Culture/Film: Mightier than the Sword

Film for Thought

When you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself you fight to make yourself heard.

Journalist Roberta Staley is fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Having traveled  undercover to Afghanistan on several occasions,  she took risky chances trying to create positive change.  She’s responsible for the award winning documentary entitled  “Mightier than the Sword” which has helped enpower women over there by giving them a voice to be heard.  A major accomplishment.

Rahibib Rahimi (L) and Roberta Staley (R)

I first met Roberta in a Spanish class over coffee in 2012 and was intrigued when she said she’d be leaving for a few weeks to go on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story (in brief)

Roberta went back to Afghanistan three years later to tell the story of Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a regular person here and a superstar in Afghanistan, where she’s a powerful voice for women similar to that of Oprah.  The Vancouver raised woman is actually referred to as the Oprah of Afghanistan.

This 48-minute documentary focuses on Afghan female journalists and filmmakers and their impact on gender perceptions and gender equality. In Afghanistan, a significant advance since the fall of the Taliban has been the entry of women into the media as reporters, directors, writers, producers and authors.

Excerpt by Lucas Aykroyd from Vancouver Magazine:

The powerful debut by Vancouver filmmaker Roberta Staley examines the impact of female media personalities in Afghanistan’s fight for gender equality. Staley, an award-winning editor and longtime contributor to Vancouver magazine, created the new 48-minute film to complete her Master’s degree in graduate liberal studies at SFU. After spending three weeks in 2012 in the Central Asian nation on assignment for Elle, she returned there in 2015 to shoot Mightier Than the Sword in 35 C weather during Ramadan. Staley remortgaged her condo to finish the film, which cost her more than $80,000. “That’s what you do when you believe in something,” she says. “I was obsessed with telling this story about the media and how it was changing gender perceptions and gender equality.”

View Trailer:

http://www.mightierthanthesword.ca/videos/

More to come

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Monday Mood: Meaning

My Monday mood board is normally light but sometimes we just need to vent. And sometimes it takes more than that.  Sometimes it takes an army to get a message across. Sometimes our lives depend on it.

March For Our Lives 

Looking west, people fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The kids have spoken.  We cannot keep America great if we cannot keep America safe. 

On Saturday, March 24, kids and families in cities across the country and around the globe took to the streets to demand change to gun control laws, so that their lives and safety become a priority in order to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools NOW.

The main protest was organized by students from the High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman from the same school killed 17 people and injured others on Valentine’s Day. March for Our Lives was anchored by the main event in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.

On Grief and Grieving:

Death can give focus to what money can and cannot buy.  It can teach us what being rich is all about.  No amount of money can ever replace the loss of someone we love.

Wealth and poverty are states of mind.  Many people without money feel wealthy, while many rich people can feel poor.  Death is a factor that changes all our views as we are forced to evaluate our worth and what ultimately matters in life – by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. & David Kessler.

I like this quote from Mahatma Gandhi – Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

On life Lessons:

Maya Angelou told Oprah Winfrey: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Your problem is you have to be shown 29 times.

How many of us have to be shown 29 times or more?  Why do we have a lack of discernment for things that appear to be obvious?

Character is very much a defining matter in everything.  Integrity is important.

If we’re not living life to the fullest we can at least create meaningful moments. That to me, seems reasonable.  Because someone’s idea of living life to the fullest can mean jumping out of a plane every day while someone else might feel that reading a book a week is the answer.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Self Care: Words from the Wise

Six months, when looking ahead seems like an eternity, but when looking back, it’s a blink of an eye.  It really is.

One of my best friends gifted me with a book entitled when thing fall apart when things fell apart after losing my husband.  Unknowingly, my sister gifted me with the very same book.  They both believed the book would help guide me to some understanding or at least a place of acceptance.  It was an interestingly thoughtful read and it did help to some degree.  At the very end there was a website where you could enter your e-mail address to receive weekly mindful insights to your inbox.  Reassuring insights are always encouraging, especially when they come from an American woman who became a Tibetan Buddhist.

Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it. -Pema Chödrön

Just wanted to share one which I feel to be thought provoking and true.  Let me know if you agree.

THE UNIVERSAL DILEMMA

The source of our unease is the unfulfillable longing for a lasting certainty and security, for something solid to hold on to. Unconsciously we expect that if we could just get the right job, the right partner, the right something, our lives would run smoothly. When anything unexpected or not to our liking happens, we think something has gone wrong. I believe this is not an exaggeration of where we find ourselves. Even at the most mundane level, we get so easily triggered—someone cuts in front of us, we get seasonal allergies, our favorite restaurant is closed when we arrive for dinner. We are never encouraged to experience the ebb and flow of our moods, of our health, of the weather, of outer events—pleasant and unpleasant—in their fullness. Instead we stay caught in a fearful, narrow holding pattern of avoiding any pain and continually seeking comfort. This is the universal dilemma.

When we pause, allow a gap, and breathe deeply, we can experience instant refreshment. Suddenly we slow down, look out, and there’s the world. It can feel like briefly standing in the eye of the tornado or the still point of a turning wheel. Our mood may be agitated or cheerful. What we see and hear may be chaos or it may be the ocean, the mountains, or birds flying across a clear blue sky. Either way, momentarily our mind is still and we are not pulled in or pushed away by what we are experiencing. – Excerpted from: Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears – by Pema Chödrön

Why do people look for outside help or answers, and in doing so discover spirituality?  It’s a survival mechanism to deal with life’s challenges which hits you in the face.  I found out Pema came to explore her spirituality as an attempt to cope with the emotional trauma of her failed marriages. 

About Pema:

One of the most beloved of American Buddhist teachers, Pema Chödrön has devoted her life to inspiring people to awaken and has changed many lives in the process. She is the author of many influential books, such as When Things Fall ApartLiving Beautifully, and The Places that Scare You. Her writing, which explores Buddhist concepts and offers paths to conquering subjects such as suffering, fear, and difficult times, has inspired people worldwide.

My advice: You take sound advice from the wise until you’re wise enough to offer your own.

Any advice?

 

Hello hello…

Good riddance 2017!

If you take away the “o” in “Hello” that’s what kind of  year it’s been.

That may sound harsh, but realistically it was the worst year of my life. It was not only a  year full of  world catastrophes and lives lost to the cruel irrational behaviour of degenerates on the news every other day, but for me it was a year chock full of deep seated challenge and great personal loss.   But I did have three good things happen.  I purchased a little piece of paradise in Palm Springs and one more dog to enjoy it with.  I also reconnected with my childhood bestie all the way back to grade school in Montreal.  Other than that…. 

I couldn’t wait for 2017 to end and didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.  Only reflections on the year left behind and what lies ahead.  So after a quick toast to a new year and an off to bed early evening, it didn’t exactly start off as planned.  I found my place in the sun but I’m writing this from bed where I’ve been for the third day in a row.  I don’t remember being this sick.  Coughing, listless and a bit dizzy when I get up although I managed to do a little better today.  Nothing seems to be working. Feeling a little sorry for myself. There’s an epidemic going around California so I hear.  Thank you very much. California welcomed me with open arms and a virus.

I’m hopeful things will get better because it’s only the second week of a new year.  A fresh new start. And nothing can be worse than what I went through last year up until the very end I might add. I’m not looking for miracles or expecting that a new year will make all the sadness and madness erased from my memory (which as I’m writing this reminds me of the movie (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) but I plan to make positive changes, handle some things differently, learn from bad experiences (which is the only positive thing I can come up with from having had a bad experience), remove people from my life who have not been there for me when I most needed them (you know who you are) and find some peace of mind. And live stress free as long as I can.

I came out here with media credential to cover the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (which is one of the largest film festivals in North America with an incredible film lineup and movie stars in attendance for the celebratory annual Film Awards Gala, and a host of other exciting parties ).  I saw the opening night movie but missed a bunch more I wanted to see but it doesn’t end until the 14th so we’ll see how I make out. I missed a screening of “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot in attendance, “The Polka King” with Jack Black in attendance and also Annette Benning was here for “Movie Stars don’t die in Liverpool”.  Darn!

After the opening there was a reception at the Palm Springs Art Museum (I love that building) but I went straight home after the movie ended.  I wasn’t planning to schmooze with the stars, it was enough seeing Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks give a half hour talk about their very first collaborated film together.  It was informal and very interesting.  And let’s face it, they are the crème de la crème.

When I got to the theatre looking for the red carpet a man visiting from Boston went to his car, grabbed his sweatshirt and made me put it on after he heard me cough and decided I wasn’t covered up enough.  That’s what gentlemen are like!  I know because I was married to one.  And you’ve got to love people from Boston.

Getting back to last year, I lost a total of six people.  My husband, one of my best friends, a friend I only met last summer but who was awesome, and three other good people I knew.  When people say “well you know we’re at that age when we start to lose people in our lives” I cannot accept that.  If only because one of those people was a 38 year old woman, a man in his fifties who was senselessly murdered (wrong place, wrong time) and two others in their fifties. So you would never say to the friend of the 38 year old “well you know you’re at that age….”  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  Because as it so happens some people die young.  It’s the god awful truth.

So if last year taught me anything at all it’s that you cannot control in many circumstances the way things turn out. This year I’ll try to calm down, listen to my intuition, make the most of the life I’ve been given and accept change the best I can.  We need to still believe in love, have a sense of humour and family is the most important. And true friendship. Believe me you get to see who your real friends are when lightening strikes.  It’s good to know.

So if you were given a chance to erase from your mind all the bad things that happened would you do it?  You know what…as tempting as that sounds I don’t think I would play around with mother nature.  These are life lessons and hard school knocks and apparently they are character building. I’m quite the character I’m told. And I know that this year no matter what, it has to be better than last!

Here’s to an upswing of a Bright New Year!

 

 

 

Little things

Life is a good teacher and a good friend.  Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.  Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about.  The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation apparently , a situation in which we don’t get caught, and in which we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.” – from When Things Fall Apart.I am now the proud mom of Siamese Twins

And the little camper that could go practically any place, from beach to rocky road and everywhere in between

It’s all BIG!

Celebrate Good Times

because eventually all good things come to an end

Photo: d. king

It was one hell of a good run while it lasted.  It is with a huge void,  big hole in my heart and ultimately resigned acceptance that I finally got it together to organize a celebration of life for my husband Don. Just short of three months after he passed, and on Remembrance Day no less.

He didn’t want a service, big hoopla or anything pretentious.  Just a gathering of people closest to him at home with food, music and memories.  He never mentioned a slideshow although with help from a friend we managed to put together a lovely showing of images from past travels and our life together and some heartfelt words from those who treasured him.  Hooked up by computer to TV, it continued to loop around while people mingled.  My dear friend Ryoko, who is responsible for us meeting was here and gave an unrehearsed funny speech and managed to sum up in a few short minutes what Don was all about.  It was perfect in it’s simplicity,  warmth and endearment.   Just like Don himself.

Outside a winery in Napa – 2013
I’ll try my best; no promises.

 

 

It’s never too late to…

Act on your dreams.

Be what you want to be (or better still; who you want to be).Change your future.  Sometimes the future makes changes without your consent. Makes changes you didn’t want or hope for.  But you can still make some changes that will make a difference.

Do things differently.

Enrich others’ lives.

Face your fears.

Get out of neutral.

Have fun.

Initiate friendships.

Jumpstart possibilities.

Knock the “t” off can’t.

Live enthusiastically.

Be Nonjudgmental (try, try hard!)

Orchestrate your legacy.

Plan for tomorrow.

Question your priorities.

Reinvent yourself (even if you’re not Madonna or David Bowie).

Stop keeping score (unless you have money on the game of course).

Take a leap of faith.

Uncork your mind (maybe along with a good bottle of wine).

Value who you are.

Wake up your luck.

Explore your spirituality.

Yearn for fulfillment.

Zoom in on love.

Source: Meiji Stewart – A taste of Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman’s Soul.

Words of Wisdom

On Life

Life Lessons from Het Patel

At the beginning of October 2016, Het wrote a list of his life lessons.  Sadly, he died unexpectedly and suddenly two weeks later at the age of 37.  The one year anniversary of his passing is coming up this month.  I would like to share with you a selection from his 34 philosophical quotes on living. His life was cut short and he had so much more to give. But even in times of mourning there are moments to feel good about. Think about it:

Our brains are our greatest asset and our worst enemy.

A smile can hide the deepest pain.

The fabric of life is change.  We can’t often stop it.  We can’t always fight it.  Acceptance is, most of the time, the best way to deal with change.

We barely understand ourselves, yet we’re confident that we can understand others.  That’s kind of silly when you think about it.

The best moments in life are spent in the company of loved ones – regardless of what you’re doing.

Nothing in life has meaning, other than the meaning we put on it.

Accepting that we will die one day, is key to knowing how to live. – Het Patel

 Life Lessons from Dogs

 Living moment to moment, no worries whatsoever, an innocence, acceptance, playfulness and trust that escapes most of us humans.  Refreshing!  If only we could live like that!

We can all cope with the battles of today.  It’s when we add the worry of tomorrow, and the regret of yesterday, that we break down. – Het Patel.

Have a happy weekend.  No regrets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIFF: BLUE 

What lies beneath the waves falls on silent shores

The very first time I went scuba diving was in the Bahamas. Fascinated with what lay beneath the sea, I was lucky enough to go out with a team from National Geographic and swam with sea turtles and lots of Grouper.  I was hooked!  Since that time, and in other locales, I noticed it getting rarer and rarer to spot certain fish and especially sea turtles.  A lot of these creatures have been around much longer than me, and sharks have been around since the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. Which is a lot longer than me.

Karina Holden’s Blue is an important and timely documentary for everyone living on planet Earth. Filmed on location in Australia, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Philippines and Indonesia, it’s a very tough closeup look at our oceans and all disappearing marine life.

It really hits home, as it should. It makes you consider your choices and makes you question how you can make a difference.  How even one person can help make a difference.   Think about it.

Why on earth, in this day and age, are people still cutting off shark fins and throwing shark bodies back into the ocean?  It’s sickening and it made me cry. Seabirds who rely on fish to sustain them are also in rapid decline. We, as a whole, have to do something about it. But there is a chain reaction because uneducated people who have no money and who live in small fishing villages in third world countries thrive on the livelihood of this industry. And $100 per shark fin is a lot of money. It is wasteful and horrific.

WARNING: More than half of all marine life has been lost due to plastic pollution, over fishing, habitat destruction and the expansion of industrialization.

While we get closer to a trek to Mars, why not concentrate first on what we can do here on Earth to make our planet a better place for all living species?

Because a healthy ocean is key to a healthy planet.

Please WATCH this short Trailer:

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is on until Friday, October 13th.  For tickets and information please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

In Memory of my husband Don

Donald James Wilson (June 19, 1943 – August 15, 2017)

Top Photos + bottom left photo: Lisa King

The beginning, the middle and the end.

I believe in the laws of attraction.  I believe that people, places and things come into your life when you need or manifest them, or to teach you a lesson.  I’m not sure about the ending.  That’s a big question mark that I’ll never understand.  But my husband, like my dog, just showed up at my door one day and changed my life forever and for better.

 When I first met Don he was wearing a pale yellow shirt with a front button missing and carrying a paperback novel. His demeanor was the exact opposite of the crazy whirlwind relationship I ended months prior with an extroverted, creative, complicated guy with a gambling problem from NYC. At first glance Don was more down to earth, reserved, relaxed but solid. I was immediately attracted.  Of course he turned out to be a lot more than that.  A disciplined hard working, well-traveled, intelligent, caring, kind and philosophical man with utmost integrity. A man of his word as well as someone you could trust.  On the down side, quite stubborn, but I was always happy when I could change his mind about something he was very set on not changing.

At the time we met, before Don started his own company as a consultant engineer for telecommunications, he was managing an office in Toronto.  He kept a condo in Vancouver, always with the intention of moving back here.  A mutual friend from Toronto asked him to deliver photos from another friend’s wedding we had just attended in San Francisco instead of putting them in the mail. I forgot to bring my camera to San Francisco and I often wonder what my life would have been like had I taken it. So he brought them to me, and right after he left I called my mom and said this “I just met someone who showed up at my door and don’t know why but I’m pretty sure this is the man I’m going to spend my life with.”  Crazy, right?

But true.  That was 27 short years ago and we were married for 25 of them.

In between we created a life well lived.

The Road Well Traveled.  Photo Credit: Lisa King

A life filled with travel, adventure, a few rocky patches but overall, more good times than bad, up until the very end. He was my advisor and my best friend. That’s why I decided to do whatever in my power to try to make him well when he got sick with kidney cancer.  He was re-diagnosed a little over two years ago and it was starting to spread.

Even during that time filled with uncertainty he managed to surprise me with his strong will several times. We were able to make a few memorable trips even though his health was not good.  He would not give up easily. The past several months were the hardest.  The last two were the worst.  I borrowed a hospital bed from the Red Cross with the most comfortable inflatable mattress cover for Don so he could be downstairs at home on one level because it would be easier.  But it was not.  I was his nurse until I had to get weekly, then daily help. My life was not my own.  He gave me the biggest compliment by saying that there was nothing a nurse could do that I could not do.  But I don’t believe that.  I was just trying to cope as well as make nutritious meals before deciding to just make whatever he craved be it macaroni & cheese to ceviche. And believe me, it was all over the map. He was craving food from his childhood to when he worked in the desert in Saudi. A meal from a can to Sablefish.  Never a dull moment or at least, meal.

Then I found out about Vancouver Hospice Society with their incredible staff and volunteers.  A place in a reconverted house in Shaugnessey with only 8 beds and a wait list.  I went there, and after meeting the director and looking around at the home like atmosphere, decided it would be the best place for care and to free up quality time for me to spend with Don. Luckily a bed became available within a few days.  The private room was lovely overlooking an outdoor patio with plants, a flat screen TV and a pull-out  sofa bed which my dog and I slept on every night.     Don was only there for 10 days.

The night before he went into Vancouver Hospice he told me he wanted to give me something personal.  I won’t say what it was but it was meaningful and very moving.  At that stage I knew that he knew he was dying.  Before that, he was always optimistic and full of hope. Nobody mentioned the actual dying part, so it was extremely sad and I could not stop crying.  He then said “there is a beginning, a middle and an end to everything.  My end is coming and now you can have a new beginning.”  He was very thankful to me for all I had done to try and help him.  He said all this in a matter of fact way and I could feel that he now wanted the humility and discomfort to finally come to a finish.  His mind was good right up until the very end.

I will forever be grateful for having Don in my life.  No other person has done so much for me in so many areas.  I am a much better person for having known him. He was also a true friend to my sister and they had become very close.  He was a mentor to many people.  Well respected and trusted.  It was important for my brother to spend a few minutes explaining how he felt near the end.  He shared something special and I have to say that since my mom passed away, I have never seen my brother cry so hard. He was close to his brother George who lives in Toronto, and who gave him a much needed surprise visit in July.  I had no idea the influence Don had on so many, although I’m not surprised.

I was by his side holding his left hand when he took his very last breath. Lisa (my sister) was holding his right hand.  He looked peaceful. Lisa didn’t leave my side for three days following.  My dear friend Margeaux left her business and drove eight hours to spend the next four days/nights with me.  I’m forever grateful.

A light has gone out.  A new future begins.