I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

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In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

A place in the woods

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cabin

There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,

and my mind has been known to roam.

There are four walls and a roof that wait for me,

and long for me to call it my home.

The mass of buildings and lanes of traffic

are replaced with hills and trees.

The soothing sounds of Mother Nature’s lullaby

truly put my mind at ease.

I am homesick for a place I’ve never seen,

a place where my heart is replete,

a home where my soul is understood

 and a home where I feel genuinely complete.

The barren land beckons, the rolling earth lures,

I hear it calling my name.

I know when I finally find this haven

my life will never be the same.

I will shed the layers of the pretense I’ve lived

and genuinely feel at peace.

I will feel naked among the rocks and the trees,

and my life will have found a new lease.

There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,

and my mind has been known to roam.

I hope to one day discover this place,

and forever call it my home.

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I don’t have a thing to wear…

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I am going to be on television.  It will be a fleeting interview about a subject I feel very passionate about but I am now starting to sweat the small details.  Can I remember not to curse?  Will the 10 lbs the camera adds make me look like a beached whale?  And what the hell do I have in my closet that will help me not look like a road beacon or a clown?

I am that much of a self-professed nerd that I actually Googled what to wear on a TV interview.  It was actually quite helpful so I’m glad for my nerd-ish tendencies.  The cursing is another subject, all things considered, but I’m certain I can hold it together.

One of our local news stations is coming up to Muskoka to do a brief segment about the Crockpot Freezer Meals I have been organizing for our local food bank.  The news personality coming to do the interview actually did a four-day challenge to eat only the food provided by her local food bank and her struggles were palpable, to say the least.  She photographed her meals along the way and the results were far from appetizing.  There is only so much you can do with processed, no-name pasta, canned sauce, tuna and canned fruit.

I have always loved cooking.  Perhaps I have taken for granted my access to fresh meat and vegetables, but this project has made me truly value my good fortune and my goal is to help create some of the same good fortune for those who struggle through the winter months.

Our town is very seasonal with respect to many things and jobs are at the forefront of the shortages.  And some families who may find success in the booming summer months are left to visit the local food banks in the winter months to help supplement their supply of necessary items to make it through the tough times.  That, to me, seems egregiously unfair and the reason I began http://www.gofundme.com/dollarsfordinners

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So, regardless of whether I look like a street clown or Shamu on a good day, I will face those TV cameras.   I will tell my story of Crockpot Freezer meals in hopes that other communities may recognize the possibility of doing the same thing in their small towns.

It takes a village, not only to raise a child but, to empower a community that we can all say we were an active part of making a success.

 

Goooood moooorrrnnning Hunter’s Baaay

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Cooking has long been a passion of mine.   From the early days of watching my dad create things from a variety of ingredients in our fridge to my culinary classes in college, cooking has always been something I love to do.

I have spent my fair share of hours, and overtime hours, working in the food industry.  I have watched cooks and Chefs prepare anything from a simple crudite platter to an Amuse Bouche of Mousse Foie Gras with a Cognac foam.  I am not ashamed to admit it, I am a “foodie”….so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when my love for cooking and my enthusiasm for helping people collided into a serendipitous explosion.

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Dollars for Dinners is a project I began about a month ago.  I took an idea that began as a simple gesture for a friend last year and evolved it into a new way of getting real food into our local food bank.  With the help of many friends and many donations, we are creating Freezer Crockpot meals that allow families to have a home-cooked meal once or twice a week made of REAL food and not just packaged, processed ingredients.

Over the last week, some friends of mine have been sending this story to local media outlets.   I have done live interviews with two radio stations, one of whom has done a food challenge to eat the food supplied by their local food bank for a week, sent my story to a third radio station and am in communication with a television station that may be interested in my project.  The best part of all of this news and social media coverage is that I have a friend who has recently said that she is interested in doing this same thing in her community.

This is the reaction I wanted.  I want more communities to realize that this is a process that simply includes donations from its members and a few volunteer hours to make a huge difference to families in need.  I am not looking for my fifteen minutes of fame…..I am merely looking to everyone to give fifteen minutes of their time to help Food Banks offer healthier and tastier options so families don’t have to survive on the things we only stock in case of the Apocalypse.

 

Get lost

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand and in a way I felt I was best able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guideline and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

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A small group of people, including myself, spent a little over two hours of our time a week ago Sunday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for deserving families in our community.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had cocktails and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.  We created meals that will allow people to, not just feed their family during a tough time but, feed their family a home-cooked meal made with real food.  And next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday this winter, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the families we are trying to help.

If I can subsequently find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I go to bed with a tired body, but with a full heart. And if my journey has taught me anything, it is that life is not defined by what you have.  Life is defined by what you give.

Living a thousand lives

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“The man who reads lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

 George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

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There is something divinely quieting about a good book.  It can take all of the external forces in our lives and make them seem non-existent for a few moments. Losing ourselves in a great story line can give us a temporary escape from reality and take us on a journey to a life outside of our own.

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Although authors don’t write with us in mind, their words can give us a momentary reprieve from the demons that stalk us throughout our busy days, those demons who try to dwell in the hours that we would like spend in solitude. When you open a novel or turn on an E-reader, the chaotic minutes that you have survived during your work day cease to exist and the outside world becomes a distant memory.

If you are one of the fortunate few who can switch your work brain to the “off” position, you allow yourself to become fully involved in the plot line that the author has created. You send yourself on a journey far beyond the realm of your existence.  The words on the page seep into your mind and you become lost in the world of fiction.

Those words, the way they are woven into a complex story line, allow us the ability to sink into a place of imagery and intrigue.  Those words have the power to enlighten us, torture us, amuse us, make us cry and keep reality at bay as long as we will let them.

We owe it to ourselves to relish those moments of escape.  We need to permit ourselves to embrace the worlds beyond our own and tune out the brash sounds of our real lives by bathing in the dulcet tones of fictitious adventure. Do yourself a favor…..grab a book, turn off the television and let yourself be transported by the rhythm of words.  You will be surprised at how simple it is to live a thousand lives.

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world

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I never used to be one who could sit and watch the news on television and that habit has not drastically changed over the years.  I have not ignored the reality of what is happening in the world.  I have merely chosen to moderate how much negative energy I will allow inside the walls of my home.  And with the most recent barrage of cynicism and hostility that has been taking centre screen on every news feed across the world, I choose, for the most part, to tune it out.

Don’t misunderstand me….I will still have a modicum of knowledge when it comes to current events, but I cannot subject myself to hearing the same stories told by a select number of news anchors who beat the same dead horse over and over again.  Instead, I choose to take my positive energy and inject it back into my reality.

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There is some debate as to whether or not it was Mahatma Gandhi who quoted the subject line of this post but, regardless of its origin, it holds a strong place in my resolve to make a difference, if not in the world as a whole, at least in my world.  And with so much hate bubbling to the surface in the current political climates, I have resolved to love what matters.

If I think of myself as a fraction of the population of the planet, I am an infinitesimal part of the equation.  But if I simply see myself as a fraction of my community, my significance becomes notably more meaningful.  Perhaps I cannot make a difference on a global scale but I can certainly try to make a difference within the boundaries of my geography and that is what I am trying to do.

The world can only be changed by example, not by opinion.  And now, more than ever, the world really needs us to be the change we wish to see.