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?”

Johanne Fraser

 

 

 

 

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

 

Remember When….

remember When….
you were strong and brave,
I felt so safe and confident around you,
remember when…
your eyes twinkled as your laughter filled the room,
how you loved to laugh and enjoy life to the fullest,
remember when…
you lifted me up when I felt insecure
and scared for the future,
you assured me with your strength and grace,
since you’ve been gone,
I feel emptiness and sadness,
as time goes from days, to months, to years;
I feel your presence as I remember you,
you taught me so much,
I am forever grateful,
I feel blessed I was able to be strong for you in your
time of pain and suffering,
and help lift you to a world of peace,
returning what you gave to me,
a life of love and commitment,
lessons I won’t soon forget,
but mostly I will remember,
you taught me how to live.

dedicated to Fred and his daughters

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.

Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Chimichurri

These are really good.  Every time I mention fish tacos, my husband turns his nose up at me.  I changed his mind about fish tacos with this recipe, just like I convinced him camping really is a vacation.   He’ll really feel on vacation when I make these goodies on our camping trip this summer!  This recipe is courtesy of Michael Smith’s “Real Food, Real Good.”

For the Slaw

1/4 cup(60 mL) of honey
1/4 cup(60 mL) of white wine or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons(30 mL) of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon (15 mL) of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) of salt
1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced, shredded
or grated.
2 carrots

For the Chimichurri

  • 1/2 bunch of flat parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup(60mL) of olive oil
  • The zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon(1mL) of salt

For the Tacos

  • 1 cup (250mL) of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup(60mL) of chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon(2mL) of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoon (30mL) of grape seed or vegetable oil
  • 6 whitefish or salmon fillets (4 to 5 ounces/115 to 140 g each)
  • 12 to 24 tender fresh cilantro sprigs for garnishing

Instructions:

Start with the slaw.  In a large bowl or resealable container, whisk together the honey, vinegar, mustard, cumin seeds and salt.  Add the cabbage and carrots, mix well.  You can rest the works in the refrigerator for a day or two if you like.

Next:  Make the chimichurri.  In a food processor or blender, blend the parsley, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, olive oil lime zest and juice and salt until smooth.  Reserve in a small jar for a day or two if needed.

When it’s time to pan-fry the fish, preheat your over to 200 F(100 C).  In a shallow dish whisk together the flour, chilli powder, salt and cayenne.  Place your favourite heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Pour the oil.  working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan, dip and dredge each piece of fish in the seasoned flour, evenly coating it on both sides.  Knock off any excess and carefully slide into the hot fat.  Cook, flipping once until the fish is lightly browned and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Keep the first batches warm in the oven while you cook the remaining fish.

Build the tacos.  Cut the fish fillet in half crosswise.  Lay a tortilla flat on a clean work surface. Place half a fish fillet in the middle, top with a big scoop of slaw and a generous spoonful of chimichurri.  Garnish with a sprig or two of cilantro.  Fold and serve immediately…delicious..  Makes 12 small tacos with some leftovers, serves 4 to 6.

SALTED CHOCOLATE HEMP SHAKE FOR TWO

This shake is delicious and answers the call for chocolate!  Loaded with protein, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  Recipe from “Oh She Glows Every Day.”  You can find out more about the Author, Angela Liddon, at “Oh She Glows blog.”

1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (Coconut milk works as well)

1 large frozen banana, roughly chopped

3 or 4 pitted medjool dates to taste

2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons of hemp hearts

1 tablespoon of coconut butter(almond butter or nut butter also works)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt to taste

ice cubes (4 or a few more)

Blend in a high speed blender until super smooth and enjoy….

 

 

 

THE BLACKNESS OF THE NIGHT

“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never owned a dog.”

Stepping out into the blackness of the early morning,  I inhaled deeply before I took the first step of my run picking up speed and setting my pace.  I felt anxious that morning, the sky had an eerie sense to it and the light mist of fog strained my vision throwing off my senses leaving me with a feeling of vulnerability I couldn’t shake.  I was in my early twenties and I had a few years of running under my belt.  My motivation for running wasn’t for inspiring athletic aspirations, shaping my body or improving my cardio.  The motivation was far more sinister, I was running from an addiction and demons in my head.  The strategy of running to beat the addiction and demons worked; running became my salvation clearing my head, strengthening my soul and kicking the urge to smoke.

I hit the streets every morning between five and five-thirty.  My mother hated it because in the winter I was running in the dark and I could hear her words in my head warning me about the dangers of being a woman running through the dark streets.  My middle name is stubborn and I refused to let fear stop me from doing something that I loved.  However, that particular morning I felt uneasy as there had been two murders a few weeks back not far from where I lived.  One woman was going to work in the early morning and the other woman was out for a walk at first night fall.  Both dragged into remote areas, both raped and murdered.  Of course my mother reminded me of the incidents every day and wanted me to stop running, I told her I wouldn’t stop running as that would make me a victim of a rapist I didn’t know and I told her that “I refuse to live my life in fear.”

Unknown to my mother, I  changed a few things about my running routine.   I’m always very aware of my surroundings no matter what I’m doing and due to the blessing of my hearing impairment, I see things and feel things around me that most people wouldn’t notice.  I started packing a knife;  taping the knife to the inside of my wrist and I was prepared to use it should  someone try to drag me into a car, or pull me into the bushes.  I believed the knife gave me a fighting chance to get away from a perpetrator should I find myself in a position where I  was forced to defend myself.

This particular morning as I was running, I kept rubbing my hand over the knife on my wrist because I was feeling uneasy. My head was starting to clear and the uneasiness was starting to settle when I saw some movement in a bush.  My body went into defensive mode and I pushed all my weight forward ready for anything coming my way.  When I reached the bush, a man stepped out wearing dark clothing and what appeared to be a hoodie.  He stepped right into my space and before he had a chance to do anything, I hit him with two hands square in the chest and sent him flying backwards into the bush.  I kept running and when I felt I was at a safe distance, I looked back and to my horror  I saw a bus approaching the bus stop and the man trying to get up  to catch the bus.  When he stood, he was wearing a dark trench coat and some kind of hat and I realized he was just a guy trying to go to work.  That man is probably telling his grandchildren the story to this day of the psychotic woman who attacked him while he was waiting for the bus.  I felt terrible but I assessed the situation as danger and I acted in self-defense.  It is good to have fear and fear can protect you, but fear can put a lot of pressure on the brain causing you to over-react.

Now thirty years later, exercise is still very much a big part of my life.   Recently, I had to give up running because of some serious back issues, and I’ve replaced the running with walking.   My husband and I adopted a beautiful black shepherd named Kaos and I guess you can say he has become the knife that walks by my side.  I walk him for hours at a time and quite often I am walking him in the blackness of the night.  When I married my husband, he echoed my mother’s warnings as he was always telling me how much he did not like me running in the dark and like I told my mother, I told him the same “I won’t let fear stop me from doing what I love.”

Once I started running with Kaos, I noticed that my husband stopped warning me about the dangers.   When I mentioned this to him, he said “I don’t have to worry about you with Kaos, that dog loves you and he will go through a wall for you.”  Kaos is big and he is strong but I wasn’t convinced that in a physical attack he would do anything.  For all I knew he was a complete wimp and I was on my own.

We are a busy family with two boys playing sports and both my husband and I work full time, so one night I didn’t get Kaos out for a walk until ten o’clock.  Half way through our walk, I noticed a man about forty feet out and I felt a tingle down the back of my neck and the uneasy feeling of danger settled deep into my bones.  Again, I became very tense and my muscles tightened as I prepared my body for possible battle.  This time I had the Kaos man with me and I let him have full length of the leash so he could protect me from the front.  Kaos is as black as the night and I don’t think the man saw him.  The man’s gaze was on me and when he got to the side of me, he stepped directly into my space,  yelled in my face and put his arms out to grab me.  I was ready, my knee was already about to meet his crotch when Kaos stood up on his hind legs, growling  with his huge teeth protruding from his jaw.  There was a split second where all three of us were suspended in time and then Kaos leaned in for the attack.  The man jumped back so fast he fell back onto the ground and I made sure I gave Kaos enough lead so the man could smell Kaos’ breath.  He was screaming at me to get my dog off of him and I let Kaos linger in his space so the man knew who he was messing with and I told him I would let my dog go if he moved an inch.

Kaos had my back and when all was over my husband was not at all surprised.  He watched Kaos around me, noticing the bond between Kaos and I, and he knew Kaos would protect me at all cost.   Kaos makes me feel more secure than a knife taped to my wrist and affirms that the relationship between animal and human is instinctive and goes beyond what most people are willing to give these animals credit for. Now I have the blackness of the night beside me every day when I hit the streets and I feel protected in his love and dedication.

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

Thinking Outside the Box

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  Virginia Woolf

I recently stumbled across a book  “Oh She Glows Every Day” by Toronto’s own Angela Liddon.  This is Angela’s second book and her first book was on the New York Times bestseller’s list.   I am a little behind the scenes because I just heard of Angela Liddon a few months ago.  Her book is plant-based recipes and she is a vegan.  I am not a vegan, however, I have been eating less meat and I rarely eat red meat, mostly chicken  and fish.  Cooking has been a chore for me lately and that’s not like me as I love to cook.  The truth be told, I am totally bored, apathetic and disengaged with cooking.  I like to get a healthy dose of vegetables in my diet but I run out of ideas for cooking veggies and I am extremely bored of salads.  A friend of mine started posting her daily new creations from “Oh She Glows” on instagram and her posts caught my interest.  After gazing through Angela’s book at the local Costco, I bought the recipe book and began cooking and thinking outside the box.  Plant based cooking will be a challenge in my house as I live amongst definite carnivores.  My oldest son is taking a foods class in school and during a presentation about vegan food, he and his buddies chanted “Vegans aren’t right” to the bewilderment of his teacher.  Of course my youngest, well he thinks vegetables will poison him and my husband….he likes his meat but open to the concept of not eating as much meat, but he has a long way to go to being “open minded”.   Below I am sharing Angela’s “Oh Em Gee Veggie Burgers from “Oh She Glows Every Day”. Click here to go Angela’s blog where she shares many recipes and enlightens us with her genuine and authentic soul.  Oh She Glows Blog

Oh Em Gee Veggie Burgers

Ingredients:

For the burgers:
  • 1 1/4 pounds (565 g) sweet potato or butternut squash (2 cups of  sweet potato or butternut squash)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (100 g) walnuts, finely chopped, or 1/2 cup (75 g) hulled sunflower or pepita seeds
  • 2/3 cup (95 g) finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) minced garlic (6 or 7 large cloves)
  • Two (14-ounce/398 mL) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (14 to 21 g) 9-Spice Mix (p. 258, Oh She Glows Every Dayor this one, to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup (8 g) lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) Easy Barbecue Sauce (p. 255), or store-bought
  • 1 cup (70 g) spelt bread crumbs or breadcrumbs of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons (17 g) gluten-free oat flour
Topping suggestions:
  • Homemade Vegan Mayo (p. 269) or this one, or store-bought
  • Easy Barbecue Sauce (p. 255), or store-bought
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced red onion
  • Sliced tomato

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line an extra-large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 4 cups. Spread the cubes over the baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, until fork-tender.
  3. In a large skillet, toast the chopped walnuts over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Transfer the walnuts to an extra-large bowl (trust me when I say extra-large as there is a lot of dough to mix).
  4. In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir to combine, and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened. Transfer to the bowl with the walnuts.
  5. In a food processor, pulse the beans until you have a mixture of bean paste, chopped beans, and fully intact beans. Be careful not to overprocess them, as you still want a bit of texture. Transfer the beans to the bowl. (You can also mash by hand if necessary.)
  6. Measure out 2 lightly packed cups of the roasted sweet potato and transfer to the large bowl. With a fork, mash the potato into the other ingredients in the bowl until the potato is almost smooth.
  7. Add the 9-Spice Mix, salt, parsley, barbecue sauce, bread crumbs, and oat flour to the bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. You can knead the dough together with your hands if that’s easier, or just keep stirring (it’s a great arm workout!). Taste and adjust the seasonings, if desired.
  8. Scoop a heaping 1/3 cup of the dough and shape it into a round, uniform patty, packing it tightly as you rotate the patty in your hands. Place the patty on the lined baking sheet. Repeat to make 11 or 12 patties total, setting them at least an inch apart.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes at 375°F (190°C), gently flip with a spatula, and bake for 10 to 20 minutes more, until firm and lightly golden. Cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving (this helps them firm up). Serve the patty in a bun along with your desired toppings. We love the combo of vegan mayo, BBQ sauce, avocado, lettuce, and tomato!
  10. Let any leftover patties cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also wrap the patties individually in aluminum foil, place in a freezer bag with the air sucked out, and freeze for 3 to 4 weeks. Thaw completely on the counter or in the fridge before reheating in a greased skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.

Tips:

  • Tip You will need 2 cups of roasted sweet potato (or butternut squash) for this burger recipe. Any leftover roasted potato or squash can be served alongside the burgers, so feel free to make extra.
  • Make it gluten-free Use gluten-free bread crumbs instead of spelt bread crumbs.
  • Make it nut-free Use hulled sunflower seeds or pepita seeds instead of walnuts.
  • Make it kid-friendly Shape small patties and serve them on slider buns. They are the perfect size for precious hands! You may also consider reducing the spice mix slightly depending on how much your kids enjoy spice.

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.