Skip to content
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?”

Previous article What Was I to Do? + Zest Only + Bad Cold.
Next article A Different World + Bedlam Ensued + When One Door Closes


Kay Schuld - July 3, 2021

Can’t wait to read the next chapter! Your story of courage, compassion & fortitude is inspiring.

Hildegard Schmidt - July 3, 2021

What wonderful stories Bruce.
I recall the story about the Strawberries you told when I was on a Bus Tour to your Restaurant and Preserve Company.
Also that you added some kind of liquor to the Strawberries……… you were drinking with a buddy.
It is so encouraging to read the hardships and successes of other people.
Keep up the blogs they are so appreciated.

Bunny - July 3, 2021

The story of your early path in the world of food is fascinating, and it speaks to a resilience that has allowed you to create the wonderful Island Preserve Company. I can’t wait to get “home” in August and indulge in a wonderful meal at the restaurant, as well as selecting favourite preserves.

Tania Kennific - July 3, 2021

Keep writing! There is a book here…“Preserved!” Can’t wait for chapter 4. Throw in some photos and recipies from your early days to now your gorgeous photos…we are travelling with you!

Love it!

Jane - July 3, 2021

Thanks so much for being so open, revealing observations and lessons you have learned thus far in life. Learning from others can bring wisdom to each one of us.

Tony Rizzuto - July 3, 2021

Love your story Bruce – you’re a natural storyteller! I actually went back and re-read the first 2 “chapters” – it would definitely make a good book. Your story also reminds me about how happy we’ll be when we can get back to Island to enjoy your hospitality. I’ve ordered boxes of Preserve Company goodies for Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions – and they are received with great joy – but nothing takes the place of actually being there! Hope to see you soon and definitely KEEP WRITING!

Cathy Hammond - July 3, 2021

Loving your personal history.

Brenda Carvey-Cristall - July 3, 2021

Hi Bruce
I have enjoyed your life story immensely. You are such an amazing writer. I hope that you will use your amazing gift to write a book. I have heard that a good writer knows how to draw their audience in. If this is true then you are a true craftsman. Take care and write on Bruce.

Valarie LaBore - July 3, 2021

This is getting to be a cliff-hanger. I can’t wait to read what happened next.

Carol - July 3, 2021

Your Saturday blogs brighten every weekend. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields