Object::Lesson – Sliver



I grew up with the BEST backyard. For a city kid, anyways! Our house was the last on a dead-end street, so our modest-sized yard was extended on two sides by forest and cow pasture. We spent our sunny days outside, running around barefoot riding hockey-stick horses and building tree forts with my dad’s leftover lumber. Our yard was split into two levels, the bottom being a soggy mess of moss, and the top containing a sturdy playhouse (complete with slide!) built by my dad. There was a landscaped stairway between the levels built out of rough wood and filled with gravel, and it is there this lesson begins.

One typical dry day I raced around the yard in my bare feet, chasing adventure and my sisters. Unfortunately, as I climbed the stairs in the middle of the yard I did not exercise as much caution as I should have. Pain! Into my tender foot a large sliver lodged itself. Taking a peek at my sole, I was astonished at its length: it must have been a full 2 inches! As a second grader, my foot couldn’t have been much more than 5 inches long itself. That thing was a MONSTER.

As every kid knows, getting slivers removed is the absolute worst. The poking, the prodding, the lectures…I wouldn’t stand for it. There was absolutely no way I was going to subject myself to that! So instead, I ignored it. I told nobody, and went on with life. I didn’t acknowledge the growing pain that nagged at me with every step, choosing instead to stick with my original decision to move on.

Two days later my teacher pulled me aside as I limped into the classroom after recess.

“Laura, are you limping? What’s the matter?”

Overcome by the pain, I finally broke. “I have a sliver! It’s really big…”

“Let me see, let’s take off your shoe. Oh my! That is quite the sliver! It looks infected, we need to get that out.”

Noooooooooo!!!! She supported my arm and helped me hop up to the principles office. We took the elevator (!). As the office staff gathered around me on the sick bed and the principle used the tweezers to gently remove the offensive sliver from my foot, it came to light that I had let it fester for a number of days. As adults tend to do, they looked at me incredulously and asked the question:

“Why? Why didn’t you tell somebody? If we had dealt with it right away you could have avoided all this pain!”

And as often is the case with retrospect, my reasoning seemed pretty dumb.



Monster Sliver

Lesson: Grace is relief, freely given, but can’t be offered without an admission. You let the pain fester because you’re afraid and stubborn and don’t want to deal with the clean up of your mistakes. You don’t want to admit you’ve been wrong.  But the limp and shifty eyes give you away, and before long God WILL get through your stubborn shell and show you how silly you’ve been. He’ll clean your wound, put you back on your feet, and give you a candy from the jar along with a gentle reminder that taking the sliver out really isn’t as painful as leaving it in.

A big thank-you to my second grade teacher and elementary principle, who are still teaching me life lessons.


Tough Nuts.

Tough Nut // Laura Vanderwel Design

Creativity I think, at its root, is problem solving. Its beginning is always a single question: “how?” followed by an intended outcome: “do I communicate this idea to you?” Or, “How do I build a bridge to cross that river?” It might be “what can I say to make you believe me?” Or more traditionally, “What can I create to express my feelings?”

The answers are sometimes easy to find, and sometimes they are more difficult. The questions themselves may be layers upon layers of variants that require more creativity to solve. They maybe so simple that the answer is a matter of applying learned principles (ie: how do I get out of my chair?).

As a working “creative,” my most difficult problems are those that have ill-defined questions. Sometimes an objective is vague and up for re-defining, and I find myself floating in a dead zone caught up in too many possibilities.

In life, the same challenges appear when I myself have not defined my objectives clearly. Its easy to say “What do I do now to get to ___?” But in the absence of a destination, I am left asking simply, “What do I do now?”

For some (me included) this is crippling. But I see others who instinctively know this is freedom, and instead of seeing that every possibility could be wrong, they see that every possibility could be right.

I’d like to be more like that. I’m going to try to be more like that.

Be Courageously Kind.


I used to be afraid to encourage people. Ok, thats not quite what I mean. I used to let my fear of people stop me from encouraging them. And also, I’m not quite over it.

I’ve been reflecting on the value and power of honest encouragement lately, and I’ve decided something. It doesn’t matter if my well-meaning words aren’t well received and the recipient decides they no longer like me. That’s not in my control. I CAN be sensitive and careful how I deliver said words, but ultimately – we need eachother. Loneliness is just as, if not more, powerful than community. I don’t want to be the one responsible for someone else’s loneliness. We all know how bad it sucks.

Backwards Truth.

backwards truth - Laura Vanderwel Design

I’ve started fighting something recently. Bolstered by an energizing and encouraging week at the What If conference in Arizona, I realized that many of the “negative rules” I live by are of my own making. So much of what holds me back are things I’ve turned into truths to keep me safe. The biggest one? “If things are good, they’re going to get bad.” 

The positive flipside of this mentality is that I’ve also fully embraced the truth “if things are bad, they’re going to get better,” which has gotten me through some dark times. But I completely missed the fact that I’ve grabbed even tighter to the first statement. Sure, its true. Eventually a storm rolls in and the smooth sailing comes to an end. But how stupid do I look sailing on sunny smooth waters in my raincoat, clinging to the mast?

Its not natural for me, but I’m going to work at ignoring the truth that keeps me from being present and taking risks. Who cares if things get bad tomorrow? Today I’m going to get a tan.

Facebook will die before I do

Yesterday the radio DJ told me facebook is dying. To paraphrase, by 2015, 80% of facebook users will be “no more.” To be honest, it felt like a reality check. What is this frenzy we are in to share, promote, be followed, liked, and approved of online? How pitiful that the thought of all of it being for naught makes me anxious? I found myself trying to imagine if there wasn’t a NEXT social network – how a business would succeed without something like facebook … you know, like with hard work and effective marketing, the way it used to be? Or organizing a birthday party, having to CALL all my friends? (of course I’m being sarcastic, but seriously…that DOES seem like a lot of work).

Maybe eventually we WILL be able to shave off some of the excess. Maybe we can let facebook die and not replace it with “myfacespace” or “instafam.” Maybe we will get back to meeting face to face while we sip on our organic agave juice with kale. Or even just water, on the front porch with our loved ones, and forget about the eco-friendly wood-grain remote controls and iphone cases and just get outside?

I’m don’t really hold to hippie / hipster ideals. But I do find myself remembering the days when I woke up in my old sleeping bag and greeted the morning with bare feet and my favourite stick, chasing the day away until it all began again. Days when I was brave enough to knock on my neighbours door to see if anyone wanted to play make-believe. My days never look like this anymore – and I don’t think growing up is the sole reason.

This Skin Doesn’t Fit

Want to know something ridiculous? I have a folder in dropbox called “website redesign.” It contains 27 different designs, all created in the last two months. On my external hard drive I have roughly 30 folders just like it, all containing different takes on what my website could have looked like over the past 3 years – and not a single one has made it past development. My current site doesn’t bring me any happiness, and the blog is only slightly better. Its like my skin doesn’t fit…but if I peel it off before I’m ready I’ll just be standing here…without skin.

I make the WORST client for myself! The root of my problem is not knowing what I want to say – is my website just a portfolio, or is it a business page? Who is my audience? Who do I want my audience to be? Do I want to show everything I do, or only what I enjoy? Is my site supposed to bring in work, or is it just available for when I need it? Since my freelance work is more or less a “side thing,” I’m ill equipped to answer most of these questions. I’d have serious issues if I were trying to make a living off of it, but for now I continue to flounder around in the undefined space knowing I’m not required to sink or swim. Someday I’ll have to figure out how to feed myself my own medicine!