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Pulling the Thread Called Life + Job versus Career + Dad, What If?

Pulling the Thread Called Life + Job versus Career + Dad, What If?

Good Morning from Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island
For the last few blogs, I’ve been sharing a bit of my life’s journey.
Peter, a friend suggests I am writing a book one chapter at a time.
There have been lots of comments encouraging me to continue. And Kathryn Zaengle left a comment on the blog with a number of questions. It was a good exercise to consider the answers. I will respond to them here next week.

It seems I have pulled on a thread called life. Writing about it is unravelling and revealing.

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. ~ C.S. Lewis


~ Part Four ~

Chef Klaus taught me working in a kitchen is all about the team and food is to treated with reverence.

To this day, of all the ‘professionals’ I have met, doctors, lawyers, etc., he still stands out as one of the most impressive.

He started his apprenticeship in Germany at twelve years old. Moved to Canada, married a girl from Newfoundland and in his late 20’s became our chef. He was pleasant, supportive, knowledgeable of all things food. He could talk about seeds and the life cycle of plants. He could keep you engaged discussing terroir. He taught that good flavour comes from good soil.

Passion is the difference between having a job and having a career and he showed me that. 
On a side note, I also remember he had to walk away from his new home when the interest rates went to 21% in the early 1980s. It was heartbreaking for them.
He was open to any question I had to ask, and I asked a lot of questions. I may have crossed a line when I asked how much money he made as head chef. When I did ask, he thought for a moment and responded graciously. I hid my shock at how low it was. And thought to myself, wow, here is one of the most professional people I have ever met, and this is all that a chef earns.
I knew for sure then, the kitchen was not a profession I would pursue.

Preserve-making was still what I wanted to do.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust
I used to go to the Toronto Public Library and take out as many books on preserving and pickling as they would allow at one timeMany librarians would engage in conversations about the lost art of preserving with me. They spoke how their mothers or grandmothers used to bottle the summer and fall harvests.

People in the line behind the kid from Prince Edward Island would join in the conversation as well.

Nostalgia was all around. I think we all ended up smiling on the inside and out. I felt I was on the right track.
I found part-time work making preserves for a Polish woman in her home. She would sell them to stores around Toronto. After a few months of doing this, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do.
The world of food was calling me.
The phone rang and it was another restauranteur from Prince Edward Island. He called to ask if I was interested in taking ownership of a restaurant on the Island.
I said, “I have no money.” He said, “we can figure something out.”

He sent return airline tickets so I could look at the restaurant and decide.

Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try and plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure - do it well, enjoy it - and then, not now, think about comes next.
~ Condoleezza Rice
I managed to get a weekend off of work to fly home.
I looked at the restaurant. Oh, how I ached to be home. I had zero experience of running a business. With a desire to start my entrepreneurial journey, I said yes.
Six months later, the inexperience broke me. Exhausted with my first business bust. I owed 27,000 dollars with no prospect of paying it. After selling what I could to pay some bills, I kept my mattress, my stereo, record albums and strawberries.
I thought, ok, no problem, Dad will lend me the money to settle my debts.

I went home to explain all that went wrong, what I learned and asked if would he lend me the money. “Sorry son, that is a lot of money for me and I can’t."

I got upset with him. To which he said, “All I can say is if you have problems, you best face them.”
I left the house hurt and angry.
I drove back to my apartment only to discover that someone had broken in and stole my stereo and all my records.
So I am down to a lamp on an orange crate, a mattress and frozen strawberries.
That night lying in my bed filled with brokenness, the phone rings, asks for John, I said, "wrong number."

He proceeded to tell me he was going to commit suicide. 

I spent the next two hours talking with the person about the reasons he shouldn’t end his life.
Over the course of the conversation, he explained John is an ex-convict helping him and others get straightened out.

The next night, I get another call from another person who was struggling with one thing or another. 

After speaking with him for a while, I thought this crazy, I can't keep dealing with other people problems, I have enough of my own. 
The next day, I called the phone company about my ‘new’ phone number.

Discovering I had John's, the ex-convict's old phone number, I requested to exchange his old number for another. They agreed and changed their policy.

Retired numbers would wait a year before being reactivated. 

After a few days of self-pity, my Dad’s words started to percolate, ‘if you have problems, face them.”
Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world. ~ Helen Keller

What was the problem?

Shame, guilt, and money.
The problem was I could not walk down the street with my head up.
So thought, I will start with the money problem.
I made a list of the 19 companies I owed money to.
Starting with the highest to the lowest, I started calling and asking for a face-to-face.

To start, I went to the man I owed the most. 

Upon entering his space, the orderliness of the office and him sitting at the big desk was intimidating.
We chatted for a wee bit. Then got to the place where I apologized for the situation. I told him I didn’t have the money nor any idea how I could pay it. I told him I was not leaving town and I will get it figured out at some point.
He stared at me and blinked.
Reaching to the shelves behind his desk he pulled out a large 3 inch red binder and dropped it on his desk with a thud.
He looked at me again and said,
“Do you know what this is, young man?”
"No, sir," I said.
“This is a list of the people who owe me money.”
I thought oh no, he doesn’t forget or forgive.
Then he said, “stand up.”

He stood up and came around his desk and said, “I want to shake your hand. You are the first person in the twenty-nine years of me being in business to ever come here and speak to me face to face.” He put his hand on my shoulder, and while shaking my hand, said, “you will do fine, get back out there, keep trying and don’t give up.”

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes can be truly endless. ~ Mother Theresa
I called my restaurant friend and asked for a job as a waiter. And is there any way I could use his kitchen after they closed for the night to cook some strawberries.

I needed to start making PRESERVES. 

Have a wonderful weekend may joy be more than just an acquaintance.  

With love from Prince Edward Island

Bruce + Millie


ps. Your Morning Smile

A small boy was at the zoo with his father. They were looking at the tigers, and his father was telling him how ferocious they were.

“Daddy, if the tigers got out and ate you up…”

“Yes, son?” the father asked, ready to console him.

“…Which bus would I take home?”

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Carol McKnight - July 9, 2021

Really enjoying this. What a wonderful sfory. I read it my husband every week. We had a great life over the joke this week.

Margaret Horvat - July 9, 2021

I am thoroughly enjoying your story of the path to becoming you – I hope you will continue and I also think you are writing a book – I suspect there are lots of micro-stories within the telling that many people would enjoy reading.
Looking forward to the next instalment!

Debbie Wynne - July 5, 2021

Loving your life story Bruce and can tell how much you’re enjoying reliving it in the writing of the tale. Your ability to meet life head on, problems and all, never ceases to amaze me. You certainly have always lived in the moment it seems, and isn’t that what life is all about?
May we never lose our desire to learn….that I believe is the secret to a happy life! Deb

Alejandro Gonzalez - July 4, 2021

I dare to make the following comment, not being disrespectful, but because I enjoy your writing and respect you, greatly, for your talent and graciousness and obvious joie de vivre….but before I do, I want to remind you of that special elementary school teacher in your life to whom you were perfect and would cringe at some faux pas you would commit in your every day conversation or other activity ( mine was Mrs. Maloney, over sixty-seven years ago, my Mesita School sixth grade teacher, in El Paso, TX ), who would, upon reading of the chef and his wife would remark that " It was heartbreaking for he and his wife", would, probably, read much better as " It was heartbreaking for him and his wife"…of course, I would probably paint a wider grin on the Mona Lisa….what do I know?….As always, please, receive my best regards and say “hello” to your wife…Alex

E.A. Morgan - author and editor. - July 4, 2021

I have begun to read your Blogs, now that I have magically figured out that you open them by clicking on them. You are never too old to learn. I can now rest assured that you will know I only have your best interests at heart and don’t need to compliment you all the time. I do thank you and that should be enough.

Part 4 – Line 8
“he and his wife”
Would you say “It would be heartbreaking for he”?
On guard….

murdock morrison - July 4, 2021

Another segment of your life’s journey and I am amazed at how resilient you were as a young man to be able to deal with all of the difficult times that you had to face. But keeping your focus on the art of preserving and learning how to make the jams that you now have created is a testament to your determination to be successful and you have done that Bruce. Murdock

Irene O'Leary - July 4, 2021

I look forward to your blog every Sat. This one was so very interesting. I always enjoy looking at your wonderful pictures. The Preserve Company is located in such a wonderful spot and being from a gardening family I truly love it. I wish you and your family lots of success.

Julie MacKenzie - July 3, 2021

Loved this week’s blog! I enjoy reading about your journey & how it lead you back to the island. Everyone has *rap in their lives at any given time. What really matters is how you react to the *rap. Just speaking from my own experience. You can either lie in a fetal position with your thumb in your mouth or you can rise to the occasion & do something about it. I choose to rise to the occasion. I am looking forward to the next chapter. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Georgie Ann Wilkins - July 3, 2021

WOW!! What a wonderful story! You & Millie are the reasons we love your place so much!! Your love of what you do shows in your product. ❤️❤️

althea - July 3, 2021

A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the homo sapiens. – Joseph Campbell
Thank you for filling this need so beautifully and fully especially during this difficult time.

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