Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's all relative... (my apologies...)

Recently I had the opportunity to enroll into a local Community Food Mentoring Program. I will be honest, the reason I took this program was to get my Food Safety Certification (for free a $142 value) and then to have some time out, taking some training and connecting with people. I never thought too much about what it all meant - at least not past what I could get out of it.

The first day was lots of fun, although overwhelming. I attended with the larger group who are taking the full 5 week mentoring program as well as a group of 8 women from my community who were just attending the food safety section - we all wanted to get certified for safety reasons since we do so much locally with food. There are SO many rules in food safety! Some are great, some are common sense and some do seem like overkill, having said that we made it through, took the test and now await the results.

Christmas 2012 - Thankful
The next few weeks were/are on topics such as Food Security, Learning How to Eat Well for Less, Getting comfortable with the Canada Food Guide, learning more about sustainable food in our community,  learning how to teach adults  and my favourite part, cooking with a chef each week to create our wholesome lunches using a wide variety of foods. 

Local Pork, carrots & home made noodles
I have to admit, that day one I did not really "get" the purpose of the course. I also felt bad for the facilitators since they have a course almost full of people who are "the converted", people who are into local, sustainable, responsibly raised food, avoiding GMO's and who definitely reach for organic. As one fellow put it, "We are a room full of food radicals." Now, initially, I thought, great! It is awesome to be in a group of people who "get it" but, after the end of the first day, that we were NOT getting it.

What do I mean? Well, yes, we all know what we should eat, health wise, organically, etc, but what we were forgetting or avoiding was that NOT everyone can do this, not everyone has that choice. I am happy for myself that I have learned to use more of what is around me, I have learned to use more whole foods, less processed foods and I now understand that when I hear organic or no GMO's it simply means that I am making choices for better overall nutrition in my life.

I wasn't always this person though. I was a single mom. I had very little money. I had to make choices on putting gas in my car to get my daughter to school or buying milk and cereal to stretch my budget for the rest of the week. Yes, education is important, yes, healthy food is important but not being hungry? That was the goal for my girls. There were times where I didn't eat with them, I told them I had eaten earlier, or I wasn't hungry - this is what parents in poverty do. I faced decisions of food to fill my cupboards and my children's bellies, rather than to nutritionally fill them in a healthy way. AND yes at times, I was just lazy, or tired, or trying to cope. 

I realized on day 3 of my course, that we weren't all getting this. I had to step back, try to get across to my group that not everyone has the opportunity to grow their own food, shop across the border for better deals, bring food in from other cities or even have a car to drive around town to shop for sales. When a person has little to no food options they just do what they have to do. I had to stop myself from being hypocritical. 

So, I once again had to place myself in the situation of many Canadians around me. Parents who are not stupid, who understand that they aren't always making the best choice for their child, but families who are just struggling to get by. Yes, in many circumstances it is cheaper to eat whole food than processed food, but as this video link tells you, there are people who don't have the time to grow, preserve, prepare and they are working hard just to keep a roof over their kids heads. People who feel they have accomplished something by ensuring their kids have food on the table each day.

I am an advocate of good, healthy, GMO free, organic, local, sustainable foods - but, I also remember , now, that someone just trying to get through their week, will not appreciate what I tell them if I am lecturing them, or making them feel bad/worse about their lives. I remember now, I need to lead by example, kindness, sharing, thoughtfulness and hope that some of those tricks and lessons I have learned, may help someone else. If it doesn't that is ok, I will still be their friend, support them and understand they are doing the best that they can.

Sarah & Len - East Grand Lake - Sunset
We all do our best. We make improvements and slowly change. I still have some foods with preservatives in my cupboard, not really proud of it, but I do. Sometimes it is laziness on my part. Overall we eat well, healthy, locally but we are still able to go to someones home or a restaurant and enjoy a meal - knowing that it may not be local, etc. This course has reminded me I need more fruits and veggies in my diet. I am grateful for the opportunities I have and I know we do NEED change in our Canadian food system and will continue to advocate for that, but I will try not to be too obnoxious or annoying, ok? 

If you can - watch this video, inner city schools in the USA but Canada has the same issues. Take care and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American friends!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Typing away... and a little reward!

Len and I are both working hard this winter to spend more time writing. I am trying to write short stories   not over thinking them. Just bashing out some work to get the creative juices flowing. Then back to my masterpiece!

We both entered CANADA WRITES CBC creative non fiction last year (no neither of us even hit the long list!) Last week we both submitted stories to the fiction contest and this weekend CANADA WRITES posted a new contest, a quickie! Bloodlines - a true story with a photo, no entry fee, so what the hell! We may as well!

We have discussed how they must select winners, judge, etc. Yesterday I noticed that stories are being instantly published! Well I was having trouble coming up with a story that hit the criteria, but managed to pound one off last night. I found it very tough to write a detailed interesting story in only 500 words. My blogs are longer than that!

Anyway, I did it and so did Len. Imagine our surprise this afternoon as we both sat down at our computers after lunch to discover an email telling us our stories had been published! So, with that said, I invite you to have a read at both my story and Len's story.

My story is the story of "The Long Walk" a day that my friend and I went to the store, only to be brought home after a massive police hunt searching for us. (Just click the link below the picture.)
Len has shared a story about his mom "The Transformation" and his memories of her... Quite a read! (Just click the link below the picture.)
That's it for now! Have a great day!

Monday, November 4, 2013

And the torch is passed on....

 Growing up Baby!

From sweet little infant, to employed student in Vancouver - you've come a long way baby! (OK, yes SHE has come along way, but what about me? I was there for the whole journey too!)

I graduated from high school in 1984, almost 30 years ago! At that time I was somewhat like my daughter is now, wondering what to do with my life, was I good enough, did I have the strength or courage? Unlike her I didn't really have any great interest in anything and I was not accepted to the church college I thought I wanted to attend in the USA - so I went to the local college in a neighbouring city. 

All of my friends were entering college or university in September 1984 and I had no clue what I wanted to do but I knew one thing, I was MOVING out! So late August of that year, I decided to enroll in basic university prep courses that would apply to something, somewhere down the road. Student loans aren't like they are now but I did apply. My parents were having a rough time financially so they were unable to help me much. (I get that now, since I am not paying my daughters way at all.) 

I had to be VERY economical and while my friends were getting apartments, in secure buildings, in "safer" areas of town, with monthly allowances... I found a little bachelor suite in the basement of a house renting from an older couple. They were nice people and my place was VERY tiny for $220 a month it was what I could afford. Of course there wasn't much left over for groceries, since my parents helped me as much as they could and gave me $1200 for 4 months rent, food, laundry, etc. Money was tight and I ate a lot Ramen Chinese noodles with cheap hot dogs and learned to use peanut butter in a multitude of ways! I was excited though! I was on my own (very lonely!) and was enrolled in college. 

Speeding ahead in the story, this is a blog, not a book! I was not ready for school. I was broke but managed to find money to buy drinks, skip class, go to parties and basically squander this opportunity completely! I had NO idea what a mistake I was making! By the end of December I had failed my classes, been evicted from my little suite and felt pretty crappy about myself. Three days before Christmas, I made some hasty decisions and packed up what little I had, left some boxes at a relatives with things I couldn't take with me and hopped on a bus to Banff, Alberta to clean hotel rooms for minimum wage. It took me about 2 years to focus and get back to school then by May of 1988 I was living full time in the big city of Vancouver. Living there and loving it! 

Now my daughter has followed my journey, somewhat in reverse... She moved across the country, drove in her little car 5600 KM, worked in a hotel cleaning rooms - lasted longer than I did! Then decided that yes school was sounding good! She is in now in Vancouver, working and about to move into her first apartment! I can't do much to help her from here, but it is reassuring to know that some of the things that her dad and I collected and loved will now be in her new home and that she can reclaim some of his art work for her walls.

Her new home is much nicer than mine was and she shouldn't be as lonely since she will have room mates and someone to go to school with since her friend is enrolled in the same course at the same time. We never know what life will throw us, or how we will deal with it. We never realize what we have until its gone, but I am happy to see that she has found a path, following it and even though its not easy, she is out there living her life.

It is now almost 30 years later and the world has changed. I had no phone, internet or cable - Yes! Cable and phones DID exist! I hope that she will be eating more than cheap Chinese noodles and I am grateful that I have some amazing friends that have helped her, supported her, put her up while she settled in and now others who are finding items for her new home. I am grateful for the tough times and learning experiences that I had and YES I loved living in Vancouver!

Now I am settled in little old Fosterville, NB on  Golden Unicorn Farm and I am grateful that my daughter has access to Facebook and phone so we can stay in frequent contact. I am grateful that unlike me, who spent half my pay cheque calling home, crying to my mom, she, can call and cry to me for almost no money! I wish I could be there, help her settle in, experience some of what she is going through, but I can't.

Next Sunday, my baby turns 19 years old and will be her first birthday that we are apart. Wow! I am getting old! I wouldn't change it though. A life lived, lessons learned and I am now blessed with beautiful children, a loving husband and great friends. I pray that the example I have set will resonate with her. That she will not make the poor choices I did, that she will honour the positive ones and that she will live, love and laugh...

Yes, the torch has been passed on... 
Go rock Vancouver little girl! 
(Unlike your mother, don't stay drunk, 
skip classes and love your awesome new home!