Category Archives: Family

Gertrude Inspires Me

I have this sepia colored photograph on my bedroom dresser.  It was taken in Moscow during World War I. The beautiful brown-eyed  young woman in it with her fashionable dress and hair piled high is my husband’s maternal grandmother Gertrude. She was married to Heinrich Enns who sits to her immediate right in his military uniform.
Heinrich’s family owned a large estate in Kowalicha, Ukraine and while the men of the family were away serving in the Russian army’s medical corps Gertrude was left alone to run the family’s massive land holdings and deal with her irascible mother-in-law who objected to her son’s marriage to Gertrude because Gertrude’s family wasn’t rich enough. Gertrude came from a small village where her family had a modest farm. Her wealthy husband had met her while on a visit to the village with a friend.  I believe the man to the far right is Gertrude’s brother-in-law who ran the family’s land holdings in other parts of Ukraine.

Gertrude with her four sons. 

Gertrude had four little boys and with her husband far away working on the trains transporting the wounded from the battlefront to Moscow, Gertrude was single parenting and making all the decisions about the education and upbringing of her children.
There were labor shortages as estate servants left their jobs to join the army. Weather had damaged some crops, and roving bandits had been seen on the estates’ far flung properties. Gertrude decided she needed to go to Moscow and meet with Heinrich and his brothers to get some advice about what to do. That’s when the photo of Gertrude at a family business meeting was taken.
I never met my husband’s grandmother Gertrude but whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities I look at Gertrude’s photo and think about how a girl from a small village farm ran a huge business all on her own while the men in her family were away at war and times were incredibly tough. Getrude inspires me!

Other posts………

Gertrude and Heinrich Enns

Luxury Car- A Family Story


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Filed under Family, History

Five Lessons From Switched At Birth

I did a little binge watching lately of a Netflix series called Switched At Birth.  There are five seasons of the show which follows the lives of two baby girls who were given to the wrong parents at the hospital.  The mistake is only discovered when they are sixteen years old.  One girl, contacts encephalitis at age three and becomes deaf. She is raised in a poor Latino neighbourhood by a single mother who is a recovering alcoholic. The other girl, a talented young artist, is raised by a former major league baseball star and his accomplished wife. They live in a mansion in an affluent suburb of Kansas City.  There is ALOT of over the top drama in this show and some of the stuff that happens is definitely implausible. It’s a bit of a soap opera really. The characters make plenty of very bad decisions in my opinion. But…….. I kept watching and so I thought about why I did.  What did I learn from this show?

  1. A family doesn’t have to look a certain way.  Your ‘family’ is what you make it. The families of the two switched girls in the story manage to come together to create a new very different kind of family despite all their differences.  One major character in the series takes in two teenage boys whose parents have rejected them. She cares for the boys in her home as if they were her own. One character agrees to become a surrogate parent to a boy whose father is going to jail. A grandmother moves into one household to help with child rearing. 
  2.  You learn so much about the deaf community and culture.  Several of the actors who play main characters in the series are deaf and almost all the main characters know or learn American sign language during the seasons of the show. The one girl attends a deaf school and we get to know her friends and teachers and learn about their pride in being deaf and the sense of belonging the deaf community provides for them.  After watching five seasons of Switched At Birth I learned some signs just from seeing them so often and almost found myself making the signs when I was talking to people. 
  3. The show doesn’t shy away from looking at important issues.  For example two characters in college have sex when they are both quite drunk.  When the girl shares the story with a friend she is encouraged to report the guy for sexual assault because in her inebriated state she didn’t agree to sex. Both the girl and guy in the situation are profoundly effected when the incident becomes public and they both struggle mightily with its ethical implications and personal ramifications. The incident leads to another main character revealing his experience with sexual abuse as a child. 
  4. Discrimination is unacceptable.  The show focuses on how deaf people are discriminated against but in various episodes we also get to know and care about characters who are discriminated against because they are LGBTQ, have Down Syndrome, are Latino, are black, are recovering from addictions, have PTSD after military service, or have been in prison.
  5. Let your children follow their dreams.  The young people in the show have some pretty high hopes for their futures and it is hard for their parents to let them follow their dreams to be doctors, artists, filmmakers, professional athletes and musicians. The parents know the pitfalls and obstacles and heart ache that stand in the way of their children having a happy and successful future in those fields.  But the kids have to find their own way, make their own mistakes and need parents who provide support while they do so. 

Other posts……….

Lessons From the Sydney Opera House

Lessons From Oscar

Lessons From Leonard

Lessons From Gray Mountain

Lessons From the Movie Arrival

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Stitched with Love

dorothy's quiltI brought this framed baby blanket along this weekend when I went to Saskatoon to meet my new granddaughter.  The blanket belongs to her now. jantz family 1894The blanket was made by Marie Gerbrandt Jantz my great-grandmother shown here around 1894 in Hillsboro Kansas with her husband Peter and their eight children. My granddaughter’s middle name is Marie so she shares a name with her great, great, great-grandmother. jantz family 2 (1)Marie and her family immigrated to Drake Saskatchewan in 1906 when this photo was taken.  My grandmother Annie is standing closest to her mother.  It wasn’t many years later that Marie’s husband Peter died. schmidt wedding 1My grandmother Annie married Peter Schmidt and in 1925 they had a daughter Dorothy Marie who was my mother. mom as babe0001The night my mother was born  her grandmother Marie came to stay at her daughter Annie’s home.  She brought along a beautiful blanket she had stitched for the new baby. My mother was given the second name Marie after her grandmother. grandma marie jantzMarie spent the rest of her life living with her daughter Annie. She died when my mother, her granddaughter was sixteen. Because she lived with my mother’s family for so many years Marie played an important role in my mother’s life. 

1952 weddingMy mother grew up, became a teacher and married Paul Peters. mom dad meI was born in 1953 and my grandmother Annie passed on the baby blanket her mother Marie had made for my mother Dorothy Marie so my mother could use it for 1973I grew up, became a teacher and married David Driedger. baby blanketIn 1979 when my son was born my mother had the blanket framed and gave it to me at a family baby shower.  I hung the framed blanket in our nursery. I have kept it all these years wondering what I should do with it, but when my son and his wife decided to give their daughter the second name Marie, I knew that the blanket should go to her because it was my granddaughter’s great, great, great grandmother Marie who had made the blanket for her own granddaughter Dorothy Marie. 

I probably won’t be around to know what happens to the blanket in subsequent generations.  My hope is that even if the blanket itself doesn’t get passed on the love and sense of shared history it represents will be a reality for many generations of our family to come. 

Other posts………..

A Writing Inheritance From Two Grandparents

They Left Us Everything

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Twin sisters who were my grade five students in Hong Kong and invited me to watch them play tennis one evening.Me with the same twin sisters when they graduated from high school seven years later. My grandmother Annie Jantz and her sister Marie in 1902

With my sister outside a restaurant in St. Boniface.

My father-in-law Cornelius Driedger and his two brothers Abe and John

Sisters in a Palestinian refugee settlement near Bethlehem. 

My mother and her siblings in the 1930s.

The children of our guide in Siem Reap Cambodia who took us to visit his home.

With my two brothers at a family event in 2000.  My grandmother Margaretha Peters is far left. She sits with her sisters and sisters-in-law at a family reunion. 

My husband Dave and his brother Paul on the golf course. Two sisters walking on a beach in Borneo. Brother and sister in Malaysia on the dock leading up to their house on the water. My father with his five sisters. 

A watercolor that was on exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Inuit artist Pitaloosie Salia. It shows Pitaloosie and her sister Aqsatunnguaq.  My grandfather and his brothers.  My grandfather is right in the middle. 

Twin sisters at a Wushu competition in Hong Kong eating lunch. 

Other posts of photo collections………

On a Boat



The Magi



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Puzzling With My Sister

My sister and I like doing jigsaw puzzles but neither of us had thought to bring one along to Merida, Mexico. It took a little searching but finally I found a good selection in an educational toy store in a large mall.  I bought one for our house in La Ceiba and one for my sister’s house in Merida. I decided to go with Mexican themes for both of them. The one at my house was a picture of Mexican food.  It was not an easy puzzle but over a period of a couple of weeks and in between visiting and eating and glasses of wine and lunches and phoning our Dad together and cups of coffee we got it done.  The puzzle at my sister’s house was very challenging!!  I admit I only put in a couple of pieces.  Luckily my sister had  friends visiting for a week and they are both excellent puzzlers so they helped Kaaren do the puzzle.  

I found a couple of websites that list all the benefits of adults doing jigsaw puzzles. It can improve your short term memory, develop problem solving and visual spacial skills and boost your intelligence quotient.  It can lift your mood,  help stave off dementia, lower stress levels, increase attention to detail and foster cooperation and collaboration.  And I would add  provide an opportunity to do something enjoyable, challenging and fun with your sister. 

Other posts about puzzling……….

I’m On My Own Now

Globe Trotting Vicariously

Puzzling with the T-4s

Puzzling a Family Christmas Tradition



Filed under Family, Mexico

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

My Husband is Famous

Our family posing outside the Burton Cummings Theatre before the release of Royal Canoe’s album Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit in 2016. My husband Dave is front and center. 

When my husband’s favourite Winnipeg band Royal Canoe put out a call recently for people to appear in a new music video lip syncing lyrics to one of their latest tunes, Dave decided he would apply for the gig.  His bid for musical stardom was accepted and he was given an appointment to record his contribution to the video.  dave on royal canoe's 77-76The video was released last week and there is Dave featured in a tune called 77-76 from Royal Canoe’s upcoming new album Waver which will be officially released at the end of January.  According to an interview with band member Matt Peters on the Spill New Music site the song “is about seeing a storm approaching on the horizon. The ship is beginning to rock back and forth violently, but the captain is drunk. Your last captain was alright, but this new one is an idiot. You go up on the deck and see the sky darkening fast. In spite of that, all you can do is hope the crew can rally on their own and keep the ship above water. You always find a way.”

Check Dave out on the video here.  Why not give it a like and perhaps even a comment while you are at it? 

Other posts………

The Daily Bonnet Just Made Us Famous

Fun Evening in Toronto


Filed under Family, Music