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the big life questions.

Whether you journal or feel like you need a change in your life, here are some great questions and prompts from Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open.

What really matters to me in this life?

What precisely do I need to learn, change, and transform within myself?

From whom or what will I take my direction and motivation?

I made a conscious decision to…

Most of all, I was motivated by…

I wanted them to know…

…to no longer…

I try to act…

There are three major hurdles to overcome in crisis: dealing with pain; working with your attitude; and using the crisis as a wake-up and a cleanup call.

Don’t fool yourself and think that Spirit is somewhere else, in other worldly experiences, in great rushes or ecstatic visions.  Life’s deepest experience is the joy that fills our hearts when we love and give to others.

The best in me was born.  I found out what I really was capable of.  I discovered who I really am.

…finally understanding the secret – the same secret we will all now when death is just a breath away: In the end, what will matter is how much we loved – our children, our mates, our families, our friends, everyone we knew, everyone who traveled with us during our brief visit to this unbearably lovely place. What will matter is the good we did, not the good we expected others to do. 


Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser

we’re not so simple

We like to label ourselves
as this or that.

I’m an introvert.
I’m an extrovert.
I’m shy.
I’m fearless.
I’m whatever term
is really popular right now.

it’s not that

We are everything.

We are this and that.
An amazing combination
of every trait
you could ever think of.

We move in
and out,
and growing.
It must be beautiful
to see.

And yet
we try to categorize
each other,
an old school way
of protecting ourselves.
Dating back to when
we needed to recognize
our predator
to survive.

But it doesn’t do us justice.

Humans are complex
little creatures.
And it’s a good thing.


A Different Side.

I’ve been showing only one side of myself.

Friends know my silly side.  They know my sense of humour, my ability to drop f* bombs and make light of situations.  I’m the one that jokes around and gets everyone to dress up for made up holidays at work.  They describe me as fearless and dynamic.

Yet I feel like my blog and Instagram posts have been telling a different story lately.  My little walks down memory lane sharing stories about my past, my hometown, sentimental items in my jewelry box… it makes me sound totally different from the Lainie many know.  It makes me sound really nostalgic and tied to the past.  Which I can be at times, but I don’t like to stay there long.

Because I’m this and that.

As much as I can be reflective, I’m also the one who thinks let’s move on already.  I’m the one who says ugh to art that feels too deep or writing that feels like it’s trying too hard (which is funny because mine likely does the same thing). Keep it light people.  Just say what you need to say.

As much as I think about the past, I love entrepreneurs and start ups.  I’m not tied to old ways of thinking.  I love people who challenge tradition and the status quo, in order to create something new and better.  I admire the forward thinking minds of Steve Jobs and Biz Stone and yet can be nostalgic and like the original Batman movie the best. Random fact but true.

And as much as I tuck away little mementos and keepsakes, I also love to purge. I could be a host on one of those Hoarder shows – quickly chucking old things that serve no purpose.

My friends have recently told me that they are learning a whole new side of me through my writing.  I think I am too.

Art from the Shower

In the shower is where all the random pieces in my head start to come together.

One day I realized that my personality traits are contradictory.  I am this and that, not one or the other (hence this blog post).  I quickly scribbled something down in my notebook afterwards to hold onto the thinking…

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I wanted to take this idea and turn it into a piece of art.

The kids were napping.  I was upstairs at my desk and didn’t want to venture down our creaky stairs to grab my collage stuff (I keep a stash of different paper downstairs).  So I started to grab things around my desk.  A paint strip (I grab these all the time).  Birch bark (I brought some pieces home from the cabin this summer).  A bright yellow leaf (I am drawn to them.  I don’t know why.)

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I started to cut strips, thinking it could be created like a this and that; pieces on the left to represent my past and bright and fun pieces on the right to represent my present/future.  It didn’t work out that way.

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I realized that so much of the past pulls into my present.  There’s a strip in the middle from a letter Grandma Lainie sent me.  She is a part of my past and continues to shape my present, so the strip spans the page.

There’s a pine needle from the cabin, a place that I love.  Falu Red to represent my Dad’s side of the family.  There’s paper with a wood print that reminds me of home and darker colours to represent some challenging times in my past.

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And on the right, there’s colour.  I love greens and mustard yellow.  I love a touch of gold and brightness.  I love design and texture.  Prints and contrast.

It’s all a mix of me.

It’s kind of neat to think about.  What would yours look like?


#jewelryboxstories: conclusion

Moving through the grid from left to right:

Grandma Beatrice’s Brooch
School ID Card
Figure Skating Pendant
Last Letter from Gram
Locket Necklace
Fake Plastic Teeth
A Ring from Auntie Lyd
Grandpa Pud’s Keychain

I’m going to wrap up these little stories for now.  I find that I get bored if I keep doing the same thing over and over.  I will continue to look through my jewelry box every now and then, to see if there’s another story I can write for the kids.

I do it because I think it’s important.  Yes, they will know the stories behind the items in your jewelry box, but they will also learn a little bit more about you in the process.  What you care about.  The memories that are important to you.  Those little items actually tell a lot more – they give insight into what you value in your life.  Seem a little deep?!  Maybe.  But it is interesting to think about.

I just don’t know how to encourage others to write.

We wait to write down the things that matter.  We think we have so much time. It gets pushed aside, avoided, or we don’t see ourselves as writers in the first place.  Been there.

But we all can write and we should do it for our kids and our family members.  Maybe it’s because of my past experiences with death, but I feel a sense of urgency around writing down what matters to us.  To tell people that we care about them.  To write down stories before there’s no one to tell them in the same way.  Death happens and unfortunately, it’s not always when we’re old and grey.

My four little cousins died when they were 2, 3, 8, and 10 years old.  A girl from our hometown died in a tragic bus accident on the way home from high school one day.  My aunt died in her late 40s after becoming a grandma for the first time.  It’s important to write now.

We should write not because we are fearful of dying but because it creates connection. It can piece together parts of our past.  It can bring us closer together.

We can learn about our partner and see a different side to them.  We can empathize with that person from work who we totally misunderstood.  It’s a way to learn more about yourself and to see how you tick.

You might be surprised by what you learn just from writing a few jewelry box stories….


Note from Lainie:

I apologize if this sounds like a bit of a rant or has any condescending tone at all.  I don’t write all of the time either but I am trying.  I’m also learning to have a backbone and to share my opinions more openly.  I just need to learn how to do it in a way that will keep people open to the ideas.

I’m going to camp for the first time.

I’m going to camp for the first time – at 38 years old.  I leave next week.

I will be 3 hours away from Toronto, with 80 women I have never met before.  It’s called the Imperfect Boss Camp.  A group of creative women – entrepreneurs, designers, photographers, bloggers, artists… coming together to learn from each other.  I’m excited and nervous.

I have no idea where I’m sleeping.  I don’t really know what the 4 days will be like.  I’ve never been to camp before, and yet, I’m excited to be surrounded by others who love creative things like I do.  And with no wi-fi and limited cell service, I hope to unwind and just be.  I’ll have to let you know how it goes once I get back.

I may be a Wendy the Worrier but there’s a fearless side to me too.  I actually like the fact that I don’t know anyone there.  It will force me to meet new people.

I’m going to camp for the first time, and this kid is excited.


I was never the kid who went to camp.

Growing up in Northern Ontario, we were surrounded by trees and lakes.  Going to camp was something we did every weekend when we went to our family cabin.  Swimming.  Fishing.  Water skiing.  Why pay for camp when you can do the same things at the lake?  But it wasn’t the reason why I didn’t go…

I didn’t like the idea of sleeping somewhere else overnight and the only camp offered in our area was a Bible Camp – not my kind of thing.  The packing list for Sunny Cove Camp (the Bible camp) further sealed the deal; when I saw that electronics were not allowed (no walkmans or CD players), I was out.

And now at 38, this introvert is packing her bags to go and share a cabin with strangers, three hours from home, in an area with limited cell service.  Who says that we can’t change…


#jewelryboxstories: my locket necklace

Grandma Lainie bought me this locket and necklace for Christmas one year.  There are two photos tucked inside – one of Grandma Lainie and one of Grandpa Pud.

I have shown the kids who is inside and it still catches me off guard when Tate says, Is Grandma Lainie coming? (he notices my necklace as I lean into the car to do seat belts)

I usually wear this necklace when I’m about to do something uncomfortable.  If I’m about to go to an event where I don’t know anyone.  If I’m going to go interview a business owner for a Humans of Danforth story.

Wearing it makes me feel like she’s with me.  It makes me braver.


#jewelryboxstories: coins

Eric and I want the kids to know what we used to do, during that mysterious time called ‘before kids.’  We wrote a list of some favourite travel memories…

We rode the night train in Thailand.

Floated above the cloud forest in Costa Rica on a zip line.

Ventured underground in London to wander Churchill’s war museum.

Flew through the night market in Chiang Mai on a tuk tuk.

Stretched out on the grass at Circus Maximus in Rome and had a nap.

Drove along the base of an Icelandic volcano in a rental car.

Rushed down a river whitewater rafting in Costa Rica.

Ate the best pizza in Trastevere, Rome.

Wore white silica masks while floating in the steaming Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

Jumped from one boat into another in the middle of the Andaman Sea.

Watched the sun set while swimming at Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.

Hiked up a rugged hill to tour Neuschwanstein castle.

Learned more about the past touring the Dachau concentration camp.

Watched artists paint in Montmartre.

Soaked up The Louvre for hours and hours.

Wandered the island of Aranmore with an Irish family on holiday.

Drank enormous beers in Munich, Germany.

Admired the architecture and design in Barcelona.

Spotted sloths and monkeys in the jungle of Costa Rica.

Napped in hammocks by the ocean in the Mayan Riviera.

Explored the narrow cobblestone streets of ancient Granada, Spain.

Devoured pastries and sipped coffee everyday in Portugal.

Named a lizard outside our door in Manuel Antonio.

Toured Lisbon with Tate in a carrier.

Drank sangria and snacked on tapas at a wine and food festival in Faro, Portugal…


The bottom of my jewelry box is filled with left over change from our trips – a few euros, baht, krona… just little reminders of our great adventures.

We hope to bring the kids too.  Once we finish paying for our home renos, we’ll pull out our backpacks again and start planning our next trip.



#jewelryboxstories: last letter from Gram.

“This isn’t a baby blanket – it’s called a lap blanket.  Got it out of Mary Maxim. Thought it might be cozy in the fall months for curling up on the sofa…”

This is the last letter I got in the mail from Gram.

It makes me laugh.  My family was so excited about our news; they were buying baby things and here was gram saying, yes, yes, a baby is coming, but this is for you.

Gram had never made me something months in advance and sent in the mail.  It was like she knew – that she wouldn’t be around in the fall.  Gram passed away in August (3 months before Tate was born).

I don’t keep this letter with the others.  It stays in my jewelry box.  Two photo boxes are filled with the rest.

I kept every letter and card she sent me.  I don’t know why I did.

I have letters from when I was in high school; notes from Gram saying that she looked forward to our Christmas Music Concert.  I have letters from university, when she would send care packages every month.  I have letters from when I got my first teaching job and was living in a bachelor basement apartment with very little furniture.  Letters when I moved, when Eric and I got engaged, married, bought our first house, were expecting our first baby.  Through her letters, Gram was there through it all.

It still feels like she is.


#jewelryboxstories: Grandpa Pud Keychain

Grandpa Pud always carried coins in his pockets.

As a kid, I can remember dumping Pringles cans full of pocket change out onto the floor. Grandpa, my brother and I would begin the task of separating the coins – dimes with dimes, quarters with quarters…

The quarters were then stacked in fours, so we could quickly count dollars.  Dimes were grouped in tens… I don’t know why we counted his change, but we were excited to see so much money.

When Grandpa Pud passed away, he had a pocket full of coins.  Grandma Lainie kept them. One Christmas they appeared in our Christmas gifts.  Each grandchild was given a key chain with one of his coins attached.

Our family holds onto things that seem insignificant to others.  But to us, they are little reminders of those we love.

#jewelryboxstories: figure skating pendant

Picture a little redhead holding on for dear life.

Being the shortest skater on the precision team meant that I was usually stuck at the end of the pinwheel.  And as much as I loved how fast we went, it was a relief when it was over.  I was always worried that I would fly off the end and land on my butt in front of the crowd.  We had an ice show every March.

I used to throw up every show.  I was so nervous to be in front of others that being nauseous became a part of the tradition.  The most memorable was the year I was dressed as a robot in a large cardboard box.  Worried that I wouldn’t get to the washroom in time, my Auntie Lynne picked me up and rushed a large silver box through the crowd.  It’s funny because I’m still not a fan of being in front of others.  I prefer to be behind the scenes.

For those who were in figure skating too, you will remember the uniform.  Spandex.  Spandex everything.  Short spandex skating skirts.  Full out spandex dresses with long sleeves.  For young girls going through puberty and super self-conscious of their bodies, strapping on a skin tight spandex dress was just cruel.  It’s the reason I quit skating.

Don’t get me wrong, if I loved it enough, I would have kept going.  I did love the feeling of opening the arena door and stepping out into the ice surface.  There was an instant blast of cold air and it was quiet.  With very few voices, only the sounds of skate blades scraping the ice could be heard.  It was peaceful.

And yet, I didn’t want to compete.  I wasn’t interested in being judged for different badges. I also didn’t think I was as good as the other girls (and I wasn’t).  I was not attempting the same jumps and my sit spin was never low enough.  For me, I was just happy to skate.

A note to my kids:

If you enjoy it, keep doing it.  Compare your skills to where you were before, not to other people.  You need to do it for your own reasons.


#jewelryboxstories: a ring from Auntie Lyd.

Auntie Lyd gave me this ring when I was in elementary school.

It was made entirely out of plastic and featured my “birthstone.”  I loved it.  Auntie Lyd had been selling Mary Kay at the time (I think that’s where she got the ring from).

The ring now barely fits my pinky finger and clearly has no monetary value.  I’ve kept it almost 30 years.  A cheap plastic kid’s ring has traveled with me through multiple moves and to different cities.  I keep it because it reminds me of her.  Auntie Lyd (and my four little cousins) passed away in a house fire when I was in grade 8.

Auntie Lyd bought the best gifts.  She always seemed to know what each family member would love.   Her gifts were never expensive; they were thoughtful and personal.

At 10 years old, she knew what I would love 30 years later.  For Christmas or birthdays, she often bought me books, art materials, or craft kits.  It’s funny as I write this because something just clicked; I’ve been told by friends that I give thoughtful gifts.  Maybe I learned it from her…


To learn more about my Auntie Lyd…

The Fire (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Auntie Lyd