These days I’m ensconced in editing and revising Crash Landing, which explains my sporadic posts. In case you missed it, CL’s the story of how the experiences of our ancestors shape us. It includes a motorcycle crash and a triumphant return to riding, tracing my ancestors’ migrations after they came to Canada. Between, I’ve researched my roots and come to see their lives, and mine, through different eyes.
My grandmother and namesake, was born on this day in 1901, and I wanted to introduce you to her early life. You’ll get to know my grandparents much better in the book.
Elizabeth Friesen, affectionately called Liese (lee-za) entered the world with a shock of red hair, a harbinger of the fiery temperament that got her through her long life. She dealt with the prevailing superstition that her red hair, and mine, was a sign of the devil by calling it a different color. She kept the hue into her nineties.
The Friesens lived in a German Mennonite colony in Russia, north of Kazakhstan. When her ancestors arrived from Prussia in the 1830’s under an agreement with Catherine the Great, all available land was taken. The Friesens were relegated to the landless class. Liese’s dad was a postman and the family lived with other landless on small lots on the outskirts of villages. They couldn’t vote on civic affairs. Mennonite business and property owners looked down on them, treating them as second-class citizens.
Liese was the eighth of eleven children, although three died before she was born. When she was seven, they, along with other landless moved 1,000km/600miles southwest across country to the Terek colony near the Caspian Sea, where land had become available, in other words, seized from another group. She graduated from sixth grade to digging irrigation ditches to provide water for the crops.
The surrounding Nogais, a Turkish ethnic group, disputed the boundaries, robbed their farms, and took their horses. More than once Liese fended off Tatars raiders from a home invasion. She learned to speak Turkish.
The settlers persisted because they had nowhere else to go. Eventually, the land began to thrive and they felt at home. Colonists negotiated a fragile truce with Russian authorities following escalating robberies, plundering, and murders. Until World War I started.
They were Russian citizens but had maintained their German ethnicity and language for 100 years, not a good thing when Germany was the enemy. The Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War compounded their fragile existence. Finally, in early 1918, when she was 17, they knew they’d have to leave or face annihilation.
In February they caught wind of 1,000 Chechnyans marching towards them, seeking revenge for an attack on them. The whole colony of German Mennonites, Lutherans, and Catholics had to evacuate within two hours. Liese always thanked God for sending heavy fog to cover their escape. A two-mile wagon train of people, livestock, and machinery, with militia escort, inched along. Deep mud made roads almost impassable in places. Looking back, they could see smoke billowing from buildings the marauders had torched.
They waited in terror for repairs to a vital bridge before they could cross it. After several weeks they’d made it to Kaliningrad but because of the civil war, the Red (Bolshevik) Army would not let them continue. They ended up camped there for 18 months before being loaded onto a cattle train and traveling west for two days to the Molochna, another Mennonite colony in what is now Ukraine. Her mother was sick with typhus and died two days after they arrived.
The family stayed here, living in a cottage at her uncle’s place. Liese met and married Johann (John) Klassen who would become my grandfather. The Klassens were successful farmers and for a brief time, she was no longer landless. She survived civil war and years of famine, and gave birth to two daughters Elizabeth and Anna. Both died of typhus in 1925, shortly before she and Johann emigrated.
After being detained in England for four months for treatment of Johann’s eye infection, they disembarked onto Canadian soil at St. John, New Brunswick on February 14, 1926. She was seven-months pregnant with the child who would become my father, they were free, and the future looked promising. Tragedy was not finished with her, but for the time they were hopeful.
Today I celebrate this amazing woman who embodied empowerment, resilience, and courage.
When I was a child, I became known in family circles for my piano talents. Lessons started at age six, from Miss Pearl Latcham, an elegant woman who sat erect, her silver, coiffed hair held precisely in place with a bejeweled comb. Her rouged complexion was smooth and tissue-paper thin. Pendants and earrings bedazzled with exquisite gemstones. I couldn’t help but stare at her giant, fiery, opal ring that shimmered when she played.
While I sat on the bench, plunking away at the keyboard of her black concert grand, she’d train me. I advanced through the Royal Conservatory of Music’s grades and was good, but I was no child prodigy. To the delight of my parents, not only did I play Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, I could rattle off any hymn in the hymnal in any key, from memory. As a teen, I served as a pianist and organist for our church, accompanying choirs, congregations, and playing at weddings and my grandparents’ funerals. The money I earned from teaching piano lessons put me through nursing school.
At 16, I latched on to one of the most significant gifts in my life—learning to ride a motorcycle. The bike belonged to my younger brothers but somehow they allowed me more than my fair share of saddle time. Since then, except for a brief hiatus, a motorcycle’s been in my life.
It’s taught me about confidence, resourcefulness, personal power, and community. About being comfortable in my skin. It uncovered the courage I used to change my life, and given me life-changing moments.
I’ve wandered through careers in nursing and Corporate Human Resources but it’s only in the last decade, thanks to motorcycling, I’ve uncovered an interest—and skill—as a non-traditional healer. Motorcycling led me into writing.
Letting go of who I thought others thought I should be, or who I thought I should be opened my world. That’s allowed me to share my insights with others.
We come into the world with unique interests and talents. Using them brings joy to us and those we share them with. It’s how we find meaning, purpose, and new possibilities.
It doesn’t matter if your calling is as an accountant, pilot, or technician. You may have a passion for sales, physical labor, arts, or politics.
What’s more important is following your heart’s calling, even if it’s not a full-time gig. There’s a way to work it in. Interests can change over time, but using them, being true to ourselves, is how we make a difference.
While I no longer play the piano, like any dormant gift, it can surface in unexpected ways. My mom is in long term care because of dementia. Last week when I visited the brutal cold kept us inside so we went to another floor for a change of scenery. Our meanderings took us to the piano in the auditorium. She knew right where the hymnal would be and removed it from the piano bench. I sat and played and we both sang our hearts out. It didn’t take long for staff and other residents to join in. The words didn’t matter. Thank you mom!
Your gifts are waiting. How do you use them? Tell us in the comments.
I didn’t expect to start the first days of the year spending the last days with a dear friend.
Deb and I met in fifth grade and became instant best friends. We’ve cherished that closeness our whole lives. We’ve shared graduations, marriages, divorces, jobs, job losses, the births and weddings of her precious daughters, the arrival of her grandchildren, and the deaths of our fathers.
Our life paths took us in different directions but no matter how much time had passed, we’d pick up where we left off without missing a beat. We lived a couple of hours apart but would chat at least weekly, usually while I was on my evening walk.
For the past year, she cared for her husband at home until it was impossible. He was on the wing of the hospital my dad was admitted to and passed away in November, a month after dad.
When Deb’s symptoms appeared, it was easy to attribute them to her physical and emotional exhaustion. We had only a few short days last week to learn about the nature and gravity of her illness and prepare for her passing.
I was honored to spend those days with her, her daughters, sister, and others in her family.
Few are fortunate to have such friendships and I’ll cherish Deb and our memories forever. They’re comforting, but it’s still going to take time to sink in. Her greatest legacy is her two daughters. Loving, confident, and beautiful in all ways, they’ll continue to be a part of my life.
Even in grief and heartbreak, there is light.
As 2017 drew to a close, I knew it was time to begin integrating an Energy Medicine practice into my writing time.
With access to a beautiful healing space at the yoga studio I attend in Orangeville, Ontario, I’m doing that formally onsite, as well as virtually. My approach blends wisdom and experience from a background as a Registered Nurse, Corporate Human Resources Professional, and a million miles of motorcycle travel. The shamanic Energy Medicine practices I’ve trained for beginning in 2013 are the most recent addition to this medicine bag.
Clients contact me because they’re feeling stuck, lonely, going through major life transitions, or feeling unfulfilled. Together, we unravel the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we’ve embraced, and stories that have been passed down for generations—stories we’re often not aware we’re carrying. By recognizing and changing them, clients transform their lives. My personal experience with coming to terms with ancestral stories is the heart of the upcoming Crash Landing.
These practices and techniques assist clients to discover their gifts, create meaning in their lives, and step into their fullest potential. It’s a natural progression of the personal empowerment work I’ve practiced for years.
The world needs all our gifts. By using them, we change the world, not by changing others but by transforming ourselves.
To schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation or book an onsite or virtual appointment, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While driving my car down a popular motorcycle pine-tree-lined road a few years ago, Jim Croce’s I’ve Got a Name came over the radio. The lyrics sang a custom fit to my time and place in life.
Now they reached even deeper into my heart. By researching my ancestral roots for Crash Landing, I’ve reconnected with me.
The motorcycle trip I took in 2016 that followed the migration of my grandparents opened my eyes, understanding, and appreciation for their lives. They arrived in Canada as refugees in the 1920’s, moving thousands of miles over decades, trying to make a go of it.
They passed their experiences, courage, strength, and resilience to their children, my parents. My parents tried to pass them to me.
It was a profound honor to take my dad to visit his Alberta childhood homes in August. That trip brought his life full circle. We didn’t know he’d be gone less than two months later.
I’ve Got a Name is the perfect road song, whether you’re on a motorcycle your life’s road.. Listen and sing, live, and ride along!
Here’s to rolling me down the highway, moving ahead so life won’t pass me by.
Today we celebrate the return of the light in the northern hemisphere. For tens of thousands of years, people around the world have celebrated this sacred and auspicious time.
Tonight I’ll celebrate with a contemplative lantern walk in the nearby town of Elora. Our moonlit path takes us along the boardwalk and Grand River. After, we’ll enjoy singing, hot cider, and merriment around a community Solstice fire.
In a few days I’ll join my family in our traditional Christmas festivities. The first one without dad. I miss him. He told us before he passed that he was off to a celebration and I picture him there.
Gazing at the night sky makes me marvel at the immensity of the universe and how the cosmic laws operate with precision and reliability. It’s intimate, yet vast. I feel insignificant, yet part of something so huge I can’t comprehend it.
If you take a close look at this photo, you may see angels, or reindeers pulling Santa across the sky.
Many of us mark the season with feasts, festivals, and holidays—like Christmas and Hanukkah. A time of giving and receiving. It’s also a time to remember those less fortunate who may not have kin to celebrate with. Or money for gifts. Or even a home. We’re all in this world together.
The same Power that brings the light back, lights the stars, and moves the planets in their orbits exists in me. In each of us.
However you celebrate, may love, joy and compassion fill your season. Peace on earth and goodwill toward all.
How will you celebrate the return of light? Tell us in the comments.
Two weeks ago inexplicable phone glitches interrupted a regular session with my spiritual teacher. During our time, the line went silent five or six times. I’d notice when my words didn’t elicit a response.
She’d try calling back, only to go straight to voice mail because I had continued to talk. When I caught on and hung up, she could get through again. Then the cycle would repeat.
I don’t look for meaning in every quirky event. But unmistakable messages demand attention.
The voice I needed to listen that day belonged to me.
Always hungry for knowledge, I read a lot, take courses, and seek counsel with wise teachers. All these things are valuable investments of time and energy.
They can also be a way of avoiding a persistent inner voice. No other source can deliver the message with your name on it. Slowing down and listening enables you to hear it.
It may take time to grasp the meaning but stay with it. Over time, you risk losing yourself if you don’t listen and act.
In 2002, at age 48, I left a 25-year marriage. Eight months later I walked away from the stability of a corporate career. Needing time to think, I set off on a two-month solo motorcycle trip around Canada and the United States.
Many people commented on what they perceived as bravery and courage. I saw it another way. That voice had been talking to me for years, only I hadn’t followed through. The roles I occupied no longer fit. To stay in them would have sounded the death knell for my spirit.
After those changes, my world opened up in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I questioned why I had waited so long. Riding around the top of Lake Superior on the third day of my trip, I shouted with joy inside my helmet.
The outcomes aren’t always so dramatic. They will always carry meaning and lead to other openings at some point.
Since then, I’ve honed my listening skills, and not just with my ears. Messages come through all our senses. Learn to recognize them.
The more we practice, the sooner we see the universe as a co-creator. It conspires to help us in unusual, often humorous ways.
Find your voice by listening. Follow its lead by summoning your courage to take the next step.
Every morning I start the day with a prayer and intention to make the most of every day. I’ve done it for years. In the evening when I look back at the day, the results are always mixed. The next morning, I’m grateful for another day, another chance to make the most of a new day.
It’s tempting to think “make the best of” refers to how much I’ve accomplished. But then, what if what I’ve accomplished isn’t in line with my priorities?
I’ve concluded it’s using my gifts, skills, and talents to the best of my ability. Following my heart (with input from my head). Laughing. Loving. Forgiving. Playing. Learning from my mistakes. Extending kindness, understanding, and compassion, including to myself.
I can’t measure it in dollars earned, words written, or new Facebook followers. I can’t compare my day to someone else’s.
It’s not just what I’ve done. It’s how and why I’ve done it. Has it thrown me off balance?
Making the most of each day starts with how I perceive myself. The answer tends to be tangible. Yet we are so much more than our physical bodies. We see them as the means by which we get stuff done.
Our body is a balanced and complex system made up of 11 major organ systems. Bodies are always seeking equilibrium in response to internal and external changes. If something goes wrong in one system, it can’t help but put stress on another.
We’re more than physical beings though. Often we fail to recognize how our emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies influence our health. All systems depend on each other for maintaining our energetic balance.
So if I intend to make the most of the day, I need to step up and do my part.
For years I’ve been careful to include the healthiest, usually organic ingredients in my diet. No processed foods, sugar, or gluten. My day starts with meditation and gratitude. I’ve come a long way in establishing and sticking to manageable priorities.
It’s not enough though. Over the past month, I’ve incorporated new elements into the day. I’ve joined a fantastic yoga studio and practice at least five times a week. A thirty-minute walk each way, which includes a few grades, helps me improve my cardio.
Can I still get sick or have a bad day? You bet.
Nourishing body, mind, and spirit daily takes time. I may not write as many words in a day. Then again, maybe I’ll write more. Whatever I do that day is of higher quality, more meaningful. It changes how the day unfolds. It makes me feel more vibrant and resilient. Better able to deal with challenges.
I see with new eyes what it means to make the most of each day, and how to do it. There’s a reason they call it a practice. The only way to improve is to keep at it. And be grateful there’s another day to start again.
I debated on whether or not I should publish this post. On the one hand, I felt drawn to write it as a follow up to a previous post. On the other hand, I felt resistance. Seriously! Parts of me said it sounded too flakey or obtuse. I’d be better to write a different kind of story. I had to do my own work in preparing it. In the end, I went with my internal guidance. I hope you find it meaningful.
Two weeks ago, we talked about the need to overcome resistance in order to move forward. This week we explore a different relationship between power and resistance. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle to overcome, we can use its energy to our advantage.
On a motorcycle, we encounter resistance, known as the friction zone, every time we shift gears. If we don’t move through it, we won’t move forward.
But there are times we want to stay in that friction zone and harness that energy.
Slow speed turns are best executed by using the friction zone. As a proficient rider, you use this technique when pulling out of your driveway into traffic. And pulling into a parking spot at the donut shop.
Can you imagine what would happen if you let out the clutch during those maneuvers? You could careen into oncoming traffic. Or stall. Or over correct by grabbing the front brake and falling over.
That’s why it’s best to learn how to integrate power and resistance.
In life, resistance occurs when those parts of our selves we don’t want to see are activated. Known as our shadows, we’ve learned these aspects are unacceptable to our selves or our family. Whether we perceive them as positive or negative, we view them as a weakness. Thus, we keep them hidden and denied.
They don’t go away though. They stay outside of our awareness and operate without us knowing it.
You can identify your shadows by observing traits in others that trigger a reaction in you. For example, you may label a colleague as arrogant or a friend as judgmental. You may dislike someone who talks too much and never listens.
Likewise, you may admire people who you view as authentic, courageous, or compassionate.
The traits you see in others exist in you. They hold energy and they don’t go away. There’s courage in fear and power in anger.
It can take introspective work to recognize your shadows. And like the motorcycle example, you’ll need to slow down to tap into their power.
Acknowledge what they’re trying to teach you. Accept them so you can reintegrate their energy. Make peace with them.
Take the cue from someone who never listens to become a more active listener. Or embrace the beauty or courage you admire in someone else as personal qualities.
That energy that’s been hidden in the shadows will be freed up for growth and vitality.
How have you learned to use the power of resistance?
Expressing gratitude was an engrained practice in my family. Every day, my grandfather gave thanks to God for being able to live in a land of freedom and peace. Even during years of poverty and hardship, prayers opened with gratitude. Memories of the anarchy and terror they’d escaped were never out of range.
My parents continued the tradition. Both were born in Canada but life was not easy. Yet they always found something to be grateful for.
As a child growing up in a land of plenty, I was another generation removed from the experiences of my ancestors. I was appreciative and polite but had little upon which to calibrate heart-felt gratitude.
It’s only been in recent decades that I’ve embraced gratitude as a personal experience. An intentional practice of mindfulness and awareness has brought it to life. Now it appears spontaneously by appreciating the gifts right in front of me.
There are many purported benefits of living in gratitude. While admirable, they’re not a reason to give thanks.
The most profound feelings come from the seemingly mundane. A flower, butterfly, or hearing the stream behind my house elicit a thank-you from deep in my soul. Sunshine, music from wind chimes, and even rain make me ecstatic to be alive.
I look into the plate of food in front of me and think of the many hands that have come together to make my simple meal. A farmer has grown and nurtured the crop. Someone else has created the nutrients used to nourish the plants or animals. Others help with harvesting before delivering the crop to a packaging operation. A variety of people in distribution and transportation add their role. Finally, the shelf stocker at the local grocery store stacks it into a compelling display.
The whole world comes together at my table.
I am humbled and grateful.
Learning to express gratitude is a personal path, developed through consistent practice. It intensifies with use.
Gratitude is food for the soul. From the soul.
What are you grateful for? Tell us in the comments.
Owning our power is one of life’s biggest challenges. Learning to use our energy without wasting it takes practice, persistence, and self-compassion.
Like riding a motorcycle, we all have a friction zone. It’s recognizable as that area of internal resistance that appears in response to change. Learning how to overcome it helps us grow.
Understanding the Friction Zone
Motorcycles move forward as power from the engine transfers to the drive system. To do this, you need to pull in the clutch lever, shift into gear, then release the lever as you apply the throttle. As you do, there’s an initial zone of resistance as power transfers to the rear wheel. That’s the friction zone. It becomes evident as the bike begins to move. Read: New Rider: What is the Friction Zone?
New riders are often frightened of how the bike will respond to power. They react by chopping the throttle, cutting off the power supply. The bike stalls. Or, they pull in the lever while keeping the throttle open. In either case, they don’t move.
Holding back power isn’t unique to new riders.
Earlier this season I stopped for an errand on the way home after a weekend of teaching. I’d spent the previous week out of town with my dad in hospital and returned home to work. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was drained.
As I backed out of the parking spot, which I knew was a poor choice, my rear wheel dropped into a drain and I lost my balance. The bike was running and I had the clutch lever pulled in. There was enough space to pull away and time to recover. All I had to do was give it gas and release the clutch.
Instead, I froze. I applied the throttle without releasing the lever. The motorcycle, with me on it, tipped over and hit the pavement. It was completely preventable and I was really annoyed with myself.
Managing the Friction Zone
Often, we’re afraid of our own power. We hold back rather than letting go and trusting things will unfold in our best interests. We’re afraid to follow our intuition and take what we perceive as a risk. So we avoid changing careers, addressing an unhealthy relationship, or trying something different.
What we don’t realize is the risk to our self is greater if we don’t move through that resistance. We lose our balance. It gets harder to try something new.
The next time you feel resistance, don’t hold back. Recognize it as an opportunity to manage the friction zone and move forward. You don’t have to move fast, just keep moving. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to stay in balance.
How do you deal with resistance? Tell us in the comments.