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Finding inspiration through everyday stories

The handiwork of Elmira’s Lori Burmaster Zenker can be found in the series of scavenger hunts launched to help residents get outside and out of any COVID-19 funk. It can also be found in her contributions to the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, most recently in a chapter of Be You, 101 Stories of Affirmation, Determination and Female Empowerment.

Burmaster Zenker has been contributing to the book series for about a decade now, her first story appearing as part of 2011’s Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada, 101 Heartwarming and Inspiring Stories by and for Canadians. Her story chronicled her experience with the great Canadian pastime of hockey as Elmira tried to win the Kraft Hockeyville contest.

Since then, she has written a handful of pieces for the series, which she says allows people to see that there are stories everywhere that can inspire us in many ways.

“Everyone has a story, and you should share it and get it out there. Everybody has interesting things to share with the world – they should find a way to tell the story,” said Burmaster Zenker. “Lots of people should try this because everyone has stuff that [they can share]. I write about simple things like the maple syrup festival, and my mom’s vegetable garden. The one that I wrote for the [latest book] was on learning to play the cello, so, I mean it’s not big adventures.”

Her latest story captures a facet of her life. At the age of 50, while all her friends were doing fantastic things to mark the occasion such as taking trips and changing their looks, Burmaster Zenker decided to do something a little different. She would learn to play the cello.

Aiming to boost her brain power, she went to the music store and picked up a cello to rent. Later, a cello would be gifted by her family, and her lessons began like they do for all others, at the start. Her story details how she learned to master the basics and climbed the ladder set in front of her at each stage as she would grow in her musical prowess, while also taking each day’s lesson as a therapeutic break from the life around her. Finally, Burmaster Zenker caps off the story with her reigning supreme over the first book of instruction and moving on to the second – she is now on the fourth book in her education – all while learning of the tenth book down the road and realizing how precious her hobby had become in the years since she started.

“All my friends were turning 50, and they were going on trips and getting their hair done and blah blah blah, and I said I want to try something different. So, I just thought I would learn to play the cello, and I’m still learning,” she added of her journey.

For her next story she says it is something she deems a little humorous. While she cannot get into details, she says it involves a racoon being shot out of a tree.

Sharing tales of everyday life from those around us, Chicken Soup has been changing perspectives with inspirational stories for almost 30 years. Since the publication of the first book, the series has taken off, not only expanding to cover more themes, but also launching pet foods, food products and even television programming.

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