Monthly Archives: January 2019

Films That Mirror Life

The world of film offers a way to explore some important changes that are happening in families.  I’ve watched a variety of movies and television series lately that illustrate some of the new family dynamics developing in society.

The number of Canadian children living alone with their father has increased by 35% in the last decade. Statistics Canada says this reflects a growing acknowledgement of the important role of fathers in family life. 

eighth grade movieThe movie Eighth Grade available for rent on Amazon tells the story of a dedicated single Dad raising his teenage daughter who is beset with self- esteem issues, anxious about her appearance, her friendships and her online presence.  Although she finds her father bumbling and irritating at times he is the rock in her life always there to listen, tell her how great she is, and to provide protection and support.

Nearly 16% of Canadian couples will struggle with infertility in 2019. Only 5% had problems conceiving children in 1985. Many different factors contribute to this increased rate. While new ways of helping such couples are constantly being explored infertility is still very difficult.

private-life-poster-thumbThe movie Private Life on Netflix looks at a couple Richard and Rachel who desperately want to conceive a child. They’ve tried everything but won’t give up.  I found their story heartbreaking even thought it is told with a sense of wry humor.

There has been a significant increase in the number of same sex Canadian couples having children and raising families together. These families tend to live in urban areas. Their children may be biological or adopted or a combination of both. 

CIERRA RAMIREZ, TERI POLO, SHERRI SAUM, DAVID LAMBERT, NOAH CENTINEO, HAYDEN BYERLY, MAIA MITCHELLThe Fosters is a Netflix series that tells the story of Lena and Stefanie, a married lesbian couple living in San Diego. They are raising one biological and four adopted children together. Lena is the vice-principal at a charter high school and Stefanie is a police officer. Together they provide their children with a loving and stable home.

About 10% of Canadian children live in stepfamilies. About 30% of those children live in what is called complex stepfamilies, with both biological parents having some custody rights and stepbrothers and sisters playing a role in their lives.

The Netflix series Bonus Family examines just such a situation. Lisa and Patrick are a Swedish couple who have both left unhappy marriages to live together. Lisa has a son and daughter and Patrick has a son. They retain joint custody of their children with their former partners and Patrick and Lisa have a new baby together. It is a very complex situation and Patrick and Lisa seek help from a therapist team to try and sort it all out.

There are more Canadian children with disabilities and they are living longer. A Lethbridge University research report said this statistic raises concerns for parents who worry about who will care for their disabled children once they can no longer do so.

In the moving and inspiring Netflix documentary Far From The Tree we meet a whole series of families who are doing their best to find happiness even though their children face some major challenges in life.  One of the families profiled is that of Jason Kingsley a man with Down syndrome and his elderly mother Emily. Jason’s father has died, and Jason has no siblings. Emily expresses her anxiety about who will care for her son once she is gone.

Canadian families are changing and one way we can further understand those changes and think about them is to watch films and television series that explore a wide variety of family experiences.

This post was a newspaper column published in The Carillon recently. 

Other columns published on my blog…….

The Great Statue Debate

Women in Politics

On The Rock

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Filed under Family, Media, Movies


at the great wall
With my husband Dave on the Great Wall of China in a photograph taken by my brother
moss covered wall vik icelandA moss covered wall around a cemetery.  I photographed it in Vik Icelandwall aidaI photographed this wall while visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem
john-lennon-wall-pragueMy husband Dave in a photo I took of him at the John Lennon Wall in Praguememorial-to-conscientious-objectors-winklerA wall to honor pacifist conscientious objectors I photographed in Winkler Manitobabiking-in-xianDave and I biking on the wall around the ancient Chinese city of Xian in a photo taken by our tour guidepraying at the wailing wallPhoto I took of women praying with me at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

 I photographed this intriguing electronic display of  people writing the word welcome on a wall at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.wall in gaudi parkDetail on a wall I photographed in Gaudi Park in Barcelona, Spain
I photographed Dave walking by the city walls of Gaia Portugal along the Douro RiverDave photographed me in front of one of the remaining walls around the Colleseum in Rome. Dave and his cousin John talk with a member of the Wendat First Nation in front of the wall around their traditional settlement, a Quebec heritage site. 

Other posts…………

Who Are the Wendat? 

An Evening Stroll Along the Douro

Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t

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Our Home in Mexico

Rudy and Dave in front of our street sign Bougainvillea. All the streets in La Ceiba seem to be named after trees or plants. 

A number of my blog readers have been asking what kind of place we are living in here in the Yucatan.  We have rented a home in the community of La Ceiba about a twenty minute drive from the capital city of Merida. We live on Bougainvillea street. How you spell that varies from sign to sign. There are some beautiful big homes in our neighborhood but ours is a modest townhouse duplex with a little balcony  as our outside area for sitting. We have a nice hammock and some chairs on our balcony and a railing around it which wasn’t there when Rudy our friend first arrived a few days ahead of us. Thanks to Rudy’s encouragement our landlord has added several key things to make our stay more pleasant like the balcony railing, a working toilet, a working television, a toaster, a blow dryer and a cooking pot. We have a fairly functional kitchen, although the dishes and shelves were dusty and dirty and crammed with our landlord’s food stuffs initially. His motorcycle helmet still adorns the top shelf.  Note the interesting artwork behind me.  I have spared you seeing the photo of Johnny Cash giving the finger which graces the wall near the window. We don’t have a stove, but for Dave and me that’s not an issue because we lived in Hong Kong for six years with only a hotplate which is what we have here. There are even four burners while our Hong Kong abodes usually only had two. So this luxury. Note the interesting light fixtures made out of rope.  Our dining area is small and sunny but has room for five around the table which proved helpful the night my sister Kaaren and her husband Ken joined us from their home in Merida for a taco salad supper I had made.

Our friend Rudy and my brother-in-law Ken get ready to head off to the golf course.

The livingroom has a very comfortable couch to sit on while we watch TV or read. The coffee table is now covered with the thousand pieces from a jigsaw puzzle which is in progress. There is a clubhouse for a golf course  just a five minute or so walk away from our home where I can use the gym and pool for workouts and where Dave and our friend Rudy leave their clubs so they are ready for their almost daily rounds of golf.  I didn’t bring my clubs but Dave brought a small bag for me to carry and I borrow some clubs from Dave and Rudy and join them on the course occasionally. Now that my brother-in-law is here for a month to accompany them on the links my sister and I visit or puzzle while they golf. There is a nice restaurant at the clubhouse for snacks and drinks after your golf game 

My sister Kaaren and our friend Rudy explaining their order to our waiter

and friendly and congenial staff to help you although we do have fun trying to communicate since the waiters don’t speak English.  We are learning to say a few key things like beer and gin and tonic in Spanish. Our bedroom has a big comfortable king sized bed with a good working ceiling fan above it to keep us cool at night. I have been sleeping well here. Note the hammock on the wall behind Dave.  We haven’t tried sleeping in it yet. 

Rudy who has a little higher standards for cleanliness and organization than we do when we are on vacation keeps our place tidy. So that’s lovely for us.

We have a small store in our community about a ten minute walk away for neccesities but we have to take an Uber into town to do other grocery shopping.  I now have an Uber app on my phone and I am becoming quite adept at ordering rides.   We had thought we might rent a car but with Uber fares being so inexpensive and Uber cars and drivers so plentiful we have pretty much decided that won’t be necessary. 

Our home and community is interesting and we have a very congenial neighbour named Pepe across the street who stops by to visit and has helped us with various things. Other neighborhood inhabitants are the iguanas but we are used to them by now. 

Other posts…….

What’s Your Place in Portugal Like? 

Housework in Costa Rica

Jamaican Introductions

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Filed under Mexico

It’s Harder To Hate Up Close

beoming michelle obamaI just finished Michelle Obama’s book Becoming.  Her voice is straight forward and chatty- no doubt in keeping with her personality. I would recommend her book to anyone who wants to learn what it means to be a person of character, committment, candor and kindness.  

There are many things that fascinated me about Becoming and I’ve lain awake for hours the last several nights thinking about them. But what struck me most is the former First Lady’s appreciation and gratitude for the thousands of personal interactions she has been privileged to have.

She made it a priority during her husband’s time in office to visit routinely and at great length with teenagers, mothers, injured military veterans, young women in leadership, elementary school children and a whole host of people she deliberately set aside time to talk with across the country and the world.

This despite her incredibly hectic schedule of speeches and official functions and despite the enormous energy she invested during her term as First Lady in the major initiatives she spearheaded with drive and determination- ending childhood obesity, supporting military families and educating girls.

michelle obama with children at a child development center in north carolina public domain

Michelle Obama visits with children at a North Carolina Children’s Center

Those program legacies of hers may be important but what she says she treasures most about her time as First Lady are the opportunities she had to speak intimately with so many of her country’s citizens. If the photos I’ve seen in the media and in her book are any indication many of those encounters ended with a hug from her. 

Michelle says that now when her country is going through troubling times it is those one- on- one conversations she had that give her hope.  She knows first hand the United States is full of good and kind people who truly care about their country.  

Her book is an inspiration for us to try to change the cynicism and “us vs. them” mentality in the world by taking the simple step of engaging in relationship and conversation with all kinds of people, even those who may be very different than we are.  “I’ve learned that it’s harder to hate up close,” Michelle Obama says. 

Other posts……….

Friend For A Moment

Who Writes History?

A Poignant Book

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A Walk To Breakfast in Mexico

los benesWe had passed by a restaurant called Los Benes several times on our Uber rides into Merida.  Someone had recommended it as a good breakfast place, so after a rather dismal breakfast last weekend at the only restaurant in our neighbourhood, we thought we would try Los Benes yesterday.  graffiti mexicoIt was about four kilometers away so we decided to walk. We had driven this route numerous times but you see so many interesting things you never noticed before when you travel by foot, like all the colourful  graffiti painted on the walls along the road.. house walk to breakfast mexicoand homes that are very different from the ones in the rather middle class neighborhood where we are staying or the high-end houses we saw on our bus tour of Merida. garden merida walkMany people were cultivating small garden patches.abandoned carThere was so much garbage along the road, like this abandoned car in the bush dead duckand this dead abandoned duck in a plastic bag.wall mexico walkI marveled at this wall which went on for nearly a kilometer and enclosed someone’s property. wall mexicoHow much work went into constructing it? Look at all those hundreds of tiny stones around each larger one! cantina meridaThere were all these little cantinas selling food along the way.  Some of it looked quite tasty and we almost stopped at one for breakfast rather than going on to Los Benes. 

We were walking along quite a busy highway and our friend Rudy exhibited great patience with what he thinks is my painfully slow walking pace exacerbated by my frequent stops to take photos. 

But our trip was worth it.  Los Benes was a cute clean little place decorated in a colorful chicken theme with friendly waitresses and good food. 

I had a vegetarian Eggs Benedict and Dave ordered pancakes. 

We did take the Uber home with a stop along the way at a mall so I could buy some jigsaw puzzles to work on with my sister while she is here. The power was off in our house when we got home and a neighbor told us it happens regularly and it was anyone’s guess when it would go back on, so we decided to golf nine holes. When we got home from our round the power was miraculously back on!Since we’d had a big brunch we waited till supper to eat next. Dave made chili and I made salad and I think it was almost as good as our brunch at Los Benes.

Other posts……….

Breakfast in Florida

Sunday Mornings At the Olive Mill

A Feast For Breakfast

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The Matilda Effect

One of our first nights here in Mexico we watched the movie The Wife starring Glen Close. The film is about a well known American writer who is about to receive the Nobel Prize for his body of literary work.  As the plot unfolds however we learn that it is his wife, and not him, who really wrote all his books. Yet he is getting all the credit. 

After watching the movie I wondered aloud how many times this same story has played out in history.  Hundreds? Thousands? How often did women make a scientific discovery, invent something, or create art of some kind but men took the credit.  Turns out I didn’t have to look far to find plenty of examples. 

American biologist Nettie Stevens figured out in 1905 that a baby’s sex was determined by chromosones in the man’s sperm. Credit for her discovery however went to her colleague biologist E. B. Wilson.

Charles Darrow made millions from the game Monopoly by selling it to Parker Brothers even though 30 years before a woman named Elizabeth Magie had created it.

Alice Guy – photo from Wikipedia

Alice Guy made over 100 films in the early 1900s. She married a man named Herbert Blanche who took all the credit for her visionary film making.  

Six men were given credit by the media and historians for organizing the March on Washington in 1963 where Martin Luther King gave his I Had A Dream speech but Anna Arnold Hedgeman a woman was a key planner too . It was Anna who convinced many different groups to participate, organized transportation and made sure marchers had food and water.  

In 2006 writer Dan Brown famous for his novel The Da Vinci Code admitted his wife Blythe had helped him write his best sellers. 

I discovered that in the scientific field the practice of men taking credit for women’s work has been given a name The Matilda Effect.  It is named after Matilda Josyln Gage who first acknowledged the plight of women scientist whose work was attributed to men in an essay she wrote called “Woman as Inventor”. Hopefully as women continue to gain equal footing in the world with men the Matilda Effect will eventually become a thing of the past. 

Other posts………


Filed under History

Fun Times in Merida

My sister Kaaren and her husband Ken have arrived in Merida for a month and it is so great to have them here. They are staying in a beautiful old house in the city center about a half hour drive away from us. Yesterday we went into Merida to see their home which was built in 1902 with an interior decorated in a traditional Spanish style.

We went on a tour with the Carnavalito company. Isn’t their logo jaunty?

Ken had booked a tour on a colorfully designed bus.  We drove around the city for about ninety minutes or so while our guide told us about what we were seeing in both Spanish and English. We went by many  gorgeous stately homes. I was surprised how many had been bought by people from other countries like Ireland,the United States and Canada. Some had received modern renovating and others appeared to have been kept in their original style. We also saw some of the city’s public art including a striking installation in the city centre.

This church was built in 1790

According to our guide each church we passed was a couple hundred years older than the one we had seen before. It seems like Merida has a plethora of public parks to enjoy and we passed by many that looked like great places to walk or relax. After the tour we enjoyed some beverages in the comfortable sitting area near the swimming pool in the lovely backyard of my sister’s home and then we headed over to the little restaurant across the street from their house. It would definitely fit the description of ‘hole in the wall’ but the owner was charming. Her nephew translated for us and we ordered two delicious dishes. We made plans for my sister and her husband to come to our place today so the guys can golf and then Dave and our friend Rudy decided we should try to take a local bus home instead of hiring an Uber the way we had on the way into Merida. Rudy found a very helpful woman who steered us onto the right bus. The ride was pretty fast with only a few stops and cost about 50 cents compared to a $12 Uber ride. I have a feeling we will be taking the city bus again.

Other posts……….

A Rainbow in My Mouth

Pink Jeep Tour

I Drank A Beer in Austria

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Cenote Swim

I knew that one of the things I wanted to do in the Yucatan was swim in a cenote. The Yucatan has some six thousand of them. Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes that are created when limestone bedrock collapses and exposes groundwater underneath.I swam in an open cenote that was absolutely gorgeous. It is part of park called Dzibilchaltun quite close to where we are staying. It features some stunning Mayan ruins and a small museum that was closed on the day of our visit. When we arrived at the park we were virtually the only visitors so we took some time to look at the ruins on the site which was home to a Mayan community of around 20,000 people from 300 BC to 900 AD.

I stand in a Spanish chapel built in the 1600s using stones from the ancient Mayan structures.

Later in the 1600s after Spain had completed its conquest of the Yucatan they built a new community on the site.After walking all through the ruins I headed for the cenote and climbed in. I chose to ignore this sign and…spent the rest of my time swimming there in the beautiful clear water. Dave took a few photos of me and then headed off to add to his burgeoning photo library of birds in the Yucatan, while our friend Rudy did some more in depth touring of the ruins.  I was content in the cenote.   You could see right to the bottom and there were lots of little fish in the water that weren’t adverse to nibbling on my skin which kind of tickled. The center of the cenote had a lovely expanse of water lilies.  I found the water in the cenote left my skin very soft.  It was heavenly to just lie back and float in the cool cenote, my ears under water in the complete quiet, the sun on my face, the tree tops in my view.   After my walking tour of the ruins and my long swim a walk home seemed a bit much.  So we hired a little motor taxi.  A fun ending to my ceynote adventure. 

Other posts……..

The Swimmers of Tolo Harbor

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Xcambo- Scaling a Pyramid

xcamboWe had visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza on trips to Mexico in previous years so we decided to check out a much smaller ruin site called Xcambo not far from the nearby town of Progreso. ruins at xcamboThis community was probably inhabited from about the year 250-900.  It was an important trading port at one time and known for the salt it exported from nearby lagoons. But as new trade deals and political alliances formed Xcambo was eventually abandoned. climbing up the pyramidThe main pyramid is about 11 meters tall and my friend Rudy and I climbed it to the top while Dave stayed down below to take photos. Every Mayan community had a pyramid. Religious ceremonies were held on its top and it served as navigation landmark because it was so tall.  pyramid at xcambo

up on the pyramid at xcambo

rudy and marylou top of pyramid

church at xcamboA chapel has been constructed on top of the ruin of what was possibly once the civic administration building of the site. in a tunnel at xcambo I’m standing in the entry to that older building rudy chasing an iguanaMost of the other buildings are thought to have been residential.  As I watched my friend Rudy chase an iguana around in the main square of the site I wondered if  thirteen hundred or so years ago a Mayan child had done the same thing. 

Other posts………

Ten Things About Tulum

Mayan Human Sacrifice- Just a Myth?

What is a Salt Flat and Oranges With Chili

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Why Is That Lake Pink And Have You Tried Oranges With Chili?

I’d heard about the pink salt flats in the Yucatan and wanted to visit them.  So that’s just what we did!  

An illustration on a board near the salt flats shows ancient Mayans harvesting salt 

Apparently these lakes were a source of salt for the Mayans more than 2500 years ago.   From what I can figure out the Mayans created these lagoons and they were flooded with salty ocean water that eventually evaporated in the sun leaving natural sea salt behind.

pink lakes of progresso

Our friend Rudy takes a photo of the pink salt lake

The pigment of microbes in the water gave the salt lakes their beautiful pink tone. At the little food stand beside the salt flats they were selling bags of salt but also another treat…. oranges with chili.  You bought fresh oranges that were peeled and cut in half for you.There was a bag of hot chili to sprinkle on your orange with a spoon.  Both Dave and I tried it and found the sweet taste of the orange with the spicy taste of the chili a nice contrast. Visiting the pink salt flats was an interesting experience both visually and tastefully.  

Other posts………

You Wouldn’t Believe What You Can See On A Golf Course in Mexico

Finding Flamingos

Friend For A Moment

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Filed under Food, History, Mexico