There’s no place like home

As I sat in the backseat of my Toyota Corolla, the sleeves of my newly purchased Bluenotes hoodie were quickly running out of dry cotton space to wipe away the hot tears that were invading my face. I was watching my dad pull out of the driveway of 6 Tamarack Street, my childhood home in Pine Falls, Manitoba.

In August of 2008, my parents convinced me to move halfway across the country to attend university in New Brunswick, where they both grew up before moving to Manitoba; a place I’ve called home for the past 26 years.

That day, my parents promised I could come home for Thanksgiving dinner, less than two months away. Since then, I’ve returned to my humble abode several times for holidays, laundry facilities, brand-name cereal and a nutritional meal every once in a while.

piiineee falls

A few weeks ago, my dad interrupted my Saturday afternoon nap with a text, breaking the news he put the for sale sign on our front lawn.

Over the past 26 years my life has changed dramatically from moving to New Brunswick, back to Manitoba, to New Brunswick, back to Manitoba and back to New Brunswick again- but 6 Tamarack Street always stayed the same. It had the same gravel driveway where I learned to ride my bicycle. It had the same backyard deck, where visitors would randomly drop by and sip coffee all afternoon. It had the same kitchen where my dad and I would play our bagpipes so all the neighbours could hear.

It was my home.

But this time, there would be no going back for Thanksgiving dinner.

I knew it was coming, later, in the future, someday, a long time from now. My parents had always wanted to move back home to New Brunswick.

Now that day is here and my dad keeps sending me texts of for sale signs on the lawn to prove it.

For sale

Growing up, my house was the best street to live on. It was across the street from the Shell station, where all the cool kids hung out on Friday night. Even though I wasn’t one of them, I was still able to peer out my bedroom window to check on who was dating, who wasn’t dating and who was buying a sub sandwich at 11 p.m.

shell

It was right beside the arena where I grew up playing ringette and later had my high school graduation. The legion was right across the street where my parents would meet their friends after work and where my mom would later retire. It was also right next to the park where my friends and I would spend hours playing grounders on the play structure.

grad

It might not have looked like much to some people. The basement was filled with piles and piles of wood that I wasn’t too fond of stacking in the winter. The kitchen was decorated in old birthday banners and sticky notes written with boys’ names in hearts by my high school best friend, Emily.

wood

But it was everything to us.

Six Tamarack Street was where my friends and I got ready for dances, had hundreds of sleepless nights discussing important topics in my bedroom such as boys, boys and- more boys.

It’s where we baked chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen floor with the neighbours because they were too short to see over the kitchen counter.

It’s where you could find every single student in the neighbourhood learning something of value from my mom in our living room. That or dissecting some sort of animal for a biology project.

eva

It’s where we would watch 18 hours worth of movies on Christmas day.

Since the dawn of time, it’s where we hosted morning runs and breakfasts to follow every Sunday morning.
run

It’s where my dad would make maple syrup for the entire community from the trees on our front yard and host lobster boils –again for the entire community in the backyard.

lobster

It’s the place I went and hid under the covers when life was impossible.

My home brought a sense of recluse, safety and warmth to everyone who went there.

I get it. Change is inevitable. And now, this home will be nothing more than old memories stuffed inside old banana boxes that shaped me into the person I am today.

There really is no place like home and mine was the perfect place to grow up. But now it’s time to build a new one.

On behalf of my family, I want to thank everyone in the Powerview-Pine Falls community for making my home such a wonderful place to grow up. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the love, kindness and nurturing I received from my small community, 120 kilometres north-east of Winnipeg.

I hope someone somewhere will be able to benefit from it as much as I did for the past 26 years.

Fraser Trio

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Are you scared to die?’

“You’re not asking half the questions you came here to ask me.”

“Fine, are you scared to die?”

My cheeks were hot and I was terrified as the words slowly dribbled out of my mouth. She always encouraged me to ask the harder questions. But my reward was always getting the best answers:

“I’m not afraid of dying because I believe in God. I believe in Heaven. I know where I’m going and I’m going to be OKAY there, and that’s the saving grace for me.”

I have never met anyone so brave.

Lindor Reynolds

Exactly a year ago, I skipped class so I could sit nervously on Lindor Reynolds’ living room couch and listen to her dog bark in the background.

Over a cup of coffee, I interviewed the Winnipeg reporter about faith, life and dying for a book I published earlier this year. Afterwards, we nattered on about the newsroom. She reminisced about her journalistic career and I confided in her about my hopes and fears regarding the field.

In March, Lindor also spoke at my book launch and told a crowd of people it was faith that helped her deal with cancer.

Liz and Lindor

As a kid, I remember sitting at my desk at school and reading her columns in the Winnipeg Free Press. Her byline was the only one I could actually remember. But it was also the words she would string together that stuck.

I knew I wanted to write like her.

By the end of our interview, I realized Lindor wasn’t just a childhood hero, she had turned into a friend.

I first met Lindor at the Winnipeg Free Press in December of 2012. When she came over to introduce herself, I felt like I’d been smacked in the head like a pinata at a childhood birthday party. My nerves were jumbling around so much, they were about to spill onto the newsroom floor.

Throughout my internship at the Free Press, I would put my stories on hold and text my friends to let them know my cubicle was next to Lindor Reynolds’ cubicle.

She was an icon in Winnipeg and around the world.

Whenever I turned around, she’d be there banging out stories on her keyboard or setting up interviews on the phone.

During my second internship, she stopped coming. As summer moved along, the chair inside her cubicle was always empty, the sound of her fingers pressing against the keyboard was silenced and her phone suddenly stopped ringing.

It was an email written by the Winnipeg Free Press editor, that revealed to the entire newsroom, my childhood hero had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Lindor Reynolds passed away on Oct. 16, 2014, about 15 months later.

Yes, brain tumors are dismal.
Cancer is devastating.
And death is confusing.

But I bet gold looks stunning on you (Revelation 21:18).

Over the years you were loved and adored by many but nothing will compare to the love you are receiving in His eternal kingdom at this single moment.

Thank you for the snacks and comic relief.
Thank you for the dry, sarcastic remarks on my Facebook wall and encouraging comments in my inbox.
But most importantly, thank you for constantly reminding me I can’t do this job without my heart.

It was an honour having you as a mentor.
It was an even greater privilege knowing you as a friend.

My heart goes out to your family and all those who knew you.

Lindor, you can sleep soundly now. There are no more scary monsters to fight.

“There are a lot of moments where I have to pull up my big girl pants and say ‘you can do this’. Faith is what’s keeping me alive.”-Lindor Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You can’t do this job without your heart

When I first majored in journalism, I knew that homicides were something I never wanted to do. 

A week ago, I changed my mind.

I was sipping a cup of Chai tea and getting ready to slip into my PJs when I received an email on my iPhone.

The Winnipeg Free Press wanted me to cover a homicide. 

I’ve never heard my name and homicide in the same sentence before. But there it was sitting comfortably on the screen of my phone:

“Liz, can you cover a homicide?”

Was this some sort of pre April Fools joke? Was there another Liz Fraser in the newsroom with the exact same Gmail account? Surely this email was sent to the wrong person.

I was afraid to say yes.  But I was even more afraid to say no.

So much for that sappy romantic comedy I was hoping to cry over that night.

So I pulled on my long johns that replaced my comfy PJ’s, stole a bunch of pencils from my roommate, and jammed them into my jacket pocket.

Since my sense of direction is non-existent, I typed ‘Osborne Street Bridge’ into my Google Maps.  It led me to a curling club in St. Vital…investigative reporting, here I come.

 As I was driving around in circles, I called the 85 people on my contacts list asking where this ‘said bridge’ was located. I was also sending emails to my editor at every stoplight on Portage Avenue.

Once I got myself sorted.  I decided to take a leisurely stroll on the bridge and look around for anything I could find: police tape, flowers, maybe a few drops of blood here and there.

To be honest, I was petrified that I wouldn’t find anything.

But once I discovered the ripped police tape on the side of the bridge, I knew I was in the right place. 

My big moment of investigative journalism was interrupted with a phone call from my mom. She told me she didn’t like me wandering the streets of Winnipeg at night when there were killers running around.

I decided it would be best if I didn’t tell her the strange places I ended up later that evening.

The first girl I chatted with was a gas pump attendant. She gave me the name of the 18-year-old who was murdered.  The two of them were best friends growing up.

I checked him out on Facebook.  We had a zillion friends in common.  So I started calling around until I was able to get my story.

I interviewed his friends. They were all pretty devastated and I witnessed more tears than any romantic comedy could ever provide.

Later that night, I ended up standing in an elevator talking to a professional cyclist. He told me what he heard the night of the assault and what it means to be a professional athlete.

I also wound up in some guy’s apartment. He was throwing a party while I was throwing him questions.

I was also chasing after vehicles in parking lots to find out if residents in the apartment building beside the bridge heard or saw anything the night of the assault.

Then I frantically whipped my story together in an hour and half. 

One of the baristas at the Starbucks told me my homework looked really stressful.

I told her she was right.  Journalism is stressful.

It’s also like a hormonal teenager.

In a sick way you’re excited about playing detective, and being the first one to discover the identity of a person who has just been murdered. 

But then you’re sad and depressed because you’re interviewing friends and family whose hearts have just been squished by a wood clamp.

But then you’re happy again because they open up to you.  They feel comfortable enough to share their story and the story of their loved one.

Yes, your pencil and notepad are both important.  But don’t forget to take your heart with you. 

You’ll need to grab it from your back pocket right after you find the police tape.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Your ID says ‘yes’, but the wrinkles on your face say ‘no’

When I was 20, I tried to dip my toes into the bar scene.  Also known as, warm beer spilled all over the dance floor.

I was exposed to a world of Tequila shots, uncoordinated dance moves, and late night trips to Domino’s pizza.

Don’t worry, my bar experience was always G-rated.  But looking back, I wonder how I ever had time to make my Friday afternoon classes.

I’m 23 and went to a bar a couple of weeks ago. 

Usually, I hold my breath every time the bouncer checks my ID and carry my passport as backup just in case.

This time was different.

I felt like I was immersed with a group of toddlers whose playpens had just been opened.

Only this time, they were using real tongues as opposed to soothers. Gross. Those tonsils weren’t just playing hockey, they were in the freakin’ playoffs.

What would your loyal hockey moms say?

I wanted to ask if those moms were picking them up or if they needed me to give them a ride home later that night. And did they buy those drinks with their weekly allowance or did they just ask their fathers for cash?

During my evening adventure, I ran into children who wore braces and most likely had a prescription to Epiduo.

When I do go to clubs, it’s strictly for dancing.  And by dancing I mean, jumping up and down by myself in a corner somewhere.

But lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to turn in my dancing shoes, with a pair of knitting needles instead.

There comes a time in every “young” person’s life where the music’s too loud, a man’s sweaty armpits are too close, and a school line of credit doesn’t cover both a normal day and nighttime wardrobe.

At this age, our bodies don’t function like they used to and we’re far more prone to wrinkles.

Instead of staying up until two or three in the morning, I’m thinking about my pjs at two or three in the afternoon.

When ordering a rum and coke at the bar, I’m actually thinking about sipping a warm cup of Early Grey tea with soft ocean music playing in the background.

Or whenever some man tries to swoop in for a dance, I ask if he wants children and has a good relationship with his mother first.

When hopping around on the dance floor, I’ve also caught myself wondering what happens in chapter 11 of Jodi Picoult’s latest novel.

Or when someone pushes past me in the girl’s washroom, I politely tap them on the shoulder to ask if I can help them find their manners.

When strangers are cozying up on the dance floor, I think of all the germs that are multiplying in such a small confined space.

Ladies it’s called LaSenza Girl for a reason.  If I can see the stretch marks on your thighs, we have a problem.

And boys, I don’t want to give you my number.  If we add them up, it’s double your age times seven.

I’m starting to realize jumping up and down in front of my bedroom mirror is more beneficial than going to a bar on a Saturday night.

I never liked hockey anyway.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What your mommy never told you…

I remember the first time my mom took me bra shopping…it was the last time my mom took me bra shopping.

We went to the women’s underwear department at Sears.

I was ticked.

I remember my mom bought me a white sports bra for when I worked out-which was never.  She bought me a peach one, obviously to go with the fruit in my lunchbox that day.

And she bought me a black one- probably to match my scandalous purple teapot undergarments.

I wanted to be in the toy aisle picking out another Barbie doll for my collection. 

Barbie never had to wear a bra-yes, she probably should’ve. But still.

I didn’t want to wear a bra.

Bras were for responsible grown ups who drank black coffee, listened to news on the radio instead of the American Top 40, and wore red lipstick on Saturday mornings.

My mom told me I had to start wearing a bra because I was becoming a woman.

Gross.

Side note: I’m 23 and still refuse to drink black coffee, listen to news on the radio and when I apply red lipstick, it ends up in my ear lobes.

But my mom told me a lot of things growing up that went above and beyond training bras.

She told me to eat the beets on my dinner plate so I could grow up to be strong and healthy.  So evidently, I put my plate under the table so the dog could grow up to be strong and healthy instead.

She told me I needed to shower everyday otherwise my hair would look like the oil rigs in Alberta.

She told me that turning my socks inside out every morning did not count as changing.

She told me to play with everyone and always share my supply of sparkly glitter in art class.

She told me to be nice, even when someone stole my swing on the playground.

Now, as one of those boring grown ups, my mom continues to tell me a lot of things.

She reminds me to shower everyday.

She tells me that pretty pink dresses are not an emergency when using my Visa card.

She advises me to pay rent every month and separate my colors from my whites in the washing machine.

And she continues to tell me to be nice to everyone, even when I want fill their water bottles with Heinz Vinegar. 

But sometimes your mom can’t always be there while attempting to get through the day as a responsible grown up…or when trying to find a good peach bra to go with my lunch.

As an adult my mom failed to mention a few things that every young woman should know, so listen up girls.

My mom never told me the best part of the day is taking off your bra before bed.

My mom never told me those gross cooties that all boys have is actually really yummy smelling cologne.

My mom never told me what to do when your feelings get caught in a door slam…and the person you care about most is doing all the slamming.

My mom never told me that even as an adult, not everyone will like your sparkly glitter.

And my mom never told me that sometimes people in the grown up world can be mean no matter how much you’re willing to share.

But just remember to share your supply of sparkly glitter wherever you go. 

Someone, somewhere always needs it.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where them girls at?

Over the past 23 years, I’ve been roaming this Earth without any prospects of a significant other.

It doesn’t bother me because I hate cars, Star Wars, and World of Warcraft.

My hands get clammy whenever someone feels the need to latch onto them, and I think introducing my parents to anyone is worse than Hiroshima and the Titanic combined.

My mom recommended taking anxiety pills.

I recommended celibacy.

I haven’t always been single.  I can keep boys around-for about a week. Then I start talking and they stop calling.

I give them a head start when I casually bring up the time I found a dead moose dripping blood in my dad’s garage.

Suddenly my hands were free yet again.

But there are certain things in my life that are consistent and don’t require clammy hands-or a 1960 Honda Civic (whatever that is).

Whenever a boy likes to take an ax and chop my heart in two, I always have friends who keep an extra martini glass and chainsaw on hand.

As girls, I don’t think we give our friends enough credit.  I know I didn’t.

They put up with a lot.

They put up with the: “I know his favorite type of vegetable, and can’t stop talking about the fact he spends Saturday afternoons helping his grandmother shovel snow” stage.

They put up with the: “He likes me, no he doesn’t like me, no he likes me, no he doesn’t like me…” stage.

They put up with the: “OMG WE’RE DATING!!! WE WANT THREE BOYS AND A CAT” stage.

They put up with the: “Sorry I can’t hang out for the next eight months because I’m busy learning about car parts and football” stage.

They put up with the: “He dumped me.  I’m going for a swim- in my own tears” stage.

I get it, it’s nice when someone who isn’t your mother tells you you’re pretty.

It’s nice when you wake up to a series of text messages–that also, aren’t your mother.

And it’s nice when you don’t have to pay for a cab ride home or a hockey game you had no interest attending in the first place.

But I’ve come to realize there are certain things a boyfriend can’t do.

  1. A boyfriend WILL NOT count calories when you share half a chocolate chip cookie.
  2. A boyfriend WILL NOT ever understand the meaning behind: “No I’m fine, really.”
  3. A boyfriend WILL NOT ever understand the meaning behind: “No I don’t want that extra bag of Doritos and chocolate fudge brownie.  No I’m fine, really.”
  4. A boyfriend WILL NOT sit in his pajamas and eat a tub of cookie dough ice cream for a daylong Nicholas Sparks marathon.
  5. A boyfriend WILL NOT have extra Midol when you have a “tummy ache”
  6. A boyfriend WILL NOT share his wardrobe when you have nothing to wear for school.  Sweatpants and hoodies don’t count.
  7. A boyfriend WILL NOT ever be willing to talk about your ex-boyfriends and how good looking they still are.
  8. A boyfriend WILL NOT willingly dance to Wannabe in a public setting.
  9. A boyfriend WILL NOT understand why you cry out of the blue and immediately want to talk ‘feelings’ over a cup of tea.
  10. A boyfriend WILL NOT ever understand how it feels when he breaks your heart.

I think testosterone is phenomenal.

Just remember ladies, keep your boyfriends close but keep your girls closer.

They’re the ones who wipe the snot from your face when you ugly cry.

Posted in Daily Thangs, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

So There’s This Guy…

November is the adolescence between fall and winter.  It’s ugly, uncertain, and disobliging. Not to mention, Movember beards look like a messy plate of spaghetti.

I wish we could rewrite the months of the year, and leave November out of our calendars.

The trees are naked.

The only holiday is honoring those who were killed in war.

And the snowflakes that tumble from the sky are an abrasive reminder of the long, cold winter ahead.

My loathing towards November started in 2008 with a few minor incidents.

My best friend Laura found out she’d be hobbling on crutches for a year.  As a result, I’d be burning my hands while carrying our coffee cups to class every morning.

We befriended a sweet girl who sent us death threats outside our dorm rooms at night.  She had terrible penmanship.

And we got into a car accident that we secretly tried to pay off with our scholarship money.

Thankfully, my grandfather saw the car before my parents did.

He said it wasn’t that bad and things could be worse.

He was always very insightful.

When I was four, he taught me how to drive a tractor on his farm in New Brunswick.

When I was 14 he taught me how to paint on a canvas.

When I was 15 he taught me how to reverse a car.

I’m not so good at artistry or driving-anything.

But when I was six, he taught me how to write my first story. Telling stories were my favorite.

Since then, we shared stories on road trips in the car.

We shared stories over the phone and through email.

We shared stories at a desk in his office, and over dinner at the kitchen table.

We shared stories under the covers at bedtime.

He was my teacher, my friend, my storyteller.

My grandfather died on Thursday, November (of course) 20th, at 7 p.m.

At his funeral I shared his story, alone.

A week before he died, I watched as my storyteller began to gradually close his own storybook shut.

His fingers he used to write were cold and purple-kind of like November.

His mouth he used to reveal different plots and fictional characters, was in combat for air.

His eyes that always needed glasses when reading my writing, were closed.

It was then I realized there wouldn’t be any more stories.

When I visited him every summer, the leaves on his apple trees were always painted green.

Remembrance Day was his favorite holiday.

When I was little his nickname for me was “Snowflake”.

I dread November.

But like a dented bumper in a silver Toyota, things could always be worse.

There could have been no bedtime stories under the covers at all.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments