When Your Husband Meets Your Friends (Going Home, Part 3)


Joe and I have been together for almost four years, but because we met in South Korea, the first two years of our relationship took place in Asia. We refer to this time as ‘the Korea bubble’ because we felt like we were in our own world. The early months of a relationship typically include meeting each other’s friends and family, but aside from hanging out with my dad and sister, who happened to visit me in Korea while I was dating Joe, we didn’t have that opportunity. Our move to Portland and an immigration process that restricted how many times I could re-enter the US made it difficult for us to visit Canada, so until last May, Joe had only been to Victoria once, to meet my mom.


We’ve been lucky to have a number of people come and stay with us in Portland, so by last winter, Joe had spent time with several of my friends, but there were still some really important people in my life he needed to meet. On more than one occasion, friends have said to me, “Coco, I can’t believe you’re married and I haven’t met your husband yet!” (Although they also say they feel like they know him, because of my blog :))

The older I get, the more I realize how much of an anchor my friendships have been in my life. They gave me stability through what was a pretty chaotic childhood, and are the foundation of an immense sense of connection I feel no matter where I am in the world. I’ve always known that whoever I ended up spending my life with would have to be someone that could connect with my friends. To me, it’s as important as the bonds created with family.

Of course, your friends’ pets matter too.


(This is Tula, dog-child to Adam and Antonia.)

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When Robin Williams Won the Oscar, and Thoughts on Depression

Last night before we went to sleep Joe and I watched a few clips of Robin Williams, in interviews with Johnny Carson and Craig Ferguson, and performing his hysterical stand-up routines. This morning I wanted to share one of them, but was torn on which one. In the end I decided this joyous moment of when he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” felt right.

Hearing of anyone living with depression always hits home for me. It’s an illness present in my own family, and I have seen and felt its impact personally. It’s hard to know how to help someone you love who is suffering from the effects of depression, but certainly talking about it—what it is, how it feels, and what resources are available—more openly amongst ourselves is an essential part of creating a culture that supports and encourages those who feel depressed, as well as their friends and family members, to reach out.

Bring Change 2 Mind is a campaign founded by Glenn Close (whose sister is bipolar) aimed at ending the stigma around mental illness. It’s an excellent resource with videos, stories, links to articles, and ways to get involved in the initiative.

The writer Anne Lamott knew Robin Williams growing up. This is an excerpt from a piece she posted on her facebook page today.

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.

Read the full piece here.


Rest in peace, Robin Williams.

ps. Robin Williams on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in1991, his hilarious stand-up bit on golf, and the flashback I wrote last year about Dead Poet’s Society


Camping on the Coast (with 10 of us!)



This is what happens when 5 guys and 5 girls from seven different states and 1 Canadian province all end up living in Portland…




and decide to go camping together.

When I was 22 I camped my way up the East coast of Australia for two months. At each new spot I’d hang a little dream catcher wind chime, given to me by my friend Charlotte, from the ceiling of my two-man tent. The chime and the tent. Me and my guitar. That was home.

Months later, when I was serving tables at a restaurant in Port Douglas, Queensland called Portofino’s and renting a room in a house with Charlotte and her boyfriend James and two long-haired dudes I can’t remember the names of, I missed the feeling of waking every morning in that tent, of unzipping the nylon door and immediately seeing trees, or ocean, or both.

I’ve camped several times since then, in New Zealand, on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and on Bijindo in South Korea, though never for such an extended period. Realistically, I probably won’t sleep in a tent for two months straight again this lifetime. But a weekend of camping was a priority for both Joe and I this summer, so in April we booked a couple sites at Cape Lookout (one of the places we visited on our honeymoon, two hours south of Portland) for the first two days of August, invited some friends, and then invited a few more as the dates grew closer.

The level of enthusiasm leading up the this trip was HIGH. (The message thread is still going, and we’ve been back for six days.) Aside from travel/car-pooling logistics the main thing to sort out before arrival was, obviously, food. Dave, Ginny, and Sam suggested doing teams for each meal, which turned out to be a brilliant plan. (Everyone was in charge of preparing only one meal with their team, and could just relax and enjoy the others.) In case you have a camping trip coming up, I thought I’d share our grill menu for inspiration.

Friday dinner:

*Bacon-wrapped prawns (or sans bacon, for me)

*Veggie and Turkey burgers

*Diced potatoes with lemon, garlic, rosemary, and sour cream

*Roasted veggies that never got eaten because we were all too full (but made great leftovers when we came home)

*Assorted beer

*A bottle of Fireball whiskey

At some point after the bottle of fireball started getting passed around, Ranger Luke appeared out of the darkness to tell our group it was past the 10 pm quiet hours, and we needed to speak in ‘library or church voices’ from then on. Trying to get a group of 20 and 30 somethings sitting around a campfire with a bottle of whiskey to sound like they’re in a library or a church is a challenge no ranger should be forced to take on, in my opinion. Over the next hour Dave, Joe, and Evan entertained us with (quiet) impressions of Ranger Luke and a few people took turns sharing fart stories (the term ‘wretched alien farts’ was used in one anecdote). It was a classy conversation that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t happen in church.

Saturday Breakfast:

*Burritos and Stumptown Coffee

and a beach walk…


followed by more campfire time. I read a little, too, as we sat around, some of “Just Kids”, the memoir by Patti Smith about her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe in New York in the 60s and 70s. Have you read it? I picked it up at a garage sale recently and am really enjoying it. Her style is poetic and introspective, with deep insights into the artistic mindset.


Tamales and Gin and Tonics

Then it was time to hike.


Joe and I trekked about half of the Cape Trail on our honeymoon, but this time we finished it with the group, just over 5 miles round trip.


j and me

It’s a gorgeous hike, with mossy Sitka Spruce and sheer cliffs that are elevated in some parts 400 feet above the ocean. It gets really muddy halfway through, hence the smears on my calves here.

An excellent way to refuel at the tip of the cape is with flatbread, olive tapenade, and chocolate, which was kindly shared by Sara.


*Chilli and baked potatoes

*Summer salad with tomatoes and mozzarella

*Assorted beer

*Red wine

The final evening called for a beach bonfire…


complete with s’mores and a singalong/performance of hits including the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song, Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”, and Diane’s solo of “You Be Illin'” by Run DMC.

This is Sam wielding his soon-to-be ablaze driftwood firestick.


Sunday breakfast:

*Parfaits of granola, yogurt, fresh fruit and berries

*Stumptown coffee

Joe and I took a last beach stroll and met Sara on the way back, who said she was going for a ‘swim.’ Joe joined in and they emerged approximately 45 seconds later, freezing but happy.

swim 2

The consensus while packing up was that we needed to do this again, and soon. I always feel a little wistful when August arrives, because you know summer is winding down, which inevitably leads to winter, and a disappearing sun. But I LOVE fall. And if we can fit another camping trip in before the Oregon rain descends, I’ll be really stoked, especially with this crew.


Have you been camping this summer? Where did you go? (I’d love to hear.) Coastal camping will always be my favourite, but there are plenty of places inland in Oregon we’d like to visit as well.

Happy Saturday, friends. I hope you’re spending it outside, in the sun.


(Photo Credits: 1st group shot, view, hike, and last fire shot by David Katz and Virginia Groves. 1st fire shot by Sam Dunlop. Photo of Joe and I by Dianna Antee.)

On “Boyhood”


You’ve probably heard about the excellent reviews that “Boyhood”, the new film by Richard Linklater, is getting. It’s scoring 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and, in the words of the critics:

“An extraordinarily intimate portrait of a life unfolding and an exceptional, unconventional film.” (Los Angeles Times)

“[Linklater] captures moments in time and relinquishes them as he moves from year to year. He isn’t fighting time but embracing it in all its glorious and agonizingly fleeting beauty.” (The New York Times)

“Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age tale is the best movie of the year, a four-star game-changer that earns its place in the cultural time capsule.” (Rollling Stone)

Joe and I saw Boyhood last night at our neighbourhood theatre, Cinema 21, with a packed audience. I’m a fan of Linklater’s work, especially the “Before” Trilogy with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Boyhood was filmed in 39 days over a 12-year period, capturing the evolution of a family with divorced parents through the perspective of a boy, who is 6 when the film starts and 18 when it ends. It takes place in Texas and stars Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as parents Olivia and Mason, and Lorelei Linklater (who is the writer/director’s daughter) and Ellar Coltrane as kids Samantha and Mason Jr.



As expected, Boyhood was absorbing, moving, funny, and beautiful to watch, with the kind of insightful, complex dialogue you actually hear in real life. My favourite scenes were the ones with Ethan Hawke, who portrays so well the conflict of a father who only sees his children every other weekend, but tries to pack in as much wisdom (such as why there is no ‘best Beatle’, and how whales are as magic as elves) and fun as he can every two-day visit.

I found myself hoping the parents would get back together at some point, which I guess stems from the same romantic part of me that cried my eyes out teared up while watching ‘Before Sunset” alone in a Victoria theatre a decade ago. (That was the first time I’d ever gone to a movie by myself. Lesson learned—romantic movies are not meant to be seen alone!)

Have you seen Boyhood? What did you think?

ps. The New York Times review of Boyhood and a Slate interview with Richard Linklater

Going Home: Part 2 (The Vortex + Senanus Swim)

Going home always starts with a visit to my mom’s, and is almost always followed by hanging out with Adam and Antonia.


For those of you reading who don’t know them, they are my super talented musician friends, currently expressing their melodic awesomeness with their band Thieves. I could go on, but I’ll save the details for my upcoming interview with Adam. We’re gonna chat about music, life, transitions, the future…the sort of ground we’ve been covering in our lengthy conversations over the last 15 years or so, but shared here, on the blog. This is an interview I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I’m really stoked we’re making it happen.

So a couple days after we returned to Victoria from Salt Spring, Joe and I drove out to Adam’s mom’s house for a BBQ. Tucked away off a narrow road in Saanichton, about 30 minutes from Victoria, this house is the stuff dreams are made of. (I rarely use clichés, but in this case, totally necessary.) Once you arrive, you never want to leave. We call it The Vortex.


This home eases worries, soothes angst and heals hearts. It’s where you go when you need a house that hugs. It pulls you in and you are so glad it does. It’s also a great place for a party.


I’ve actually been coming here since I was really young (Adam and I grew up together), so it has that comforting feeling of being a place that knows me well, has seen me as a skinny kid jumping on the trampoline and playing the piano.


This is the orchard. Not bad for a front yard! I’m pretty sure that’s where the trampoline was when we were kids.

A huge highlight of The Vortex is Adam’s mom Anne, who we call Munsta.


She’s clearly an amazing gardener, and has impeccable design taste (I am really wishing I had interior photos to show you guys), but what really stands out about Munsta is her ability to get you talking. Within about two minutes of arriving at The Vortex, you’ll probably find yourself telling her the details of what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling about it all. As soon as she met Joe she was asking him about his plans for school and the differences between med school and PA school, and soon we were talking about the ways we communicate and our different family backgrounds. It’s just like that with Munsta! Love this lady.


It was a hot afternoon, and Adam suggested a trip to Senanus, a nearby ocean spot. We were joined by Tula, Murphy, and Indie, the posse of dogs that belongs to this family.




Joe is a dog guy. He loves our crazy kitten Cleo, but deep down, he is meant to own a pooch. One day…


The day before, Adam had been really sick with a weird stomach bug, and still wasn’t feeling great.


So we collectively decided he should jump in the freezing cold water to revive himself.

Joe offered to join him…


Which is why I am featuring, for the first time ever, two dudes in their underwear on my blog.


The dogs were in full support.

IMG_0800 IMG_0802 IMG_0803Success!

Even Murphy felt refreshed.


Adam was back in action, just in time to show off his Salmon BBQ’ing skills on the west deck. These guys know how to host.



Isn’t there a saying about how friends are the family you choose? That’s how I feel about these guys. Dinner on the deck, chats over wine, a sleepover in the guest room, and coffee in the morning, under the skylights…I am always at peace here.


Going Home: Part 1 (Surprise Trip to Salt Spring)

One of the best parts of growing up in Victoria was being so close to the Gulf Islands—an archipelago in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland. IMG_0767If you’re into camping oceanside, hiking through dense forests covered in moss, checking out paintings and pottery in artist markets, hanging out in cozy cafes (that serve organic, delicious everything) and buying fresh berries and flowers from little roadside stalls, the Gulf Islands are pretty much heaven.

The one closest to Victoria is called Salt Spring, and it’s a place my brother and I visited with my mom when we were kids. She hadn’t been back in decades, so for her 60th birthday, we decided to surprise her with a weekend trip. I found this super cute cottage called Tantramar


and we booked it. The problem was, her birthday was last December, and at the time I was still waiting on my green card, which meant if I left the US, I wouldn’t be allowed to re-cross the border and get back in. (Side note: if you ever plan to immigrate to the US, prepare to not book dates for anything for a good year and a half. Just put your life on hold and pray to the green card Gods.)

When we realized my visa issues wouldn’t be sorted out in time, we postponed the trip, re-booked the cottage, and finally went this past May. The weekend we chose turned out to be Mother’s Day, so the timing was perfect. Joe and I rented a car in Portland and drove to Port Angeles (only a 3.5 hr trip!), then caught the ferry to Victoria, spent the night at my mom’s, and whisked her away the next afternoon. She was told to pack a bag and that we were meeting Noel (my brother) and Johanna (his fiancée) for two days and two nights. The destination was kept top secret…until we got to the ferry and parked in the lane headed for Salt Spring.

My mom was thrilled.



She loves Joe. Couldn’t be happier with who her daughter married. It’s very sweet.


Having a “I love where I’m from” moment on the ride…

On the drive to the cottage, my mom kept saying, “Oh, I love it here. I could live here.” I was excited just to see her enjoy a weekend of nature and family time, eat some great food, and relax on a porch with ocean views. Tantramar is on Vesuvius Beach, on the northwest side of the island.

IMG_0712 IMG_0723 I wish I had taken some interior shots to show you guys! It was beautiful and homey, with hardwood floors, a glassed-in porch, and wood-burning fireplace. It sleeps up to 6 people and they allow dogs. (Noel and Johanna brought their pooch Rose.) I would definitely recommend it for a family trip or getaway with friends. You can see more photos on the website here, if you’re interested.

Joe and I went for a little stroll soon after arriving… IMG_0713         IMG_0717 IMG_0721And that night we grilled prawn and veggie skewers and lemon garlic potatoes on the BBQ. Johanna is a trained chef, and we knew she’d be cooking some delicious meals the next day, so Joe and I did our best to impress on the first night.

Saturday was gorgeous…the beginning of amazing weather we lucked out with for the rest of the week. IMG_0732 IMG_0733 Johanna whipped up a breakfast frittata for everyone and then we spent a few hours in Ganges, the town on Salt Spring, checking out the weekend market and stopping for gelato. My mom had told me a week or so earlier she’d been craving curry, so Johanna treated us again with her skills, making a huge pot of spicy curry and a salad with strawberries, greens and goat cheese for dinner. We’re all pretty stoked to have a chef in the family!   IMG_0746Sunset chats on the deck after dinner. (Island life at its best.)

On Sunday morning we decided to take my mom to the top of Mt. Maxwell, one of the highest points on Salt Spring. But not before setting up the self-timer for a family pic…


We didn’t realize how steep (and bumpy) the drive up Mt. Maxwell was going to be—the gravel road was a bit much for our rental car!

But the views were worth it.

IMG_0765 IMG_0763

One of my secret dreams is to have my own little cottage on one of the Gulf Islands…or some other magic spot by the sea. (I could live in Indonesia very, very easily.) I think my mom has the same dream. I knew she’d be sad to leave Tantramar, and she was, but she said a few days later that the trip had kickstarted her life again, given her a fresh spark to pursue the things she loves to do.

Do you have a favourite place you love going back to? Somewhere that recharges you? (I’d love to hear in the comments!) I like the idea of returning to the same cottage year after year, but for me, discovering new places always seems to win over. Though Joe and I really loved one of the campgrounds we stayed at on our honeymoon, so much so that we’re going back with friends in a couple weeks. (The first time we rented a yurt, but this time we’re tenting it.)

After Salt Spring, we spent six days in Victoria, so a few more “Going Home” posts to come. :)


ps. 3 Cute Cottages to Rent in Oregon and Mom Turns 60: A Thank You

*First Tantramar photo via Salt Spring Cottages

Portland Minute: Pride Parade, in Photos


A couple Sundays back, Joe and I met up with Sam, Bryan and José on the corner of Broadway and Davis for Portland’s Pride Parade. Other than the one I have a vague memory of attending in Victoria over a decade ago, this was the first Pride I’ve been to.

As some of you probably know, Oregon recently legalized gay marriage, joining 18 other states who have made marrying your partner possible no matter who you are or who you love. Hopefully the U.S. will catch up to Canada eventually, and legalize gay marriage nationwide. I would LOVE to see this happen in my lifetime.

In light of the progress, it felt like a particularly exciting time for a parade.




A friend mentioned seeing a naked dude in red heels at the last Pride she went to in Portland, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. But I was really impressed by the huge cross section of the city’s businesses and organizations that participated, showing their support for the LGBTQ community.







One of the coolest aspects was seeing so many different churches taking part. It’s often perceived that most organized religious groups don’t support the LGBTQ community, so it was wonderful to witness people from a range of churches participating in the event. I saw one man holding a sign that said “Walking with my boyfriend and supportive Mormon mom.” A woman from another group carried a sign that read, “Who am I to judge?”

These paraders are from the First Congregational United Church of Christ.


This car was representing Hillsdale Community Church, United Church of Christ.


And these are Unitarian Universalists.


I’m pretty sure these guys weren’t with their church group.



A few more folks who caught my eye…




And this was our parade posse. :)


If we’re in Portland this time next year, I definitely want to check out the parade again. Joe works at OHSU, one of the city’s main hospitals which was a participant, so maybe we’ll even walk in it in 2015.

What about you guys? Did any of you see or walk in the Pride Parade where you live? I’d love to hear!

Coming soon, notes and photos from our Victoria vacation…we lucked out with amazing weather the entire 10 days we were there.

Have a great Sunday, friends.



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