Grab a cup of tea and snuggle up for a minute because it’s story time. I’m going to be brave and tell you the story of how this blog came to be and where it’s going. Right now the first few lines of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song is playing in my head and it’s ridiculous how much this applies.
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down…
I think I was born a teacher. The oldest of three kids born close together, I was constantly in trouble for leading my siblings into mischief. Even if I wasn’t any where near the trouble maker, I was often scolded, “Well, they must have learned it from you, Heather. Where else could they have learned such a thing?” Thankfully I outgrew my mischief making days and managed to teach a few good skills along the way.
I began cooking at 12 years old when my mother went back to college. So, by the time I was a senior in high school, I was doing most of the week night cooking in our home. I remember vividly the day my sister realized I would soon be leaving for college.
“But, who’s going to cook the chicken broccoli casserole?” she wailed.
“You are!” I cried.
Dragging her into the kitchen, I demonstrated all the necessary steps for making her favorite dish. It didn’t keep her from begging me to cook every time I came home from college for a visit, but at least she wasn’t totally deprived of all her favorites. Now she’s a very talented baker who runs her own cupcake catering business and makes the most delicious cookies I’ve ever tasted. I wish I could take credit for all of that!
After finishing a degree in education, I landed the perfect teaching gig: Stay at home mom. It was a 24/7, on the job-training, exhausting and exhilarating kind of job, but I loved it. Mostly. It doesn’t pay well, but the benefits package is priceless!
Then, in 2012, I was asked to take on a new teaching role. Our local food pantry was trying to bring Cooking Matters to our neighborhood, but they needed someone to teach the cooking lessons. I was thrilled and the more I researched the program, the more I fell in love with it. According to their site, Cooking Matters is a program that “empowers families with the skills to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals so their children get nutritious food at home.” That was something that touched a deep desire in my soul.
I’d already been working with the homeless in our community, serving meals at a local church who was trying to make a feed the desperately hungry in our poorest neighborhood, but every effort felt like little more than a drop in the bucket. I even began to worry if we were actually making things worse for some of these families who had grown dependent on the daily lunches we were serving. What would happen if the leader of our program (an elderly woman with severe health issues) was no longer able to keep serving? There was no one to take her place and I knew that without her, many of these families would have nothing to eat each day. I suspected our food pantry clients were in a similar situation. There had to be a better way. I felt the true solution to hunger in our area must be found in teaching them skills that empowered them to live healthier lives. But how? Cooking Matters sought to do just that and I fell in love.
Our first class was incredible, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. By now I’d seen the power that this type of education could give to an individual, no matter how poor. My students were not only fed, they were inspired! They came back to each class telling how they had cooked healthy meals for their kids – and they loved it – how they had told their neighbors about the classes and now the neighbors were waiting on their doorsteps each week to see what delicious treats they’d brought home. We even had a student host a dinner party, inviting all his neighbors to come and taste what he had learned. They all wanted to join our next class. It was incredible!
I began to dream about doing more. What if I could teach these classes all the time? I could even develop more lessons that were aimed at families who didn’t qualify for Cooking Matters, but who were struggling to feed their families healthy food on tight budgets. What if I had a cafe and could teach classes, feed our neighbors healthy delicious meals, even deliver to the many elderly residents who can’t get out to shop for themselves or safely stand to cook anymore? What if…
Well, dreaming became praying and praying led to a whole lot of soul searching and next thing I knew, doors were opening all around me. It seemed God had been listening, and to be honest, I think he’d orchestrated the whole thing (He’s amazing like that.) I got a call from the director at our church camp who was looking to hire a kitchen manager and he’d heard I was interested. Then, I got accepted to culinary school. My husband was at a meeting and he heard a lecture on developing non-profits to help solve health issues in our community and next thing I know I have a stream of text messages coming in that start, “What if…”
We began dreaming the What If and soon I was actually moving forward into that big unknown trying to find the right path into our future. I still don’t know exactly what it is or what it looks like, but it goes something like this…
What if I could help feed the desperately hungry in our city?
What if I could help them learn to help themselves by sharing my education with them and providing tools they need to succeed?
What if I could connect them to other resources that could lead to a more stable future for them and their families?
What if I could help moms and dads to gather their children around the dinner table each night?
What if I could teach them to cook healthier foods without breaking their budget?
What if I could be part of the solution and help others around me to see that we can all step up and help someone to live a healthier, happier life?
And so, this is where I am. My life is turning upside down as I work to find answers to those questions. It leads me to some strange places and to the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. This blog is just a tiny window into all that is happening inside of me and around me, but I hope it will encourage you to ask your own questions and pursue the answers with all of your might.
What’s your what if?