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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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Bev Shapiro MI, USA - July 3, 2021

Jeez Bruce, your life has been so interesting. I have been enjoying your writing, your quotes, your life story, and will now have more respect, in addition to the love, for your preserves. Who knew there was such passion around them? Now I do.

Thank you so much.

Wendy Jackson - July 3, 2021

Bruce your story telling is absolutely captivating! You most definitely have a gift for writing and your life story clearly shows how God has brought you into people’s lives and they into yours. Nothing is by coincidence and everything happens for a reason. Listening to you telling your life story just proves it! By the way I have been to PEI Preserves many many times over the years and I just love your store and all the jams! May God Bless you and your family.

Lori - July 3, 2021

I’m left with gratitude you had the ex-convict John’s phone number for a few days. You may have saved a life and certainly changed a few. That seems to be something you just naturally do….. change people’s life for the better.

June Erlandson - July 3, 2021

Keep writing “ your story”!

Sandra Lavoie - July 3, 2021

Love your shared wisdom and recollections, Bruce! The blog only further enhances the PEI Preserve Company reputation as it feeds the soul in addition to the body. Can’t wait to return to PEI to refuel my soul. Will be bringing my 83 year-old Dad at the end of August for 2 weeks; with his failing health after suffering numerous cancers over the past 20 years, it may well be his last opportunity to “come home” to PEI and Montague area. He has so loved the gifts I have been able to bring him as a Tour Manager with visits to the Preserve Co. Tastes of home! The Christmas box this year plus other tastes over the course of the pandemic when I have been unable to come by in person to collect his jams and jellies have fed him body and soul. As his major caregiver since Mom passed Jan 2020 it has been gratifying to get more time with him since the last 8 months we have been separated because of the pandemic, I will visit him twice in the next month now that we are both double vaccinated!! Then we fly into Charlottetown on Aug 30 & we will get to spend 2 wonderful weeks catching up on the Island he (and I) so love. We will definitely plan a drive up to New Glasgow for a visit and a piece of your fabulous potato pie + a dessert pie!! Will touch base and hope to meet up so I can introduce you to him. You should see his smiles when he gets something from the shop!! <3

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