Self-Portraits and Stories



Maybe it was the ocean that convinced me to go. 

So I could stand at the edge of a place it was okay to be still. 

Pack layers, she said, ocean weather is unpredictable. 

I rolled up sweaters, pulled a wooly hat from a closet, and hoped she was right.

I wanted to hide in layers and folds.  

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We met for the first time, over a home cooked meal, in a welcoming, warmly-lit room. 

Each of us carried there by our own reasons.

For two days, I would spend my time among strangers learning how to use my camera to find a story

I went in knowing we would use one another as subjects.

I understood we would have to be vulnerable to do it.

But our teacher, she knew more.

She understood we would have to share our stories, before we could find them in front of the lens. 

She called out our names one-by-one, and then paired them with another.

She asked us to sit face to face and eye to eye.

She told us to speak and listen. 

Who are you?

We asked each other in turn. 



And I thought of the last time I had been so honest in answering those words and how long it had been since I laid myself bare and let real words like scared and sad, instead of good and fine, tumble from my mouth.  

Who do you think I am? 

I asked him while focusing my eyes on the wall over his shoulder; I was afraid to catch the look on his face when he answered. We were together for a few months by then, and I knew something important was happening between us.

We were beginning to share our stories, and we were at the beginning of our own.

I had done some hard work to move past my childhood insecurities and embrace my biracial heritage. I had reached a place of gratitude for who and where I came from. And yet, because I wanted him to feel about me what I felt about him, in those earliest days together, I told myself it was easier to pretend I was whoever he wanted me to be. 

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But we can't stay hidden in layers and folds.

Who are you?

She asked again, before telling us we could only find the answer if we asked ourselves, too. 

So we stood and posed and stared into the lenses of our cameras, while daring ourselves to peel away layers and encouraging others to let go of theirs. 

Because life is as unpredictable as the ocean where I went to stand.

And though we dress in layers to insulate against fear and pain, we can undress and heal again and again. 



My guess is Polynesian princess, he said, because that makes a good story. 

But if it turns out you're not,

if you're just you,

I'll take you just the same. 







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{Giveaway}: Little Shutterbugs


Summer break is around the corner.

Can you feel it sneaking up on you like I do? 

Are you clicking on 1,000,000,000 ideas to keep your kids busy posts on Pinterest?

Yeah, me too.

The biggest challenge we face every year is entertaining differing interests and ages. 

So while we are great about planning family-friendly outings and camping trips to fill up the summer months, it's harder to find day-to-day activities we can all enjoy.

Luckily, there is one trait all four of my kids share, and it's creativity. Our dining room table turns into a summer art studio, and we seek out classes and options in our community that allow them to express themselves artistically.

They are already signed up for some great cartooning and art camps and this summer we're going to try something new with my older kids.

Canadian photo printing company, Posterjack, is on the hunt for a new Summer Kidtographer. They are looking for junior shutterbugs between the ages of eight and 12 to show off their summer experience through the lens of a camera. 

Four kids will be chosen from entries and provided with their own Canon PowerShot SX520 HS, along with a memory card to save all their photos. Three lucky shutterbugs are chosen by the team at Posterjack and one is chosen by fans on Facebook based on the photo entries.

From July 1 - August 24th, the Kidtographers will be snapping daily photos to be featured on the Posterjack blog and other social media channels. On September 1st, each Kidtograhper will be awarded a $150.00 Posterjack gift certificate to turn their favourite photos into lasting art. 

This weekend, have your kids grab their iPads or smartphones or lend them your fancy camera and tell them to start snapping. Applications will be accepted until midnight on Sunday, June 14th (that's an entire weekend to capture their best photo).

Your tiny photog can submit that photo along with this information to

  • name
  • proof of age
  • city
  • a recent photo taken by the child
  • a brief explanation (250 words or less) on why they should be Posterjack's next Summer Kidtographer (parents/guardians can help write it) 

Good luck and have fun!

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And just for reading along, Posterjack is giving one of my lucky readers a $50.00 gift certificate (with free shipping anywhere in Canada) to be used for any product on their site (digital photos can be turned into vibrant artwork on canvas, peel & sticks, metal and acrylic prints).

Just enter below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Oh, Canada


{Photo credit: True North Trappings}

I'm married to a boy scout.

And I don't mean that in a what a swell guy kind of way (though he certainly is), but in a literal way. 

He is fourth generation Canadian on his mom's side, and he grew up in small town Ontario. 

He loves this country and wants to see every corner of it. 

He likes to be outside and wants our children to be outside.

Riding bikes and skipping rope in our suburban driveway, yes.

But also sleeping bags under the stars and tipsy canoes on the lake. 

So we've made it a priority to be a family that camps, and while we haven't moved beyond the campfires and beaches kind of camping (I'm working through a fear of wildlife), we treasure the time we've spent exploring Ontario's provincial and national parks every summer.

When a dear friend of mine recently launched her line of rustic Canadiana pieces at True North Trappings on Etsy, I knew I had to have one of her pieces for our home.

Our finished piece arrived this weekend, and it's going to be the perfect fit for a new space we're working on. The wood is a beautiful walnut colour and the silhouette of the Great Lakes is perfection. This rugged piece has the qualities we are drawn to when we choose art for our home: unique and simple. It tells a story about who we are as a family, and I know it's a piece we will be asked about time and again. 

To show her thanks for sharing her beautiful work, my friend is offering my blog readers a custom discount code for a 30 percent savings on any of the pieces in her shop. You can contact Janet to choose your stain and design, too. 


{Photo credit: True North Trappings}

I hope our kids will look back on the time we've spent running along the shores of the Great Lakes with nostalgia. We've been camping since our first daughter was a year old, and we've never missed a summer. This year we'll be headed to Pinery and Silent Lake provincial parks, and we have some plans to travel through rural Quebec. 

From now until April 13th, you can use the code: LNP30 to save 30% on your custom piece. You can also find True North Trappings on Facebook and Instagram, if you'd like to follow along as the collection and creativity continue to grow.

Congratulations, Janet, on your wonderful shop,

and thank you for sharing your beautiful work with my readers. 




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To The Symphony

A couple of months ago, I received an email alert from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra about their Young People's Concerts. And I let myself think about our schedule around the time of their Christmas show (frightening), and I went online and bought a pair of tickets anyway.

I have a good friend with four young children, and they've been enjoying these performances for a few years now, so I knew it would be entertaining. But my real motivation for going was my tiny music lover.

Our youngest child is fascinated by the sounds of instruments and asks questions about them all the time.

Last year, when she was only three, she snuck onto her brother's drum set and did some improvisation. 


Then a few months later, she took up the harmonica and started composing songs. Her "me-monica" is still one of her favourite toys.


Lately, she's been spending time watching YouTube videos of violin prodigies. We borrowed a teeny tiny violin from a friend, and nothing makes her happier than carefully opening the case and holding it under her chin. We are waiting until she's older to explore lessons.

Though I tinkered with the recorder, piano, choir, trumpet and clarinet through elementary and high school, and I am a huge fan of music (listened to and live), we owe all musical inclinations and talents in this family to JB

Today's show, The Bear, was absolutely lovely. And I'm so, so glad we made the trip into the city (when we had one billion other things to do) to see the performance. It was her first trip to the Roy Thomson Hall (which has ample parking underneath) and she called out from the backseat, Mommy, we're going inside a diamond!

For parents with young children, it is a very interactive and dynamic show. She was easily able to sit through the performance—which included storytellers and dancers—and the intermission was well-timed and offered a fantastic hands-on art project by the Avenue Road Arts School


When we returned after the intermission, we noticed the the choir box above the orchestra was filled. There were a lot of questions about the teenagers she saw there.

How did those teenagers get on the stage? Who taught them to sing? Were you ever a teenager? Did you sing when you were a teenager? Will I sing when I'm a teenager? 

The Cawthra Park Secondary School Chamber Choir was absolutely magnificent, and when they opened their portion of the performance with In the Bleak Midwinter (one of my all time favourites of the season) I was mesmerized.

I looked over at my tiny seatmate right after the song started and saw that she had tilted her head back and was looking at the ceiling. Then her eyes started to water and her bottom lip began to quiver. She reached out for my hand and when she found it, she looked at me and said,

Mommy, I'm starting to feel a little bit sad, because the music is so beautiful that it's making me cry.

And so I joined her with some tears of my own, because I knew exactly what she meant.





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