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