Ode to Ike – Persistence, Positivity, Patience and Presence

Henry Ford Quote

Whether you THINK you CAN or you CAN’T, either way you are RIGHT!!!

My brother was the one that first brought my attention to this quote.  I use it here because it completely describes my grandfather’s approach to life.

Last Cruise

My dear grandpa, Isaac (Ike) Doerksen, finally found a place of peace a few days ago after 103 years of life on this earth.  I don’t believe that there was any part of his life in which he did NOT believe that if he decided to do something, then he would.  The last week of his life was not easy.  As his ability to eat, drink water, and even get up slipped away, my family and I watched this man who had been such a strong figure in our lives slowly decline.  As his physical being lost it’s strength and became a weak shell of what it used to be, I watched in what was nothing less than total amazement as the strength of mind, soul and spirit emanating from him literally infused the entire room.  He didn’t once complain.  When I told him I loved him, he used what he had left to tell me he loved me too.  He often reached for the loving hand of whoever was sitting with him and gave a healthy squeeze.  He displayed such grace right to the end.  And as he did his entire life, he didn’t give up easily.  He simply lived true perseverance as he always had.

During one afternoon as I sat with my dad and my grandpa, my dad shared with me some details of my grandpa’s life that I had not been aware of.  He came into the world at 13 pounds!!!  He was once sick for an entire year, yet pulled through like the trooper that he always was.  At a very young age, he lived through things that I will never experience in my life.  One of the stories that he used to tell me that most sticks in my mind is his account of his family living days at a time without food.  When they finally did get some bread he could barely finish a whole piece, as his stomach was accustomed to not eating. What I didn’t know, and my dad filled me in on, was that his family had to hide in the basement for days given the severity the political situation in Russia, where, as Germans, they resided.  My dad also shared with me that the bread they ate was a result of my grandpa’s father agreeing to help mill the grain that another man had brought so that they could all eat.  This was a huge and dangerous risk they took – but they had no choice but to take it.

When he was barely a teen, his family escaped and made the long journey to Canada.  I can’t even fathom what that would be like.  With a whole slew of barriers in front of him including only a few years of education (meaning about a grade three level), language limitations, and a complete lack of resources, he found a way.  He always found a way to do what he needed to do, to make it.  He was without support at a much younger age than I was.  And I really, truly cannot even imagine what the conditions of his situation had  really been like.  He did whatever work he could find.  He saved up and enrolled in a certification program to become a barber.  When he ran out of money, he still persevered.  He wanted his own shop.  In an extremely saturated market he found a way.  He built a thriving business.  He found decided to do it, and he did.

This little summary is just a piece of all of the things that he persevered through.

Every memory of my grandfather is filled with thoughts positivity, patience and presence. I don’t have a single memory of my grandfather ever saying an unpleasant word or exuding an ounce of negativity.  He used to sing to me:

you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear how much I love you, oh please don’t take my sunshine away’.

Ike chose sunshine over grey in everything he said and everything he did.  He just said things that made you feel like it would all work out, that you could do it, and that there was a way.  He simply infused the air with a feeling of positivity and happiness.  He decided to do things, to live life, to be!!!

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To quote my favourite band,

‘all we need is a little patience’.

I don’t think I have ever known a more patient person than my grandfather.  He knew how to step back, reflect, and take time to do it right.  He always made me feel like we had all the time in the world!!!  What a gift he gave me to feel that way.  What a gift he had to be able to make people feel that way.

Presence.  Presence is something that many of us dream of being able to feel.  Recently in my life, I have had the amazing opportunity to really learn how to be more present, more often.  I realize now how presence was a way of life for my grandfather.  Whenever I was with him, I felt like he was completely there.  Completely with me, completely in the moment.  The last afternoon I spent alone with my grandfather, we talked, he held my hand, he told me he loved me, and he thanked me for being there.  We listened to music, I sung to him, and I read to him.  I absolutely relished the opportunity to be completely there for him.  To give him the gift of presence that he gave to me so many times in my life.

The day that my grandpa found peace, my husband, James, and I ventured out for a long walk. We were somewhere with good weather, and by the ocean.  We had walked almost 10 km when we found a peaceful place for lunch.  We walked almost another 10 km before finding a place for happy hour.  We could have taken a car at that point to get back to where we were staying.  But James said to me, it’s only about another 7 km.  I thought about this.  My grandpa used to walk and walk and walk.  He would walk through Nose Hill park in our home town of Calgary for hours.  So why shouldn’t we walk another 7 km, I thought to myself.  So off we went.  We were tired, but we declared ‘for Ike!’, and pressed on.

I love you grandpa.

I will forever miss you.

I wish you all the peace and happiness wherever you are.

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Weight Training with Mikey V

I love the look on my face in this picture.  It really sums up my entire experience when I weight trained ‘for real’.  This wasn’t something I was planning on getting into, and it isn’t something that I have done over the years.  It just happened.  And it was an amazing experience in body, mind and soul.  Really.

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It all started when I needed a place to shower so that I could ride my bike to work.  I found the gym that was closest to my office building, and walked in to inquire about membership.

An unexpected opportunity presented itself.  There was a package that I could buy that included some personal training sessions.  Something inside tugged at me to sign up.  So I did.  I didn’t think about it again until the winter months presented themselves.  I had been working out on my own during lunch hour, and was quickly getting bored.  I was really keen to stay in shape through the winter months so I could enjoy the short cycling season when it finally came again.

Continue reading “Weight Training with Mikey V”

The Bionic Woman Returns – Cinque Terra

 

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We didn’t know it yet, but, we were nearing the end of a several month adventure.  We had left home with hefty backpacks, planning to chase the pro cycling circuit.  We had seen a lot of cycling races, done a lot of our own riding, and had also found many other adventures along the way.  Coming off of the high of accomplishing some big things in my own cycling journey, I think I was in complete belief that I was the bionic woman!!!

Continue reading “The Bionic Woman Returns – Cinque Terra”

Choosing to Face the Impossible

Henry Ford Quote

Henry nailed it on the head.  You can, literally, talk yourself into or out of anything.  It is up to you.  I could not have had any more of a lesson on this than the day that I found myself at the bottom of a famous mountain, broken, terrified, and in tears.

Alpe d’Huez is a very famous mountain that has made many appearances in the Tour de France.  Composed of a series of 21 switchbacks winding their way up from the valley to the peak, this mountain is not something to take lightly.Alpe d'Huez switchbacks

When I showed up at Alpe d’Huez, I was not an experienced cyclist, I was not an athlete, I was not in the type of physical condition that one should be to ascend such a monstrous beast.

I had a choice.  I could not even try.  I could simply give up and declare that I needed to find a way to get back up to the top of the mountain without using my own two feet.  Or, I could try.  I had travelled all that way.  I was at the base of a very famous mountain.  I did not know if I would ever be back there.  Crying is great – it relieves a lot of tension.  Allowing myself to completely break down, be honest about my fear, and to fully take stock of my situation, took me to the conclusion that there was only one option.  I had to try.  By choosing to face my fear, I found a mental resilience that I didn’t know was there.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 2
Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

I was willing my body up the side of the of mountain, one stretch at a time.  Any progress I made was a result of mind over matter.  Logically, I should not have been able to ascend.  There is nothing logical about will power…it allows you to will yourself to do what seems impossible.  When you completely decide to do something, when you choose to believe that you will, is when you really put things into motion.

Alpe d'Huez Book Snippet 3
Snippet from Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

My journey was nothing as smooth or graceful as the one shown here, by the famous Pantani who holds the record.  My journey was one of struggle, brute force, and putting one foot in front of the other.  I made my own valiant attempt, in my own way.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was one that I will never forget, and one that changed me forever.  The day that I chose to climb a mountain, I chose pain, I chose to suffer, and I chose to find my inner strength.

Check out my Alpe d’Huez climb page for more details about the cycling route, where to stay, and my personal experience with this amazing mountain.

Want to read the full story? Find it here: Just a Girl and a Bike – The Book

Mountain Man

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I met Vern in an office environment.  We were both in the same role, sat close together, and had the habit of arriving early.  Thus, we quickly got to know a little about each other.

Vern was immediately a very interesting person to me.  It quickly became apparent that he was a ‘no nonsense’, get the job done, kind of guy.  I soon learned that Vern had some very interesting life passions.  One of them being to summit mountains on a regular basis. When I first learned of this, I was instantly fascinated.

I have had the amazing opportunity to summit a variety of peaks on my bike.  Vern was a man who summited monstrous beasts by climbing with his hands and feet.  Continue reading “Mountain Man”

A Blazing Ball of Energy: Amber

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Amber (left), Emily (right) – Founders of High

My friend had invited me to join her at an exercise class that she raved about.  It was a choreographed class, which I didn’t often go to, however, she had convinced me that I didn’t need any specific experience.  She also told me I would have fun and I would get in a great workout.  Sounded peachy.  So off we went.

The minute the instructor, Amber, entered the room, the energy level was raised about a million notches!  In she came, or rather, in she bounced, whooping, smiling, and convincing us that yes we can!!!  I thought to myself, wow, this woman is ripped!!  Within seconds I was PUMPED!  I was ready – for what I didn’t know – but I was ready.  Off we went.

Continue reading “A Blazing Ball of Energy: Amber”

A Fireball, A Fighter, A Friend: Jessica

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Jessica (far right) and her family.

 

I walked through the door and was instantly enthralled with the energy.  The room was buzzing with excitement, and bursting with positivity.  I didn’t know anyone, except the hostess for this most amazing event.  I waited in line, and as I approached the ticket booth to enter, I saw her.  I hadn’t seen Jessica since the first time we met, only about a month ago.  She was smiling from ear to ear, full of love and sincere appreciation for every person in attendance.  She greeted every single person with genuine warmth.  I melted into the hug that she so willingly thrust upon me.  I was so glad I had come.

Continue reading “A Fireball, A Fighter, A Friend: Jessica”