“Is everything okay with you?”
My dear friend Pat asked this of me on Sunday evening. As well as being one of my best friends in the universe, he is also a regular Coconut Chronicles reader and he noted that lately my posts have been on the negative side. Unusual, he thought, since there I was raving to him about how beautiful my new living quarters are and how happy I am that fate connected Fred and me with our fabulous Friendlord Kate. Not to mention the joy of my quirky kittens and steadily growing Warpworld readership, and Fred’s crazy-successful new business. For the first time in long time, life seems to have dropped heaps of good fortune in my lap.
But he was right, my latest posts have been more than a little cranky and/or gloomy, and it made me pause to reflect.
Yes, I still have stress, most of which I prefer not to discuss publicly, some of which anyone who follows me on Facebook is already sick of. Crazy menopause hormones anyone? And I still get sideswiped by grief now and then. Overall, however, things in my personal life are on a ridiculous upswing.
So why, when everything is mostly good, do I feel compelled to write about the bad?
Short answer: lots of reasons but mostly politics.
Now, while this is not a feel-good blog or a self-help manual, it is a chronicle (hence the title) of my interior and exterior life, told in random brain droppings that fall like coconuts from my…errrr…metaphorical palm tree (did that work?), and when future me reads over my 2017 posts I want her to remember how I woke up every day and thanked the universe for my good fortune.
As it happens, today is the perfect day to drop a coconut of positivity on your head because I am sitting on a BC Ferry, heading back to that little slice of island paradise, to reunite with people and pets that I love, AFTER a weekend of joy and camaraderie. Whew. Happiness overload!
I’ve written many times about my friend Sandra Wickham and about the Creative Ink Festival but this year there were some added components.
- Sandra invited me to room with her for the weekend. (Sorry about the 6:30am wake-up!)
- My 15-year-old niece Abby attended the festival.
- My sisters April and LeAnna and brother Glen joined me at the festival Saturday night…the first time I and all my half-siblings have been in the same place together!
Sandra AKA Ninja Mama and I are lucky if we see each other once a year, usually at her festival, and usually in brief snippets of time because she has a million things to do and her stress level is at “OMG!!! IT’S HAPPENING!!” Luckily, we have one of those weird and rare friendships that cares not about time and distance. I suspect we could go without seeing each other for decades and then pick up right where we left off, laughing at each other and ourselves, venting about stuff that’s stressing us out, and just being in the moment with each other.
If you have one of these friendships, make sure to thank the universe and never ever take it for granted.
This year Sandra asked if I’d like to be her roomie for the festival—with a warning that her room would be festival HQ and, thus, not always a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the event. I said YES, YES, YES without a second thought. (Okay, maybe a teeny second thought when Sandra explained we would likely host some folks in our room Saturday night after the day’s programming was over—I am generally not a fan of loud, crowded, hot, room parties).
We didn’t get much sleep all weekend but it was a small sacrifice. Lying in our beds, in the dark, trying to stop giggling; Sandra marveling at my “must be ready four hours early” morning routine; our almost-creepy similarities right down to the brand of facial wipes we travel with and the fact that we both have to completely unpack and “settle in” as soon as we check in; the Saturday night gathering that turned out to be a LOT of fun and not hot and crowded at all; the frank discussions about personal stuff we don’t share with many other people; the laughs and laughs and laughs…every minute made an already amazing event a thousand times more memorable.
If the stars align, we’ll get to do it all again—without the stress of event management—in August for When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta. But no matter what happens from this point on, I return home with precious friend-time that is worth more to me than any book sales or five star reviews.
To my favourite Ninja Mama: *MWAH*! Thanks a gazillion!
The Next Generation
I can still recall, vividly, how it felt to be 15 years old, in love with the written word, and wishing that maybe, possibly, somehow, someday, I might be a famous published author. (And a famous actress, famous dancer, famous singer, and an astronaut…but those jobs required talents I sadly do not possess).
There was no internet waaaaaaay back then, no writing festivals or conventions in my neck of the woods, no means for me to connect with professional writers other than fan letters, (which I would have been too shy to send, anyway). My friends weren’t into writing and my family knew nothing about the craft or the business, though they tried to be supportive in their own way. My goal felt impossible, my passion isolating, my skills trapped behind an invisible barrier preventing them from growing.
So when I learned that my young niece Abby was serious about writing—completing one NaNoWriMo, almost finishing another, and also participating in the NaNo spring camp—I knew I wanted to help give her some of the opportunities I’d missed at her age. After the 2016 Creative Ink Festival, I knew what I had to do! Between me, my sister LeAnna, and Abby’s mom (and my other sister) April, we arranged to get her from Kelowna to Burnaby for the festival weekend.
I wasn’t sure how Abby was going to feel about hanging out with a bunch of adult nerds for three days but I did know that there was no other writing event where she would be as welcomed and safe.
I needn’t have worried. Abby fit right in, soaking up the panels and presentations, taking copious notes, asking intelligent questions, and endearing herself to everyone. More than once I witnessed an author or publisher offer her one of their books—she went home with a bag full!
Because of geography, I haven’t spent much time with my biological family and even less with my nieces. Since I was also busy volunteering and presenting at the festival, I knew I wasn’t going to have a ton of extra time to spend with my niece but I knew the time we’d have together would be within the writing/nerd tribe—quality is more important than quantity, after all. Every time I slipped into a convention room to take photos and spotted that little face in the audience, a burst of happiness exploded in my chest. Whether or not Abby ever decides to write professionally, at least she had the opportunity to experience what it’s like, to gather valuable insight from authors and publishers and editors, and to feel part of the community I love so much. For one moment in time we shared each other’s worlds…and what creative and fun worlds they are!
To Abby: thanks for letting me share this weekend with you and never stop being your weird, wonderful and talented self!
A Long Time Coming
I was 25 when I connected with my biological mother for the first time. I’d never been one of those adoptees who obsess about their “real” parents but I was curious enough to sign up on the passive registry. It was fun to see the first photos of someone who actually looks like me (ah, that’s where my big, goofy grin comes from!) and a wonderful surprise to learn that I had three half siblings—two sisters, LeAnna and April, and a brother, Glen.
My siblings and I communicated for several years via letters and then email. There was some talk of meeting up now and then but, in all honestly, I was the one that held off on that. I enjoyed our written exchanges but, when I had signed up for the registry, in-person meeting was never in my plans. First, I’d heard too many horror stories about these kinds of “reunions”. Second, I still felt a bit like it would hurt my adoptive family and their feelings had to come first. Third, I thought one big heaping of family drama was enough, no need to court any more than necessary. Fourth, for all intents and purposes, we were a bunch of strangers who just happened to share DNA. Fifth, emotionally, it was scary.
Eventually, all those reasons lost their importance and one-by-one I connected, in person, with my shared-mother sisters and brother. And…it was awesome! The moment of awkwardness actually passes pretty quickly and then you just get on with the business of getting to know each other and becoming friends. And family.
We all share some similarities. Just like regular sisters and brothers. And we’re all different in other ways. Just like regular sisters and brothers. Genetics is definitely a factor—turns out clumsiness runs in the family—but our different childhoods makes for interesting conversation.
When I lost my sister Kelly, my bio-siblings were right there to support me. LeAnna and Glen even made a trip to the island for the memorial. LeAnna, ever the organizing whiz, actually helped me plan some of the event and made sure I had “emergency wine” for my speech, which turned out to be very much needed.
Every year, we get a little closer and a little more comfortable. I used to think of them as simply “Glen, LeAnna and April” but they have become my sisters and my brother, and it gives me the warm fuzzies to know I have a family out there that loves and cares about me.
But since that first day of discovery more than twenty years ago, the four of us had never been together at the same time, in the same place…until Saturday, April 1, 2017. It was April’s birthday and, fittingly for us all, April Fool’s Day.
As mentioned, my niece was attending the Creative Ink Festival with me. She was staying with LeAnna in Vancouver and April made the trip down in order get together with us, celebrate her birthday, and drive Abby home on Sunday. All three grabbed a room at the festival hotel. Glen was a wild card. He works in the film business now (ironic, yes?) and puts in long shifts and late hours (ah, I remember it well!). Would he be able to stay awake long enough for a full on sibling party?
So there we all were, sisters and brother, in the same room, sharing the same big goofy grins, for the first time in history. As historical events go, I doubt this one will ever make it into the books, but it’s one I’ll treasure for the rest of my life!
To my patient and wonderful sisters and brother: sorry it took me so long! Thanks for helping me get over myself and letting me join the weirdness that is our family.
So, there you go, three unbelievably positive things in one little Coconut Chronicle. Future me, you were smiling when you wrote all of this.
I can’t guarantee the next post won’t be sad or angry or full of ranting—these are turbulent times and the falling coconuts will likely reflect that—but please know that behind the negativity is a woman who has a whole heck of a lot to be happy about.
To answer your question, Pat, not everything is okay with me but most things are pretty f**king great!