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Stress, the big city, and food.

Posted 2/25/2014 8:01am by Samantha.

The past two days have been the most unusual I've had in years and years. I'm writing this not from the living room of my farm house after finishing up chores and whilst making cheese, but from a small cramped hotel room 14 stories off the ground in the city of Toronto. No, the farm life didn't get the best of me and I haven't run away. If I had, I can assure you it wouldn't be to here.

I'm here for my husband. Some of you may know that he has worked as a Paramedic even longer than I've known him, and at this point, I've known him for more than half my entire life. He loves his job, and he's excellent at it. It was his good and steady income from being a Paramedic that gave us the finances we needed to purchase land and start farming years ago.

He's been a paramedic for over 22 years. He began working for free for many years as a volunteer Paramedic, until he completed his schooling and found a full time job. He's seen a lot of crazy things over the years. He's held many a hand of the sick, injured, and dying. He's seen violence, where there should have been love, and misery where there should been happiness. He's always done his best to bring God's love with him whenever he's at work. Some days he does that better than others.

The things he sees and has to do never bother him. Much like when I was a licensed Funeral Director & Embalmer, you learn to focus on the good things, and you let go of the bad stuff. Most days, his job is basic and there is no stress. Just bringing people to the hospital for appointments, and back home again. Silly calls where people think they need an ambulance, but probably need a good nights sleep more. Calls where a family member feels a little ill, and the other ten family members there can't take one of the 5 cars in the driveway to drive the person to the hospital themselves.

Once in a while, things get a little more hairy. Vehicular accidents, farm accidents, and other major calls demand more of Paramedics. He's always been able to deal with the ups and downs of the job. He lets go of the bad stuff, and is always ready to handle the next call to come in. Then he had a really bad call.

One day he had a call so bad they sent him and his partner home afterward. They NEVER send you home. Having bad calls is what Paramedics do. If they had to send the Paramedics home after bad calls, there would be no one there when you call an ambulance. But one day, they sent him home. 

I still remember that day very clearly. I was working in the house, and I heard a car pull up. I went to see who it was, and I assumed he had come home early because he was feeling unwell. Why else would he come home hours before his shift ended? He then tells me that he was sent home. I would have thought he was fired, except he didn't look upset. Thinking back on it now, he actually looked a bit shell shocked, but I was so surprised to see him home, that I didn't really think on it much.

He told me that there had been a bad call and they sent him and his partner home. What?!? Now I'm worried. What on earth kind of call could he have possibly been to that they sent the guys home after?

It was a bad call. It was a young boy that he and his partner had met the week before for one of those silly calls. The kind where you don't really need to call an ambulance, but it was called anyways. It was a fun call. The boy was nice, wasn't really injured, and they met his family too. They talked about lots of things, and what plans and hopes the young boy had for Christmas which was right around the corner. Then a week later, a call to the same place, but this time my husband saw the boy die in front of him. Not by anyones hand, but in a tragic, heartbreaking accident at school. Our hearts ache for this family that lost their son, and we still wonder to this day how they are now.

Everyone else there at the scene was unable to function. So my husband did what he does best. He took control of the situation, and he completed the call. Then the ambulance supervisor drove them back to base, then sent them both home and told them to take a few days off. 

My husband was fine for a long time. Or so I thought. But then the whole family started to notice subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes in him. He was eventually diagnosed with PTSD, which is being diagnosed more frequently in Paramedics, more than in other emergency service jobs. In Canada, the current rate of Paramdics that make it to retirement is only about 4%. The rest just can't do it.

He took some time off, learned some great coping skills, then went back to work. But PTSD is a brain injury. Like any physical injury, once it is there, it's easy to get re-injured. The symptoms came back recently, and he's now having some assessments done in the city of Toronto.

When I found out he would have to travel to Toronto for a few days, I wasn't worried. I've managed both farms on my own before. It's not fun, but I can do it. And the pace of life isn't as crazy this time of year. So I wasn't worried. Until I was told that the assessments are potentially stressful enough that he would need an escort with him, and the best person to escort him would be me. 

So now I'm worried for my husband, (what exactly are they going to do to him?!?) and worried about how to manage the farm and the kids if I'm gone. I've not left the farm for more than a few hours in years and years. Thankfully, our family stepped up to the plate. My in-laws would come and look after the kids, and make sure our wood stove stayed lit during the coldest winter we've had in a long time. My sister would learn to milk the cows, and tend to all the other chores.

Then, after all the preparations, I have to get on a train, and hope that nothing goes wrong while we're gone. Lots of things did go wrong the first day, and I haven't heard yet about what's happened today, but I'm sure the adventure continues. I'll have to ask my sister to write a blog about what happened on the farm whilst we were gone!

Spending these two short days in the city has made me think about lots of things in a new way. I look outside the hotel room window, and I'm fortunate enough to have a view of a little courtyard below. It's winter and the trees are bare, so I can clearly see that there are 36 trees and just over a dozen shrubs down there. 36 trees and a bunch of shrubs surrounded by skyscrapers and a few thousand people in the space of a city block. How many more little courtyards are there like this? Hopefully lots more.

Exhaust from buildings bellows out of all the roof tops I can see. People hurry about on the ground bundled against the cold and wind. The occasional person walks their dog to the little spot with the 36 trees. I can't imagine the extra work of keeping a dog in the city, and I wonder how my old farm dog and my still-a-puppy farm dog are fairing at home.

When we venture out of the hotel, the sights and sounds are almost overwhelming to me. There is more than my eyes can take in. I wonder how people manage to have so much input for their brains to process each day and still go to work and have energy for their families. I begin to understand how it is that people put mental blinders on when they are outside, or why they focus so intently on their little hand held devices. Maybe it's to shut out some of the input that they don't want, or need, or can't handle.

I am in awe of the vast amount of electricity being used at all hours of the day. I cannot even begin to comprehend that massive amount of electricity and water being used in our hotel, let alone in the whole city.

When I'm on the farm, and I walk around our property, there is an infinite amount of things to see and take in, but it doesn't seem to overwhelm my senses like the city does. There is always sights, sounds, smells, and movement from animals, birds, trees, insects and so on, but somehow my brain can manage this. So why does it feel like my senses are being bombarded and overcome in the city? 

People need nature. We need it on a deep cellular level, our spirit craves and desires to be in nature. Being in nature is healing to the soul, like hitting the reset button on a piece of equipment that is jammed up and no longer working properly. 

At home, my family is blessed to not only be surrounded by nature, but to be eating naturally too. And now, having spent this short time in the city, I better understand why our city dwelling customers get so excited about our food. If you can't be in nature, you need to be eating it. In every bite of fresh, real food, there is within the healing touch of nature. Instead of having nature surround you, your body benefits from the experience of nature internally with every meal you consume.

We brought some food with us, but had no way to pack two days worth of food, especially when I packed all the paperwork from my home office to sort and organize while my husband was away for his appointments during the day.

So, we are left to consume the foods and drinks that are available in the city on our extremely limited budget. The hotel food makes my stomach churn, which shocks me almost as much as the high price of the tasteless food, as I've got a stomach like a coyote and can eat most anything.

We head to the massive grocery store that used to be Maple Leaf Gardens, and are so pleased to see lots of 'organic' signs through the windows in the huge produce section. But, when we go inside, it's only a very small portion of the fruits and veg that are actually organic. The signs have been positioned to make more of it look organic from the outside.

I can't imagine having to live in the city, and not being able to eat farm fresh food every day. It makes me want to go home and work ever harder to provide our customers with the best food I can for them and their growing children. I want to provide them this food so they can survive and thrive in the midst of the chaos and pollution the city must throw at them.

Working a farm can be hard, unrelenting work at times. But this little foray into the city has steeled me to keep on when those hard days come. It will be midnight when we arrive home tonight, and we will be tired tomorrow. There will be two days worth of work that I will need to catch up on, but it will be worth it.

It will fill my heart with joy to see my beautiful kids again, and to go and see my sweet cows, funny pigs, and quirky chickens. I will be able to breath the fresh air, take in the sights and sounds of the countryside, eat some good food, and drink a big, tall glass of fresh milk.

Returning home will be like hitting my reset button.

Glass of milk