WITHOUT ROOTS WE ARE NOTHING

“A tree with strong roots laughs at storms”  Malay Proverb

A good friend of mine has worked in the hairdressing industry for years.  She worked hard at her craft and became an expert in her area.  She had clients from all over who drove many miles to see her.  I was one of those clients, I met her when I was 18 and as soon as I met her I knew our business relationship would be a long one.  We are close in age and as Melissa grew her clientele and moved to different salons, I followed her on her journey.  It wasn’t just her talent at cutting hair, it was her warmth and down to earth nature that made you feel like she knew you forever and that you mattered.  You just weren’t another person in her chair, you were someone important.

A few years ago, Melissa decided to hone her craft and learn the art of being a barber.  Once she learned the basic techniques in barber school, Melissa set out to get to the roots of what it is to be a barber.  She volunteered for an organization called Street Thug Barbers.  A non-profit organization that goes into areas in the city that is considered out-of-bounds to most people from stable areas.   Street Thug Barbers set up barber chairs and offer their services for free for any soul who needs a haircut.    Melissa joined this group and once a week cut hair for people from all walks of life. There were no fancy salons, no fancy chairs, no fancy cut or dyes, just a simple chair out in the open and simple-minded barbers cutting hair for anyone who needed a haircut giving these souls the gift of dignity and making them feel like they were part of humanity.  They may be called Street Thug Barbers but these men and women also offer free hugs.  Something people in these area don’t experience much.   Everyone is treated with love and respect rather than being ignored and treated like they don’t matter.  Melissa learned much from this experience and she told me that most of what she learned was about herself and that the experience of meeting and cutting hair for these souls opened her soul in ways that she could never have imagined.

Unknown to Melissa, she was about to have some serious dips in her life as she found herself unexpectedly unemployed and in litigation with her formal employer for wrongful dismissal.  She eventually settled her situation but it was a good year of frightening change for her and her finances were seriously set back.  She still continued to volunteer for Street Thug Barbers and she found that the work she did with this organization saved her in more ways than one.  Melissa is a very artistic person and she wanted to get to the roots of being a barber and learn her craft.  Through the contacts she made with Street Thug Barbers, she started working in a Chinatown barber shop that has been in existence since 1919.  Melissa felt she would get to the root of the barber industry by working in a place that was clearly all about roots.  She worked most days solo where no one spoke English.  All demanded impeccable work and wanted it done in 12 minutes for $8.00.  In Melissa’s words “until you can do a flawless skin fade in 12 minutes on someone who cannot speak English to tell you what they want, you haven’t stretched yourself.  The knowledge, experience and connection to community I attained while being in the little shop grew me in places I thought I had peaked in my life. ”  Melissa told me that she learned more from an 84-year-old Chinese barber who spoke no English than she had learned from anyone.

Melissa dove into the history and roots of a true original barbershop and let those lessons absorb deep down into her skin, hands, mind and soul and as she branches out on her own, those deep connections with a barbershop, dated back to 1919, root her in ways that she didn’t think was possible.  Melissa’s story is one of truths proving that it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much education you have or the status in your job.  If you don’t have roots, you will never weather the storm.  Deep roots is not established in our society.  I constantly hear complaints of the young working class coming into the workforce not wanting to work, don’t want to get down to the nitty-gritty, they want everything, title, job and money with no knowledge or work.  They disrespect their elders and don’t have strong work ethics.  Respect and strong work ethic will take you further than qualifications or references.

There are two gifts we can give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.   It is my hope that my boys can look at me when I’m ancient and understand that they are seeing roots, roots so deeply grounded that the trunk and branches born from those roots will be with them forever.

 

THE LIFE I WANT

“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.” – Pooh

I recently read a story about a rich business man and a fisherman, the story goes like this:

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

The irony wasn’t lost on me.  We spend so much time in thought about what we’re doing, where we’re going and chasing a pot of gold to pay for our houses, our cars, our clothes, our children’s education, our children’s activities, the list goes on and on. We rarely spend time in the present and enjoy what is right in front of us.

For the last 3 years I have been focusing on trying to slow things down.  Instead of going shopping I stay home and make tea, I try to read and write more,  I watch the shows I want to see, I spend time with my furbabies amongst the trees, every morning I wake up and step outside barefooted on the grass to ground myself to the earth; yet I still suffer anxieties and worries about the future.   Why, I have everything I need and most important at this moment I have my health, my husband and my boys have their health.  This is a moment for celebration, every day should be a celebration but there are days I wake up with dread and exhaustion before I even start the day.

I’m not the only one, so many people are trying to do too many things, have a too long to do list and feel they have to be successful in jobs or have lots of money to show the world just how important they are.  It’s comical really, the way we live.  We spend more time surfing the net watching how celebrities live rather than watching our own lives.  We put too much focus into how much money one has, what they do for a living or their level of education.  The truth is every day is an education, every day is a chance to learn something you didn’t know the day before.  A formal education may bring you job success and money but there is nothing more important than an education in life and life’s ups and downs is the only school that can give you this education.

Winnie the Pooh has always inspired me to just be.   He does nothing and yet things come to him, friends show up at the right time, he slows down time to enjoy his honey, he makes time for all the important people in his life and he sits when he’s tired.    I’ve come to the realization that it is really just that simple, to have the life you want because that life is sitting right in front of you and it’s up to you to enjoy every single moment of it.  All you have to do is start walking from where you’ve been to get to where you want to be.

 

 

What’s Your Agenda

“He who does not know the art of living cannot know the art of dying.  Mahatma Gandhi

My shift at the hospice started like every other.  I stopped by the volunteer office to check the volunteer log before my shift to look through notes from the previous volunteers to see if I could spot anyone who needed more attention that night.  I noticed there was a new patient; a fairly young man from Jamaica.   The notes were the usual volunteer notes, “chatted for a while, served him tea, he was sleeping, he had visitors.”  One volunteer’s note caught my eye and it said “is having difficulty with the family dance.”  The note was subtle but I understood it immediately.  Reading through the volunteer log, this gentleman had lots of visits from family and he was having a rough time with it.

Every family has their family dance and when someone is coming to the end of their life, the family dance can intensify.  When death hangs in the air, there is no room for fake, manipulative, pretentious behaviour.  You simply can’t get any more real than death and only authentic and honest mannerisms will do.  However, there are some that use death as their playing field leaving families and the person dying in a precarious and vulnerable state. I headed out to the floor, checking on patient after patient, helping them eat, removing their finished plates, fixing sheets and hanging out in their room for chitchats.   I got to the new patient’s room and he was sitting in a wheelchair watching tv.  He had finished eating and I asked him if I could take away his plate and get him more tea, coffee or water.

He nodded and as I picked up his tray and asked him if I could get him something else he said, “yes you can get me $5000.00.”  I laughed and I said  “if I find some cash, I’ll send it your way.”   He looked at me and said “good answer, but of course you’re a volunteer and you people have all the answers.”  His tone of voice was not nice and it stopped me in my tracks.  I was standing beside him with a tray of dishes in my hands, and as I looked down into his eyes, he was very angry.   I said “hey the tone of your voice is not nice, what is up with that comment?”  He seemed surprised by my honesty and he shook his head and said “What’s your agenda?”  Still standing with a tray of dishes in my hand, I was perplexed by the question.  “My agenda, what do you mean what’s my agenda?”  “He raised his voice and said your agenda, you’re not here out of the goodness of your heart, you have an agenda like every other bloody person in this place, everyone here has some kind of political bullshit agenda, what’s yours?”

I stood with the tray of dishes in my hand and stared at him for a moment longer, at that point I had never faced this type of bitter and angry attitude at the hospice and his forcefulness threw me somewhat.  I slowly lowered the tray of dishes onto a side table by his bed and pulled up a  chair beside him so I could be at eye level.  I looked him straight in the eyes and  I said “let me tell you a story.”  “Years ago my stepfather had a massive heart attack and ended up brain-dead and laid in the hospital in a coma for months.  My mother and I visited him every day but there was nothing we could do for him.   One evening while visiting my stepfather there was a new patient in the bed beside him.  The man was crying so I walked over to see if I could help, I noticed that his food had been delivered and he was unable to open the packages due to extremely swollen hands from arthritis.  I opened his food and helped him eat.  He simply was hungry and extremely frustrated by his situation.  I chose dinner time hours for my volunteer hours at this hospice because of that man.  So often family members find it hard to get to their love ones in hospices or hospitals at dinner time,  so I felt this time was the time that I could help out the most.   If you call that an agenda, then that’s my agenda.”

He stared at me for a while and I saw it.  It was a subtle change in his eyes, but I watched as his eyes and face softened.  He gave me a bright smile and leaned into me closer and said “are you Irish?”  I said “yes I am of Irish descent, my Grandparents sailed from Ireland to start a life here in Canada, why?”  He said “Because I have only met one other volunteer I like here and she’s Irish too.  You remind me of her and now I have two volunteers I like.”   I laughed and said you know what they say, “Don’t mess with the Irish.”  He laughed and said “Don’t mess with the Jamaicans.”

I spent most of my time talking to him that shift and he told me many things about the family dance, his political views and when I didn’t entirely agree with him we argued.  He loved the debates we got into and he said to me, “I talk to people about this stuff when they come in here and they don’t stay, they just want to talk about the fluffy stuff.”  Some of his views were strong and he would not back off when you told him what you thought.  My older brother has very strong views and if you challenge him, he will go right back at you, so I am use to that kind of exchange and it doesn’t bother me.  However, as I told this patient, “most people want to live on the surface, they don’t want to venture too deep as venturing too deep might open some doors that they don’t want to open, so you have to trail lightly my friend.”  He said, “Johanne, I am living in a hospice, I am not going to trail lightly, if someone can’t handle it, go away.”  “Touchè  I said, you have a point.”

As we continued to talk he said to me, “I was given two weeks to live and it’s been three months  since I was given that news.”  He then showed me a the different alternative medicine products by his bed and he said “I swear to you these medicines are keeping me alive.”   I didn’t dare say it but I know it’s true.  They say to beat cancer it is 10% treatment and 90% attitude.  This man has the attitude, he is feisty, gusty, full of hope and has immense faith in God.   He mentioned that the doctor came by the day before and I am assuming that he told the doctor that he wanted more blood test to see where the cancer was.  Apparently the doctor said to him,  “We don’t do that here, people come here to die.”  His answer, “suit yourself doctor, but I came here to live and I will live fully no matter where I am and I’m sorry if you don’t like that but that is what  I intend to do, I intend to live and God is my saviour not you.”

Before I left that night, I gave him a hug and said “I’ll be back next week” and he said “I will be here.”  As I walked across the parking lot to my truck after my shift that night,  the thought that crossed my mind was “I’m certain he’ll still be here next week.”  I passionately believe that souls cross each other’s path for reasons.  To listen to him was inspiring and exhausting at the same time. He brought to my spirit an awareness, an awareness of how precious time is and how important it is to live life to the fullest and to tell those that you love just how much you love them.  There isn’t a minute to spare, and the dance of living and dying goes on every single day.

 

 

The Journey

“In the end she became the journey, and like all journeys she did not end, she just simply changed directions and kept going.”  r.m. drake

A journey to self health does not only mean eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.  The journey to self health means you must take the list that you are using toward making your body healthier and stronger and apply that list to dig deep into your soul.  If you have been tolerating toxic habits that are hurting your body, you are most likely accepting and tolerating relationships that are toxic to your soul and hurting your journey.

If I am to be completely honest, my journey started forty five years ago when my father, for reasons of his own, decided he needed to leave his family and start a new life with a new wife and another family.  It was beyond hurt, it felt like someone had taken a knife and sliced me in half down the middle.  To my child self I felt acutely aware that he had made his choice, and his choice meant I was not part of his journey.  The path was not easy as there was much anger, mistrust and complete chaos between my parents.  I’m not sure if my parents thought about how this chaos was affecting their children, in hindsight they must have, but to my child self I felt alone and my parents didn’t realize that with each harsh word and every court date, I was building my wall, my wall of what my existence meant to this world.  I realize now as an adult that the words I was using to myself at that time  were;  I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t a person worthy of love, only negative things happen, there is no such thing as love and every time these words ended up in my head, the wall became thicker and thicker until the words could no longer reach me.

As thick as a wall I built, those words stuck with my being and I questioned everything I did, school was difficult because I never felt completely accepted, I was always someone who was looking from the outside in.  Teachers never understood me, yet they liked me because I was never a problem.  I just sat in the back doing my thing and I made it clear that I wanted to be left alone.   Forming healthy relationships with this foundation was difficult, but I managed to form some great friendships, friendships that have lasted a lifetime.   However, in my life I have accepted and tolerated friendships that I thought were friendships of mutual respect and admiration only to realize the friendships were very one sided.

Going back to the words I used as a child, not worthy of love, I have realized that these words have crept into some of the friendships I have formed, by allowing someone in my life who has not accepted me as my whole self, rather this person sees me as less than, and even though she calls me sister what she really means is elder, she is someone who knows more and is far more distinguished than I could ever be.  How do I know this, I know this from comments and actions I have fielded for years.  As mad as some of these actions have made me, I have to accept responsibility for allowing and tolerating this attitude.  I realized a long time ago that if I accepted this persons limitations of me, then I am accepting these limitations of myself and it was time for me to change that direction and love my whole self.  I knew it meant that I could no longer be around this person in the same way.  To explain this to someone who clearly is lost in her own limitations and development is difficult, so I chose not to, I just kept working with my being and knew that the journey would go in the direction that it was meant to.

The word tolerance is an interesting word:

tol·er·ance
ˈtäl(ə)rəns/
noun
the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
“the tolerance of corruption”

The definition of tolerance sounds so civilized doesn’t it.  Within this definition alone, I realized that my tolerance level for acceptance of elitist and repressive behaviour in my life goes back to my childhood days when I tolerated the level of chaos within my household simply to survive my childhood.  I’ve had to accept the fact that I tolerated behaviour that was less than kind to my existence simply because I thought I was being a friend.

I have come to the realization that I must befriend myself first or else my journey will never take the twists and turns that makes journeys joyous and harmonious within the realm around us.

The opposite of the word tolerance:
  • patience
  • resilience
  • strength
  • toughness
  • endurance
  • guts
  • hardiness
  • opposition
  • stamina
  • steadfastness
  • steadiness
  • vigor
  • staying power

The opposite words of tolerance are worlds apart and doesn’t necessarily seem as civilized as toleration, however the soul does not need tolerance, the soul needs truth and the only way to truth is to be the opposite of tolerance and acceptance of anything other than truth is to accept an abrupt end to your journey, leaving you in a place of contempt for your being and your existence.  Where my journey lands, I don’t know, all I know is that I have to apply the same trick that I learned a long time ago when I took up running and I was trying to increase my endurance to become a better runner.  I simply stopped looking at the long road ahead of me and concentrated on taking one step at a time.

Johanne Fraser

EVERY END HAS A BEGINNING…

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you.  The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death”  Eckhart Tolle

As I begin to write this I am sitting on my front deck with my two beautiful companions, Lumi and Kaos, watching the neighbour hook up his trailer to leave for their annual camping trip.  As I sit here sipping my coffee, his two boys, most likely ages 8 and 10, are running and jumping around the front of their property so excited for this epic camping trip.  The cars and other trailers have arrived one by one as family and friends pull up to the house, obviously joining my neighbour for the trip.  As each car and trailer arrives, the boys do a little dance which sets my Belgian Shepherd off and I have to stop him from running toward the reunion barking like a fool.  As exciting as this little party is, it just pisses off Kaos as he doesn’t know who all these people are and in his mind I need protection from this frenzy of excitement.   I pray he is just as brave during a real threat!

As the convoy of cars and trailers leave, my world goes quiet again and I return to my computer to muse over my writing.  My intention was to write about death and suddenly my thoughts and words take on a different form.   As I watched my neighbour’s family dance and felt the excitement in the air, I ventured back to the boys when they were that young and our annual camping trips.  Life seemed to be so full back then, our lives intertwined with the boys lives as my husband and I wanted to share all of our knowledge and give them as much life as we could, because we both knew that time was short and if we didn’t give them our all, the time would be gone in an instant.  Never before have I realized the depth of this as I sipped my coffee watching the scene across the street unfold before me.  I realized without an ending there is no beginning and without death there is no life.

My mind wanders to my shift last night at the local hospice.  I am part of an army of volunteers whose job is to help transition those facing their last breath over to the other side.  Just looking at the previous sentence, it sounds and looks like a monstrous and depressing job, but it is not.   Being at the hospice is like breathing in the air that we breath and it is as peaceful there as it is here, sitting on my deck sipping my coffee with the sun shining on my face and watching the leaves on my maple tree move from the odd breeze that sweeps through during this season’s hot spell.   When I first inquired about volunteering at the local hospice,  I admit I had an agenda.  I had just become a Reiki practitioner and I wanted to use the knowledge and skill to help others.  Using Reiki on the dying sounds like two opposites as Reiki uses the life force around each and everyone one of us to help those with varying ailments or in different stages of life.  Many hospices have Reiki practitioners on hand to not only help the dying, but to help the grieving family members as well.   To this date I have never used Reiki with any of the patients at the hospice.  I have been asked to use my Reiki skills at different hospice events but I have not used Reiki on the hospice floor.  However, my Reiki skills has given me an advantage when working with the dying.  A Reiki practitioner is merely a tool to pass on the life force energy, just as a hospice volunteer is merely a tool to be an assuring presence to the dying.  All volunteers are expected to take a 33 hour intense training program and essentially the program is meant to weed out people as not everyone is meant to do this job.  The training is meant to help the volunteer with what to expect but until you start working at the hospice, you really have no idea how you will react or how you feel while visiting the dying.

Last night as I arrived at the hospice, I stood at the front lounge and took note of the two names on the stand by the nurses station, in behind the name tags were two butterflies lit up by a tiny bulb.  The names represent the patients who have recently died.  As I said a little prayer, I marveled over one name as I worked with this man the previous week,  The date on the tag was the day before and, working with him the previous week, I didn’t think he would last that long.  However, I noticed as I glanced over the volunteer log notes that he had a lot of family in visiting, every day he had visitors and I realized he lasted that long simply for love because his body was ready to give up the week before.    I work at the hospice once a week and my shift is in the evening from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.  I head to the hospice after a full day at work.  I like the evening shift as so often family members of patients can’t get to the hospice in time for dinner.  It is during dinner I find I am the most busy as some people need help  to eat, others need to have their food cut up and some just want someone to listen to their complaints about the horrible state of the food.  It is in this motion, life itself, that I hear and sense the most amazing stories that lie behind each and every patient.  I find it ironic as I leave behind work and at work it seems that everyone is full of self importance in their position or their seniority or who they are.  They worry if someone has a better parking spot or if someone gets something more than the other.   At the hospice no one cares, everyone is the same and they are all facing the thing that we most fear;  DEATH.

My conversations with the dying are more normal than my conversations with the living.  I’ve come to realize the reason why is essentially the same as the approach my husband and I took with our boys when they were young – time is short and we wanted to give them all our knowledge and love because the moment would be lost in an instant.  The dying face the same dilemma and what I have found is that most don’t want to hide from that fact with useless conversation filled with things that don’t matter.   It’s interesting to me that I have dealt with all walks of life in the process of dying – doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, housewives, police officers and people without homes. The only reason that I have that knowledge is because of the volunteer logs and the volunteers usually find this out from family members.    No one talks about what they did for a living when they’re dying and no one cares because what you did for a living has absolute no bearing on how or when you will die. What does matter is how you lived and how you loved.   Dying essentially comes down to this;  love and dignity and this is  the reason why I volunteer for the Hospice Society.  The Society recognizes dying as important as life itself and every person no matter of their origin or their beliefs are given what they need most – dignity and love.

Last night I was on the floor for about 30 minutes and I realized there was a new patient in the room where another patient died the day before.  The nurses were trying to help him transition to his new surroundings and he was scared and agitated.  There was no family member with him and he was too weak to be walking anywhere.  He did not want to lie down for fear of dying and he kept trying to get up to go where I don’t know but he had two nurses working with him trying to calm him down.  I asked if there was anything I could do and one of the nurses asked if I would sit with him.  I did, I sat with him for most of my shift.  He didn’t talk much, he just wanted the reassurance of someone there. I sat beside him at the edge of the bed the whole time and I kept suggesting that he would be more comfortable lying down and he refused to do so.  Finally after sitting for quite some time, I noticed that his eyes were getting very heavy, I again offered to help him lie down, this time he accepted my offer.  After I adjusted his pillows, his bed and bed rails, I sat beside him and he put his hand out to mine and he asked me to hold his hand as he fell asleep.  As I held his hand I massaged his hand very gently hoping to give him a sense of peace.

I can only assume that holding his hand gave him the peace he needed as he became less agitated, his body then started to relax and he fell into a peaceful sleep.  I sat with him for a little while longer to be sure he was asleep and then I tucked him in and went about the business of fussing with blankets and removing items from his bed and turning out lights.  As I was fussing about, I thought somewhere this gentleman began his life with his mother holding him and assuring him that everything was ok and that he was protected.  As he reaches the end of his life, he wants the same, he wants someone to sit with him and assure everything will be ok and that he is protected.  It’s what we all want and as I drove home last night I thought about this and I realized every end has a beginning.

Johanne Fraser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Healthy Egoism

“As I began to love myself, I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health; food, people, things, situations and everything that drew me down and away from myself.  At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism, today I know it is love of oneself.”  Charlie Chaplin

With the popularity of minimalism today many people are finding themselves on a path to simplicity, simplifying areas of their over complicated lives.  At the age of 53 I found myself on the same path.  It started with looking around my home and realizing that our family had collected too many “things” for various reasons and the accumulation of these “things” were interfering with my life on every level.  As I started clearing  “things” that were in my way, it became obvious that not all in the family felt the same way.  I tried to force my opinions on my boys and my husband only to be called a declutter bully and I quickly realized I was on my own.  I decided to focus on decluttering my “things” with the hope that my family would follow my lead.

As I started down my path, I initially thought it would be very easy.  I mean how hard is it to throw “things” in a box or a bag and drive those “things” to the nearest thrift store.  I found out that it is not as easy as I thought.  The first  few loads were fairly simple, surface things that had no ties or emotional memories and getting rid of the surface “things” was fast and furious.  As I continued to declutter and with each new load taken out, I soon realized I was getting to the Holy Grail of clutter.  The clutter with the emotional attachments, the clutter that had meaning, the clutter that I had absolute no use for but for some reason as I held each item in my hand, I would find myself putting the item back on the shelf.  To be honest, this shocked me as I moved a lot as a child and I never put a lot of stock into houses or things.  I often said houses are just four walls and I could live within any four walls as long as there was a roof to cover me.  So why at 53 did I find myself with emotional attachments to things that had absolutely no obvious physical meaning?

After much thinking, meditation and decluttering, I realized that not being able to let go has as much to do with our own mortality as it does with the physicality and meaning of each “thing”.   Our lives fly by in a blink of an eye and suddenly these “things” remind of us of those times we can no longer get back, or people who are no longer here and it becomes increasingly difficult to let those things go.  It feels like you are letting yourself go piece by piece.  So I started on the difficult task of letting those precious items go and every time I had a hard time letting go, I would sit with the piece for a while and meditate as to why I was having problems letting it go.  As you can imagine all of this took way longer than my original plan of piling everything in the truck and heading to the local thrift store.  It’s taken weeks, months and I’m still on the journey of letting piece by piece go.

I’ve discovered that by letting go of those beloved treasures that represent the past, I’ve also embarked on a much-needed emotional cleansing as every part of this declutter process has become a journey of cleansing my soul of past negative experiences and mourning the loss of happy experiences and the people associated to those experiences who are no longer in my life.  When I started this cleansing journey, I never realized that I would be releasing myself from the cocoon of the past and by removing the layers of this structural shelter that I built for myself, I would release myself, not only from my own behaviours that were weighing me down, but I would soon release myself from the grasp of others whose behaviours and patterns I once accepted and tolerated in my life,  behaviours that no longer served me and kept me wrapped in layers behind the outer walls of the cocoon.

The difficulty of this process deeply disturbed me because even though I knew that releasing negative behaviours and people tied to these behaviours was necessary,  change is difficult and it is easier to find comfort in the known rather than move into the unknown.  You can’t just walk up to someone and say “that’s it, I don’t accept or tolerate this anymore, especially since I tolerated and accepted the behaviours for so long.   I am very much the guilty culprit and I hold myself responsible for this acceptance and tolerance.

However, I am also responsible for my destiny and as I continue the declutter journey of my soul, I have promised my soul that I will only accept and tolerate behaviours and attitudes that support the emotional growth and transformation of my soul which will ultimately release me from the structural cocoon that only serves to suffocate rather than protect.  I no longer accept or tolerate being treated less than, I no longer accept or tolerate being classed into distinctive groups that are used for division and discrimination,  I no longer accept or tolerate behaviours that only concentrate and focus on what one has rather than who one is and I no longer accept or tolerate negative behaviours from myself or others who are currently in my life or come into my life.   My soul wants more;  my soul wants complete forgiveness for past transgressions, my soul craves no restrictions as I travel through the unknown and my soul wants to be free and clear like the larvae that is released  from the cocoon to begin its transformation.  My soul wants  complete love of oneself.

The Cry of the Wolves

I dreamt last night of a pack of wolves attacking their young.  I was standing on a hillside looking down a gully at this horrific scene of wolves ripping their young from limb to limb.  I seemed to be paralyzed, I couldn’t move as I stared down the gully at the gruesome sight that was unfolding before me, as if I was watching a show on tv.  I kept thinking, wolves don’t devour their babies, has the world gone mad?  On the other side of the gully, some people arrived with their domesticated dogs and were throwing these completely defenseless animals down the gully to be devoured by the wolves.  At this point I came out of my trance and started running down the hillside toward the gully where this barbaric scene laid before me.  I never made it to the bottom because next I knew I was sitting straight up in bed with sweat running down my back as if I had just completed a marathon.

The dream was very real, so real I could smell the earth below my feet and the putrid smell of fear as the babies were being devoured by the beasts.  Dreams talk to me and as I sat up in bed trying to figure out what this dream meant, I couldn’t shake the dreadful feeling of the state the world is in right now and how the world just seems to be accepting horrific images as if we are watching the scene on tv.  The image of people throwing their beloved pets down the gully to be devoured by the beasts was the event that moved me to run down the gully and essentially sacrifice myself to the chaotic and violent script before me.  I never made it to the outcome, but the outcome found me as I continued to slip into the negativity of the meaning.

Living in a positive light is important to me and I’ve always tried to be positive with my boys, teach them to be genuine and to always look on the bright side.  However, I can’t deny the effects negativity has had on me and how the sinister, cynical energy can force itself into my world like a stalker who creeps through the night looking for an easy intrusion, inflicting fear and anguish to all those encountered.    I choose to live in a genuine, conclusive world convincing myself that by my actions alone I can create a world where I can leave negativity on the shores as I sail to a distant destination, a destination where I can be free of the threat and harm that comes my way.  However, can we?  As the world around us unfolds to reveal the reality of the gloom others must live with, can we continue to leave their shores and sail to a distant destination, to a paradise that is only for a select few.

There are many who think we can and as my horrific dream called out to me last night, I stood immobilized by the horrific scene and I was unable to move until I saw my people throwing their beloved pets to calm the beast.  It was only then that I felt my feet moving toward the chaos, away from the light, down to the deep hell that was below me.  As I tried to go back to sleep, I kept thinking, “when our own small world is threatened and we are moved to rescue our families from devastation, will it be too late?”

 

 

 

 

A Dangerous Mind

“Narcissist Personality Disorder:  One of the few conditions where the patient is left alone and everyone else is treated.”

Warning, if you ever find yourself around one who is narcissistic run, run as far away as you can.  There is no winning with a narcissistic person and if you don’t agree with everything the narcissist does or says, then I guarantee you, it won’t be long before the narcissist has convinced everyone around you that you are the one that should not be trusted.  The narcissist will not win in the end, but the road from the beginning to the end is a long one and the closer that road gets to the end, the narcissist will become desperate and the final stage is the most dangerous.

How do I know, I’ve had the opportunity to work with not one, but two narcissists and I’ve watched the spinning of their web as they entrap everyone in their sticky mess while I was the prey stuck dead in the center of their narcissistic abuse.  The abuse is not something you can report or quite put your finger on and it’s not anything you’ve done to deserve the treatment.   You just know it’s happening, the energy around you changes, people start to treat you with mistrust and then slowly you are indirectly told that you are not good enough, not good at your job, not important, one to be ignored all the while the narcissist is spinning their web and injecting their venom and like a spider’s bite, it can take a long time to discover the full effect of the narcissist’s bite.

There was a time I carried much anger at these individuals, but not any more.  In some ways I owe them gratitude as I’ve learned from within that I am a strong, smart and confident woman.  There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t gained strength through challenges, and dealing with a narcissist offers you many challenges and hurdles to climb only to gain strength with each new height.

The negative effects of dealing with these people, I’ve left far behind as I have a clear view of who my friends are, the kind of person I want to be and the positive contributions I want to give to my  community, my family and my friends.  I can thank the narcissist for these attributes, because without experiencing the full effects of narcissism, I may not have realized my potential for joy and happiness had they not spun their webs.

Forgiveness is another important factor, because a narcissist always surrounds themselves with enablers, people who are not strong and most likely have low self esteems.  Forgiveness is important because holding a grudge, anger, hate or resentment is poison to the soul.  In both cases I’ve experienced the work of enablers and a lot of my anger was also generated toward them.  However, with much soul-searching, meditation and prayer, I was able to forgive and to forgive is to set your soul free.

The irony of the narcissistic mind, is that the danger that they pose will tear lives and environments apart.  Much like a tropical hurricane or a large-scale earthquake will ravish the land and the people who live there.  However, like any natural disaster,  the strength and resilience of the people will overcome and the same can be said in the destructive path of the narcissist, the people will prevail and in the end, the person who stands to be in the most danger of the narcissist is the narcissist themselves.

Johanne Fraser

 

PASSING THE TORCH

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”  Denis Waitley

I remember watching him take his first step and cringing as he lost his balance and fell too close to the coffee table.  Thinking he was going to hit his head, I rushed forward to soften his fall.   He giggled and grabbed my hand to steady his stand and then ran from my grasp only to fall again.  Brendan never really walked, he ran and I knew he was running from the protective and suffocating barrier of his parents.

Every step of independence Brendan took, I prayed that he walked in the right path, used the stairway banister to balance his step so he wouldn’t tumble-down the stairs and stepped carefully when playing outside so he didn’t fall on the concrete.  However, the reality was that he didn’t always follow the right path, he rarely used the banister to balance his step consequently, falling down the stairs and he encountered countless scrapes on his knees and elbows because he didn’t care if he was running on the concrete or the grass.  In all those instances, he learned, he learned how to navigate the paths to his liking, he learned how to climb the stairs without falling, and he learned to fall and tumble on the grass rather than the concrete to avoid the cuts and bruises from the hard surface of the concrete.

Watching our babies become toddlers, children, teenagers and grown adults is a daunting process that consistently leaves parents with feelings of self-doubt and asking ourselves “am I doing right by my child.”  As Brendan finishes his last year of high school, I find myself learning to parent all over again.  Every day I ask myself the same question, “when do you know everything there is to know about parenting?”  I’m finding out the answer is that you don’t ever know everything there is to know about parenting.

I’ve always been a believer of free will and I wholeheartedly believe that people should have the freedom to make their own choices without judgment from their teachers, peers, family or parents.  When it comes to raising children, teenagers and young adults, this theory is put to the test and at times I feel like I am with that little curly-haired boy, with eyes as wide as saucers, who ran from my grasp giggling as he fell to the ground.  It is my job to stand back and let him fall and struggle to get back on his feet again, knowing full well that he will continue to run from my grasp.

I struggle not to question him as though I am interrogating him.  At the same time, it’s hard to spend time with him as there are many aspects to his life; his girlfriend, his friends, school, sports, his exercise routine and work.  Brendan is right where he should be as a young man and he seems to be in good space enjoying his time.  As a parent, I am thrilled for him and finding myself realizing that my parenting days are numbered as I have given him every advice and guidance I can give him and it’s time to let him be who he wants to be, love who he wants to love, and choose the living he wants to choose.  The day has come for me to pass the torch.  The symbolic image of the Olympic Torch comes to mind as  I am passing the fire of life to my son giving him the freedom to carry that fire to the next generation.

As I watch Brendan carve out his own path carrying his fire, I think of that little curly-haired boy running from my grasp.  I remember thinking back in those earlier days, that by the time this little boy is a young man, I would feel like a super parent; surely by that time I would have all the answers.  As I sit here writing this, I feel more baffled today than I did with that little curly-haired boy.  I am not as assured or as confident as I thought I would be and at times I wonder what my next step will be.  It’s not that I don’t feel needed or loved, it is the feeling of vulnerability in the action of  letting go of that little curly hair boy’s hands and turning my back to start my own path, a path to finding that torch again and letting the fire ignite my passions and desires as I continue to walk in this circle of life.

WEIGHT ON MY FEET

dog-park-3

feeling the weight on my feet,

as I trail through the snow,

breathing in the cool, crisp air,

heightens my senses,

to life at that moment,

as I stroll through the trees,

touching their branches,

feeling exhilarated,

as the snow licks my face.

walking through the snow,

gives me reflection

on what path to take,

leading me in a direction,

meant for my embrace.

Johanne Fraser

 

 

 

A GIRL NAMED TESSA

“Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay.  Loss is our legacy.  Insight is our gift.  Memory is our guide.”  Hope Edelman

Last night my son came home from his shift at work wearing a white shirt with a purple basketball wrapped in angel’s wings on the front of the shirt with the number 23 written inside the basketball, the  name “Tessa” written under the basketball  and the word “strength” scrolled down the left hand sleeve.   The grocery store (Fresh Street) where Brendan works supports a basketball tournament dedicated to the memory of a girl named Tessa.  Management bought the shirts from the organizers of the “Tessa Foundation” and employees are allowed to wear the shirt all week in support of  the “Tessa Tournament” coming up next weekend.

Tessa was a girl who, like any other teenager, lived big dreams.  She was talented athletically and a bright girl who loved to learn and more importantly loved life and seemed to blossom in the love of family and friends that surrounded her.  Tessa was a high school student in the school where I work and ironically, I’ve come to know Tessa in death more than I knew Tessa in life.  Tessa had boundless energy and she used this energy to fight the biggest obstacle of her life; Cancer. Sadly she lost the battle January 27th, 2012 at the heartbreaking age of 18.   A life taken in an instant, devastating her family and friends as they faced the challenge of life on this earth without their daughter, granddaughter, sister, girlfriend and friend.

Tessa faced her battle with cancer and ultimately her death like she lived her life, with strength and courage.  It is through this strength and courage that she shaped the lives of so many around her.  Not only friends and family, but people she did not know.  Looking at my son’s shirt last night as he walked through the front door, I was immediately struck with the thought that through death, Tessa has inspired so many people and her spirit still resides with this community in the most special and dedicated way.

Over the years my children have played in several  memorial hockey tournaments.  Like many parents,  I would browse through the Tournament Program and read the article dedicated to the young boy the tournament was named after and take solace and strength in the fact that at that moment my family was healthy and well and moved on to cheering the boys’ team throughout the tournament.  For most of us that is what the tournaments are about, we show up, our children play and then we go on with our lives.  For the parents and family behind these memorial tournaments, they are forever changed by the absence of their loved ones and for a brief moment in time they are able to share their memories and love with their community.

When Tessa left this earth in 2012 my oldest son was 12 years old.  It never occurred to me that he would  join Tessa’s spirit in his quest to help out the impoverished as he applied to his school’s Mission Trip group to join the call to service in the Philippines.   A group of thirty-six students and teachers travelled to the Philippines in March of 2016 to help build shelter, share love and build relationships in a world where the underprivileged are often over-looked.  Tessa’ s mother was also part of the group that went on that trip and part of the funds raised through the “Tessa Foundation” was dedicated to build a house in Tessa’s name.

Like Tessa’s boundless energy as she seemed to know no boundaries; love knows no boundaries.  As I watch my boys grow into young men, I am reminded that there are those who don’t have the luxury of watching their children grow.  I continue to be in awe of those who face the challenge of losing a child as they share the love of their child to enrich their community in the most loving and special way, giving all of us a gift, a gift of humility and hope as we continue to face the challenges in our lives with love and dedication giving us the insight to cherish every day.

Johanne Fraser

Stepping through the stones

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t”   Steve Maraboli

Stepping onto the balcony through the double doors just off my bedroom was a morning routine for me.  I would wake up stretch and step outside to breathe in the fresh air enjoying the tranquility of the man-made pond three levels below.  I was living in an apartment complex on the top floor facing the interior court-yard.  The Strata Council had recently upgraded the pond to include a small waterfall and stocked the man-made pond with Japanese goldfish to create the illusion of peace and tranquility in a suburban world. That particular morning I was stretching and breathing in the fresh air when out of the corner of my eye I saw an ironic scene.  Standing in the pond was a large blue heron.  I caught my breath because for a second the man-made environment looked like a page out of National Geographic with  this beautiful bird of feather swooping in with its majestic beauty.  As I watched the scene unfold before me, I realized that this beautiful creature was eating the Strata Council’s beloved Japanese goldfish.

The next morning I ran into a member of the Strata Council in the underground parking lot.  “Love the wildlife you guys are creating in the court-yard” I yelled out as he walked to his car.  He looked a little perplexed and I said “the blue heron in the pond, did you see it?”   “No, but someone told me, we are going to do something to stop it as all the Japanese goldfish will be gone.”  “Good luck with that, I’m sure there will be more blue herons in that pond before the week is out.”

Sure enough a couple of days later, standing on the balcony I was greeted with two blue herons enjoying their breakfast from the lovely pond the Strata Council worked so hard to create.  Quite the drama unfolded in the following weeks as the Strata Council covered the pond with chicken wire and a host of other tricks to stop the blue herons from eating the Japanese goldfish.    No longer did the pond have  the feel of tranquility, it looked like a war zone and those bloody blue herons managed to get through every barrier the strata council put in front of them.  It didn’t take long before the Strata Council threw in the white towel, removed the chicken wire and we all enjoyed the pond with the sounds of the trickling waterfall without the Japanese goldfish.

Much has happened in my life since the days of living in that apartment complex and I find myself in a similar situation living with two teenage boys.   When the boys were young my husband and I were able to control their environment by laying down the chicken wire controlling the maze in which we all lived.   As a parent I often stressed about making the right decisions with the boys as I fully understood the power I had over them in their younger years.  To live by example in everything I did was important because their brains were like sponges taking in our environment, our actions and our words.  Were we perfect, far from it, but my hope and dreams for my boys were to raise two decent human beings.  My husband and I were under the illusion, like that strata council, that we could create the environment and if we laid down the stones properly as the strata council did with that pond so many years ago, somehow navigating through those stones would be easier as time moved on.

Stepping through those stones that we laid so many years ago has become increasingly difficult as they are slippery in emotion and opinions.  I have learned like the strata council, that you can not control the wild as it has a mind of its own.  No different with children as they reach teenage years prepping to become adults.  It’s not so much that we have thrown in the towel, it is the realization that laying down those stones all those years ago have paved the way and now it is time to let the boys lay down their own stones and give them the freedom as to the directions those stones will lead.

Now and then I see a glimpse of the little boy with the curly hair or the little boy with the mischievous grin peek through the big teenage boys.  Christmas use to be fun with the boys when they were anticipating Santa.  Hiding the gifts and placing the gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve so the boys could find their gifts from Santa the next morning, brought my husband and I so much pleasure.  The past few years we have given the boys cash for Christmas so they can go out and shop at the boxing day sales and buy what they want.   This year we decided to buy the boys something they could use for school and home by investing in laptop computers.  Some how the boys knew they were getting something more significant than a few dollars to go shopping. I don’t think they knew what they were getting but the day I brought the computers home and attempted to scurry to the basement to hide the goods, I was greeted with two boys waiting for my arrival on the front staircase.  One boy had curly hair and the other boy had a mischievous grin.  I yelled at them to get back up the stairs and they both laughed and said “Whatcha got”.  “None of your business get back up the stairs or what I have will go back to the store”.

They laughed all the way back to their rooms and my heart was smiling as I headed down to the basement to hide their Christmas present knowing full well that the two of them would be filled with anticipation when they found the time to sneak down to the basement when my husband and I were sleeping to find the hiding spot to get a glimpse of Christmas before the presents were wrapped and placed under the tree.  I hope I never stop seeing the boy with the curly hair and the boy with the mischievous grin and that their stepping-stones always have a path that lead to the two people who laid down that first stepping stone so many years ago.

WALKING WITH LIGHT

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  Melody Beattie

Thanksgiving weekend for me is a chance to hangout and catch up with rest, refresh and rejuvenate and of course plenty of food to fill the belly.    I try to live my life in gratitude every day not just one weekend during the year.

To live one’s life in gratitude also means living your life with a wholesome perspective.  If your view of the world is always negative, never admitting to faults, never picking yourself up from your falls, then you are approaching your life with a pessimistic, cynical and gloomy view leaving you open to disease and creating havoc with your spirit.

To live with gratitude doesn’t mean that every day you have to be the happiest person on the planet, it doesn’t mean that you never grumble, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have negativity in your life, and it certainly doesn’t mean that human relationships are not a source of frustration.  We all live with these emotions and frustrations, but how the individual approaches and reacts to life’s struggles is where gratitude can take hold and change one’s perspective ultimately creating a fulfilled and happy life.

I am an empath and the very nature of an empath makes it difficult for me to deal with negativity as I wear other’s emotions as they are my own. As a child and a young woman I did not understand this chameleon ability and at times thought I had lost my way as I didn’t understand why I was so chaotic in my emotional makeup.  Once I understood that I was taking on other’s emotional state, I changed my approach and looked inward to gain a better understanding of my spirit.  I discovered many things about myself and I believe others can discover the same.  The most critical discovery for me was that I was stronger than I realized.  I believe this to be true for everyone, I think if we connect to our spirit, or our inner child, I believe we all have strength beyond our dreams.  I discovered that I have the ability to walk with light rather than walk with darkness and I also discovered that when you walk with light you attract light and the same happens when you walk with darkness you attract darkness.

When I walk into a dark room my senses are closed, cautious, on guard, insecure and hesitant.  However, when I walk into a room filled with light my senses are open, happy, free, confident and assured.  It is possible to always be filled with light even when facing darkness and the best place to start is with gratitude.

Today we have more technology than ever and most of us fill our space with commitments and agendas and we allow our phones and computers to distract us from the very essential elements of life.  We don’t take time to just sit and talk about nothing in particular, we don’t take the time to walk  with nature and we don’t take the time to notice our breath.  It is vital to our emotional  and our physical state to take the time to relax, breath and give thanks for what we have today and give blessings to the many bright lights that fill our lives leaving the darkness behind.

To all my Canadian friends and family, I wish you a Thanksgiving weekend filled with light and gratitude.

 

Through God’s Eyes

“If a Buddhist, Hindu,Muslim, Catholic and a Jew stood in front of God, who would you say he loves the most?  These three questions are really just one question, and it is this:  Have you actually convinced yourself that God plays favourites?”  James Blanchard Cisneros

My mother was a good mother who had all kinds of advice for her children, especially her daughters.   Her advice was always one of self-preservation and she use to make me laugh when she said things like, “when you go on a date, always have an exit plan, leave by the back door if you have to and always carry a quarter so you can call a cab.”  The one piece of advice that she repeated over and over again was, “never discuss sex, politics or religion with a group of people, unless of course you want to start a storm, throw in a comment about sex, politics or religion and then sit back and watch the fireworks.”  My mother did that at times, she would make a comment, innocent comment about sex, politics or religion and then sit back and laugh.  She had wit mixed with the most innocent face, so much so that when the fight was over no one knew who started it.

I was brought up Catholic and my earliest memory  was the Sunday morning ritual of getting all dressed up and joining my three siblings, my mother and father for Mass.   I was never afraid of God, I always felt welcomed in his home and I was in awe of his grace and acceptance of so many people who visited his house.  Through the eyes of a child, I thought everyone got God and that everyone felt him like I did. My parents divorced when I was a child and it was during the divorce that I saw what I thought was God’s plan begin to unravel.

There was much bitterness and resentment between my parents and my mother filled the house with hostility against my father.  I didn’t feel any of the hate and hostility toward my father that my mother felt and I couldn’t understand why my parents  turned their back on God’s love.  After time things fell into a routine and my father had visitation rights.  My father was a foodie and during our visits, my father and I spent a lot of time talking and eating.  My father was a smart man and I give him credit to this day that he never said anything negative about my mother other than that I was to listen to her and she was a good mother.

At the age of sixteen my father revealed to me during one of our conversations that he was a man of no religion and that he was agnostic in his beliefs.  He said to me, “I don’t believe there is a God and I’m sorry to tell you this Jo, but heaven and hell don’t exist either.  Heaven and hell are right here on this earth.  I’ve seen heaven and I’ve seen hell and when you die you are buried in the ground and that is the end of the road.”  My father served his country in the second world war and I knew he had seen devastation, but I didn’t realize how much the experience effected him until that moment as he was a typical ex-serviceman who didn’t talk about his experiences.

My childhood experience of sitting in God’s house believing that we were all in God’s presence was shot and his comment took me by surprise.  I asked him “why did we all go to church every Sunday if you didn’t believe, why didn’t you drop us off at the church door and pick us up later if you didn’t believe?”  Thinking back, I was grasping because I was sure that there was no way that he could sit in that church and not feel God’s presence in some way, he must have forgotten.  His answer was simple and in his answer I started to comprehend why my parent’s relationship crumbled into divorce.  He said ” I did it to please your mother.”

Several years passed and my father and I talked about many things but religion never came up again.  The year I was just shy of 18, I was visiting family in Toronto.  I had no plans to visit my father in Montreal but my brother called me and said he was going to Montreal for the long weekend and asked me to join him.  I jumped at the opportunity, not only to see my father but many of my friends still lived there and Montreal is a happening place for young people.  The weekend went by fast and I hardly saw my father as I was out with my friends the whole weekend visiting all of our favourite clubs and dancing into the early morning hours.  Finally getting a chance to sit down with my father, he asked me if I would stay the rest of the week so he and I could visit our favourite restaurants and hang out.

The house had been filled with activity that weekend as people were in and out and the Monday afternoon after everyone had left, the atmosphere took on a stillness.   The peace was welcomed after a busy weekend.

After dinner that night my father and I sat down together and he complained about a pain in his shoulder.  The way he was holding his arm, I gathered that the pain was shooting from his shoulder down his arm.  I suggested we get him to the doctor the next day because I didn’t like the sound of it, but he was insistent that he was fine.  Our talk that evening led us to many places and he talked about his love for his children, circumstances of the divorce from my mother, his experiences during the war and his lack of belief in God.  We argued back and forth about his agnostic view and I was able to meet his reasons of non-belief with my reasons for belief.  Before I knew it, the time was 3:00 am and I told him I was exhausted, gave him a big hug, declared our love for one another and turned in for a few hours sleep.

I woke the next morning with an odd feeling that something wasn’t right and when I walked into my father’s room he was lying horizontally across the bed and he was  a shade of grey I had never seen before.  His lips were blue and there was a smell in the air that I instinctively knew was the smell of death.  He was still breathing but I knew that death was imminent.  I realized his lips were moving and he was trying to raise his hand to reach out to me,  I bent down closer and he whispered that he loved me.  I told him that I loved him and before I knew it the ambulance arrived.  As I watched the ambulance attendants take my father away on a stretcher, a morbid feeling came over me as I realized that would be the last time I saw my father alive.  By the time I arrived at the hospital he was gone.

The week I was supposed to hang out with my father turned into a week of viewings and a funeral.  I was stunned most of the week, but when I came up for air I kept going over that last conversation that my father and I had.  He knew he was dying and to this day I believe he wanted to die.  My father had many personal burdens, burdens that weighed him down during his life, and I believe he wanted the pain to stop.  It was interesting to me that he kept  insisting that God wasn’t there for him that last night.  Ironically, I believe God sent me there to be with him in his final hours, his child that had a strong enough faith to insist that God loved him and was still at his side.  Unknown to my father, the final hours that we spent together was part of God’s plan.    Death is a part of life and how we live and how we love is through God’s eyes.

Balsamic Chicken

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a  recipe – this recipe is so easy and quick.   I’m all about easy and quick!

Note: If desired, you can substitute approximately 12-16 chicken breast tenders (tenderloins) in lieu of the whole chicken breasts.

Ingredients

4 boneless chicken

2 teaspoons lemon-peper seasoning

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 teaspoons of butter

parsley sprig

cherry tomatoes

Directions

On a hard surface with meat mallet, lightly pound chicken to 1/4-inch. To minimize the mess, place the breasts/tenders in a zipper-lock bag (unsealed) before pounding (if doing so, ONLY use a flat-surface mallet — not one with ridges).

Sprinkle lemon-pepper seasoning evenly on both sides of chicken. Press to adhere.
In a large frying pan, pour oil and heat to medium temperature.  Add chicken breasts and cook, turning once, about 7 minutes or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. If substituting tenders, cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side, or until done.

Remove chicken to warm serving platter (keep warm). In medium bowl, mix together vinegar, broth and garlic; add to frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat (scraping up brown meat bits) about 2-4 minutes or until mixture is reduced and syrupy.
Add butter; stir to melt.

Place chicken on serving dish and spoon sauce over chicken.
Garnish with parsley sprigs and cherry tomatoes.

My notes:  I added a bit of dijon mustard to the balsamic vinegar mix and cut up some fresh chives and oregano to add to the cherry tomatoes and parsley sprig mixture on top

Enjoy…

COMMUNITY GARDEN – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR JUNE 3,2016

community gardenLast weekend we took a stroll through a seaside community and we stumbled across this little gem in an “out-of-the-way if you blinked you missed it” location.   I’ve always been enamored with community gardens and the gardens make my head turn every time I drive by one.  Walking past this one during our walk-about gave me the chance to walk through the community paths, allowing me to take my time inhaling the fragrances and enjoying the handy-work of the community.   The gardens are a living testament of what humans can create using a blank canvas to produce beautiful brushstrokes with our blood, sweat and tears.  When I was a young girl my mother told me a story of my Irish grandfather growing vegetables in a community garden in the inner city of Montreal.  She told me that he lived to go to that garden.  My grandfather died when I was a young girl, but his presence made an impact in my life.  He was a tough,no-nonsense kind of guy who said what was on his mind.  I remember his tough presence but that didn’t stop me from looking deep into his eyes to capture a soul who wanted more.  Imagining him tending to his crops in his community garden gave me a sense of peace for a man who sailed on a ship from a far-away-land where he was left with nothing to a land that promised him so much more.  What he found in this new land was hours of hard labour that did not provide enough for the many mouths he had to feed.  Walking through the community garden last weekend brought me serenity and a sense of calm.  I hope my tough Irish grandfather found that same sense of serenity in his community garden in a land that promised him so much more.

PEONY- FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR MAY 27, 2016

peonies

I look for you every Spring,

to witness your inspiring beauty,

as you awaken my

senses with your seductive

fragrance,

filling me with renewal and

promise,

as I leave the comfort

and

solitude of winter,

and embrace your

gracious wings,

teaching me to live

for today,

because tomorrow your wings,

will shrivel

under the ungracious and

unpredictable Spring.

johanne fraser

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ENLIGHTENED ONES

rocks and shells

an exterior like armour

hard as a rock

protecting the delicate shell

that lies within

closed to the ones

who

can’t see beyond the shadows

of doubt

and the lies of the masses

leaving the armour

to

stop the shell from cracking

only to surface

to

the enlightened ones.

johanne fraser

 

 

Born Free

 

“Heart to heart conversations are the best to me.  Everyone’s vulnerable.  Vulnerability attracts honesty, honesty attracts soul connections”.. nofacewrites

After a busy work week I tend to spend Saturday mornings lazing. I get up early and grab a coffee, a book and try to relax before anyone else in the house is up.  It’s usually just me and the Kaos dog cuddled on the couch in my living room or if the weather’s nice, Kaos and I cuddle up on the couch outside on the front porch.  The problem is that I really get into relaxing and cuddling with the Kaos man and before I know it a few hours will go by only to realize I have a whole house to clean, laundry to do, blah, blah…grrr.. you know the score.    My constant dilemma – relaxing or housework, relaxing or housework.  I pick relaxing then my housework piles up and I get frustrated.

Every Spring I look at all the windows and siding  and at some point I’ll mention to my husband that we have to get out and do the big wash.  Miraculously just when I’m thinking about pulling out the ladder and doing the chore, some guy will show up at my door offering to wash my windows and clean my siding.   It’s weird how it’s usually when my husband is out and it’s just me and the guy haggling over a price.   I usually get the guy down to a good price and last spring I got the man to take $50.00 off by promising to make him a fantastic lunch.   By the time I was getting the man lunch, my husband came home and he sees  a guy with a long brush washing the house.  Drew makes me laugh because he never says “how much did you pay him?” or “who is this guy?”  he just wants to make sure he’s not power washing the house because power washing ruins the siding.

So back to my Saturday; it was a beautiful morning and I spent the morning sipping coffee outside on the front porch with the Kaos man.  Drew had worked a brutal midnight shift and was unconscious in bed and I’m sure a bomb wouldn’t have woken him up.  I decided to get off my ass and start working and as I walked into the house I made a mental note to talk to Drew about cleaning the windows and siding.  I’m not in the house five minutes and Kaos goes crazy, barking like a madman to the front door.  I didn’t hear the doorbell ring and I opened the door to find this kid, no more than sixteen, standing at the front door.   He had long dirty blonde wavy hair past his collar and beautiful blue eyes.  I noticed the boy’s blue eyes because his eyes were wide as saucers as he was staring at the Kaos man on his hind legs barking and showing the boy just how big his teeth were all the while I was holding Kaos back by his collar.  I told the boy to give me a minute and I closed the door to calm Kaos down.  I opened the door and the Kaos man and I joined the boy on the front deck.  Immediately Kaos is jumping all over the boy and sniffing his entire body. I apologized to the boy and tried to pull Kaos off but Kaos kept at it.  The boy introduced himself as Scott and laughed and said his pockets were full of beef jerky that’s why my dog was trying to get into his pants.

Scott  sat down on one of my chairs and just stared at me for a good couple of seconds.  It was a different exchange of energy.   I didn’t feel threatened or nervous in any way, I could tell it was this boys’ way.  He was a complete free spirit, so free I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone with such a free spirit before.  Just looking into his eyes for those few seconds was a very comfortable and strange sensation.  I sat down in the chair beside him and I introduced myself and it was then I noticed his shirt and the company logo.  I had seen the company van in the neighbourhood before and I realized that he was going door to door selling window washing and siding services.   I laughed and I said “well Scott how much are you going to charge me for washing my windows, siding and cleaning my gutters?”  His eyes went wide as saucers again and said “how did you know that” with the look of amazement like I was some kind of psychic  lady.  “The company logo on your shirt Scott, dead giveaway.”  “Oh ok”, he says, “here is the deal” and he hands me a contract. “You fill this out and give me the cash and then we’ll come back in June and complete the work.”  “mmmm, I said, here’s the deal, you and I agree on the price, you do the work, I check the work to make sure it’s to my satisfaction and then I give you the cash.”  Again those beautiful blue eyes, wide as saucers and he says “wow lady, you drive a hard bargain, but that is not how my boss works.”  “Well then Scott, you tell your boss that it’s either my way or the highway.”  “He’s not going to go for it miss, how come you won’t pay now for the work later?”  “Because Scott, that is how scam artists work,  I’ll pay you now and you won’t be back.”  “He then leans over and says to me “I like the way you think, my boss doesn’t think that way, there is no way he’s going to go for it but I’ll give it a try.”

He then abruptly jumps up off the chair, takes one step and jumps in the air over the gate that I have on the front porch to stop Kaos from roaming the neighbourhood.   Scott’s boss is waiting across the street in a van and it takes Scott a few minutes before he comes back.   When Scott returns he  sits down on the chair beside me and stares at me in silence for a few seconds pops some beef jerky in his mouth and then says  “nope, he won’t go for it, says he’ll take some money off if you pay him now to come back later.”  “You know scott, I like you but your boss needs his head read, you will have to tell him that I don’t do business that way.”  Scott stared at me for a few more seconds then flipped his head back and dives his hands into his pocket and pulls out his cell phone.  “I like you, you seem like  a nice lady and  you like dogs, I thought you might want to see pictures of my dog.”  We then looked at pictures of his dog for a few minutes and his boss lays on the horn obviously frustrated as Scott was not making a deal, he was enjoying a casual nothing conversation.   Scott takes his time talking about his dog and sharing all his pictures when he suddently leans into me, looks me straight in the eyes and says,  “I’ll be honest, the way my boss is approaching this is really stupid, but I get a few bucks at the end of the day.”  Then with a quick step and a jump over the gate he was gone without a “have a nice day or see ya later,” leaving me with a smile for the day every time I thought of his big saucer blue eyes and popping beef jerky in his mouth while he was tryint to get me to sign a bogus contract.   I just know with his free spirit he will float into some kind of path in life, but it won’t be the path of a salesman.

 

 

 

DRIVER’S SEAT

“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something.  Say, instead, that you are doing it.  Then fasten your seat belt.  The most remarkable things follow.”   Julia Cameron

My oldest son, Brendan, and I share many of the same traits, unfortunately, a bad temper is one of our shared traits.  Brendan turned 16 this past October, old enough to get his “L” to learn to drive.  We didn’t get around to him writing his test for the “L” until this past month.  I’m not sure whose idea it was for me to teach Brendan to drive, but we added extra insurance to my vehicle and I was given the job to teach Brendan the rules of the road.

Our first day driving together, I get in the truck give him the tour of the gadgets on the dashboard and off we go.  From the moment he steps on the gas and down our street to the stop sign, my heart is in my mouth.  He was driving too fast and stopped too late at the stop sign.  I’m all over it, telling him to slow down, be more cautious, focus and yelling at him to stop.  Not a good start and when I get home after teaching him that day, the first thing I said to my husband when I walked through the front door was “I can’t do this.”  “You can’t do what?” “Drew I can’t teach Brendan to drive.”  “Why not?”  “Because I fear for my life.”  At this, Drew gives me a big belly laugh and he says, “Don’t be ridiculous, you can do this, you can teach him to drive.”  “No I can’t, I can’t teach him to drive, it was a stupid idea for me to teach him, you need to teach him.”   Since I drive the boys to school every day, they are with me in the car all the time, it is logical that I teach him, but from the beginning my perspective has been that this situation is not working.

Negative I know and coming from the person who wrote “The Power of Positive”, I really needed to go back and read my own advice.  Digging deep I had to admit I was very nervous and reacting to my son’s emotions.  Brendan is 16 going on 40 and he thinks he knows everything, like he knows how to drive yet he’s never driven before.  Since I am an empath, I tend to take on other’s emotions and dealing with his cocky, know-it-all attitude in the car was completely draining me and if I am to be honest, I was all over him for things that hadn’t even happened yet because I knew how he would react.  This was not working in my, nor Brendan’s favour, and we were fighting non-stop.   Everyday I would say “this is going to work” and at the end of every day I would be saying “this is not going to work.”

After school one day, Brendan was driving and we had to stop at the drugstore to pick up a few things.  Brendan pulls into the drugstore parking lot too fast and pulls one of his cocky manoeuvres.  Finishing off a very busy day at work and feeling tired and irritable, his driving set me off and I was all over him.  When we finally parked, I kicked him out of the truck and told him he wasn’t driving home and for that matter I wasn’t teaching him.  He reacted to my outburst, and the two of us got out of the truck and we were yelling at the top of our lungs at each other across the top of the truck about the driving situation.  Brendan and I are alike in that when we lose our cool we lose all perspective and neither one of us care about who is around, who is listening and what their thoughts are.  Needless to say, we put on quite the show for everyone going to the drugstore that day.  I was so mad I went around to the driver’s side and decided to abandon shopping and jumped in the truck.  I was about to drive off without Brendan when he jumped into the passenger seat.  Brendan being Brendan, decided he was going to give me a lesson by imitating how I sound from the passenger seat while he’s driving.  All the way home he imitated me giving him instructions.  I have to admit he did a pretty good job and I did find myself very annoying.

We arrive home and Brendan is furious, jumps out of the truck, slams the door and walks into the house.  My youngest son, Matt, was in the back seat that day and the whole time he was observing the situation and never uttered a word.  I sat in the car trying to calm my temper and Matt just sat in silence with me.  Matt is my quiet one and he is a self-assured boy who has a good sense of himself and sees all but doesn’t say too much.  However, if you ask Matt his opinion he doesn’t pull any punches.  I rely on Matt’s perspective because he always comes from “a matter of fact” place.  After a few minutes I turned to face Matt in the backseat and I said, “am I that bad Matt?”  He looked at me for a second and then stared straight into my eyes and said “you want the truth mom.”  “yeah Matt I want the truth, give it to me.”  “Worse, I think Brendan played you down a bit mom, you are bloody annoying.”  I stared at him for a few seconds, “that bad Matt,” “yep, that bad mom.”

I didn’t talk to Brendan about it that night but the next morning as we left the house to go to school, I gave him the keys and he seemed shocked, went to say something and then thought better of it.  He drove to school and I barely said two-words to him, I let him make the decisions and he drove really well that morning.  Once he parked the car and before we went about our business for the day, I apologized to Brendan for being so over the top with his driving.  He graciously accepted my apology and I did bring up how cocky he could be while driving and that he had to respect that I was nervous and for him to be respectful of my feelings.  I also reminded him that he still has a lot to learn about driving.  He admitted to the attitude and we both agreed to start over again and be more respectful of one another in the car.

Brendan is on his way to his “N”(new driver) and he will get there and by the time he does, I am sure he will be a good driver.  I still brake the imaginary brake while sitting in the passenger seat, but I’ve learned to keep out of the driver’s seat while riding as the passenger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

where there is death, there is drama

“In the end these things matter most: how well did you love?  How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” Buddha

I’ve always been a straight shooter with zero tolerance for bullshit and I come by that honestly as my father was a straight shooter.   Where there is death there is drama – I hate to sound so cold but it’s true.   I remember my father talking about a man he knew that had died.  He didn’t like the man and according to my father, neither did anyone else.  Yet somehow in death the man became this great man and all loved him.  I can still hear my father’s voice as he said ” the man was an asshole, the only difference about him now is he is a dead asshole.” Don’t get me wrong,  I never speak ill of the dead but if I didn’t like someone in life, I don’t like them any better in death.  My father had a point and a lesson taken from that man’s death was to treat people like you want to be treated.

I believe that no one dies before their time and every life on earth has their own destination time to death.   Life is short and you have to take the time to make sure your loved ones know how much you love them.  In every death there is much to be learned;  how one lived their life, good or bad, is a lesson for the rest of us.   Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and not one of us is better than the other.   After all we all have the same destination – death.  We can’t escape it and sooner or later it’s coming.  How we treat people and how we love is what tells all about us in life  and in death.

Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

A great musician died yesterday and I have no idea how he lived his life. I only knew his music.  He was a talented self-taught musician that defied human logic.  The video below is a look at just the man and his talent.  The world was blessed to witness his talent and the video below cuts through all the celebrity circus and takes you to the core and raw Prince Rogers Nelson.  I hope Prince’s life was filled with the same amount of love as his talent.  Enjoy…

 

FINDING ABUNDANCE THROUGH SIMPLICITY

“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.”  Buddha

It seems like my whole life I have watched people build a life of material objects to fulfill their happiness.  They will obsess over material things and get what they want only to be bored and move on to something else.  It’s not that I don’t value the material things in my life – I do.  However, the obsession with having the right look, the right car, the perfect furniture and the shallowness of thinking I am superior because of what I have in a material way has never been me.  My husband and I are blessed to be able to afford the house that we live in and I enjoy the fact that I have a roof over my head,  but when I really look around, I see four walls, four walls everywhere.  I don’t think this house represents  who I am as a whole person,  nor am I going to find some bliss of happiness by spending a ton of money to fix up the house to make it appear as if I live in the pages of magazine where surely no one could live happily as magazines display a perfect order an order I don’t believe exists.

The older I get the more I am simplifying my life.  I am simplifying my life in every way.  I eat simple, cook simple, play simple and love simple.  I follow paths of simplicity by simply enjoying nature, enjoying simple laughs with my children and my husband, casual conversations that don’t necessarily lead anywhere other than simple enjoyment of another person.  I want to take the time to get to know people, not what they do for a living, how much money they make or what kind of car they drive.  I really don’t care for any of that and the truth be known I find it incredibly boring.  I want to know what a person likes, what makes them laugh and who inspires them.

Interesting because in this social media frenzied world everyone is talking about how perfect their lives are and living with abundance but their interpretation of abundance is full of material things to make their life rich and abundant.  The truth is we could live with less than half of the material things we have and live an incredibly rich life.  The more we have the more baggage we carry and the more baggage we carry the less our spirit soars.

If you are thinking I have a house with hardly any material things, check yourself because I have way more material things than I need.  I live with my  husband, two children and  a mother-in-law, all who carry emotional baggage that translates into material objects.  I want it all gone and if I had my way I would back up my truck and trash it all, but I have to respect other people’s personal property and honour their wishes.  As time moves on and I have started to live in a more simplistic state, I am finding that slowly but surely the pack is following.  In the last five months my husband has been on a roll to get rid of his clutter and material baggage and my youngest is almost ready to give up the rest of his childhood toys that he no longer uses.  Matt and I have gone through his toys and gotten rid of most things but he is having  a hard time letting go of his lego – several huge boxes of lego.  I keep telling him that another child would be so happy to own this lego and he might as well let it go and make someone else happy.

A natural order as the energy flows from an older child down to a smaller child bringing both to a happier place.  My son doesn’t quite see it like that yet, he sees it as letting go of a period in his life that is gone and he’s holding on to that period with everything he’s got.  Slowly he is coming around as we talk about letting go and moving on, plus he sees that if he gets rid of all that lego, his personal space would open up giving him more room  and freedom for his paints, more room to draw and be creative using a different medium to broaden his artistic ability.

The shift is happening, we are all on the path to abundance through a  more simple life.  I also have to learn patience because the life shift is not happening fast enough for me but I know that shifts in lifestyle and attitude take time and in order for me to truly find abundance in simplicity, I have to respect everyones personal space and property.  A lesson in humility for me as I continue on this journey we call life..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GAINING CONTROL OF THE KAOS

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red.

It’s been 8 months since I adopted a new member into our family. A big black shepherd named Kaos. It has been a long time since I’ve had a dog in my life, I put off adopting a dog because I was busy with my boys, work, home and a host of other reasons why I didn’t adopt a dog before now. The longer I went without a dog in my life, the more I had forgotten how much joy these beautiful beings bring to ones’ life.

I adopted Kaos from the SPCA and he had been neglected and abused. He was 25 pounds underweight and he suffered from extremely high anxieties. He is a big boy so I immediately started to work with him by feeding him well and getting his weight back to a healthy state, training him to walk properly on a leash and dealing with his anxieties. When we adopted Kaos I was home from work on holidays. Three weeks after I adopted him and the first day back to work, Kaos tried to stop me from leaving the house by grabbing my pant legs with his mouth and pulling me back into the house. When that didn’t work he tried blocking the front door to stop me from leaving. My husband phoned me at work to tell me that Kaos had been lying at the door for several hours howling and crying. He was so worried I wasn’t coming back,  so after that experience I worked with him by leaving for a short time, came back, leaving again for a short time came back, leaving a little longer, longer until he realized that “yes she’s leaving and yes she’s coming back.”

He is a smart cookie so he was somewhat easy to train but he had one problem that I could not deal with; leash aggression. Every time I took him for a walk and he saw another dog, he lost his mind. The leash aggression was so bad that he almost pulled me into on-coming traffic one night. After that close call I bought a pinch collar. I hated to do it but I needed more control because as his weight, health and anxiety issues improved , he got stronger and stronger. The pinch collars pinch into the dog’s neck and creates an uncomfortable pressure giving the handler more control. This seemed to work for a short while but as time went on, Kaos became more and more aggressive while on the leash. So aggressive, one night another brave soul walked his dog close to mine and Kaos tried to attack the gentleman’s dog. Took everything I had to hold him off. I was so exhausted that night when I finally got home with Kaos – exhausted and depleted – my thoughts were “I just can’t do this any more.”

Kaos baffled me, he was like the dog ambassador in the dog parks but on a leash he was a complete lunatic and there was no doubt in my mind, his aggression was getting out of control. When I was a younger woman I rode horses and I can remember one summer, this particular horse took a disliking to me and was always trying to find a way to get me off his back. One day during lessons as we were doing our exercises, my horse turned to the middle of the group and started running out of control and jumping like he was doing some kind of rodeo trick. I was thrown clear and landed on my ass. I remember feeling bruised and embarrassed as I lied on the ground staring up at the ceiling of the huge barn. I was furious, found my composure, lifted myself out of the dirt and walked over to the horse, furiously took the reigns and climbed right back on. The horse tried to throw me off again but I wouldn’t hear of it. I never had trouble with that horse again. That memory came back to me as I was dealing with Kaos and with that memory came this question “if I could get control over a 900 pound horse, why the hell could I not get control over a 90 pound dog?”

Realizing that I had tried everything and given everything I had, I called a dog trainer. Her name is Shauna and interesting enough I found out about Shauna when I least expected it. I was in a dog store buying a bone for Kaos when I had a casual conversation with the girl at the cash. I told her about my Kaos having leash aggression and she gave me Shauna’s number. I called Shauna but we couldn’t seem to get our schedules together. Time went on and I just dealt with the Kaos and at times he got better but overall his aggression had become incredibly intense.   Another trip to a different dog store months after I first heard of Shauna’s name, I had another casual conversation with the store owner. After describing my Kaos, this woman said to me you must call this trainer, her name is Shauna. I said “Shauna Olson”, yeah “how did you know” said the shop owner. I believe in messages from the universe and losing her number only to run into someone else who spoke so highly of Shauna meant that it was Kaos’ destiny to meet Shauna.

Our first session was private and then I booked ten group sessions and the Kaos man and I have so far completed five group sessions. I now can walk past dogs and he may growl a little but no more losing his mind, I have complete control. Shauna confirmed what I already knew, I was the problem. Never having a dog with leash aggression and not having the tools or techniques to deal with it I was making my dog crazy. The pinch collar, even though the collar gave me control, was a mistake. Every walk I took with Kaos and I saw a dog coming, I tensed and as I tensed I was sending Kaos the message that I was not in control, and feeling out of control Kaos was doing only what he knows best, he was protecting me! Adding the pinch collar to that situation only created frustration and anger and that is why his aggression became so intense  instead of getting better. If I had been listening and connecting with Kaos properly, I would have been able to take control of the situation. His size and sheer aggression just added stress to our walks as I was very tense and concerned that he would attack and he did attack another dog.   Thankfully the pinch collar allowed me to gain some control over that situation.   Now I have control by giving Kaos direct instructions, letting him know what I expect from him when a dog comes our way by repeating the same command and when he doesn’t listen to my command I have discipline techniques I use to gain control.  All of this work is assuring Kaos that I’ve got it, I’ve got everything under control and he doesn’t need to protect me. The result is peaceful walks, and increased bonding with Kaos, just the way I envisioned our life together..

THE EGO HAS LANDED

“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.  Chogyam Trungpa

How much better the world would be if people checked their egos at the door.  Egos take up so much space and I see egos everywhere.  I see them at work, I see them at my children’s hockey games, I see them at my children’s football games, I see them at the mall, I see them at church and on the street.  If you look close you can see them too, they carry a certain aura that you just can’t miss.  They exhibit themselves in arrogance, power,  vanity,  rudeness, elitist and entitlement.

Egos are not authentic, they are not real, they are a perspective of who someone thinks they should be rather than who they could be.  Egos think that they have many  opportunities by using and abusing the environment around them without care or concern how it affects the beings within that environment.  I spot egos from a mile away and I absolutely detest egos.  Should you have the nerve to question ego, the anger, bitterness and absolute meanness that can unleash in your direction is overwhelming.

It’s tempting to get back at ego, make ego pay, call ego out, but the truth of the matter is to engage in such unworthy actions simply sets ego up against ego in a war where there are only takers and no winners.    Ignoring ego, not reacting to ego and letting ego follow it’s own path is a walk toward enlightenment and peace.  Calling out souls and reaching out from soul to soul is who we are meant to be and gravitates our being on a path where ego has no home.

In an egomaniac world it can be hard to stay true to one’s values and ego hates beings with core values.  Ego will chase core values down like a hunter stalking his prey and kill core values at the root so ego can achieve the ultimate goal of power and intimidation.  Ego and Narcissist are friends and when they get together it can be a powerful tea party.  Plotting and planning and executing their selfishness and need to be the centre of the universe taking down any being who dares to question their motives.  An exhausting game, even for the ego and narcissist.  A game that ultimately leads to isolation and loneliness but in ego and narcissist’s shallow and limited minds they won as the ego has landed.

INTO THE SHADOWS – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR NOVEMBER 6, 2015

into the shadows

she felt his presence behind her as she walked through the darkness,

she struggled to keep her composure as she sensed he was near,

she  was looking for a place to hide when she saw a group of trick-or-treaters,

and walked amongst their shadows to hide from the presence lurking behind her,

suddenly she found herself alone to face the dark figure,

breathing in his scent she recognized his presence,

causing her confusion as he hadn’t been an earthly being for several years,

suddenly time stood still as she looked into her lover’s eyes,

her body filled with panic as he snuggled into her neck,

she felt his warmth as he moved his lips from her neck to her lips,

passionately kissing her and caressing her body,

flooded with memories of his tenderness as she parted her lips,

feeling the familiar tingling running through her body,

closing her eyes memories of their lovemaking

 possessed her mind, body and soul,

as time stood still for two distant lovers,

a mortal creature caught between the realms of earth

and the spiritual world,

suddenly she found herself alone

as if he never existed,

to walk down the street

back

into the shadows.

momwhearingloss

MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER

Sitting on the concrete stairs, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette, he said, “I hope you never come to understand that kind of hate.”

As I grew to become a young woman and now a wife and mother, I’ve come to understand just how much my relationship with my father has shaped me into the woman I am today. My father was always somewhat mysterious to me and I learned to accept that mysterious quality as a part of him and a part of our relationship. He left our family when I was a young girl and I wrote about that period of my life in “sins of thy father”.  It was a confusing time for both my father and I, but somehow we were able to salvage what little time we had and spent quality time during the remaining years of my father’s life.  My hometown was Montreal, Quebec where my father resided until his death, and I had moved across the country to British Columbia living with my mother as we journeyed through our new family life that she created. We moved to BC when I was fifteen and every year my brother and I would hop on a plane and visit my father for a minimum of two weeks.  My favourite memories of my father was our time sitting on the concrete stairs at the front of the house.  I would get up early in the morning, grab my smokes, my coffee and join him on the concrete steps to steal some alone time as we talked about anything and everything(memories).

My father served in the Canadian Navy during the second world war.  Growing up I understood that his time in the war was a major part of his life, but not something I really thought about until I learned of the atrocities during the second world war in school.  At the age of seventeen my father was itching to go to Europe and offer his services to combat the evil that was growing overseas. My grandparents gave my father their blessings and off to war he went.  He was part of the Canadian Navy convoy that protected allied supply ships going to Europe that held men, equipment, weapons, food, medical supplies, and so much more, to the front lines.  He saw many things and the vintage pictures he had in his possession, depicted his naval life and the men he served with in various European locations, had an eery silence to them and my father added to that mystery and silence by never talking about the war.

I found out by eavesdropping on my father’s conversations that he did talk about the war to certain people, but never to his daughter.  Once a friend of ours dropped by to visit and while sitting over coffee in the kitchen, my father and his friend suddenly started conversing in french. I was not completely versed in the french language and I think my father figured I would not be able to understand what the two men were talking about.  I knew enough french to understand that they were talking about my father’s time during the war.  The story I picked up was about the men he served with when a German ship was blown out of the water and what happened when the ship he was on picked up the survivors.  I’d rather not share the story, but I was shocked because I always thought that the Canadians were the good guys. Listening to his story, I immediately realized that there were some things that I could not possibly understand.

The next day during our morning coffee, smoke and concrete stair routine, I asked my father if I understood the story correctly.  He was surprised that I understood that much and told me that essentially I had the story correct.  I shared my disgust for the story and he said to me, “honey, there are things you don’t understand and war is one of them.”  “What do you think would happen right now if your whole family was blown to bits, how do you think that would change you?”  I told him, I couldn’t imagine that happening in this country and told him that I thought the Canadians were the good guys.  “The war did terrible things and watching ships blown out of the water by the enemy, knowing our brothers were on those ships brings hate to good men and makes men do and think things that they thought they would never do.”  “I hope you never come to understand that kind of hate and I hope your children’s children never understand that kind of hate either.”

Sitting on those stairs that morning, I came to understand my father’s mysterious ways and why he was the way he was.  A good friend of his once told me that he loved my father because he was a loyal friend and would give you the shirt off his back, but God help you, he said, if you crossed him. A trait of my father’s I’ve learned to curb over the years. I’ve learned the hard way that not all friends or family have your back and some go out of their way to betray. I’ve learned to forgive and move on, but true to my father, I never forget. My father was the first man I trusted to bare my soul to and I could tell him the good, the bad and the ugly.  He always listened, never judged and all these years after his death, some of those conversations still come back to me. As I age, I realize that the short time my father was on this earth and in my life, shaped me into the type of woman I am today. I crave for more time on the concrete steps to reconnect with my father who truly understood me.

ANCIENT DOORS – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR MAY 15TH, 2015

door

As she pressed through the ancient wooden door,

she wondered if he was there,

often she drops by and sits alone in his house,

and wonders if he hears her,

she needed him to be there this time,

surrounded by his ancient walls,

she could only hear the crickety sound

of his floorboards,

the smell of dust and ancient wood filled her nostrils,

as she sat down in his chair and stared out his window,

closing her eyes, she tried to imagine what he would

be like if he was there,

would he be warm, would he make fun of her or

would he rebuke her,

after some time and deep into thought,

the candles to the right of her suddenly lit,

she felt the warmth of him stirring from deep

within,

as he sat down beside her,

and guided her to feel complete and whole,

giving her the strength to face her fears

and embrace her worries,

letting her know that he is there,

for her,

in this world and beyond

momwhearingloss

THE TRAVELLING TRUNK

My earliest memory of my obsession with objects from the past, was a trunk I found in my mother’s basement. The travelling trunk had come with my grandparents when they travelled across the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada many years before. The trunk had a big lock on the front and wooden slats that ran horizontally around the trunk. What looked like straps of black leather, ran vertically from the top of the trunk to the bottom. When you lifted the top of the trunk and looked inside there were compartments that held pockets that you could lift out creating layers for all of your personal belongings allowing our ancestors to pack virtually their entire lives in that trunk. I imagined my grandmother had a good dress, a working dress, a few hats, gloves, linens, silverware, maybe some dishes and not much else. I was fascinated with the trunk as a young girl and obsessively opened it and pulled it apart only to put it back together again imagining I was fleeing some hopeless situation.

Moving my hands across the top and the sides of the trunk, I would close my eyes and see if I could get a sense of my grandparents as a young man and woman fleeing poor conditions in Ireland and coming to Canada on a boat with the hope of finding a job and settling in a new country. I can’t even imagine but as I ran my hand over the trunk feeling the bumps, grooves and the ruggedness of the time, I was able to feel fear and uncertainty, yet hope and promise at the same time.

My grandparents settled with many other Irish descendants in Montreal, Quebec and there my grandfather settled into labour jobs and worked hard to support his eventual family of three boys and five girls. Two of the children were twins and unfortunately, one of the boys died at the young age of 18 months of scarlet fever. My Irish grandfather was a staunch, bold and stubborn man and from what I understand from my mother he was difficult to live with, thought nothing of throwing the girls’ boyfriends down the stairs if he thought they were disrespectful. Yet while raising his young family, there were times there wasn’t enough food in the house to feed all, he would go to his labour job without food to make sure there was enough food to feed his children.

They were poor, my mother remembers part of her weekly routine was standing in bread lines. My mother recounted how a Christian group at the local Catholic church dropped by with poor boxes for Christmas, my grandfather took exception to the fact that a gift of a sled for one of his children, included with this box, was full of dog shit and in poor condition. He took that sled and walked up to the local church and gave the Pastor hell for allowing his church to give children such poor gifts and my grandfather wanted to know if most of the children in that Pastor’s church received toys in such poor condition covered with dog shit. My grandfather insisted that what was good enough for the children of his parish he expected for his children and threw the sled at him and walked home. He was a proud man, there was no doubt about that and from my earliest memories of my grandfather, I remember his proudness.

Interesting, he was a story teller. Something I don’t remember very well, but my older siblings remember and when he came over for family dinners, he would gather all the children around him and tell stories of how the dead came to life at wakes and many other harrowing stories that scared all the children, yet my siblings assure me that they loved his stories and loved being around him. The trunk was my first encounter with my grandparents’ earlier life, a life before any of us, a time when all they had was each other and the contents of that trunk. Digging through the trunk and inhaling the scent of the time, I realized that I was born from that trunk, the trunk of hopes and dreams of a better life was a symbol of the empire my grandparents built of families with their own hopes and dreams of a better life.

THE POWER OF SIBLINGS

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” – Maya Angelou

The other day I e-mailed my brother to share an article that I thought he would like.  The article was well written and funny and it reminded me of my older brother.  He emailed me back to acknowledge the article and inquire how we were all doing.  He then said something so simple and I’m sure he has no idea just how much this simple line touched me.  He said “I enjoy reading your blog, it’s good and you are a much nicer person than me – I feel humbled – lol!”  Kevin has been reading my blog since I started and he’s always been supportive of my writing.  Growing up, Kevin was my senior brother by seven years and I didn’t always feel that he was supportive of me or my ambitions.  To be quite honest when I was a young girl and a teenager I quite often thought he was an asshole and I’m sure he thought the same of me.  We didn’t get along, I always felt he pushed his weight around and he was in my face which made me push back and at times it could be explosive!  I drove him crazy, I knew it and knowing that I drove him crazy only encouraged me to get under his skin some more.  I can be like that,  if I feel negativity coming my way I tend to face it straight on with my head high and get in negativity’s face no matter what the consequence.

After reading that line in his e-mail, I realized how far we’ve come.  Acknowledging my writing and complimenting me erupted within me a feeling of satisfaction and made my day.  I realized at that moment as a young girl growing up under the weight of my big brother that I was looking for his support and craving his acceptance.  Looking back at our up-bringing I realized that Kevin and I were destined to be in an explosive sibling rivalry by the very nature of our family dynamics.  Our parents split up and divorced when I was eight and Kevin was 15.  The divorce was nasty and full of tension and anger leaving the children to fend for themselves on an emotional level.  I look at my 15-year-old son right now and what he is going through in terms of growing pains, hormones and emotions and then I think of my brother watching our father walk out the door and the emotional toll it took on our mother and I realize now why Kevin was such an asshole.  By nature most 15-year-old boys are assholes as they are trying to find their way and become young men.  Kevin was expected to be the man of the house and take care of his younger sister and brother.  My younger brother was pretty quiet about everything but I could be uncooperative at times and a sassy, quick-talking little bitch.  I’m sure that’s what my brother wanted at 15, to be responsible for two children who didn’t really want to be a part of the whole mess either.

Kevin was a good hockey player and he was a smart cookie in school.  My father coached hockey and coached Kevin up to that point.  My father gave up coaching, Kevin quit hockey and picked up a different group of friends which led him away from school and into endeavours that put him on a different path, a path that was the opposite direction of his former life.  It’s not for me to express my brother’s feelings, but I’m sure he was angry and I think that anger came out in so many different forms.  I’ve always  been able to channel people’s feelings and emotions and I know now that I was reacting to his anger.  Every single one of  my siblings reacted differently to the trials of our parents’ divorce and every single one of us have different feelings and versions of events.  Difficult really, places brother against brother, sister against sister and brother against sister.  Divorce doesn’t have to be that way but it was that way for our family.

As I sit here this morning writing this post, I am 3000 miles on the opposite coast of my siblings and I miss them.  I miss our bonds no matter how unpredictable and temperamental we all can be.  The truth of the matter is when I get together with my siblings I feel like I’ve come home, truly come home and I can be myself as I react to the constant banter and wise cracking comments between us.  I love the nature of our relationships and I wouldn’t trade our up-bringing or past experiences because I believe these experiences have shaped us into who we are.  A couple of years ago, Kevin and my sister-in-law, Sandra, flew to the west coast to spend some time with my family.  It was such a good visit, we had a lot of fun and Kevin and I talked about old times.  It was during this visit that a light came on for me as I realized all of our past trials and fights happened because Kevin and I are more alike rather than opposites as I believed growing up.  I guess you can say Kevin and I finally came home, home to a place of mutual respect and acceptance and realized we are both assholes!

WHAT WOULD 10 YEAR OLD JO THINK?

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”
― Samuel Johnson, The Rambler

I stumbled upon a new blog that intrigued me – Duane’s World.  His writing is simple and he has changed his world by eradicating all negativity and perfectionism from his life.  The post that really caught my attention was “What would 10-year-old Duane think?”   No I’m not copying Duane but think about it, how often do we think of our 10-year-old selves and what he/she would think of our adult selves.

I haven’t thought of 10-year-old Jo in forever!   My 10-year-old self – here it goes – if  you met 10-year-old Jo you would think she was this quiet, beautiful little girl.  Jo tended to be a little shy but in truth Jo was carrying many burdens.  Jo was an outdoorsy, curious girl who wanted to spend her days running through fields, climbing trees, catching spiders and finding different bugs to add to her bug terrarium.  Jo hated it when people fussed over her, she hated having her hair brushed and she hated wearing skirts.  Jo played with barbie but barbie was always on an outdoor adventure and wearing clothes that logically fit the lifestyle – no pretty dresses for barbie.  Jo’s day usually started by rummaging through her drawers to find anything to wear and much to her mother’s horror Jo would be very under dressed as she ran out the front door as clothes just interfered with her curious nature.   Winters were cold and harsh, but Jo was outside all the same.  No bugs to catch, but forts and igloos to build, snow angels to make and skating at the community outdoor rink.

At home Jo’s life was difficult – full of chaos and sadness and Jo’s mom didn’t embrace her inquisitive nature.  Instead Jo’s mom tried to break her curious spirit by showing distaste for Jo’s interest in everything from bugs, clothes, messy hair and her close relationship with her father, her mom’s ex-husband.   Not all bad as Jo learned to stand up for what she believed in and taught her the importance of always being yourself.

What would 10-year-old Jo think of 50-year-old Jo?  10-year-old Jo would like that she still lives her life in the outdoors every chance she gets, she would like that she married someone who loves all of her,  good and bad, she would like that she has two boys and no princess girls, she would love that she plays hockey and she would like that she still likes spiders and snakes.    What 10-year-old Jo would not like about 50-year-old Jo – she would hate all of the skirts and pretty clothes in her closet, she would think that she covers herself up with too many clothing items, she would hate all her shoes as you only need one pair, she would hate that she is tied down to a full-time job, she would hate her lack of freedom because of commitments and she would hate her house because housework is just  a waste of time.

Truth be told – 50-year-old Jo is still very much like 10-year-old Jo and she still struggles to not let outside forces interfere with who she is.   Her mother is no longer around to show her distaste in her choices but there are plenty of other people to replace her.  The little Jo in her ignores them all and to combat the negative forces she heads outdoors where she is accepted as a whole as she blends into the accepting and curious forces of nature.

Duane’s World

THE AWKWARD YEARS

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
– John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)

I wrote about the boys when they were little farts in the “Wonder Years”.   It seemed like those years were filled with special, magical moments that I’ve captured in pictures time and time again.  Life with teenagers is a whole other dimension.  At times I feel ill prepared and I say and do all of the wrong things.  The most I can do is offer them support and guidance and hope all goes well.  I was a teenager too and I remember those years and to be honest my children are a breeze compare to what I was like.  I was a rebellious little bitch back then and I thank God I don’t have a teenage version of me in the house.

What I’ve really noticed is the language has changed.   When the boys were younger we talked all the time, now that they’re teenagers the most I get is yeah, no and I don’t want to talk about it.  Being me I ask another question and I get “I told you I don’t want to talk about it.”  However, they don’t have jobs, they can’t drive a car and they need my husband and I to act as their chauffeurs, give them money for their entertainment and support their sport endeavours.

A while back my fifteen year old asked me to drive him to the movie theatre so he could join his friends.  On the way over to the theatre I asked him what movie he was seeing.  I made a comment that I wanted to see that movie and I got a blank stare.  Then he said “mom you can’t come to the movie with me, you know that right?”  Ouch… “What makes you think I want to see a movie with a bunch of fifteen year old boys Brendan?”  “Well just in case you did mom, you can’t come in.”  “Wow Brendan – really – believe it or not I much prefer your dad’s company.”  A couple of months later my thirteen year-old asked if I could drive him to the theatre to meet his buddies to see a movie.  Same chatter, different day – I asked him what movie he was going to see.  “We’re going to see the Fury with Brad Pitt mom.”  “Matt I love Brad, I want to see that movie.”  Blank stare and after a few moments of thought Matt said to me, “mom if you want to come in and see the movie, can you drop me off, drive around the back, come in a different door and sit in the other side of theatre.”  “Matt that is such a sweet thing to say.”  Perplexed he said “really, I’m telling you to sit in the other side of the theatre and you think that’s sweet.”  “Yeah Matt, the fact that you invited me at all makes me happy, but as enticing as your offer sounds,  I’ll pass and pick you up when the movie is done.”

Recently there has been the drama of girls and I am really not prepared for that as I was never  a princess girl and I keep telling my boys if they are going to date to make sure they look for girls who don’t play head games and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  Don’t bring home a princess head game player because your mother won’t survive it. Both boys think I’m nuts and that’s ok because I am nuts – you have to be certifiable to raise teenagers.

Day in day out I question if I’m doing it right and at the end of every day when all is quiet and the boys have washed up for bed – it’s usually the same routine – I’m in the kitchen cleaning up the day’s mess and Brendan comes down and gives me a big hug and says good-night and about five minutes later, Matt comes down and hugs me good-night as well.  Makes me smile every time and admit to myself that maybe just maybe I’m doing something right!

 

 

 

Winter Nakedness – Friday’s phlog for December 5, 2014.

raw trees“The beauty is in the starkness of the trees.   The nakedness of winter trees makes me take a deep breath into my soul and face my vulnerable senses only to realize that all that is wrong in this present moment will be replaced by a transformation when I’m held in the arms of the sun.”

johanne fraser

NEGATIVE WAYS BABY

“You just can’t live that negative way.
You know what I mean. Make way for the positive day. Cause it’s a new day…”

Bob Marley

The past couple of weeks my family has been living like nomads roaming free around the countryside. We planned our camping trip months ago and we decided to take the trailer up to the interior of British Columbia as the children and I have never been there. To start the trip we decided to drive to Barkerville, BC. It was a ten-hour drive to arrive to a place that is off the beaten path. We arrived after dark and the only address for the campsite listed on the website was “this campsite is 3 kilometres east of Barkerville.” I knew this was remote but I had no idea how remote until we got there and drove up and down the road leading to Barkerville looking for some kind of sign that led us to the campground. We finally found a service road and tucked in behind was a sign leading us to our campground. I’m use to staying in packed campgrounds so I was unprepared to be one of three campers in a fairly large campground. Upon booking I knew that the ammenities were few and far between. There was water but no hook-up and no electricity. There were washrooms with a shower but upon inspection, it was $1.00 a minute to shower and the water was luke warm at best. I wasn’t worried about the no electricity or water hookup, but a cold shower, no thank-you.

The next day we headed to Barkerville and we were filled with the history of the gold rush in the area and I must say it was very interesting. I can’t imagine living somewhere so remote and trying to establish myself way back when there was no electricity and plumbing. I didn’t realize that Barkeville and the Gold Rush made BC what it is today. When Billy Barker struck gold, there was a movement to annex BC to the USA. When the Queen of England found out about Billy Barker’s riches in gold she promptly put a stop to the movement because she wanted a piece of the pie! At one time it was thought that Vancouver would not become an established city because of the success of Barkerville. Hard to believe but Barkerville housed fifteen thousand people in its heyday. As much as I enjoyed the couple of days in Barkerville I couldn’t help but notice and feel an enormous amount of negative energy from the land. Every night when I went to sleep my head was filled with negativity making it difficult for me to sleep and during the day I had an uneasy feeling. I told my husband and he said “there was a lot of greed, evil, sickness and death in this land, maybe you’re just feeling the negative residue that’s been left behind.” I’m not sure, but I was definetely feeling something. A few minutes later after telling my husband about the negativity, I heard him humming to himself outside of the trailer. The song went something like this, “you gotta lose those negative ways baby.” I’m surprised I heard him but the area was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

We stayed in Barkerville for three nights and I didn’t take a shower as the second day it was cold and raining and the thought of taking my clothes off in a cold concrete room only to jump into a cold shower and pay $1.00 for a minute didn’t sit well with me. Instead I filled a pot with water and boiled the water on my gas stove and sponged bathed in the bathroom in the trailer. Good thing I was born in this era, I wouldn’t have survived in the gold rush days! We left Barkerville and drove east to Kamloops and then on to Fort Steele about a twelve hour drive through the mountains. It was a beautiful drive and only after driving for two hours did I feel the negativity leave my body. I’m not sure what I was feeling but something didn’t feel right.

I’ll be sure to post pictures as I can’t load pictures with the computer I’m using. We are still in Nomad mode cruising the countryside. I’ll  update  with more stories and pictures in the next little while. I’m grateful to say that so far during the rest of my trip, I have only felt peace and tranquility in this beautiful Rocky Mountain countryside and I haven’t heard my husband singing “you gotta lose those negative ways baby” since we left Barkerville.

BERRIES, BERRIES AND MORE BERRIES PLEASE!

 

icecream-pie-9Found this recipe on High Walls – I love berries and vanilla ice cream.  I haven’t made this yet but it’s a no brainer.  I’m positive the pie is delicious – after all it contains two very important ingredients for awesomeness – fat and sugar!  Enjoy – picture makes me want to eat it up..

MIXED BERRY PIE (Recipe from High Walls )

INGREDIENTS:
1 packet of Nice Biscuits

1 cup of butter

1/3 cup of sugar

1 pint of vanilla ice cream

1 packet of frozen mixed berries

1. Place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until reduced to crumbs. Transfer  to a large mixing bowl. Along with the sugar (you can omit the sugar if you prefer).

2. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly before using. Add gradually to the crumb mixture, mixing as you go until the mixture starts to clump together. (you may not need all the butter)

3. Press the mixture evenly into a pie or tart tin, pushing up at the sides and smoothing the bottom. The mixture should come together as you press down. Place in the freezer to set for 30 – 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile allow the vanilla ice cream to soften in a large bowl. Place the 3/4 of the frozen berries in a food processor and pulse a few times to break down into smaller pieces.

5. Mix the berries (and any juices) into the softened ice cream. If you are feeling it, add in some finely chopped chocolate as well.

6. Remove the crust from the freezer and fill with the ice cream and berries. Ensure that the crust is completely filled and smooth down the top. Wrap in plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least an hour.

7. To serve, remove the pie from the freezer and allow to sit to soften slightly before cutting into slices. Top with the remaining frozen berries and dust with icing sugar if you so desire.

BOY WONDER

“While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about”  Angela Schwindt

Trying to get my youngest son away from his video and computer games is excruciating and painful.   Matt will play video games all day and night if you let him.  He starts playing a game and you can see the transformation taking place.  He is like a drug addict on crack and I tell him that all the time.  I get mad when he refuses to stop and I’ll say “you are like a crack addict getting your fix.”  He gets really mad at me and says “I am not, I can leave this game whenever I want.”  I say “then leave the game now, turn it off.”  “Let me just finish this, only five minutes left.”  “No, turn it off now Matt.”  “Let me just finish this” he says with his voice raising.  At this point I demand that he turns it off and then we get into a physical struggle while I grab the controls and he desperately tries to stop me.

Exhausting and I can see why parents just walk away and won’t deal with it because it is a challenge.  Simply put, I see my job as a parent to stop my children from doing things that are bad for them and guiding them to a better life.  Even though I don’t mind them playing video games and computers, I think there should be a limit and when the game takes over their lives to the point that they don’t even want to go outside or do anything else, I stop the game and kick them out of the house.  Matt, especially, will stand outside in the doorway and say “what am I supposed to do?”  It’s like he’s a lost puppy without the controls in his hands.  ” Go exploring, look for spiders, put on your blades and go rollerblading, ride your bike, shoot pucks, play football, lie in the grass and watch the clouds, grab some other kids and play hide-and-seek but whatever you do, do not tell me that you have nothing to do!”  I then slam the door and leave him to himself to figure it out.

Why is it I feel guilty as I walk away from the door and complete housework or whatever task I have to finish?  I hate to use the line to the boys, “when I was young I walked miles to school and back” like my mother did, but when I was young my mother never had to kick me out of the house, I ate breakfast and ran outside to find my friends, stayed out there until lunch and then after lunch I was outside until dinner and then after dinner I was outside until bed.  My feet were constantly black and I can remember being in the bath after a long day of playing and my mother complaining how dirty I was and she couldn’t tell if  she was scrubbing away dirt or my skin as I was very brown and freckled from being in the sun everyday.  I grew up in Montreal and the cold winters did not deter me either.  On weekends and after school I was outside for hours building forts and playing games.   So what have we done to our children with video games and too many conveniences?  We’ve taken the wonder out of our boys and the imagination out of our girls.   The good fight between myself and Matthew is interesting as he always fights like crazy to stay in the house in his addicted, deprived state and slams all kinds of things in anger as he leaves the house and stands outside with his shoulders hunched and his hands in a fist because he is furious with me.  When I check back on him 15 minutes later, he is smiling and happy and either blading, shooting pucks or playing with the other kids.  I then have the difficult task, as my mother did all those years ago, of getting him to come in to eat. I also like him to get out for walks and I force him to come with me and it’s the same never-ending language between us, he is always mad and won’t talk to me for at least  the first 10 minutes of our walks and then something will grab his attention and then my boy wonder comes back and he will talk my ear off asking me about anything and everything.

Once after work I was going for a walk and it was just the two of us at home that day and he was, of course, playing video games.  I said “Matt I’m going for a walk to the park and you’re coming with me.”  No I’m not, I’m staying here while you walk, I don’t want to go for a walk.”  “Nope, you won’t even own a video game if you don’t come with me because if you don’t come with me for a walk, I’ll change the game-plan and pack up all of your videos and games in a plastic garbage bag and drive everything to the nearest Salvation army and donate it all instead of going for a walk.”  He glared at for me a little while and then abruptly got up and grabbed his runners all the while slamming a few things around in a frustrated,  furious motion because he knows I’m good as my word and I would do just as I said.  We get to the park and I love walking there because the trail leads you through a forest and it feels so good to breathe in the woodsy smell and be around so much greenery.

We start out and Matt is not talking to me, walking with his shoulders hunched over looking very unhappy.  About five minutes into the forest Matt’s natural curious nature takes over and he stops at every flower to ask me what kind it is and every tree to look beyond the path and stops to pet every dog that goes by and has a little conversation with the dog owner.  I’m now trying to be patient because my walk is entirely screwed as I’m not walking at a pace consistent with working out. Finally we get to the end of our walk and I’m way ahead of Matt and he stops to look in a grove through the trees and he’s yelling, “mom come here, come here.”  “Matt, what is it, I can’t stop to look at every bloody tree, I want to get my walk in plus I’ve got to get home and cook dinner as your dad and Brendan should be home by now and I don’t want be eating dinner at 8:00 this evening.”  Impatiently, he says “mom just stop and come here now.”   I walk very quickly toward him with the demeanour of a very pissed off impatient woman and I get there and he says “look through the trees mom, do you see it?”  I look through the trees and I see trees and I say to him “no I don’t see it, we’ve got to go.”  “Mom”, he laughs, “I can’t believe you don’t see it.”  “Matt what are you talking about as I stare into the trees and all I can see is trees.”  “Mom are you serious, you really don’t see it, look closely mom and breathe while you are looking, I know you will see it.”  I stop and breathe and look again and then I saw it and I couldn’t stop seeing it.

There in the grove was this magical formation of spider webs, spider webs like I’ve never seen before. There must have been 50 spiders in the middle of every intricate web.  It was like a city scape of beautiful webs and spiders.  There must have been 10 feet of spiders and their webs and as the sun shone down the webs glistened and danced in the light.  My boy wonder saw the whole magnificent sight immediately, I walked right by it and never noticed as a matter of fact if I was walking through the woods I would have crashed right into that spider city.  Boy wonder is standing in the grove staring at the spiders and smiling.  He says “mom don’t they look beautiful in the sunlight and you missed it mom, you missed it because your mind is always far away, you need to be more here now.”

My boy wonder was essentially telling me the same thing I’ve been telling him, stop wasting your life away and notice the nows and let all past and future go and enjoy the moment because this very moment won’t happen again.  The chances of seeing a spider phenomenon like that again is unlikely, so I stood for quite a while with boy wonder while we talked about the webs of nature and how spiders and all creatures are important.  Matt taught me a lesson that day, he taught me not to underestimate my children, he also taught me to get out of my head and enjoy my surroundings all this from my video addicted boy wonder.

 

 

 

HAVING THE STRENGTH TO LOVE THYSELF

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“If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.”

Michael Jordan

Negativity can take hold and make its presence comfortable in your life and home.   Just like a persistent rodent who enters  your environment,  you know he is there and you are constantly aware of  his presence but the hunt to find him and eradicate the little bastard can be daunting and exhausting, leaving your energy and your spirit completely depleted and unmotivated.  When you take a little time away from  the little rodent; you refresh, re-cleanse, as you will, helping you overcome the helpless feeling, enabling you to come to your senses and hire the big guns to get rid of your rodent problem. 

The same strategy must be applied to the negativity in your life.  Allowing too much negativity in your life can rob you of the joy of living.   There are so many negative events in life that we are not able to control; death, sickness, job loss and political tensions in your community and in the world.   We can’t alter the event but we can alter how we handle the event and what we make out of it.   The negativity that I’m referring too isn’t necessarily the big event, it’s the persisitent, gnawing little things in life just like that little rodent who moved in and made himself comfortable in your home.  Negativity as well as that little rodent, if we leave it too long,  will work its way into our everyday life and bulge at the seams until the ultimate explosion.   Recognizing negativity and the way you manage it is a sure way to a healthy balance.  

If you are in the presence of someone who is constantly negative, you may not realize how much that negative person’s energy is weighing you down.  You may have to make the decision to hire the big guns and eradicate that presence from your life.  Recently I had to make such a decision and it wasn’t a decision I came to overnight.   I considered this person a friend but as time went on I realized the constant chaos and negativity she brought into her own life had not only come into my life, it had entered my family life as well.  As in most break-up of relationships, there is an event that changes all perspectives  and makes one stop and realize just how much negativity the relationship is bringing to one’s life.  The big event combined with many other under currents of the past, I decided it was time to move away from the negativity and chaos of this relationship  giving myself some clarity to think things through.  

Interesting, because as time moves on, I know I’ve made the right decision; the anger and hurt that I felt has moved to a more peaceful, accepting and forgiving frame of mind.   In the past there have been other events that has led to discussions or arguments that I thought were resolved but the past keeps creeping into the present causing more problems and deep seeded negative feelings.  At what point does this stop?  When all those deep seeded feelings lead to an event, an event that is the monster of all events and you say it’s time; time for peace, time for tranquility and time for happiness.   Time for you to love thyself!

 

SINS OF THY FATHER!

I decided to dedicate this post to my father.  I never really talk about my father because some of the memories surrounding him are hurtful.  My  father died of a heart attack when I was 18 years old.  To say I miss him is an understatement, unfortunately, I have spent most of my life missing him.    Today I was at a memorial service for a young girl who passed away this past weekend.   As I watched her parents I wondered to myself “how do you say goodbye to your child?”  As happens quite often in times of death, we reminisce about our own lives or people we have lost.  My father crossed my mind today.

My parents were divorced when I was eight years old and I can still remember the day he walked out the door, I was devastated.  I absolutely adored my father and I couldn’t understand why he was leaving.  As I grew up I came to understand that my father had committed a cardinal sin, he had an affair with another woman.  My mother found out about this affair and my father broke up with the other woman and was determined to make it right with his family.  He couldn’t do it; he once told me that he loved this other woman so much and he couldn’t pretend at home anymore.  He started to see the other woman again and my mother gave him a choice – “me, the children or the door,” he chose the door.  My adoration for my father was replaced with utter confusion.  I still adored him and loved him very much, but everyone around me was furious with my father and it seemed like not one person liked him.  To voice my love for him felt wrong to me because it meant hurting my mother, so I remained silent.  Finally after much confusion my father was granted visiting rights  He could come and pick up my younger brother and I every Saturday from 8:00 am and we had to be home by 8:00 pm .  Not 8:10 pm, 8:30 pm or Sunday, every Saturday from 8 – 8 and there were no exceptions.  Looking back I know this was not enough time and I felt that way as a child.   There were two older siblings from the marriage and they could not be forced to visit him.

As I grew up life moved on and my mother, stepfather, younger brother and myself moved across the country.  My brother and I flew east to see Dad once a year for two weeks.  Not a lot of time when you think about it, but we always had a good visit.   As we neared toward the end of our visits, a great sadness always came over my father.  As we drove to the airport he would be very quiet in the car.  We would get to the checkout and gate for us to leave and it was here that I realized how much my father loved us.  When I hugged him to say goodbye it seemed like he held onto me forever and he would sob into my shoulder.  Then through his tears he would say “I love you more than you will ever know.”  I can remember thinking everyone is looking at us because this grown man is just sobbing his heart out – he didn’t care he wanted us to know how much he loved us.  This is why my father came to mind today – he couldn’t bear to say goodbye to his children.  Every time we left that airport to fly home for another year, a part of him died.

My father wanted to be happy but couldn’t because he was torn about his children.  Right or wrong he was a father, a father who loved his children more than they knew.  Now as I look at my own children I can only imagine his pain driving home from that  airport and knowing he wouldn’t see his flesh and blood for another year and this daughter loves her father more than he ever knew!

Mom and dad before any of us!

I’m the little one holding my mother’s hand and staring at my Father.

First picture – my older brother and sister with my dad at Christmas – a year before I was born!