereotyping!

I will now fetch my purse and tell you the exact contents of it so you may judge the practicality of it for yourself.

Be right back.

Here I am. Here are the items:

  1. Wallet (Still carrying the velcro surfer-style wallet I bought in Rarotonga in 2008. F U fashion!)
  2. Notepad
  3. Packets of stevia (No one ever has stevia at coffee shops or restaurants.)
  4. Key to Mom Nancy’s house. (Specially made for me, with kittens on it!)
  5. Cell phone
  6. Cheques
  7. Gum. (Must always have gum!)
  8. Mini medicine holder with emergency Synthroid pills, Advil, Benadryl, and Gravol
  9. Mini toothbrush and floss (Don’t neglect your oral hygiene!)
  10. Band-aids
  11. Tampons (The very small OB brand)
  12. Pen
  13. Lip balm
  14. Business card holder
  15. Lottery ticket (any day now!)
  16. Kleenex

With the exception of the lottery ticket and the stevia, there are no items on that list I consider extraneous. Sure, I could store Mom’s house key somewhere else but that’s just begging for me to put it somewhere I will forget, as I have done with seldom used keys in the past. This collection of necessities makes my life run more smoothly and keeps me independent.

So what on earth is so gosh darned feminine about that? Men, help me out here. Are you telling me that when you are on the road and get a wicked headache you wouldn’t feel better knowing you’ve got some aspirin handy? Or Kleenex should your schnoz start leaking? or lip balm so that at the end of a wind and sun-baked day of sporty activities you don’t come home looking like Tom Hanks in Cast Away? How about a place for your multi-purpose tool? Is it completely nuts to think a small bag within which you could transport these items every day wouldn’t be a benefit?

I anticipate the jokes about the “murse”. Reach for the low hanging fruit if you must. But, gentlemen, don’t come crying to me when you need some dental floss to get that annoying popcorn out of your teeth. This is my Bag of Necessity. Go get your own.

Posted in Humour and satire, News and politics, Women's Issues | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment