Skip to content

I Still Find Her Letters

She’s been on my mind so much lately that it makes sense to write about her.  It’s during
those rare, quiet moments in the day that I find myself missing her.

It’s likely because I’ve been writing.  It was our thing.

652.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.36.48 PM.png

 

Five years ago, my grandma and I wrote and published a book together.

It was a collection of short stories about her life in Northwestern Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BearHanging.jpg

 

Where other kids in class had grandmothers who baked cookies and wore aprons, my grandma wore cargo pants, snowshoed through the wilderness, and could shoot a rifle better than most men.

She was a beautiful writer, a skilled pianist, and an avid curler. 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.59.03 PM.png

 
She would curl in men’s bonspiels just for fun.  She loved a challenge.

She always said there was only one guy she was unable to beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

318.JPG

I encouraged her to write short stories about her life.  She’d send them to me in the mail. Stories on loose leaf paper and in various notebooks.   I loved seeing her handwriting mixed in amongst our mail.  

 

 

 

Evlyn.jpg

 

 

 

She shared her adventures as a child.  Going bird hunting with her dog, Buttons.  Building ramps to try her hand at ski jumping.  Avoiding church by going for long nature walks
with her Dad.

She described in such beautiful detail what she loved about flowers, nature, and being outdoors.

 

 

Pud&Elaine.jpg

 

 

 

 

She wrote about my grandpa. Neighbours called him a “wild one.” He loved to fight at dances but also liked to waltz.  He was misunderstood by many but she knew his kind heart.

She told of their life together living in the wilderness.  The crunch of snow under their snowshoes, the swift rapids they travelled, and the many times they almost died.

 

 

 

 

 

210.JPG

Writing the book took about a year.  I’d stay up until midnight, sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.  Writing, revising, laying out pages.  I’d grab some sleep and get up early so I could continue writing at a Starbucks near work.  It was still dark when I got there.

My laptop, latest draft covered in scribbles and notes, a tea, and a pen.  I’d write until the coffee shop was filled with morning sun.  I’d lose track of time.  I was happy.

 

 

 

DSC00500 (1).jpg

I learned the process of self-publishing and how to register for an ISBN.  Another published writer helped me over email and answered my many questions about what to do next.

I learned about bleed and trim and felt like a researcher trying to track down old survey maps and information from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I helped coordinate interviews with my gram and newspaper writers back home, in hopes that an article in the local paper would help promote her book and upcoming book launch.

She sold 1,500 copies.  I was so proud of her.

 

DSC00525.JPG

She was so excited.  I looked forward to her phone calls.   To hear about the compliment she received at the post office the other day or the person at the grocery store
who wanted to take her out for coffee.  

She loved when people told her the book made them cry.
To her, it was a measure of her writing.  She knew she had reached them.

 

 

Each time we spoke, she gave me a count of how many books were left.  As the number dwindled, I think she worried about the day when they were all gone.  That day never came.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.07.30 AM.png

When my gram passed away almost two years ago, we found 20 books left in a box in her bedroom.  They were divided amongst our family as keepsakes, which is funny because we all had bought at least 10 copies each.  But for us, it was a little piece of her that still remained.

She left personal items for each member of our family.  For me, she left her writing.

 

GrandmanLainie&Lainie_full.jpg

 

 

I am so thankful for the experience of writing with her.  Instead of talking to each other once a month, we talked multiple times a day.

Talking about sections to rewrite, debates over grammar, and her putting me in my place because I wanted to include personal stories that she didn’t want to include.

I was lucky to share some very private moments with her and to learn more about the woman I admired.  It made me love and miss her even more.  

 

 

 

DSC00443.JPG

I still find her letters throughout the house.  Tucked inside books here and there.   

 

On those days when I realize how long it’s been since we’ve talked and I miss the sound of her voice, I take out her book or read her letters, just to hear her again.  That’s the power of writing.  I can hear her sarcasm, her sense of humour, her say-it-like-it-is approach to life.  Her.  The book and her letters give me her again for a little moment in time.  

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.07.05 AM.png

Writing her obituary was the hardest and most important piece I’ve ever written.

I knew what she hated.  She disliked the term “love of her life.”  She found the long list of family members’ names to be impersonal.  Write about the person.

Her voice was in my head.  I knew she’d care about how it was written
and we both had high expectations.  I still think that I could have done a better job.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 10.37.46 AM.png

In true grandma fashion, she left us a letter in her safety deposit box.  She knew we would find it.  She wanted to say goodbye and to tell us how much we meant to her. 

 

 

“Someday you’ll write your own [book].”  Gram told me on the phone one day.
I will.  And it will be dedicated to her.

 

 

 

Elaine_w_baby.jpg

 

This week, take a few moments and write a letter to someone you love.  No email.  Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Tell them what you love about them and why they’re an important part of your life.

It will be a little piece of you that they’ll always have.

 

 

The Best Job Posting I’ve Ever Read

Lots of plaid, hipster glasses, dogs, and coffee. An outsider’s take on #HootsuiteLife on the west coast.  I know someone who works at their office in Vancouver.  His tweets and Instagram photos of team retreats, office antics, and camaraderie are endless.  He tweeted the job posting one day.

I’ve never worked at Hootsuite but after reading this job posting I wish I did.

I was surprised by the writing style.  It came across as very personal.  Usually job postings feel formal and detached.  They follow a formula; the job description is riddled with verbs and buzzwords and the list of qualifications is there to weed people out.

This was totally the opposite.

Rather than trying to weed people out, it felt like Hootsuite was encouraging others to join them.  It was refreshing that a global corporation could have such a small startup feel.  The language was honest.  They didn’t want people with egos.  They wanted someone with exceptional talent that could still have fun.  And most impressive of all, they wanted applicants to know they’d support their career pursuits.  The nerd in me LOVED this.  I’ve never seen anything like this in a job posting before.

See for yourself…

Hoot 1Hoot 2(a small portion of the job posting shared above)

What do you think? Does this sound like a place where you’d like to work?

I’m not saying that we all need to apply for a job at Hootsuite.  I’m sure there are a lot of great places to work that have an amazing culture.  You may even work there already.  And if you don’t, the good news is, you can start creating it tomorrow.    

This week, bring a little Hootsuite to your workplace.

Buy a new plaid shirt.  Get some new glasses.  Bring your dog to work (or get a new dog). Bring in your coffee press.  Just kidding.  Get a group of coworkers to go out for a drink after work one night. Ask a colleague for their help on a project.  Go work in another part of the office and talk with someone you don’t know all that well.  And don’t forget to have some fun.

Culture is contagious. Get it started.

Being “Innovative” is Easier Than You Think

An opportunity to be “innovative” presents itself every day. It doesn’t need to involve brainstorming wild ideas with a group of people at a whiteboard.

Simply including the word in job titles or the name of a team doesn’t make it happen either. It’s simply being creative with what we already have in front of us.

Here are some easy things you can do day-to-day to keep an open mind.

5 Steps to Being More “Innovative”:

1. Stop using the term. Period.

You don’t need to use a word to describe the way we can all see the world every day. Being innovative is to observe, think, and then act. What’s the underlying need? What might work to solve it? Let’s give it a go. Instead it’s become a buzzword that makes good thinking seem out of reach to the average person.

My grandfather had an elementary school education. He lived in a remote area of Northwestern Ontario, where it was sometimes difficult to get into town for supplies. I remember my grandpa’s workshop. It was a jumble of tools, wood, metal, odds and ends from floor to ceiling. It was the place where he could solve any problem, whether he needed to create his own part to temporarily repair an ATV or weld a contraption to store large quantities of fuel. He was always coming up with innovative ideas, and he wasn’t an Innovation Officer or the team lead of an innovation team. It is within reach of us all.

2. Mix it up.

Spend time with people who have different backgrounds, interests, and strengths than you. These are the people who can introduce you to new ideas and information.

An animator from Pixar, a content strategist at Google, a mechanical engineer for GE, a freelance creative director from Los Angeles, a graphic designer from Whirlpool, a video game designer, a recent graduate with her first startup called Bees Downtown…

I’m currently taking an online course with this great group of people. The course, Storytelling for Influence, is offered through the design firm, IDEO. With such a mix of participants, it’s a great opportunity to learn and get ideas from different fields. Yet when it came time to create our smaller working groups, it was surprising to see what happened. Let’s organize by time zone…hey, we’re all in marketing…we all want to convince people to buy our product… It was disappointing that the group didn’t take advantage of learning from people who were quite different from them.

I’m not saying never work with likeminded people. I’m just saying make sure you also look for and take advantage of a chance to mix things up. “Innovation” is about seeing the world in an interconnected way. Kind of hard to do when you’re working and thinking within the same circle.

3. Try a new activity or hobby. Experience something new.

Sign up for that pottery class or start researching nearby bike trails. You will introduce yourself to a new group of people and start noticing connections to your work.

When I first tried yoga, I was teaching a grade eight class. As I was being guided through the poses, I quickly noticed how our instructor would differentiate depending on people’s bodies and their current abilities. The language she used was so accepting and encouraging. “If you are ready for a challenge…if this is where you are today…next time you might try…” It was admirable how she made everyone feel comfortable with where they were and that we all knew what our next steps could be.

I left that first yoga class more aware of the language I was using in my classroom and worked hard to provide a similar environment for my students.

Sometimes it’s what we experience outside of our workplaces that provides us with the new perspectives we need.

4. Read something you normally wouldn’t.

Flip through a magazine that your partner/spouse is reading. Read a different section of the newspaper online, like the obituaries. Yes, you read that correctly. The obituaries.

I know it sounds weird and kind of dark, but I like to read them. A great writer will make you feel like you knew the person or wish you had. The others just blend together with their generic language and colloquialisms. By reading them, it helps me work towards becoming a better writer. I’m learning to make the most out of a few words. It’s pretty challenging to capture the true essence of a person, what you love most about them, in just a few sentences.

Take opportunities to learn in odd places.

5. Look for Inspiration. (This one’s my favourite.)

Open your eyes to the world around you. Look for things that interest you, are clever in design, or make you think.

I took the subway to hot yoga the other night. Across from me was a great poster promoting the places we love around Toronto. The Beach. Distillery District. Kensington Market. Little Italy… I loved the design. It was hand drawn and almost whimsical. I should have taken a photo. If I need to design something in the future, I want to reference it for inspiration.

Or the other day I was waiting on hold for 15 minutes just to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Trying to make the call during a rare moment that both boys were sleeping. 15 minutes…there has to be a better way. Maybe an online booking site? Another idea that might be useful in some way later on down the road. Tuck it away.

Through these five steps, we gather ideas and learn as we go. When a certain project or problem presents itself, then we have a great collection of ideas to pull from and put together in new ways.

So your challenge for this week — change it up! Be wild and let loose.

Purposely sit with colleagues you don’t usually eat lunch with. Sign up for that pottery class that you’ve always talked about. Look up from your phone during your morning commute and see what interests you. Then share your experience in the comment section below.  I’d love to hear about it!

What wild antics did you get up to?  Learn anything new? Congratulations, you’re already being “innovative.”