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My sympathies go out to McDonald’s Steve Easterbrook

Oh dear! No more free happy meals for Steve Easterbrook, but I think his separation package will compensate.

Steve Easterbrook, C.E.O. of McDonald’s Corp. recently resigned his position because he had a consensual affair with a fellow employee of the firm. Yikes!! I have to say I feel sorry for him because I met both my first and second husbands through work, so I’m speaking from a position of experience. And many of my friends also met their spouses and partners through work. In fact, I’m inclined to think that with today’s busy lifestyles and the long hours demanded by career-building, I don’t know a better way to meet someone. When you’ve sat in meetings together, attended business functions and witnessed the behaviours of your fellow employees at the office Christmas party, you learn a lot about a person. We spend so many hours each week with our coworkers that it’s natural they become like family, with some relationships growing closer than others. We see our coworkers at their worst while under stress, at their magnanimous best when being rewarded for superior performance and we soon learn who’s kind, who’s ethical, who is lazy and who is honest. The hours we spend with our coworkers under stressful conditions offers the most comprehensive insights into their character.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone bullying or pressure by office predators in order to gain leverage. Heavens, no. We’ve all walked this earth long enough to know that scum bags exist but that’s not what we’re talking about here. This is about genuine consensual romantic relationships developing between coworkers, apart from #metoo. Having worked most of my career in the construction industry which is heavily weighted with male employees, the pickings were pretty good. There were many young engineers, tradespeople, technicians and other staff who mingled often with office staff. In the early years, most supervisory and management positions were male-dominated but as women entered more non-traditional fields, their numbers increased. We often joked about the ensuing relationships that inevitably developed and we were tempted sometimes to sit down and make a list of the marriages that sprang from work-related relationships in our company alone. There were dozens and perhaps even into the hundreds that resulted in people getting together at work, my own marriage being one of them.

I don’t know the specifics of Steve Easterbrook’s relationship. Perhaps he was married. Perhaps his partner was a subordinate. There are so many variables that may have been unsavory but it’s not our place to moralize. Love happens. Apparently, McDonald’s has a company policy that forbids consensual relationships with fellow employees. Their rationale is that they’re a company with strong family values and their executives and employees at all levels have to respect that dictum. Politicians are often subjected to the same moral scrutiny but as evidenced by today’s American President, it really doesn’t hold much water these days. The moral right makes the rules and they’re allowed to break them.

When relationships develop between females and a male with a higher position in the corporate hierarchy, there could be serious fallout if the relationship falls apart. It’s difficult to work with someone you’ve broken up with and women are often dealt the losing hand in these circumstances. Her male superior may want her out-of-sight, out-of-mind and find it easier to terminate her. That’s the price women have unfortunately paid for failed workplace relationships since the beginning of time. When there’s an imbalance of power, the power exerts itself. I’m no longer in the workforce but I hope that has eased up with the #metoo movement and allowed women to continue working in the same environment if they wish to do so.

My husband and I worked together for nearly 30 years before we became “an item” and we have now been together for nearly 20 years. He was certainly above me in the management structure but I did not directly report to him. We’ve had many discussions recently about how our relationship would or could have been handled under current circumstances. Fortunately, the firm we worked for did not have a “No Fraternization” policy and as a result, many happy marriages resulted from employees working together. In fact, some of the offspring of those marriages are now second-generation employees. That is a good thing for everyone. Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates or Barrack and Michelle Obama. Michelle was Barrack Obama’s boss at the law firm where they both worked and I’d say that turned out to be a rather productive relationship.

I think the American military has similar policies to McDonald’s and as a result, a very senior military advisor was recently forced to retire early when it was disclosed he’d had an affair with another officer. The military may have specific reasons for their policy, but I don’t think any corporation has the right to dictate to its workers that they cannot become romantically involved. It has no business in the bedrooms of its employees, but I do think discretion on the part of coworkers is essential. As long they are doing their job and their relationship is not negatively impacting their performance, then the employer should have no say in the matter. If I’d worked for companies with such out-dated policies I’d probably be an old maid today instead of enjoying my life with someone I love and share a similar value system with. I feel for ya’ Steve Easterbrook. I hope your next employer is more open-minded. What do you think?

 

 

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A little whine about about my little wine problem. The good, the bad and the what happened?

This aging baby boomer has a confession. I just can’t drink like I used to. Some of us can’t. Has it happened to you? Liquor never was my personal cup of tea. I dislike the taste of rye whiskey; I hate gin; scotch burns too much going down, and because you can’t taste it, I think vodka is just a waste of money, unless you’re drinking it solely for the buzz. But it’s the buzz that I’ve come to be concerned about. In fact, for me, the buzz now feels more like the burrr! Where I once became all swoony and romantic after a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio, I can barely get through a single glass now without getting an instant mild hangover. Not to mention, there’s a distinct possibility that I could fall asleep right in front of your eyes.

Those were the days, my friend.

Each of us has our own personal history of drinking. For me, it started in the sixties with the boomer’s ubiquitous bubbly of choice, Mateus, a sweet rosé. Those empty wide-bellied bottles lent themselves beautifully to what we young boomers considered to be sophisticated candle holders in our not-so-sophisticated singles’ digs. Friends could always be counted on to bring a bottle to a party; it was cheap and everyone liked it because it was one step up from drinking pop. Our nights in the pub were always accompanied by a table full of draft beer, again because it was cheap and we calculated we were getting more bang for our buck. I certainly swilled my share of whatever was on tap even though I never was a huge fan of beer, except on a really hot day.

Over the years, my tastes have progressed, although I can’t actually say they’ve improved. In my attempts to be one of the cool urbanites, I went through a DuBonnet phase, a Blue Nun phase and a particularly nasty Black Tower phase back in the 70s, the details of which I won’t go into. Then, about 20 years ago, I discovered Pinot Grigio and we had a love match. The colder the better. In fact, I prefer it with ice because as a friend pointed out, as the ice melts, it lasts longer. I did learn the hard way, though, never to drink at a business lunch. If I did, the afternoon was a complete loss. I’d feel discombobulated and in serious need of a nap. Because I worked in the construction industry, boozy lunches weren’t uncommon (things were different in the 70s and 80s. Remember Mad Men?) and the men I lunched with didn’t seem to be encumbered with my problem of after-effects.

When my husband and I first got together (he’s the one who introduced me to Pino Grigio), we’d enjoy long dinners with lengthy conversations often lasting three or four hours, over multiple bottles of wine and good food. I’m sure you’ve noticed how multiple glasses of wine enhances conversation! I enjoyed the taste; I enjoyed the buzz and I could handle it without getting too sloppy or stupid. But, all good things must come to an end. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the transformation began, but I started to notice I felt terrible, even ill after a few glasses of my favourite PG. Sadly, my ration is now down to about one glass a week, on a Saturday night with a nice meal. But the effects begin before I’m even half-way through my glass.

My ability to always be able to handle my alcohol intake has definite upsides. I’ve never had to worry about whether I drink too much. My liver is probably as good as new and I never have to apologize the next day for bad behaviour—well, at least not as the result of drinking. I could never be an alcoholic although considering my taste and lack of resistance to President’s Choice (Made in France) chocolate almond bars and Kawartha Dairy’s Rocky Road ice-cream, I do sympathize with addiction issues. We all have our Achilles’ heel.

Getting drunk or getting high has never been something that appeals to me. I prefer to be mostly in control of my faculties at all times but I do love my cold white wine, particularly the first cold, crisp couple of sips. Umm good. But as time goes on, I’m being robbed of the pleasure of enjoying anything more than a 6-oz. glass of Santa Margherita and that restriction just pisses me off.

I’ve tried switching to red wine but that’s not where my tastes lie. I do enjoy a few silky sips of Tignanello, an amazing Brunello, but at around $100.00 a bottle, that’s never going to occupy a spot on our wine rack. No wonder it’s (supposedly) Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex’s favourite. At that price, you need to be a Duchess to afford it, so I’ll never find out if I’m able to handle more than a glass. I was first introduced to it when we toured the Antinori Winery in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago. Talk about spoiling you by upselling.  As for wine alternatives, I’m reserving the gummy bear option for when my joints (!!) become too painful to manage. Hopefully, not until I’m in ‘the home’.

In the meantime, like sailors of old who were issued a tot of rum a day, I’m rationed one small glass of white wine a week. Ugh! Does anyone else have a problem with their wine consumption? Are we doomed to a life of abstinence?

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Are self-checkouts a good thing or a bad thing?

Checking out directly on your cart definitely has its advantages.

There was an item on the news this week that demonstrated the future of in-store grocery shopping. Sobey’s is test-driving new shopping carts that allow you to scan your items as soon as you pull them off the shelf. Each cart is equipped with a product scanner and sensors so you can scan your purchases immediately and drop them into your (recyclable) shopping bags sitting open in the cart. Easy peasy. No checkout clerk required. And special sensors in the cart alert you if you “forget” to scan something, preventing unscrupulous shoppers from circumventing the honour system.

Although I like the idea of getting in and out of the grocery store in as little time as possible, I have mixed feelings about this new innovation. It would be wonderful to avoid checkout lineups and the process of unloading your purchases from your cart onto a conveyor belt, then having to reload them again into your bags to go to the car. It would also prevent being subjected to clerks trying to sell me the deodorant special of the week, and the lure of gossipy magazines I tend to pick up while killing time in the lineup.

My biggest concern with self-checkouts, however, is the loss of service jobs that provide essential employment for so many semi-skilled and unskilled workers. It’s no small matter. Those service jobs are disappearing everywhere at a time when we need them. McDonald’s is using computerized graphic boards so customers can customize and place their own orders, once again by-passing the human clerk. To their credit, they have compensated for the employment issue by using staff/team members to deliver trays of food to the table in many outlets,a nice little bonus. Shoppers Drug Mart is now introducing self-checkout as well and I always opt for using a real live person to make my purchases—again because of the jobs issue. Self-serve bank machines and gas pumps were early examples of machines replacing people. Somehow we were easily tricked into doing the service providers’ work ourselves with no apparent benefit. We now have to wash our own windshields and even pay service fees to the banks for using our own money.

The voice of customer service is not the same as the face of customer service.

With so many commercial transactions now being conducted online, businesses are increasingly using their customers to do the work of what we used to call ‘Customer Service’. Even customer service has now come to mean an anonymous voice in a remote call-centre, an impersonal job staffed by people in third-world countries who speak English as a second language. Despite their scripted words, “I understand”, they rarely do.

Sobey’s executives have tried to assure customers that jobs will not be lost and they insist the people who were formerly checkout clerks will be working elsewhere in the store. I’m skeptical about this even though I would love to have personnel on the floor who could quickly and correctly direct me to where the maraschino cherries are located.

When boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, large supermarkets were just starting to take off. Many of our mothers still did their grocery shopping in small local stores—meat from a butcher shop, produce from the greengrocer or perhaps all the weekly groceries at a small local general store. Bread and milk were delivered to our door by nice uniformed men in trucks. If you’re a particularly mature boomer like me, you may even remember the iceman bringing blocks of ice a couple of times a week. He’d usually break off some small chunks onto the sidewalk for us kids to chew on and cool off on a hot day. And we didn’t die or even get sick from eating ice off the sidewalk. We loved it.

My father grew up in a rural community, even smaller than the one I grew up in. The local village was basically a few buildings at the intersection of two roads. A weekly trip to the general store was a big deal. Dad told me that his father would dress up in his suit and tie for the weekly trip “into town” and sit on the front porch of the store catching up on the news with the other local men while their wives did the weekly shopping. And there’s a lot to be said for having a store clerk who knows your Aunt Mildred had her gall bladder out and asks how she’s doing. Catching up on who just had a baby or whose combine broke down was an early version of Facebook but conducted in person.

Seriously? What is happening to living in and enjoying the moment of one-on-one conversation with in-the-flesh friends.

Human beings need personal, real-life interaction with other human beings. It’s a fundamental part of our makeup and conducive to good health. We hear a lot about the plague of loneliness among the elderly but I suspect it’s not just older people who feel starved of human connection. It’s tragic to see a table full of young people in a restaurant or coffee shop each focussed on their smartphones, communicating with others at a distance who are obviously more important in their lives than whoever they’re sitting with. We risk losing the art of meaningful conversation. It won’t be long before even wait staff in restaurants will be replaced by smart devices on each table that allow us to place our order. Then, we’ll even be deprived of the opportunity to say “Yes. Everything’s fine, thank you” to a real human being.

I’m torn on the self-checkout issue. Are they a good thing or a bad thing? On one hand, I like the idea of avoiding the lineup at the cashier’s counter. But that cashier probably needs the job and I enjoy exchanging a few words with him or her. I usually try to make their day a little less boring by telling them I like their hair or asking them if they have special plans for the weekend. We all need that human connection. As to whether self-checkouts are a good thing or a bad thing, one thing we know for sure, self-checkouts are an inevitable thing, whether we like it or not. I plan to avoid them as much as possible. What about you?

Footnote: Two weeks later I went into my Shoppers’ Drug Mart and the self-checkout machines had disappeared, replaced by a conventional checkout with a real-life human being. Victory for our side and one small step for humankind.

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What’s your binge-worthy substance of choice?

 

Guilty. And I have the pounds to prove it.

Some of us (including me) binge on ice-cream or cookies. Others may binge-watch television sports or Downton Abbey. The beauty of streaming and ‘On Demand’ is that we can now watch what we want, when we want and that’s pretty wonderful. For those of us who binge on snack foods, packagers offer individual 100-calorie serving sizes of snacks and treats which theoretically makes it easier to not binge, but that’s a fool’s game. We just eat several packages. Who’s kidding who? I must confess to binge-watching a few television shows that I discovered after they’ve already peaked. But the chief culprit of my bingeing is reading. When I’m into a good book, the goings-on in the rest of the world cease to be.

Unfortunately, my level of productivity in household chores is inversely proportional to the skill level of the author I’m currently reading. In other words, when I’m reading a good book, nothing else gets done. Sometimes it’s better if I don’t pick up a new book when I’ve finished another one. That allows me to drift aimlessly around looking for things to do around the house. And, as we all know, one chore often leads to another—we have to keep going before we lose momentum. After I’ve washed the kitchen floor, I’m thinking I’d better haul out the ironing board before I run out of ‘steam’.

I’ve just lost the last few days of my life to another book. I even managed to stay up ‘way past midnight reading in bed—just the next couple of pages . . . just a couple more pages. It’s a slippery slope. It’s unbelievably easy to waste away a complete day when the weather is above 70 degrees (F) and I can park myself in the backyard in my outdoor LaZgirl. I read, nap, read, nap. Then, before you know it, it’s dinner time and I have to come into the house and pretend I’ve had a productive day.

But the evidence is clear. The grocery shopping didn’t get done. Dinner is something microwaveable that includes as many healthy food groups as I can fake in one package. The kitchen floor is still sticky. The dog is begging to go for a walk. The only sign I’ve done anything all day is my eyes are tired from being directed at the pages of a book for hours at a stretch, and definitely not from cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming the floors. And I’m pretty sure all that time I spent on FaceBook doesn’t qualify as productive.

Now that I’ve finished the latest Kate Atkinson novel, I’m facing a dilemma. Should I crack open another book or should I attack some of my household chores? There’s a basket of ironing, which I actually don’t find to be a chore when I set up in front of the TV and watch my PVR’d shows. The dog needs to be walked; that’s good for both of us and the weather’s fine so that’s not a chore either. The kitchen floor needs to be washed. I have some sewing alterations to do but that involves going down to my sewing machine in the basement which isn’t likely to happen in the next couple of months, what with the dog needing walking and all. And, I’m terrified to face all those shelves of crap we’ve accumulated in the basement that should be sorted and disposed of. Scary prospect. Best to avoid the basement. If I can restrain myself from starting another book, I might actually get something else done.

I do multi-task sometimes, although at my advanced age I try not to exert myself too much. In the evenings I read books and magazines while I binge-watch my TV programmes. Apart from my regular PVR’d shows like Baroness Von Sketch, The Social, CityLine and The Marilyn Denis Show, I’m currently working my “On Demand” way through The Loudest Voice, the story of Roger Ailes of FOX TV fame. I’ve already exhausted Fleabag, Letterkenny, and every British drama, comedy or crime show that managed to reach our Canadian airwaves. My husband pretty much has a monopoly on all the sports channels which he could watch 24/7. How he can tell one football game from another is a mystery to me. All they do is run and fall down, run and fall down. Boring. Fortunately, we have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ televisions. The secret to a happy marriage—and headphones, of course.

I described my ice-cream bingeing in an earlier post (click here for I’m on the Rocky Road to death by ice-cream) and had to put a halt to that. I would stand at the kitchen counter eating it directly out of the container until I felt sick. Needless to say, I’m paying for that slip with an extra ten pounds that will not be easy to shed. Reading is much more virtuous although not entirely non-fattening as it involves sitting on my ever-expanding derrière for lengthy periods of time. But reading is free (I download most of my books from the library), mind-expanding, doesn’t disturb the neighbours, is pollution-free, and sooooo satisfying. During all those years in the working world, all I wanted to do when I retired is sit in a comfortable chair and catch up on all the reading I never had time for. And that’s pretty much what I’m doing . . . living the dream. Have book . . . will binge. What’s your substance of choice?

 

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It’s time to dump disposable fashion. Shop your closet

The retailers may die but disposable fashion lives on . . . in landfill around the world, polluting our planet.

 

The closing of Forever 21 retail outlets across Canada is a good news/bad news story. On one hand, it’s a realization that consumers are beginning to reject the disposable clothing culture, but on the other hand, it means lost jobs for young people who often get their first working experience in retail.  One of my favourite bloggers, retired university professor and fashionista Lyn Slater, The Accidental Icon posted a piece last week Clothes and Relationship: What’s Yours? about recognizing the importance of cutting back on the amount of clothing that ends up in landfill. She’s working with a designer to restyle her current pieces into something new and in keeping with her avante garde style.

The problems associated with the disposable clothing industry are not only about the actual disposal of the used clothing, but about the effects of production on the environment and human rights issues related to the labour used as well as the manufacturing and distribution of this clothing. Cheap clothing manufacturing has a serious affect on the world’s water supply and is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions.

Perhaps closing 350 Forever 21 stores is the beginning of much-needed change. Just one generation ago, we discarded only one-third of the clothing we do now. Clear recognition that we have to be much more discriminating about what we purchase and discard has prompted me to resurrect a piece I wrote one year ago. Its relevance is becoming more acute. Bottom line: shop your closet.

What is disposable fashion?

Are you sitting down? Burberry recently incinerated $37 million worth of their luxury brand merchandise that didn’t sell. Rather than dilute the cachet of their brand by offering it at discounted prices to the great unwashed masses (like us), they torched it. It must be lovely to have a business with such generous markups and profit margins that you can afford to just set fire to $37 million. That act of destruction reminded me of how casually we treat our possessions regardless of the cost. Not only are fashions from Zara, The Gap, H&M and other mass retailers treated as disposable fashion, so are premium brands. Our “affluenza” and consumerism has reached ridiculous proportions.

Natalie Atkinson’s recent piece in The Globe and Mail about extending the life of your personal possessions was a reminder that we need to be more thoughtful about what we buy and conscientious about managing our belongings. It came on the heels of a sobering documentary Clothing Waste – Fashion’s Dirty Secret which aired recently on CBC’s Marketplace. Both pieces highlighted the negative effects of disposable clothing on the environment and the facts presented left me feeling ashamed and totally committed to changing my wanton ways.

I used to feel vindicated when I dropped off old clothing at a charity bin until I saw on Marketplace what happens to my donations. Giant bales of excess used clothing sit in warehouses until they’re shipped to places like Africa or India. They’re then sold in street markets as used clothing—which seems all fine and dandy—until we’re shown the piles of clothing being burned behind the stalls—clothing that doesn’t sell. Brand names like Tommy Hilfinger, H&M, Old Navy and others, all go up in smoke. Even third world countries don’t want or don’t know what to do with our cast-offs.

From here . . .

We didn’t start off this way

When boomers were growing up we didn’t have the vast, disposable wardrobes we see today. In addition to a few everyday school clothes, we had a good Sunday outfit which did double duty for going to birthday parties or Christmas concerts. One winter coat, one pair of boots, one pair of everyday school shoes and one pair of good shoes was the norm and they lasted until we outgrew them. Our parents’ wardrobes were equally modest. Some of us perhaps remember our fathers having shoes resoled to extend their life. I grew up in a house built in the 1880s with no closets. My spartan wardrobe was either folded in a couple of dresser drawers or hung on hooks on the back of my bedroom door and I did just fine with fewer items.

To here . . .

How far we’ve fallen. How many boomer gals have commandeered the entire master bedroom closet for racks of clothes (many of which we don’t wear or they don’t fit) and relegated our partners’ clothes to the spare bedroom closet? It’s an insidious process, a slippery slope and regular culling, unfortunately, invites more buying.

When I first started working in 1965, I was thrilled to finally have my own money to spend on mini dresses, shoes and even fabric to sew my own version of Twiggy-inspired fashion. How could we not fall in love with what fashion was offering in the sixties? It was a total transformation from boring and practical to colourful and fun. We wanted more. Over the years, boomer gals have spent small fortunes on dressing for success, weekend wear and special event dresses. To this day I’m still filled with self-loathing when I think that I spent the equivalent of nearly a week’s wages on that burgundy ultra-suede suit that I wore for one season in the seventies. Then, there are all the matching shoes, purses, coats, jackets, accessories—well, you get the picture. Who among us wouldn’t love to have some of that wasted money now earning interest in our RRSP.

And, finally, here.

What to do, starting with myself:

I know my triggers. From now on I’m going to be more discriminating about what I purchase and avoid the following potential hazards:

  1. Trips to the mall just acquaint me with more things I do not need so I’ll minimize the number of times I visit the mall. Ditto for internet shopping.
  2. Fashion magazines are bait for suckers like me. Seeing something I like starts me longing for it. See Item 1 above.
  3. When I see things on women’s television shows that include fashion and home decorating segments I’m motivated to shop. I’d be further ahead reading my books or going for a walk instead of watching those programs.
  4. Comparing myself with the beautiful people is counterproductive. How often do we think if we just had that blouse, that bracelet, that designer handbag or pair of sunglasses, our lives would be complete.
  5. Advertising for the latest skincare or makeup product guaranteed to solve all our problems is so tempting and generally a complete waste of money. I have to work on tuning out the marketing ‘noise’ and stick with whatever basics work for me.
  6. The wellness industry including thousands of websites such as GOOP are constantly setting us up to think we need improving with supplements, diets, cleanses and other new age gimmicks that are generally a waste of money. Tune out.

This is not a definitive list but it’s a good start. These steps are actionable immediately and would make a difference not only in my self-esteem and the environment but more importantly, my bank account. We can still feel great about ourselves without being sucked into the vortex of disposable fashion, useless health and beauty products and general consumerism. Regular culling of our closets and shopping our closets serves to remind us that we already have too much and we should be much more discriminating about what we buy. I’ll definitely buy into that. Starting now. What about you?

http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2015-2016/clothing-waste-fashions-dirty-secret

http://fortune.com/2018/07/19/burberry-burns-millions/

 

 

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Jesse Thistle recounts his life From The Ashes of drugs and addiction to a life of helping others

When I saw Jesse Thistle interviewed on CTV’s The Social and heard his remarkable story, I just knew I had to read his memoir, From The Ashes, My Story of  Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. It’s an honest, horrific recounting of his journey from being a homeless drug addict living on the streets of various cities for many years and serving time in prison multiple times, then rebuilding his life to become an Assistant Professor at York University in Toronto. Stories like this always inspire me and give me hope for others in his situation.

Jesse Thistle’s physical and spiritual journey began when he was born to a teenage Cree mother in Saskatchewan and a young alcoholic, drug-addicted white father. Their brief marriage was turbulent from the beginning but did result in three sons, Josh, Jerry and Jesse. By the time the youngest, Jesse was three years old, his mother had abandoned them and they were living in a fetid, filthy apartment with their useless father who couldn’t feed them and often left them alone in the apartment at the ages of three, four and five. When a neighbour called authorities, they were temporarily placed in an inhospitable foster home before their paternal grandparents traveled from Brampton, Ontario to pick them up and take them back to Ontario to live with them.

It wasn’t easy for anyone. The grandparents were older and once again faced with raising three young boys but they did their best. The boys’ father, Sonny was a lost cause. The grandfather was a working member of the union of elevator constructors and their grandmother did her best to keep the three boys fed, clothed, disciplined and safe. The boys missed their mother but adjusted to the strict rules of their grandparents’ home. They attended school in Brampton but Jesse, in particular, fell in with a crowd of misbehavers and rebels. All three boys were strong fighters and regularly got into scraps in the schoolyard or neighbourhood.

From this Jesse Thistle (his mug shots). . .

Before long, Jesse was smoking, doing drugs, stealing and skipping classes. At the age of 14, his grandfather got him a job stocking produce at a local store which helped to temporarily keep him out of trouble and allowed him to earn his own money. When his grandfather refused to let Jesse buy his own car because his grandfather worried about his impulse control, Jesse withdrew all his bank savings and blew the money on alcohol and drugs. He eventually dropped out of school and with an old childhood friend, embarked on a life of crime, drugs and homelessness.

As his addictions and crimes escalated, his health and general well-being deteriorated. Despite life-threatening health scares and injuries resulting from his reckless lifestyle, he managed to stay alive, but barely. His brothers kept in touch and often provided accommodation when he was at his most desperate. His oldest brother, Josh became an RCMP officer and sent Jesse money to attend his wedding in Vancouver where they were briefly reunited with their mother.

Reading From The Ashes reminded me of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces that I read a few years ago. What Jesse experienced during his years of addiction and life on the streets was horrific and with each new chapter that I read, I kept hoping this would be the one where he finally reached rock bottom and “saw the light”. But, instead, one horror lead to another and the years went on. During his final stint in prison, he opted to serve his time in a last-resort rehab facility in Ottawa where he slowly and with a great deal of dedication and determination started putting the pieces of his life back together. He continued his studies to complete high school and graduated while incarcerated. His sense of recall is amazing considering he spent so many years in the stupor of drugs and addiction.

To this Jesse Thistle, Assistant Professor, winner of Governor General’s Academic Medal, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Scholar and Vanier Scholar, poet, and Ph.D. candidate.

After earning his way back into normal society, he reconnected with old friends from his Brampton high school days who were not engaged in crime and addiction. He went to work for his uncle, built new friendships and started a romantic relationship with Lucie, a woman he had known in high school. With her support and encouragement, he earned a university degree and is now working on his Ph.D. Jesse Thistle is now an Assistant Professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto. I didn’t mean this to be a spoiler alert as his book From The Ashes is obviously a story of rebirth and reinvention. It’s absolutely fascinating and I could not put it down. Please do yourself a favour and read Jesse Thistle’s story. It’s honest, brutal, articulate, educational and inspiring. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

 

 

To order a copy of 

From The Ashes by Jesse Thistle, from Amazon,

click here.

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