Root Medicine: Good for What Ails You

root medicine
root medicine

Think about medicine today and you’re likely to conjure up images of synthetic powders, pills, and serums. Even today, there’s resurgence in the use of root medicines, including turmeric, ginger, and licorice, to treat maladies like inflammation and digestive disorders.

But if you really want to get to the root (excuse the pun) of what ails you, you’ve got to dig deeper to your roots of origin.

Understanding your roots tells you how you’ve been conditioned. It helps you restore balance, appreciate who you are, and thrive.

My desire to know who I was before my culture shaped me was the impetus for the profound, adventurous, and arduous quest described in Crash Landing. I’m discovering it’s only the beginning of appreciating those forces that live in me.

Crash Landing’s release less than two months ago has connected me with extended kin and community, even as I’ve exposed my truth, which may not agree with theirs. In January, two funerals, a cousins gathering, and a presentation at the Mennonite Historical Museum embraced me with tradition. My motorcycle show/book tour, coincidentally in Mennonite enclaves in western Canada, melded motorcycling and ethnic communities. It reacquainted me with friends I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. They remembered me as I was in my church-going days.

There was a time, not long ago, having spiritual conversations with family would have made me very uncomfortable, to the point of avoidance. That’s no longer the case.

Accepting, then exploring my lineage so I could understand the teachings that were passed down to me, was the first step. That enabled me to see the context in which traditional wisdom originated. I appreciated how teachings that had terrorized and almost suffocated me were the bedrock that had sustained my ancestors through perilous times.

The same medicine isn’t effective in all situations, however. Sometimes it’s merely the dose that needs adjusting. Sometimes you need to move away from it, as I did, to find your way. But first, you need to know what you’re dealing with.

Now I see much more clearly. I’m so grateful and proud of my parents and grandparents who stood up for what they believed in, not only to others outside their community, but also when their beliefs and interests went against a strong internal culture. Their faith never wavered. Yet, it was the exclusionary nature and literal interpretation and application that I couldn’t accept. Still, they taught me courage, independence, and compassion. Trust.

Root medicine opened the two-way door to open, honest, and much deeper heart-relationships. My family may not agree with or understand my beliefs, but they’ve accepted my story. Root medicine has allowed me to embrace the strengths of those who have gone before. Now I can write the story of my life rather than live from a prepared script.

Interested in finding the right prescription for you? Contact me to learn more.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Keeping the Stories Alive: Grief, Joy, and Memories

keeping the stories alive
keeping the stories alive

Three days ago I was sitting down to my favorite three-egg-salsa-avocado-breakfast, a treat after being on the road for almost three weeks, when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my cousin/sister Jude, letting me know her dad had just passed away. He’d been languishing and it wasn’t unexpected. It’s still final. A shock.

Aside from the profound grief and loss we feel when our loved ones pass, there’s another loss. The generation of parents, aunts, and uncles, are the story keepers. They know the lore of our grandparents and other ancestors who have gone before—ancestors whose experiences we carry in our energetic DNA.

Crash Landing narrates my physical and spiritual journey to explore my heritage and unearth memories of family and culture. It’s a story of reconnecting to myself by reconnecting with a culture I’d estranged myself from. While many of the memories were personal, or came from my parents, extended kin of my parents’ generation supplemented, and probably embellished, details.

For the first three weeks of January, I had the good fortune to travel to Calgary, Edmonton, and Abbotsford (Vancouver), promoting Crash Landing. Much of the story is set in the west so a trip there is a great opportunity to reconnect with kin.

Tragically, Elvira, Mom’s cousin and a family historian, died in an apartment fire the day I arrived. Rather than visit as planned, I attended her memorial. In Edmonton, I met Bev, a second cousin I’d only become aware of, for the first time. Our grandmothers were sisters and her family has pictures, stories, and records from Dad’s first two years in northern Alberta.

In Abbotsford (near Vancouver), I had dinner with Mom’s cousin Hedy, two months her junior. She and Mom spent much of their first five years together until their parents were forced to move to opposite sides of the country. Hedy and Mom remained friends. While Mom can no longer remember the stories, Hedy emanates joie de vivre and relates a wealth of stories and inspiration. She’s one of the last connections to my ancestors.

This weekend we’ll celebrate another life well lived as we gather for my uncle’s service. Eventually we’ll all pass on. While our elders and we are still here, however, take time to be with them. Embrace them and their wisdom, even if you don’t agree on everything.

They’re our connection to who we are. By understanding our roots, we understand ourselves. It frees us to live our life to the fullest.

How do you keep family stories alive? Tell us in the comments.

Read Crash Landing to help you on your healing journey. “Liz Jansen brings a rich vitality to several generations of ordinary people who become extraordinary through her painstaking research and beautiful writing. The Ancestor Trail is a journey with a difference: part road trip, part spiritual exploration, and part self-discovery, it answers questions that lie within all of us.” Mark Richardson, author of Zen and Now, editor of Canada Moto Guide.

Photo on Visual hunt

Empowerment: A Journey Not a Destination

Empowerment is a Journey, Not a Destination

The past two weekends, I’ve been at the Calgary and Edmonton Motorcycle Shows, (today I’m in Vancouver) promoting Crash Landing and Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment (WMRE). I love the opportunity to engage with readers face to face and hear their stories. These conversations also highlight myths and misconceptions about empowerment.

Men and women, familiar with my writing, walk up, and purchase, no questions asked. Others stop to ask what my books are about and often buy one or both books. They share heart-wrenching stories or their face lights up with joy when they tell me how they’ve overcome a life challenge, on or off the motorcycle.

Others glance at the titles, roll their eyes and keep walking. A small minority comments about why either book is not for them, without knowing what it’s about. WMRE gets the most eye-rolls or eye-contact avoidance. I hear, ”I ride. I’m already empowered.” Or a man will grab his female companion’s hand and say, “She doesn’t need your book. She’s empowered enough,” as he guides her away. Conversely, some men try to pressure their partners into buying it because they want them to learn how to ride.

I get that my stories aren’t for everyone and don’t take any comments (praise or criticism) personally. I’m simply the messenger, following my heart and trying to be of greatest service with my gifts.

When I respond to questions about WMRE, I explain that it weaves stories from a diverse group of women into a larger story. These women trusted me with personal experiences where they’ve pushed past their comfort zone, pulled from strengths they weren’t aware of, and shared what that’s opened up in other areas of their life.

Although the stories are told through women who ride, WMRE is about the possibilities that appear when you discover and exercise your strength in the face of formidable obstacles, not about motorcycles or women. Motorcycles just happen to be an outstanding way to push your comfort zone. But it’s not the only way, nor does riding a motorcycle automatically mean you’ve “become empowered” and there’s no more personal work to do.

Empowerment isn’t about trying to make something into what we want it to be or trying to control the outcome. There is no map. Our role in life is to show up for what’s needed in the moment, do our part, then surrender, trust, and let go of judgment or attachment to a particular result. We can’t make meaning for anyone else. We can facilitate, support, and lend a hand, but they have to find it on their own.

Often, it’s good to pause and listen to the words I’ve spoken with others, especially when I’ve repeated them frequently, like describing how WMRE is about pushing your comfort zone and opening up new possibilities. Those words apply to me. I’m also on a journey and need to make sure I don’t get complacent in familiar settings rather than pushing past my comfort zone.

One of Crash Landing’s major lessons is that I may not know the best way to the destination, but as long as I’m on the road, trusting and following my inner guidance, no matter how circuitous the journey, I’ll arrive. This internal journey is often uncomfortable.

All of us hold a reservoir of personal power, even if we don’t/can’t access it. It takes courage and trust to venture into the unknown. All these “empowering” experiences along our journey transform us into who we’re becoming.

How do you define empowerment? Tell us in the comments.

Photo on Visual Hunt

Mennonites and Motorcycles, and Magic

Motorcycles and Mennonites merged at last weekend’s Calgary Motorcycle Show. Events like this connect you with community, culture, and others who share your interests. While you know you’ll rekindle old friendships, common bonds and shared roots quickly transform strangers into new friends.

I’d expected to connect with fellow riders. However, lively exchanges with those who were descended from the same Mennonite background as I am were unexpected. “Mainstream” Mennonites, are indiscernible from the rest of the crowd. (See 10 Things to Know About Mennonites in Canada) The topic isn’t something that typically comes up in conversations, but given the nature of Crash Landing, it’s not surprising it emerged.

Much of the story of both my journey and that of my ancestors, takes place in Alberta. Many Mennonites settled here and still live in around Calgary, including numerous places I visited on the Ancestor Trail. I met two disparate men who’d descended from families who’d lived in the small tight-knit farming enclave of Namaka at the same time as Dad’s family. Dad had lived there between ages four and eleven but left his heart forever when his family moved back to Ontario. One of the men now lives in nearby Linden, where a bowl of Borscht had gone straight to my heart.

Both Mennonites and motorcyclists have strong cultures and are extraordinarily compassionate and charitable to those in need. Both have taught me how to be courageous, and stand up for what I believe in and who I am, although the road to that destination has been circuitous, indirect, and a wild adventure in itself.

There’s a tendency to get lost behind the costumes we wear, the expectations and constraints we’re raised with, and the roles we assume. As soon as we apply labels, we form an image of who we (and others) are, how we should conduct ourselves, or how we think others think we should behave. We risk camouflaging and stifling our authenticity and freedom. That’s true of motorcyclists, Mennonites, and any community. Their role is to inform and nurture but not define us.

Getting to know our roots and the cultures that have played a dominant role in our lives helps us understand ourselves, and that’s when the magic happens. It frees us to be who we are. For years I’d distanced myself from my Mennonite roots, not knowing I was choking myself and stunting my growth. Agree with some of the beliefs and traditions or not, it was only when I began acknowledging them and the experiences that were part of me, disassembling their emotional charges, and reframing them, that I begin to understand myself better.

Crash Landing narrates my internal and external motorcycle adventures, exploring my roots. Get your copy and come along for my ride!

Photo on VisualHunt.com

Shattered Plans Usher in Day One of 2019

When the phone rang at 6:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, I knew my plans were about to change. I’d made space for a peaceful, Zen day of meditation, hiking in the woods, and envisioning the coming year.

The nurse from Mom’s long-term care residence, two hours away, had called to tell us there was a noticeable change in her condition. Mom was limp and unresponsive. Things can deteriorate quickly in a frail ninety-two-year-old and I wanted to get there.

First I had to find transportation. I haven’t owned a car since I divested my Toyota Matrix before leaving on my ill-fated adventure in 2014. Instead I rent or ride, depending on the weather. It was too cold and icy to ride Trudy. The car rental agency was closed and rapid transit wasn’t running. Uber had just come to town, but no drivers were available. My options were almost exhausted. After more than an hour of trying to get a response, I reached a friend who offered me his car. I was on my way.

At the same time, other voices of worry crowded in. I was scheduled to fly to Calgary in two days to begin my book tour at the western motorcycle shows. I’d planned for months and would be gone for more than two weeks. What if Mom had a prolonged illness, or died? What should I do?

I’d invested a lot to attend. My displays and boxes of Crash Landing and Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment were already there. It reminded me of my quest described in Crash Landing when one uncontrollable event after another kept holding me back from going on a journey I was convinced I was meant to take. Why was this happening now?

By the time I arrived and joined siblings sitting around Mom’s bedside, she’d begun to come around. Most likely she had pneumonia. She continued to rally throughout the day and the next morning was up in her wheelchair, jovial, and having breakfast in the dining room.

I smiled to myself. I’d intended to spend New Year’s Day, planning, reflecting on the challenging lessons I’d learned through the last four years of my soul’s journey. I thought the best way to do that was through quiet and solitude. Spirit had other ideas.

The day reminded me I’m in control of very little. Trust divine guidance and my intuition. Know that what happens is for my greatest good. Surrender to what is. It’s how I got through torrential storms in Texas (10 Tips for Being in the Flow Through (Life’s) Storms and Finding Calm When Quitting is Not an Option). And it’s how I’ll navigate whatever the year brings.

Contact me to schedule a session to help explore, discover, and guide you on your soul’s journey. Complimentary fifteen-minute consultation.

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Discovering The Unlikely Gifts of Dementia

Make no mistake. A diagnosis of dementia is not something to put on your wish list. Mom received the devastating diagnosis approximately ten years ago. She did what she could to delay its progression but even her fortitude wasn’t enough to fend it off.

Watching the erosion of independence and cognitive function in someone who was always so fit, smart, and strong has been heartbreaking. The angst of seeing a loved one decline or the strain on Dad as he struggled to understand and care for her was gut-wrenching.

Yet even in the darkness and confusion, as her filters eroded, glimpses of a personality she’d kept under wraps, or comments she’d withheld, have surfaced. It’s those tender moments I cherish so much.

In early 2016, Dad’s personal resources to care for her were stretched. I’d just had my second shoulder surgery a week earlier and had driven two hours to take her shopping. They were still in their apartment, with strict instructions not to leave her alone. He’d escape for brief reprieves anyways, which was where he was when I arrived. During that outing he fell, broke his hip, and was admitted to hospital. I stayed with her that first night trying vainly to sleep, let alone be comfortable, in his easy chair.

Mom spent the night pacing, looking, and asking for him, confused about what had happened. When she padded out of her room again around 6:00 a.m. I pretended to be asleep, hoping she’d go back and rest. Instead, she came over, straightened my blanket and tucked it up around my chin, like you would with a child. She’d never been one to demonstrate affection and I was incredibly touched.

As a family, we made the decision to place her in long-term care, something Dad had been unable to do.

Mom had worked hard to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse, at a time when her family was strained to make ends meet. She’d gone on to complete a post-graduate nursing education, a rarity for those times.

After she and Dad married and started a family, she’d returned to nursing as soon as she could. She supplemented their farm income with work she was passionate about into her late sixties.

Once in long-term care, she resumed her nurse role, always in charge. She’d have to get back from outings so she could work. She still introduces other residents as people she works with. Nurses include her in staff meetings. I’d never appreciated how strongly her identity was wrapped up in her professional role, or how proud she was of her accomplishments.

No matter how bad things got, she was always grateful for what she had. No doubt her father, Gerhard Reimer, handed down that legacy. After being allowed into Canada as a refugee in the 1920s, he thanked God every day for his freedom and the opportunity to live in this land.

My parents prayed at least twice daily, always starting with a list of things they were grateful for. The few times I’ve been with Mom at bedtime, I tuck her in and stay with her for prayers. No matter what time period her mind has taken her to, she expresses gratitude before asking for anything.

A few months ago, she needed dental surgery to remove eight remaining teeth. A general anesthetic was the last resort and we thought she could handle the extractions in the dentist’s chair. She’s good at accepting direction from medical authorities.

The first freezing didn’t take and she became anxious. The oral surgeon hesitated to continue but I calmed her down and he let me stay while he administered the second dose—multiple needles. While he was out of the room giving it time to take effect, she sat with her arms crossed over her chest. “Go and get him and let’s get this done,” she said. She moaned and winced, clenching my hand until I thought she’d crush it, but keeping her mouth open until he finished.

She was raised to be stoic. There was no time to waste showing feelings or pain. Deal with what needs to be done and move on. That can be an asset as well as a liability, but what struck me was how engrained it was in her. She’d lost so much, yet the stoicism held firm.

It carried her through the loss of Dad last year. In the moment, she knew what was happening but then it was gone. She asks for him and we try and follow wherever she’s going. Once she told me, “He died, you know,” and I knew she knew.

The greatest gift of all has been the opportunity I’ve had to care for her and speak openly from my heart in a way I never could until the last few years. She somehow responds to that in kind and those intimidate moments with her are precious beyond imagination.

I tell her how much I love her, what a good mother she’s been, and how it’s now my turn to look after her. Although she doesn’t like being cared for (or being sentimental), it’s such a gift for me to be able to do so. Sometimes she’ll look me in the eye and say, “It isn’t easy living like this.” And I know she knows.

The stoicism and fortitude that carried her throughout life’s challenges now helps her deal with dementia and immobility. Those glimpses that shine through from time to time have helped me get to know her better than at any time before dementia.

As she gives me the gift of who she is, she’s giving me her best. It teaches me a lot about who I am.

Endorsement

“Stories change us. Liz Jansen’s story is both an adventure and a mesmerizing process of excavating the meaning, messages, and magic embedded in our everyday lives. Her journey is an invitation to be awake to the story our lives and the lives of our ancestors is telling. And that kind of story heals the heart.” ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer, author of The Invitation

Interested in learning more about discovering the story your life and the lives your ancestors is telling, read Crash Landing.

Photo on Foter.com

The Story Behind the Story of Crash Landing

by Liz Jansen

story behind the storyIn 2014 I set out on a solo motorcycle adventure, expecting to be on the road for twelve- to eighteen months, traveling the Americas. My purpose was to seek the answer to who I was before my culture had shaped me, and write a book about it. That initial attempt ended with a crash in Alberta three weeks after it began, but even before the prairie dust had settled, I knew this was not a detour. What was to unfold was part of my quest.

I turned sixty in 2014. The decision to embark on my journey came about through the confluence of four energetic forces:

  1. Over the previous years, I’d developed an interest in living and working from the road—traveling and supporting myself at the same time. A decade earlier I’d left a long-term marriage and corporate career and begun freelancing. I’d set up my business so I could work from anywhere.
  2. It was time to start my third book. The exploration into my cultural influences would be a nice follow-up to the themes of self-discovery, adventure, and personal power in my first two books—Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment, and Life Lessons from Motorcycles.
  3. I’d begun studying energy medicine. The teachings I was drawn to were based largely on wisdom handed down from shamans of Peru. Their underlying premise focuses on how the experiences of our ancestors exist in us and influence our choices. There’s also a lifestyle that reveres and learns from the elements and beings of nature, another complementary theme I wanted to study.
  4. Most importantly, I was asking myself who was I and why am I here. How could I best express my inherent gifts to be of greatest service? At 60, there are more days behind you than ahead of you and I wanted to make the most of my life, each day.

I was born into a Mennonite family and culture. Voicing that would not have happened even a few short years ago. I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been raised as a Mennonite.

Growing up, we had a close nuclear and extended family and I always cherished those relationships. But even as a child, some of the religious teachings burdened me. They didn’t make sense. By my late teens, I’d grown ashamed of the culture and moved away from the church—not my family, and not the overarching values, but the religion. I built protective layers around my identity, disguising myself from even myself, and went to sleep for thirty years.

My awakening approaching age 50 led to dramatic life changes, but those were only the beginning of my evolution. By age sixty, I was compelled to better understand who I was.

I realized that even though I’d moved away from my culture, the experiences and teachings of my grandparents and all those who came before, even before I was born, lived in me. Subconsciously, they’d shaped my thoughts, beliefs, and life choices. I was curious to understand them better.

It’s hard to imagine my grandparents’ life from my perspective today. The best way to put myself in their shoes and see through their eyes was to visit the lands they’d lived on. I wasn’t going to the Russian steppes (now Ukraine) that had been their home before they fled in the 1920s. I could, however, go to where the young refugees had lived on in western Canada as they tried (many times) to establish themselves in a new land.

All those energies came together at age sixty and resulted in a motorcycle trip. I’d visit the places my grandparents had settled. I’d also engage with Indigenous people to better understand the energy of the land my ancestors had walked. Since I was studying energy medicine from Peru and could work from anywhere, I’d carry on to South America and study with the shamans.

Why not?

That’s how it all began. It didn’t take long for my plans to unravel or for me to see the lessons I wanted to learn would come about in a very different manner than I’d envisioned.

That journey forms the story told in Crash Landing.

Read more about Crash Landing.

 


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Crash Landing is Finally and Officially Available

by Liz Jansen

officially availableWith all the twists and turns inherent in Crash Landing‘s writing and publication, I shouldn’t have been surprised that a few glitches prevented it from going fully live yesterday. But that’s in the past. After a circuitous and adventurous journey, Crash Landing is finally and officially available!  

And so begins the next part of its journey—helping it reach those for whom it’s intended. It’s an exciting time, full of conflicting thoughts and emotions, feelings of vulnerability, and anticipation mixed with gratitude.

I hope you’ll consider purchasing your own copy if you haven’t already (and thank you so much if you have):

If you prefer digital:

Or you can get it wherever good books are sold! I encourage you to support your favorite indie.

Obtain a highly-prized collector’s edition (signed copy) through this website or at one of my upcoming events!

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Finding Home From Wherever You Are

by Liz Jansen

find your way homeOn a lazy Sunday afternoon in 1998, I lay on the sofa looking up at the massive beams holding up the structure I’d waited so long for and worked so hard to finish. Did I really think this house on this particular plot of land was the only place on God’s earth where I could be happy? Of course not! That epiphany severed my attachment to the house and fed my restlessness, but it would be another two years before I left it, along with my marriage.

Since then I’ve lived in five places, none as grand as that house, but all of them more like home. Home, I’ve discovered, is more of a state of being than a physical place.

It means you can find home wherever you are. When I camp, it’s my small tent. Although tissue paper-thin, the walls separate me from the elements and other people, and the space becomes my own. At my yoga studio, it’s my mat. While staying with friends, it’s wherever I lay my head. In fact, I hesitate to call anywhere home, choosing instead to refer to my street address as home base.

Home is that place of stillness that radiates feelings of peace, serenity, and security in the midst of chaos. It arises from the awareness and acceptance of who you are. This welcoming place breeds self-assuredness, comfort, and contentment with one’s self, foibles and all.

From that calm center, it’s easier to stay grounded, keep life in perspective, and make wise choices. Whenever I get lost, I trust my heart to guide me home.

Yet there’s still something to be said for a physical place. Recently I spent more than five weeks on the road. With mixed feelings, embracing the chilly ride while accepting the season was drawing to a close, the cold of the final two days challenged me physically. When I opened the door to my cozy little place, felt the rush of warm air against my face, and sensed the familiar setting, I exhaled a big sigh of gratitude. Welcome home.

How do you find your way home? Where is home? Tell us in the comments.

Related post: Finding Calm When Quitting is Not an Option


Photo credit: anoldent on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Author Interview from Readers’ Questions

by Liz Jansen

author interviewLast week I asked for your help in preparing a simulated interview. They’re great questions and a tough interview! Here are my responses to your answers.

How does your family respond to your riding and your writing? 

I began riding a motorcycle on the family farm when I was sixteen and my younger brothers bought a Honda Cub. My parents didn’t blink an eye. They had more pressing concerns, like making ends meet. My five younger siblings grew up with me riding, so to them, it was just another thing I did.

Now it’s been part of my life for so long they’d think it odd if I was without a motorcycle. They do get concerned when I head out on long solo journeys but know it’s futile to try and persuade me not to go. I don’t know what they think of my writing.

What do you consider to be your greatest 3 accomplishments either in in your personal or professional life?

  1. Getting over my phobias of flying and cats. Both used to strike terror in my heart. Now I love2 cats and tolerate flying.
  2. Leaving my marriage and then my corporate career eight months later (2002/2003). As my spirit awakened, both decisions were part of the same overhaul, and necessary for me to thrive.
  3. Completing the quest I wrote about in Crash Landing. It reconnected me with who I am.

Tell me why you are such an ardent motorcyclist?

Being out on the open road on my motorcycle feeds my soul. It introduces me to the most amazing people and experiences—that includes fellow riders, and the curious people who approach and share their stories with me—moto and other. It challenges me, pushes my comfort zone, and makes me grow. It opens my heart. It teaches me about life and myself, and gives me stories to write about. I experience life and the landscape I’m in, rather than being an observer.

How did you morph from your corporate/nursing career to writer of self discovery-type books?

Nursing was my first career and I entered without giving it much thought. After working in hospitals for five years, I morphed into occupational health and safety and from there into corporate human resources, and training and development. It took many years for me to realize the roles I was in weren’t a fit. Once I let my heart have a voice, everything changed, but aside from the dramatic transitions in my marriage and career, which were catalysts, the rest was an evolution.

I started my new life doing motorcycle tours, with the intent on creating the space for others to experience the same expansion, confidence, and personal power I became aware of through riding. Those assets don’t disappear when you get off the motorcycle and I became aware of a deep desire to help others discover their gifts. The writing came unexpectedly and I have two people to thank for getting me started: Claude Aumont gave me a chance to write for Ontario Tourism/Destination Ontario, and Mark Richardson, then an editor with the Toronto Star, kindly published an article I wrote. It took years for me to find my writing voice.

How did the crash change your life, your perspective, yourself?

It’s been the biggest change of my life. It made me accept the futility of thinking I’m in control. I learned planning is overrated. I still plan and follow through on my intentions, but am open to whatever happens. Experiencing how quickly life can change was sobering. It brought me face to face with the “crashes” of my ancestors (although mine paled compared to what they went through). I understood better why they believed and acted as they did. It showed me how values like stoicism, efficiency, and the need for achievement can be both assets and detriments. It consolidated and strengthened my values.

Why did you want to take the trip? What were you hoping for?

I was searching for an answer to who I was and what I was on earth to do before my culture gave me their answers and tried to shape me. Who was I under all the layers of roles and expectations? How could I live my greatest potential in my remaining years?

The answers, I thought, would come from two sources: exploring my lineage and visiting the lands my ancestors had landed on as they established themselves in Canada, and a better understanding of earth spirituality through Indigenous wisdom.

I thought what I’d learn about what the earth has to teach us and from Indigenous wisdom would be far more insightful than a deep exploration of my ancestry. That I could research through stories and family and cultural records.

Did what you hoped for come in a different way or did what you hoped for change?

It absolutely came in a different way. I thought I knew how the answers would come and that they’d come from outside of me. But it turned out I had them all along. I just had to listen and know where to look. What I’d hoped for didn’t change but how the understandings arrived was unforeseen. They were also far more profound and meaningful than I could have imagined.

What was the hardest part of the crash and how it impacted your body, your life?

Losing my mobility and independence, even temporarily, was very difficult. Having to ask for help was humbling. Living in relative stillness, having so much time for thoughts to wander in and try and mess with my mind, was a challenge. I had to come to terms with them, which turned out to be a big step forward on my journey.

What happened that you could not possibly have foreseen?

The response from people when I spoke my truth, with honor and respect, without worrying about how it would be perceived. Reconnecting with extended kin reacquainted me with a powerful heart-bond. I learned that when I gave my heart voice, other hearts responded in kind. Entrenched fears dissolved. Relationships deepened to a new level. Understanding the stories behind dysfunctional beliefs dissipated their energy. It made me aware of how easily I judge without understanding the full story.

What are your dreams for the future? and everything else!

I don’t have specific dreams. My intentions are to follow my heart (with a little input from my mind), be open to any possibility, and not put up roadblocks induced by fear—and follow where that leads. I know that when I do that, magic happens, beyond anything I could dream up!

Where in the world would you like to ride if money and time were no issue?

I’d love to travel to Russia, Ukraine, and Poland—the lands my ancestors called home for centuries. Besides money and time, I need to consider the condition of the roads in the area I’d be traveling in, and whether I have the skills to navigate them.

What little luxury would you never set out on a bike trip without?

My sleeping cot and/or mattress.

When are you coming to Europe and what is your favorite coffee/cake?

I’d love to get to Europe but don’t see it on the radar. Yet. These things can change on a dime. My favorite coffee is organic herbal tea. I avoid wheat/sugar/processed food so that rules out most cakes.

What was your motivation to start writing about your riding experiences?

When I left my corporate career in 2002, I had the good fortune to work with an executive coach. In response to her guidance, I wrote out five and ten year goals for anything I wanted. Somehow, writing a book got on the 10-year list. Before I could start such an aggressive project, I needed writing experience (and courses). My riding experiences, the people I met through riding, and what those things meant to me were what I knew. They also became the subject of my first book: Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment.

I would love to know more about the solo aspect of traveling and camping as a female out there on the road. Things you look for to be safe and helpful tips for ladies that are thinking of doing this.

It’s an amazing experience and I highly recommend other women (and men) get out there and try it. Make sure your riding skills are up to the conditions you’ll be in. Have an understanding of basic mechanics. Start with a one- or two-night ride. Ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, if you want to do it, get out there and do it! Have fun! I have many articles about how to do this throughout my blog.

How is aging changing your approach to adventure?


My definition of adventure has changed. I’m more conscious of staying healthy in body, mind, and spirit so I can perform at my best. When I’m riding my motorcycle, I don’t push myself as hard as I once did, or try and wring as many miles out of a day. My stamina and strength aren’t the same as they once were, nor is my reaction time, so I adjust my riding style accordingly. I want to live life to the fullest, to embrace each moment, and to ride a motorcycle for as long as I can. If anyone asks me about retirement, I tell them that means new tires on my motorcycle.

There are other ways I have adventures, but motorcycling is the most demanding, thus more susceptible to potential effects of aging. I know I have more days behind me than ahead of me and I want each of them to count!

What is something you wish you could have told/asked your younger self about life and some of the preconceptions/assumptions you might had then?

Be who you are. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. Listen to your intuition. Don’t be afraid of what other people think, or what you think other people are thinking. They have their own hopes and fears. Share your gifts with others. That’s where you find the most meaning and how you can be of greatest service.

What are questions you wish you could ask your future self?

How am I doing with living my fullest potential? Want to go for a ride? 🙂

While you were writing the book, did you continue to gain a better understanding of yourself, your family, your lineage? Did more of your story come together as you were writing; things you didn’t realize become more clear?

Yes on all counts. When I started out to research my lineage, my expectations of what I’d learn and how I’d learn were very different than what happened. I didn’t expect to crash and that changed the whole course of my story—in a good way. I started off expecting to write a historical non-fiction book about my Mennonite experience and ended up with a very personal memoir, with universal messages. So much became clearer during the writing, and my whole perspective changed. It had a profound effect on me. Through that, I was finally able to reconnect with who I am.

As someone, familiar with your upbringing, I’m curious as to how your family reacted to your fiercely independent self! What pressures, if any, did you feel regarding a single, non-traditional lifestyle…..eg a motorcycling woman doing her own thing?

The only pressure I was under was to attend church and adhere to traditional religious beliefs.

It’s ironic. On a collective, cultural level, Mennonites have always prided themselves on being different from “the world”, so while there have been expectations around cultural conformity, that independence is woven into the fabric of those born into it.

I come from a long line of independent women. The following examples don’t begin to tell the story. My paternal grandmother, Liese, defied the Tatars when they invaded her home, and did what she needed to do all her life to survive. Susa, my maternal grandmother, (and her twin sister Anna) did not give in to the church’s demand to get rebaptized when she married because she came from a different branch of Mennonites than her husband. That would have been a big deal!

My mother was determined to have a nursing career, even if it meant alternating years of work and school to get there. Although both my parents were involved in church activities, they enjoyed personal and professional activities outside the community. They loved to travel to foreign countries and try different things. My dad gave up stable, well-paying employment for the uncertainty of farming. My parents encouraged all of us to be work hard and be self-sufficient. Once I was on my own, they were unconditionally supportive of what I did. They may not have envisioned where life would take me, but then, neither did I.

Find out more about Crash Landing


Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC

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