Infinitely Polar Bear

I was intrigued by the title. And that Mark Ruffalo was starring in it. And then I saw the trailer and I was sold:

I am a sucker for movies that depict the everyday joys and triumphs of life, especially family life. And that’s what Infinitely Polar Bear does. It’s based on writer-director Maya Forbes’ own childhood in 1970s Boston where her father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was unemployable, and her mom went away to New York to earn her MBA in the hopes of lifting their family out of poverty.

According to this article in The Georgia Straight by Melora Koepke, Forbes “wanted to tell a story about everyday life, because those details are the most interesting things to me”.

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It is Maggie’s decision (played by Zoe Saldana) that launches the movie’s bittersweet narrative as their two daughters, Amelia and Faith, get left in the surprising care of their manic depressive father Cam (played by Mark Ruffalo in an Oscar-worthy performance). This is where you see a chain-smoking father who so clearly loves his children but struggles with fits of temper, drunkenness, scaring his neighbours with aggressive kindness, and disorderliness to the point that his daughters don’t want to have any of their friends over to their “shit hole.”

I don’t have too much familiarity with bipolar disorder and yet I felt the movie did a fair job of showing the dad’s darker moments, but also showing his endearing side that made him an overall sympathetic character. Scenes of Cam yelling, throwing things, and then sitting depressed on a chair for days are combined with scenes of him spending all night sewing a flamenco dress for Faith or tagging along with his daughters to the park so he isn’t alone all day.

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Mark Ruffalo does a brilliant performance as the manic depressive Cam in Infinitely Polar Bear.

This article disagrees, saying the movie “doesn’t like to spend much time in difficult places.” The author cites the movie’s title as an indication of the movie being “a tad too precious for it’s own good”. The title comes from Faith’s misheard version of her father’s illness.

But I don’t know. I felt there were a lot of deep moments that gave me pause for thought about one’s upbringing, shame, comparison, and the complexity of marriage and parenthood. Cam and Maggie live in a difficult place. The mom is torn every time she comes back on the weekends to visit her family and then leaves them again during the week. Cam is emotionally wrought, being a full-time dad & mom to their girls while their mother’s away, hoping that Maggie will invite him back to live with them all after she’s done her schooling so they can be a family again.

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In a very tender scene between Maggie and her oldest daughter Amelia (played by Forbes’ own daughter Imogene Wolodarsky), Maggie talks about how she met Cam in the late 60s, when everyone was having nervous breakdowns, so she didn’t think it was as big a deal as she knows now. Amelia looks wistful and says, “You’re probably sorry you married him.” “Never,” Maggie responds.

Even at the end of the movie, you still don’t know if they’re going to get back together. There is so much ambiguity. I like how Forbes describes it in the Straight article:

“I would think, ‘I’ll have the parents be divorced, because everyone understands that,’ ” she recalled. “But they’re not divorced, they’re separated. They’re in a grey area. And I decided to go with that grey area, to develop the characters slowly and not to worry so much about keeping them ‘likable’. Will Dad pull it together? Does he want to pull it together? Does Mom want him to pull it together? Sure, she wants their lives to work, but she’s scared, and everything is uncertain. It’s messy, like life. That’s the truth, so I decided to use truth as a guide.”

There were many moments when I laughed out loud—when Cam is dressed in short shorts and a shirt that are the same colour of obnoxious green (aka “the green bug” scene), and when he buys another beat-up car to drive that doesn’t have a floor and the girls are looking down at the moving road under their seats. Having Amelia narrate the story adds a child’s perspective to the scenes, and you feel their embarrassment about how their dad behaves with strangers, what he drives, and how they live. And then there were moments of crying at the difficulty of decisions you make when you’re an adult—how life is rarely ever simple.

The "green bug" goodbye scene

The “green bug” goodbye scene

It’s all very poignant, very well acted, and very in tune with the every day. If that’s your style, I would put this movie on your “must-watch” list of the summer.

The Gorgeous & Gargantuan Garibaldi

“You pick the hottest days to go hiking,” my mother texts me when I tell her what I did on Saturday.

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Yup. Saturday was a hot one for doing Garibaldi Lake. But the 3 hours of mostly switchbacks up the mountain were in the shade, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We took the scenic detour through Taylor Meadows, making it a 5.5 hour round trip.

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The trail is nicely groomed.

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At long last, we reach Taylor Meadows. According to the Vancouver Trails website, “going left and adding a few kilometers onto the hike takes you up through Taylor Meadows, a magnificent area filled with colours from alpine flowers that cover the sides of the trail during the late summer and early fall.”

We didn’t see any flowers. Granted, it’s not quite late summer. It was still beautiful being up at tree level and seeing the towering peak of Black Tusk, but when you’re expecting wildflowers à la Sound of Music, it was a little bit of a letdown.

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Black Tusk is the dark peak to the right.

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It’s a few kilometres from here to the lake, where all that work finally feels worth it when you glimpse this:

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And this:

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View from the middle of a wooden footbridge that gets you over to the lake.

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The view from the other side of the bridge.

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Walking around the lake to find a perfect (and less crowded) spot for lunch.

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to the island, it is!

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The group I was with spent 2 hours at the top, eating lunch, taking a dip into the turquoise glacier lake (some even swam out to the island of inukshuks you see in the distance), and enjoying the spectacular views. It’s a shame to climb all that way and come back so quickly. That’s why next time, I would even want to spend a night camping, although the work in bringing all that gear up on your back would be that much more difficult.

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Using a water filter for the first time. What a great invention!

This was probably my big hike of the summer. In comparison to The Chief, I enjoyed it more. Yes, the way up felt like it would never end sometimes, but I liked that the trail was so well groomed and there weren’t any stairs or gigantic roots to trip over.

Plus, there was this bonus viewpoint on the way back:

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Goodbye, Garibaldi! What a beautiful part of the world we live in!

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And it was all yellow

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Wedding Dress: Everything But The Groom
Bride’s Make-Up: Kork Artistry
Hair: East Vanity Parlour
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Annalyn Back
Flowers: Rainbow Flowers
Wedding Cake & Cupcakes: Helen Withers
Wedding Cake Toppers: Adam Back
Chair Covers, Sashes, & Table Linens: A Priceless Event
Decorations: Charlene Kwiatkowski
Caterer: The Banqueting Table
Ceremony: Knox United Church
Reception: Thea’s Lounge, UBC
Photographer: Patchwork Media

Diez Vistas

My first hike of the summer was a good one but a long one. The Artist and I tackled #7 on this list: Diez Vistas. 10 views in 1 hike, sign me up!

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The trail loops around Buntzen Lake in Port Moody. I was looking forward to a trail where you didn’t repeat your steps on the way down. However, I think this also contributed to making us feel like it went on forever as we had no reference point to how close the finish was. After 6 hours (including a 30 minute break at the 1st view for lunch) and many aching calves and wobbly knees later, we made it back to the south beach of Buntzen Lake.

The trail first takes you over this marshy area of the man-made lake via a floating bridge.

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Once on the other side, you take the Diez Vista trail that quickly ascends with a series of switchbacks. This is the hardest part of the trail.

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However, it isn’t too long before you are rewarded with this incredible view of Indian Arm and Deep Cove, with the distant cities of Burnaby to the left and Vancouver to the right.

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We stopped here for lunch before making our way to the 2nd and 3rd views, which are even better! #3 especially. A bonus was that this trail was virtually empty on a sunny Friday afternoon, so we had the views to ourselves!

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Here’s a close up of Deep Cove in North Van.

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And one of Belcarra Regional Park (that’s Hamber Island above the mass dense of trees, middle right of pic).

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Unfortunately, the best 3 views are within the first quarter of the hike. It would be nice if they were a little more spread out. The majority of the hike was walking through forest, which was great because it was so hot out but we were in shade most of the day.

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There were some partial views along the way, but a lot of it has become overgrown.

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As some reviewers mention in the comments section of Vancouver Trails, you do have to watch for the orange tree markers to make sure you stay on trail. There were a few points where we wish the markers were a little more frequent, especially near the end.

Here you can see three peaks of Mount Seymour.

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The downhill seemed to take forever. And then when we came back out near Buntzen Lake, we took the long (albeit scenic) route back to South Beach around the quieter North Beach, which added 30 minutes or so on to the hike.

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The sound of barking dogs and squealing children at South Beach never sounded so good to our ears!

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Jumping in the lake to cool down afterwards was a great way to finish the day.

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If you’re planning on doing this hike, I’d say bring lots of water, especially if it’s hot! We had 2 bottles each and ran out with 1 hour left to go. And make sure to bring your bathing suit so you can reward yourself with a dip after a hard day’s work! The water’s cool but it feels great.

Andrews on Eighth

If I lived in North Van, I would probably come to Andrews on Eighth a lot more.

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This neighbourhood coffee shop filled with old-world charm is the perfect place to grab a coffee, a sandwich, and sit outside and read a good book, chat with friends, or watch cyclists ride along East Eighth St.

The owners also run a catering company in the back of the building, The Banqueting Table, and that’s how the Artist and I discovered this gem. We both loved their food whenever we attended conferences at Regent College, so when we asked the question, “Who should we get to cater our wedding?” the Banqueting Table was the obvious choice. We also loved the fact that they’re a non-profit organization that hires single mothers and women wanting to re-enter the workforce. Their website states, “Women learn job skills and regain self-confidence while preparing food and catering to a variety of events.”

Apart from their social justice bent, they have amazing food at really reasonable prices. The service is excellent too. They did a fabulous job with at our wedding and we still hear from people how much they loved our buffet.

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The coffee shop opened in 2012 but the building it is tucked away in was built in 1912. The heritage feel of the building adds so much to its charm. Isn’t it lovely?

I can’t speak to how good their coffee is (since I don’t drink it), but they source their beans from North Vancouver Moja Coffee which specializes in fair-trade, organic coffee beans. (The Artist likes it, says it’s “clean.” I didn’t know clean was a word to describe coffee. Anyway).

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The Banqueting Table makes sandwiches & pastries for the coffee shop, and while there’s not a huge selection, what they have is tasty. The turkey-cranberry sandwich with stuffing & spinach tastes like Christmas and is one of our favourites (pictured in the first image, at the top). Also on their menu are croissants (including breakfast ones), muffins, and paninis.

If you’re ever in the area or need caterers for a big event, I’d highly recommend them. Andrews on Eighth is located at 279 East Eighth St and open 7am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday.

Honeymoon

Hello world! A big and wonderful life event that the Artist and I had been planning for five months happened on May 16 (pictures to come later) and now that it is over and life returns to “normal,” you shall see me back here a little more often again.

After the “I do’s,” we hopped on a plane to Mexico. I had no idea where in Mexico we were going for our honeymoon, but I knew it was a) going to be warm, 2) not a resort, and 3) something I didn’t have to plan, so I was perfectly content to be surprised. We arrived in Los Cabos on the Baja California Sur five hours after we departed in Vancouver. I had never heard of the place before anyway (I’m very unfamiliar with Mexican geography), so it would have been a surprise regardless!

IMG_1376IMG_1380We stayed about 1 hour from the nearest town, San José del Cabo, in a small boutique hotel on the east cape called VidaSoul. It was wonderfully private with excellent views and cuisine. The Artist thought I would enjoy the modern architecture. I did.IMG_1228IMG_1254Being so remote and without a car, there was only one place to eat nearby, and that was at the restaurant attached to it called Crossroads. Everything we ate there, we liked.

breakfastThese people sure know how to do guacamole well. Since being married to a Texan, I’m starting to recognize good guacamole when I meet it.lunchIMG_1250Waking up to this view was a beautiful way to greet the morning. And falling asleep to the thunderous waves was a perfect way to close the day.IMG_1265IMG_1257As peaceful as the place was, we ended up renting a car halfway through the week to explore more of the area. The city girl that I am had to get some time in exploring a town, so we walked around San José del Cabo for a day, stopping in at shops, restaurants, churches, and art galleries.IMG_1311IMG_1296IMG_1292IMG_1323IMG_1286IMG_1277We felt every bump along the dirt roads in our little Nissan Sentra. It was quite the ride.IMG_1370Instead of car traffic, you’re more likely to wait for cows, horses, and mules here.IMG_1354IMG_1344We went snorkelling a couple times, one time in nearby Cabo Pulmo. I worked on conquering my fear of deep water/drowning by going on a 2 hour boat trip, getting dropped off at various points in the ocean (sometimes in the middle of nowhere!) and being told to “just snorkel around here for 15 minutes.” Thank goodness for the life jacket. The only other time I’ve snorkelled was in Hawaii, and just from shore. But it was a lot of fun! Having an underwater camera made for some great shots of all the creatures that live under the sea. And yes, I had that Little Mermaid song running through my head a lot.

I read Beauty Plus Pity by Vancouver author Kevin Chong while down there and quite enjoyed it, so much more than his first novel, Baroque-A-Nova.

IMG_1445We did a lot of lying around on the beach, which was exactly what we needed. One of the best and rare things about the beach below (apart from the great snorkelling) was that there were trees! Without their shade, you’ll quickly burn lying out in it all day (even with sunscreen on, as we soon found out!)

IMG_1440Thanks for the r&r, Mexico! Until next time, adiós!IMG_1505IMG_1253IMG_1432IMG_1405