The Cat and the Pole

“In the middle of chaos lies opportunity.”

Bruce Lee

This last month has been a transformational month for my family. It seems like the the five of us are on unsteady winding road made uncertain with too many boulders in our path. It’s hard to believe that it is now twenty years ago; but twenty years ago my mother-in-law moved in with us. Together the three of us, my mother-in-law(Elaine), my husband(Drew) and I, embarked on the difficult task of finding a house that would house myself, Drew, our two sons(Brendan and Matt) and Elaine. My mother-in-law sold her house and joined us in a house that was too small for all five of us. Our intention was to buy a new house; one with a suite so Elaine could live comfortably and independently from the hustle and bustle of a family with two small rambunctious boys who always seemed to have their hands and their hearts into everything. It took us a year, but we found a house that we liked and the house was favoured by Elaine as well. The downside was that there was no suite, just an unfinished basement that had a lot of potential, but a lot of work to make it a suite. It took us another year to build the suite and while we built the suite, Elaine settled in amongst our bustling family in the main quarters of the house.

Finally, with the suite finished, Elaine moved into her own space and our family navigated the protocols and rules of having a family member living in the basement. The boys couldn’t go down to Elaine’s space whenever they wanted, they needed Elaine’s permission to do so and the same with for Drew and I; we respected Elaine’s privacy. Life settled and we found our groove and it has been a very good twenty years with the boys establishing a good relationship with their grandmother and that bond also leaned into family camping vacations. Elaine camped with us every year and we have quite a few bomb fires and marshmallow roasts stories tucked away in our hearts. She also attended preschool functions, school field trips, school plays and many sporting events as the boys played hockey and lacrosse. Once while picking up my youngest, Matthew, from pre-school, the pre-school teacher said to me, “we hear you keep Nonna in the basement.” Nonna meaning grandmother as Elaine is Italian. The pre-school teacher and I laughed and I said, “we most certainly do!” That phrase “we keep Nonna in the basement” has been a huge joke between all of us over the years. Elaine laughs every time we bring it up. To say we have been blessed with keeping Nonna in the basement is an understatement. The boys have a good relationship with their grandmother and they have experienced many life moments with their grandmother that money can’t buy.

The last several years, I have been feeling a heaviness come over Elaine and that heaviness is a natural occurrence when one can not catch their breath. Years ago Elaine smoked and this mistake has come back to haunt her in the form of COPD. During this Covid mess, we became very protective of Elaine for fear of her getting Covid. We knew this would be especially deadly for her given her health complications associated with COPD. One lacks of oxygen flowing through their body with COPD and there are certain side-effects that are making life rather difficult for Elaine right now, or in her words; extremely frustrating.

My intuition has been telling me that the road that the five of us embarked on twenty years ago was about to show a curve and that curve suddenly appeared during the last week of August. That week Elaine fell in her suite and broke her femur. Here is the kicker; we were home! We were all home, Drew, Brendan and Matt, we were all here. No one heard her crying out, no one knew that she was lying in pain in her suite. We couldn’t hear her, we were all busy taking care of various tasks that come with owning a house. I was out cutting back some bushes in the backyard, Brendan was painting our fence and Drew and Matt were inside taking care of various tasks as well. My mother-in-law lied there for 30 minutes and when we finally called 911, it took another 30 minutes for help to arrive. We were told because of Covid, the ambulance service was absolutely swamped.

All we could do was hold her hand and wait and do the best job we could to calm her. As I was holding her hand, the heaviness that I had been feeling was confirmed in the very moment of her fall. I knew she was struggling and to be quite frank, I was struggling as well. All the heaviness that I had been feeling was her fear and frustration. The empath in me took on all of her emotions and here I was sitting on the floor in her suite, holding her hand, calming her and telling her that everything would be ok, knowing full well that we had come across a very hard curve in the road.

We were both facing our fears; the very fear that had been flowing so heavy throughout the house in the previous months. I feared she would fall and we wouldn’t find her in time and she would pass away in her suite alone and confused. She was facing the fear that things were not right, and had not been right for a while, and now she was facing the curve in the road she so desperately feared. Fear can be a good thing, it can warn you of trouble, it can alert you to life threatening events. At the same time fear can cripple you, it can stop you from moving forward to a better life or a simpler life as fear warns you of all the things that can go wrong or the horrible things associated with change in it’s entirety. Sitting on the floor with Elaine, I realized that the winds of change were blowing through the house and looking into her eyes I could sense the pain she was in but even more prominent was her fear of the energetic shift that was now happening because of her fall; a shift comparable to a stone bouncing across the water and not knowing when the motion will stop or where that stone will sink.

The story of the guru and the cat brings to mind how we fear change and how we can hold on to things, rituals or lifestyles that don’t work for us anymore because we simply fear change and we would rather hold on to the tiniest shreds that represent our old lives than let go and move forward.

“Every evening when the guru sat down to worship, the ashram cat considered himself a welcome participant.  But the cat was there to make friends, and his commotion distracted the worshipers (each of them hoping to reach a heightened meditative state and a feeling of oneness with God).  Resourcefully, the guru ordered that the cat be tethered to a pole–outside the front door–during evening worship. After the guru died, the disciples continued to tie the cat to the pole. This ritual became a habit–the customary routine for everyone at the ashram.

First, tie the cat to the pole, and then proceed into the temple to meditate on God. After several years, the habit hardened into a religious ritual, becoming an integral part of their devotional practice. In time, no one could meditate until the cat was tied to the pole. Then one day the cat dies. Everyone in the ashram is unnerved, because it has become a considerable religious crisis. How is it possible to meditate now, without a cat to tie to a pole?!”

My mother-in-law has been holding on to her independence like her very breath depends on it. She’s been driving when she shouldn’t be as her eyesight is failing and she has been reluctant to go to the doctor even when it was apparent she was having trouble with her leg on the side of her body where she eventually broke her femur. To admit to these changes, and express those fears, is terrifying for Elaine and the fear has in many ways crippled her to a lonely existence in her suite. After surgery and a few weeks in a rehab center, my mother-in-law is now in a care home for respite care.

I met Elaine at the home when they moved her from the rehab center and I could tell she was terrified of the change. I have gathered that one of her biggest fears was being in a care home. Like the guru and his cat, she was used to certain rituals and routines and without those rituals and routines, she is very vulnerable and afraid for what is to come. It’s hard to face our fears and even harder to show vulnerability. We live in a society that dictates we should not show fear or allow ourselves to be vulnerable. The reality is when we show vulnerability we establish relationships and bonds for a lifetime. Vulnerability shows the world your truth and you become transparent and it’s in this truth and transparency that we show our whole selves. Only then is the veil lifted and an energetic shift takes place opening the door for change and change is not about fear, it’s about moving forward. “Change is good,” my mother use to say.

Elaine doesn’t realize this, but by being in a place she feared, a care home, she is getting stronger. The colour of her skin is much brighter and not near as grey looking as her colouring was looking in the last several months. Elaine has been taking advantage of exercise classes, physiotherapy and she is enjoying the food they serve and joining others in the dining room for dinner. Her stubbornness is doing her well in her recovery and she is getting stronger every day. We hold on to lifestyles, rituals and things as if they are our lifeline. Ironically, we don’t need a lifestyle or a ritual to live freely, we just need ourselves.

The other day I was walking across the parking lot into the care home where Elaine is staying and I ran into a resident in the parking lot getting his exercise by taking a walk supported with his walker. It was cold and he was bundled up in warm clothes and he appeared to be in his very late eighties. As I went by him I asked him how he was doing and he stopped and said “I’m good, it’s a beautiful day, I’m walking and today I’m still alive.” No cat tied to the pole, no ritual necessary, just a good brisk walk in the beautiful sunshine and being aware of the depth of God’s gifts that rest right in front of us and knowing that in blind faith only good things can come as we keep moving forward.

Johanne Fraser


“Our true nature is stillness, the source from which we come, the deep listening of pure contemplation is the path to stillness. All words disappear into it, and all creation awakens to the delight of just being”.

Fr. Thomas Keating

Stillness, it seems like such a simple word. Stillness, to sit still and just be, how hard can that be? As a Reiki Master and mindfulness and meditation teacher, I can assure you it is no simple feat. You can ask a person to talk about themselves and most will divulge their passions, their family history and their stories. Ask them to be silent and still with you for five minutes and watch the fidgeting, the facial expressions and the body language that tells you they would rather be anywhere but sitting still for five minutes. Why is that, I often wonder, why are we so uncomfortable to just be? Is it because we have to face our fears, our worries or our shadow self? The side of our personality that contains all the aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to admit to having.

Meditation is the one place that you can sit with your being and sort through so many of your issues. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to be with yourself or how to use your mind for your own purpose. You can use meditation to climb deep into your mind and face your shadow self and do so on your own terms. To understand your shadow is to give you a more purposeful mind and peaceful soul. Combined with counselling or therapy, meditation is a powerful source to reach a peace of mind and well being which can transform your daily life and help you lead a life with more purpose. To list just a few of the proven benefits of meditation: lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, decrease pain, ease symptoms of depression and improved sleep.

When I first started meditating, I often felt worse after my meditation session because I would beat myself up about the fact that I couldn’t meditate without a cloud of thoughts and worry coming in and out of my mediation session. I came away frustrated and feeling like a failure at sitting doing nothing. Monkey mind gets to all of us. It is said that the average person has six thousand thoughts every day. Honestly, I think I have double that amount of thoughts in one day and those thoughts often take over my peace of mind while I am trying to sleep. Fear, worry and insecurities love to invade our conscious as we try to rest and recover from the day’s events.

My mother was a worrier and I use to say to her, “mom, all the worrying will not change the outcome.” I often think of that advice I gave her as I lie awake worrying about things that I can’t do anything about at that moment or even worse, about things that haven’t even happened. Frustrating as it’s a total waste of time and it seems when we are at the peak of those worries, meditation can be very difficult. However, through meditation you can change the language you use with yourself even during those sleepless nights where it seems like every fearful and insecure thought has robbed you of your sanity. By simply going to your breath and focusing on your breath you can feel your breathing getting softer and the tension leaving every fibre of your body until before you know it, somewhere in that darkness you are given a bit of light and you find your peace to go to sleep.

There are many types of medications you can take to numb the mind and the body to help you sleep, but using your own mind through meditation gives you a greater sense of freedom and strengthens your resolve to master your mind for a more purposeful sense of being. Meditation is like sleeping as we often take sleep for granted, yet the more we sleep the better we feel and meditation is the same. I often feel I don’t have time to meditate but I’ve learned that I can stop and meditate anywhere just by slowing down my breath and focusing on my being. I try to meditate for at least twenty minutes each morning and night. The first time I tried to meditate for twenty minutes, I felt like it took forever, now I find before I know it the twenty minutes are up and often go back to meditating for at least another ten minutes.

I practice spiritual, focus, progressive relaxation, mantra and visualization meditation. My favourite time is to meditate is in the morning, especially if my mind is well rested. First thing in the morning everything is anew and you don’t have an entire day of thoughts sitting on your brain. It’s during this time that my senses and mind are clear, more focused and images, visions and thoughts just seem to come to me out of the blue.

The other morning as I was using my mind to scan and relax every part of my body by imagining a source of white light shining through every part of my body and being when suddenly I envisioned the back of an indigenous man on a horse. He was riding bareback and the man’s long dark hair was flowing in the wind in tune with the horse’s mane as they rode as one. I wasn’t riding on the back of the horse with him but I was part of the scene as if I had jumped through the screen of a tv and was experiencing the moment, but I wasn’t really there. It was a surreal experience as I was aware of every muscle in the man’s back as he and his horse were riding furiously through a meadow of wildflowers and I was in awe of the colours and as I looked ahead, the sky seemed to be a sea of never ending blue and white as the wisp of clouds went sailing by.

At the moment I was not asleep, nor was I dreaming, I was given a vision and within that vision I was aware of just being. The man on the horse was completely one with the horse, the meadow, the sky, the clouds and the valley and it was then that I realized the importance of that vision. We are one with the universe and with each other, yet we look to distractions to take us away from our purpose; gossip, judgment, politics, unhappiness, sadness, dissatisfaction. Yet, that moment spent with the indigenous man riding bareback on the horse through the brilliant meadow into the unending sky where man, beast and earth was one, was the most astonishing moment I’ve ever known.

You may be saying to yourself “but the moment wasn’t real” and this is true but until you experience meditation in it’s full form, you will understand when I tell you that the moment was as real as if I was riding on the back of that horse. That day I made it a point to notice my breath, to notice my movement as I walked, to notice the trees and the sky as I drove to work. Usually, the trees are all but a blur as I drive by to get to my destination. That day not only did I notice the trees but I noticed the birds that inhabited those trees. So many birds filled those trees and I noticed one tree was full of crows and the next tree was full of smaller birds and few blocks down I noticed a barn where there was a crowd of seagulls sitting on the barn’s roof gazing toward the sky as the day was opening allowing the light to flow; our source of energy, our source of being, showing us how to just be and let the day unfold.

If it hadn’t been for my few seconds with the man riding the horse through the beautiful meadow into the unending sky, the trees would have all blended into the background. I would have rushed to work to spend the day in a mist as I pushed through the work like a robot on a methodical rhythm as if numb to my inner thoughts and sense of space. Riding as one through this life can give us purpose in our everyday lives and meditation can take us there, we just have to give it time and space. “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness”. Mark Zuckerberg

Johanne Fraser


The most visible creators I know of are those artists whose medium is life itself, the ones who express inexpressible, without brush, hammer, clay or guitar. They neither paint nor sculpt, their medium is being. Whatever their presence touches has increased life. They see and don’t have to draw. They are artists of being alive.” Donna J. Stone

As my eyes adjusted to the light in the room, my husband snuggled up behind me and ran his fingers through my hair. As he snuggled closer and we laid skin to skin, I enjoyed the sensation of the very first touch of the day. I thought this moment is the moment of what life is about, what we as beings are made for, to touch skin to skin and soul to soul. Often when I wake up, I fill my head with the to-do-list and feel the urge to rise and get busy right away as there are only so many hours in the day.

After 911, I remember reading a memory from a woman who lost her husband the day the planes flew into the twin towers. She wrote, “as he left for work, he bent down and kissed my cheek and said I love you, and I remember being half awake and half asleep feeling annoyed that he was disturbing me from my sleep. Only if I had known a few hours later I would lose him, If only I had known that my husband would be at work and the building would come down all around him. I would have pulled him back into bed and held onto him forever.”

I’ve never forgotten her words and the act of her writing those words changed my life from the very moment I read her passage. I never take any moment for granted; I linger in the moment, I forge in the forest, I walk slower than I need to, I say “I love you” every time my boys and my husband walk out the door, even if they are just running a quick errand. Our voyage in our time capsule takes many twists and turns and as much as we try to steer the vessel and control the mechanics, the journey is not within our control. We don’t always see the hill, the mountains the bumps, or the fork in the road. Our body just rides the waves and we feel the shock of every twist and turn. Some of those twists and turns shower us with great happiness and exhilaration and others throw us into despair leaving behind deep wounds that shock us to the core of our beings.

My mother once said to me, “Johanne you have to ride each wave of happiness to the fullest because you never know when the next wave of sadness will hit you.” It’s true, life is just like the waves that hit the beach. Some waves are big and some waves are small, yet each wave carries its own energy and the energy within each wave has the capacity to be gentle and loving hugging the shoreline or the wave has the capacity to be forceful and powerful cutting into the the shoreline like a knife through the heart. So when my boys leave the house and I call out “I love you” and they don’t answer back. I always respond with, “I didn’t hear you” and they call out “love you too.”

I know the boys think I’m crazy, but I am very aware that their time capsules are about to take a turn away from the dock where their ship has been secured for so long. Both boys are about to face the waves of life as they navigate through the calm and rough waters. Since the boys were babies, I’ve always felt that the most important part of my job was to sit back and let be. Of course my husband and I had rules that the boys had to follow, we also disciplined them when it was necessary for the boys to learn from their mistakes, but above all we let them be their own beings and let them trip over the stones and obstacles that were on their path as they walked toward their time capsules and prepared for the journey of life.

While the boys were in elementary school, my youngest complained to me one time that many of the boys in his class had play dates and he didn’t have any. Of course being a mother my heart sank, acutely aware of the loneliness he was experiencing, the longing to be a part of the world around him. The problem was that I was a firm believer that the boys should find their own friends and that it wasn’t my job to pick their friends for them. I believed that wandering through the tangled vines of learning who was a friend and who was not set the tone for their time capsules in their lifelong journey.

At that moment I was torn, do I pick a child and call his mother to set a play date or do I leave it and have the faith that things will work out exactly as they should? One day in the school parking lot, a mom approached me and said, “I would like to arrange a play date for our sons to get together.” I was elated, felt like fate was playing into my hands. That night I told my son that I had arranged a play date and his eyes dropped to the ground. I said “what’s wrong, I thought you wanted a play date?” He said, “I do but I don’t like that guy.”

It was at that moment, I realized my son was already in his time capsule, making decisions on his own, reading people’s personalities and deciding what was best for him. I was aware that when my son reached the age of twenty, he would be more than capable of picking his tribe and the day he told me “I don’t like that guy” was the first step to him finding his tribe and the start of his lifelong journey. I had two waves hit me that day, one of despair as I wasn’t sure what to do about the arranged play date and one of elation as I realized my son was listening to his being. For the record, he did go on that play date and even though the boys were never close friends, he had a great time that day and saw a few things in that boy that he had never seen before, strengths about the boy that he liked and of course he found that they had something in common and that was Star Wars Lego.

As my time capsule veers off on it’s own course, I take with me the many lessons I have learned and keep those memories buried in a secret compartment below the controls in my capsule. No matter what wave hits me, the wave is not able to erase those memories and lessons that have served my being well. The world is vast and many of the experiences in my time capsule may be small compared to other time capsules. That’s the very essence that I love about my capsule, it’s mine and no one can say to me that my experiences are not good enough, not big enough or not deep enough. What I choose to fill the compartment in my time capsule with is all mine and it’s in the quiet moments that I spend with my being reliving those moments together, I come to the realization those moments are what make up this life journey. Those moments are all that I need and they fill my being with both, elation and injury.

It is sitting in silence that I hear my being and we work together to revel in the elation and heal the wounds as we continue to prepare the time capsule for the endless journey; bracing for the waves that may throw us off course.

Johanne Fraser

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 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.



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




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.

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.


“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.

The Other Side- Friday’s Phlog for January 29th, 2016

the fence of life

life can be like a fence,

walking the straight and narrow,

brings certainties,

never wavering from the

straight line ensures

your safety,

fearing the other side,

makes you crazy,

forever pondering life’s

uncertainties makes

you linger,

wavering from the straight and narrow,

facing reality through

all the uncertainty,

confronting your fears,

embracing your passions,

by stepping into

the other side.

Johanne Fraser




















In-Between – Friday’s Phlog for January 15, 2016

sun and trees

a winter’s day,

chills me to the bone,

watching my breath,

awakens my senses,

gives me clarity,

 confirms that life

is about

the in-between,

the time we spend,

in-between work and


is what gives us life,

and fulfills our purpose.

Johanne Fraser


“The thing about hearing loss is that no one can see it. You simply can’t look at a person and tell if they have a loss. Most people are so impatient and they just assume that the person with hearing loss is being rude, or they may even think that the person is slow-witted, when in fact they simply can’t hear.” Marion Ross

My hearing loss has been part of me since I was a small child. I’ve learned to adapt over the years. I watch lips, body language, facial expressions and hands. It is amazing what you can learn about someone just by watching. Sometimes things are revealed to me without the person knowing. When someone tells me something, I quite often pick up undercurrents from the conversation just by watching their lips, their eyes and their body movement. I ask pointed questions and quite often get surprised responses. Several years ago my hearing deteriorated making hearing more difficult than ever before. People think that amplification is the answer to my hearing loss, but amplification does not help. When sound is amplified, I just hear noise and if the noise is too loud my brain becomes confused making lip-reading difficult as well. Feeling deflated when I realized my hearing had deteriorated, I decided I only had one choice and that choice was to adapt and overcome. I make sure I tell people I’m severely hearing impaired so they know that I’m not ignoring them. At work phones became a problem for me, so I signed on to Telus’ IP relay service and now use this service for my phone communication. I’m sure some of the people I’m dealing with on the phone find it annoying but my overall experience has been positive because I think people admire that I’m still willing to try to communicate even though it’s difficult.

Parties, or any event where there are lots of people in a room, is a nightmare for my senses. It can be overwhelming and I have to breathe in very deep and focus on the person I’m talking to. My concentration has to be incredibly focused because of the volume of noise around me. With that much noise around me, it is hard to zero in on the person and read their lips as their voice blends in with the rest of the noise and the sound of their voice is no longer directed my way, overwhelming my senses and confusing my brain. This is where my years of adaptability comes in to play, as I will lean into the person and watch their lips and their eyes and focus as if that person was the only person in the room. Somehow I manage to read their lips and carry on a conversation, something a hearing person has no idea how difficult this simple action is to master. Unfortunately, in this world today people are so impatient and the lack of empathy in today’s society can make my hearing situation very uncomfortable in social situations. The fact that I have to stare at someone so intensely can be un-nerving for some people and it’s interesting to watch people’s reaction to that intensity. Ironically, most people would help a blind man across the street but people, in general, display impatience for the deaf and hearing impaired community. The older I get the less I care what people think about me or my deafness. Some of the rumours about me have come my way; I’m a snob, I’m a bitch and the one that hurts the most, that I’m not smart! I have to admit, the not smart one bothers me because the amount of brain power I have to use every single day just to hear one word that the hearing world takes for granted is significantly greater than most people.

I went through a range of in-depth hearing tests several years ago. Eight hours in a room listening to various sounds and tones to reveal what I knew, my hearing deteriorated to the point that my hearing aids no longer aid my hearing loss as much as they used to. I am a candidate for cochlear implants, the audiologist also suggested that I put myself on a list for a hearing dog. Her reasoning for the dog is that my hearing has deteriorated to the point that I would not be able to hear our smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector should something happen. So far I haven’t signed on for the dog but my youngest son is pushing me to put my name on that list. The audiologist also told me that my ability to lip read is fairly accurate as well as my ability to piece conversations together like a jigsaw puzzle giving me a very high intuition level, higher than the average person.

My youngest son, Matthew, especially takes advantage of my lip-reading ability. He often forgets his water bottle for hockey and in the middle of his hockey game, he will skate by where I’m sitting in the rink and lip to me “I forgot my water bottle.” The boys went to a Catholic elementary school and every now and then I would join their class for their monthly masses, I usually sat several pews back and Matt would turn to find me, catch my eyes and lip “get me out of here.” However, he tells me that it is rude to drop in on conversations when people don’t know I’m reading their lips, a habit I try to curb especially when Matt is around. The lip-reading thing can be interesting as I see and observe things that most people don’t see. The other day I was working out in the gym and a group of six fifteen year old boys crowded the area, so much so that I couldn’t complete my lunges. I left my water bottle on one of the benches as I was planning to work out my arms next, and took my barbell and moved to the other side of the room. As I dropped into a lunge, I noticed one of the young boys was moving toward my water bottle and I read his lips as he was saying to his buddy, “What is this fucking chick doing, she’s hogging this bench and she’s not here.” I walked over to him with my barbell over my head and I said “hey, that fucking bench is mine, don’t even think about taking it.” The look on his face was priceless and as I turned around to go back to my area I smiled and thought “the kid doesn’t know it but I”m just happy he called me a chick and not an old lady.”

This morning while at yoga and doing balancing exercises, my instructor said “you have to find your foundation in order to get to your core.” The core of my being is my hearing loss as it affects every facet of my life. My foundation is my soul as I remain grounded and true to myself giving me the strength to deal with the many different aspects of hearing loss while leaning on the pillars of life.


“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!


“But we can’t live in the light all of the time.  You have to take whatever light you can hold into the dark with you.”  Libba Bray

This past summer we went on a big road trip with our trailer.  We were gone for close to a month and we drove over 3000 kilometres.  Would I do this again?  In a word – No.  Next year I’m finding a camping spot on a lake and we are parking our beast there for a month and I  don’t plan to move from that spot except for the odd day trip here and there.  We had fun, we saw everything we wanted to see but at fifty I’m way to old for that much driving and spending some tense moments with two teenagers in a 27 foot trailer!  Even though it was a great trip it did not come without some trials.  Our truck started acting up before we left and we had an unexpected $700.00 repair bill.   We came home at one point to do laundry and pack up to head out for the next leg of our trip and then found out that our truck battery was dead, we bought a new battery and the next day the truck didn’t start again.  This time we were told it was the alternator, we changed that and hitched the trailer and headed out for the next leg of our trip.  Two hours into the trip we stopped at a gas station and the truck died again.    Turns out it was the starter and it was the starter the whole time, we didn’t need to change the battery or the alternator.  We spent somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1600.00 I had not budgeted for in truck repairs.  We finally arrived home from our long road trip and the next day we had to go out to run errands and here in the driveway was our truck with a flat tire!   I thought, “what else could go wrong.”  A week after the flat tire, I came home one night late from work and decided to relax outside on our front deck with my husband and mother-in-law and while we were talking a rat ran by me.   He ran so fast I just saw the flash out of the corner of my eye.  He ran under the outdoor furniture where we were sitting.   “Did you see that” I said that to my husband and mother-in-law.  “See what?”  “A rat just ran underneath this couch.”  “You must be dreaming” my husband says to me, “there are no rats.”  Thinking I’m losing my mind I get up to go inside and the rat runs out from underneath the couch right by my mother-in-law’s feet and takes off into our garden just off our front deck.  The funny thing was my mother-in-law just had eye surgery and she had a big pirate patch over one eye.  I’ve never seen her move so fast to jump up on her chair screaming her guts out.  We lifted up the chairs on the front deck and found the evidence of rat droppings confirming that the new addition to our family had been underneath the outside chair for a little while.  We had some mouse traps in the house from a time we thought we had mice in the garage, Drew figured we could use those until we got to the store to buy bigger traps.  We headed inside to eat dinner and  while we were in the kitchen we heard all kinds of rattling around the barbecue in the backyard.  Drew says “I think there is a racoon(we’ve got one of those in the neighbourhood too) in the barbecue.”  I knew it was our rat and I ran outside to confirm and sure enough sitting on the concrete beside the barbecue was that dirty rat staring at me with a challenging stare like he was saying “whatcha gonna do about it.”  I walked into the house, slowly closed the door and said “we need bigger guns.”

So off to the hardware store where we bought several rat traps and looked up on the internet what we should feed our friend to bait him and all research led to peanut butter.  Every morning the first thing we did was check the traps and the peanut butter would be all gone but the traps looked untouched and no rat anywhere.  This went on for over a week.  We read on the internet about rat traps by “Predator.”  Nasty looking traps but reading reader reviews they seem to be what we needed.  Headed to the store to buy some and there were no predator rat traps available anywhere – all sold out.  Obviously there is a problem with rats around here.  Talking to my neighbour she confessed that they’ve had problems with rats in their shed and it turns out there has been a few neighbours with the same problem. There has been a lot of construction throughout this area and all the digging is sending dirty rats running through the neighbourhood.   I asked if she had any extra Predator rat traps I could borrow and she happily obliged.  Took a few days but we finally got our dirty rat.  Drew thinks that’s the one and the only one and I assured him there are more.   We have a regular rat trap out back and sure enough yesterday morning I awoke to a sprung trap but no dirty rat.  The rats are driving Drew mad and I’m afraid he is going to turn into Billy Murray’s character “Carl Spackler” from “Caddyshack” where he blows up part of a golf course to kill a gopher that was driving him mad.   We had one of those burrowing rodents in our back yard as well.   A mole was back there leaving dirt and tunnels everywhere.  Chased him for a few years and we never got him.  Last year while walking in my back yard, I literally felt like my feet were going to sink into the ground because the ground was so soft from all of the tunnels burrowed through my yard.  Not wanting to pay a lot of money to a professional to have the mole removed I turned to the internet.  By chance I found this posting by a retired man who spent his days in the garden.  He had a mole at one time and the mole, like my mole, tore up his lawn and garden so bad he was in a depressed state as he tried everything, including professionals, to get rid of this mole.  The mole kept coming back.  He had a chance conversation with a neighbour at his mailbox one day and the neighbour told him to find an entrance/exit hole to the mole and buy a package of chocolate ex-lax.  “Moles love chocolate and sugar” the man tells him, “leave a whole package in the hole and you will never have problems with a mole again.”  “Just think what ex-lax does to a full-grown adult, so you can imagine what a full package will do to a mole.”  “The mole will shit himself to death,” the man says.  Desperate, the avid gardener tried it and is happy to report he’s never had a problem with a mole again.  Off I went to the drug store, bought chocolate ex-lax, found a hole to where the mole was living and left the whole package for his taking.  The next day the ex-lax was all gone and within weeks there was not one new mound of dirt, by the end of that summer there was no evidence at all of the mole.  A year later and no mole.  Wish it was that easy to get that dirty rat.  Unfortunately, rats are very smart as they only eat small amounts to see if they get sick before they take more.  Maybe Carl Spackler has the right idea  – time to get some dynamite!  A little entertainment – because laughing is a must –  scene from Caddyshack: