Turning Forty: Good at Life

I jumped out of plane today—crossing skydiving, the final item off my “someday I will” list. It was absolutely exhilarating! This wasn’t a bucket list I sat down and put together. No, this was a list that began as a youngster and expanded over the years—a list of things that interested me, of curiosities, passions, and cool stuff I wanted to do, try, or experience.

Become a Marine (age 17), get a tattoo (age 18), learn to drive manual/stick shift (age 19), become an Officer (age 22), ride a motorcycle (age 24 I owned a motorcycle on Okinawa), start a business(es) (age 27), compete in bodybuilding (age 34), get a college degree (age 35), publish a book (age 35), camp/be outdoors (age 38), travel (most of my adult life), fishing (38), do standup comedy (39), skydive (on my 40th bday).

I’ve traveled to 39 countries, drove across Canada, the U.S. (a few times), have lived overseas and many States, have pursued all of my dreams (mostly failed), have mountain biked and hiked the most incredible places in North America and parts of Europe, have been snorkeling, scuba diving, wind surfing, kayaking, paragliding, white water rafting, rappelling, zip lining, canyoneering, and sky diving.

If I could step in a time machine and go talk to my younger self, I would go tell her to put a helluva lot more on the list (learn a 3rd language, play an instrument, etc.) I’ve been trying to put together a new list that means as much to me as that list embedded on my heart and soul from my youth and growing up, but it’s not working, it’s not the same. I can’t seem to commit or get attached to it the same way.

The current list is something like this: Trek in Nepal, van life it around New Zealand, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, learn to kite surf (have taken one lesson), go up in a hot air balloon, hike the Pacific Crest Trail, keep the number of countries I’ve visited the same as my age, so I have 50 countries by 50, and publish The Hijacked Holiday.

But I’m not sure I think a list matters anymore…or is needed.

Anyone who says “your 40s are the new 30s” is someone who hasn’t lived their 30s.

I turned 30 in Northern VA with my dad and business partners. I was in the middle of working on Why Go Solo. I was pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams—filled with passion, drive, and ambition. I lost it all and gained something entirely different—I both spectacularly failed and marvelously won in the last decade.

There isn’t much left of that 30 year old version of myself these days and that’s a good thing. She was entirely too stubborn, egotistical, and driven by proving herself. I’m not at all where I thought I would be and I couldn’t have planned being where I am…yet, I’ve crossed everything off my list. I credit it all to giving my life to the Lord.

Too many people wake up and realize there is so much they haven’t done or they feel their lives have been big lies because they were following what society, family, and friends wanted them to be and do, instead of what they needed, wanted, and desired.  

Well, I’ve been living the life I wanted. I’ve accepted and held myself accountable for every decisions and outcome. I grasp and leverage the control I have over my actions, words, thoughts, feelings, and decisions.

Sure, I haven’t achieved anything I consider noteworthy professionally or personally. However, I do think I’ve been kicking ass at simply living…and how many people have that claim on their resume?

I’ve never allowed fear to stop me. I’ve spent the last 39 years just going for it. It’s ironic the last thing I did on my list was literally jump out of plane, since I’ve been spending my life figuratively jumping out of plans…mostly without a parachute.  

Other irony is that while I keep seeking thrills, I’m in fact very mellow about life now…I fail to see the point in chasing anything. I’ve mastered the art of letting things come to me and taking actions when they do.

You don’t need to be in control of circumstances and outcomes, only of yourself.

That’s my wisdom and words of advice for you. That…and when you know God is ultimately in charge, it’s pointless to stress, worry, or plan too much.

As for the next decade and forty years of my life…I don’t doubt exciting opportunities will come my way based on my thoughts, needs, desires, and God’ plan—when they do, I’ll maximize everything they have to offer. That’s what someone good at life. Does.

Gender Roles – No One Size Fits All

I was bringing my mountain bike in to my hotel room when two guys decided to come in behind me after I had unlocked the hotel’s side entrance with my room key. As I made my way down the hallway, one of them tried to pass me.

I turned to him and said “Watch out!”

At the same time I heard him say: “You’re alright.”

I shot him a WTF stare, stopped at my room, entered, and then allowed what had just happened to sink in.

He had expected ME to apologize to HIM. When HE got in MY way.

Why did he expect that? Who did he think he was? After further reflection, I hated to admit it, but what do many women do? They apologize for things they have no need to apologize for.

I’m not wired that way. My place and value in the world are not above or below another person’s. I won’t apologize for taking space, being who I am, or having opinions, feelings, and emotions. You get in my way, you apologize.

Being a Lady for a Gentleman

A couple of nights before that, I was out on a date. When we arrived at the restaurant, I told the hostess “table for two,” when she asked for the name, I was about to give her my name when my date stepped up and gave her, his name. I wasn’t offended by that, instead, I was impressed he’d stepped up. So far on the date: he had a coffee waiting for me at the coffee shop where we met (he had texted me and asked what I’d wanted), he’d opened every door and made room for me to walk ahead of him in the crowd—he asserted himself as the man in a dating scenario.

Some women would have taken issue with this—I even read an article providing the advice that a man should ask permission to do the gentlemanly things (like pulling out chairs, opening up doors) before doing them. What?! No, just no. Why would a man need to ask permission to be man?

I ‘m a strong and independent woman that doesn’t need protection or being taken care of, but you best believe I consciously give men the opportunity to be gentlemen because I expect to be treated like a lady.

You see, I don’t have anything to prove. Plus, I know the difference between a good guy, being a gentleman (asserting himself in the situation), versus a DB trying to assert himself over me. My date attentively listened to me, he didn’t talk over me, and he didn’t try to explain to me what I was saying (mansplaining). He asked questions, he opened up, and clearly valued what I had to say.  The DB is the complete opposite of that and he’ll normally try to peacock his way to being assertive. A technique that is guaranteed to backfire with me. If you’re out to prove something–I’ll call you out on it.

Gender Roles – No One Size Fits All

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in charge of men. When I’m uniform, I’m a Marine. I don’t see my gender or that of other Marines. Scenarios have a way of bringing gender to the forefront, but I handle those scenarios appropriately and as required.

When a (male) Colonel spent an entire meeting staring at me, but wouldn’t address me or acknowledge me in the hallway when surrounded by other peers, I noticed. But until I could figure out if his behavior hindered my mission, I let that be HIS problem, not mine. You having an issue with me for whatever reason, doesn’t need to be my issue. It never became my problem. If it had, I would have addressed it.

It’s obvious we live in a time and society where gender roles, responsibilities, and expectations are not only in flux but being battled from multiple fronts, reasons, and purposes.

In my experiences and within the roles I play, it’s clear to me that one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow, sometimes you dominate, sometimes you submit, sometimes you give, and sometimes you take.

Really doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman. If you constantly need to be right, in charge, in control, or are always competing with everyone—you’re showing your insecurities, immaturity, and weaknesses.

The best adjusted individuals to tackle today’s society are the ones who balance masculine and feminine traits as the situation dictates.

It’s starts with knowing who you are, having the ability to read people and situations, putting your ego on the back seat, and then taking conscious actions versus having reactions.

Eradication of sexism will happen when everyone understands and becomes comfortable consciously maneuvering around and within gender roles. When fears, ignorance, and egos stop clashing into each other or the earth is obliterated by an asteroid.

Social Media Hiatus

I’ve been on a long social media hiatus…some of you have been wondering what’s happened. This is an overview of the last few months:

After a year and half of traveling, writing, and pursuing the establishment of a Ministry; I found myself once again low on funds (late February), that’s when I got an email from an acquaintance inquiring if I was interested in orders to III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) to be the Deputy G-6 for a few months.

I hesitated to say “yes”, the weather was just starting to get nice and I was looking forward to getting back outdoors. However, I needed the money and progress with the Ministry was at a stand still. Plus, I had fond memories of my time on Okinawa so I agreed to go.

My orders ended up being delayed by a couple of weeks, so I made the best of it and spent some time exploring Colorado’s Front Range area. It’s also when I established Actionable Change. The Marines United fiasco fired me up. I couldn’t believe female Marines still had to deal with that kind of behavior/complete crap. I felt it was my duty to do something. I wanted to be part of finally changing the culture for the future generations. Actionable Change took a life of its own and was my primary focus when I finally left for Okinawa.

Unfortunately, my arrival to Okinawa was not exactly a smooth one and I had underestimated the transition that awaited me. The shift back to being Lieutenant Colonel Bernard and a MEF Deputy G-6 created a steep adjustment from the previous 18 months. My decisions went from the irrelevant outcome of what mountain biking trails to ride, to finding myself in my boss’ shoes as the MEF G6 (because he went TAD shortly after I got on deck) answering questions and making decisions with vast greater consequences.  

Every time I’ve put the uniform back on, I’ve served in an active duty capacity making it important to me that no one sees any difference between me and my active duty counterparts. I always carry the weight of two labels “woman” and “reservist.”  Obliterating the potential stigma of those labels once again, meant a lot of catching up to what I’d missed and what was going on, while taking charge of the G6 staff, in an extremely short period of time.

The factor of being on Okinawa…also created some other challenges. Being a single LtCol on Oki led to experiencing a type of isolation and loneliness I had never known before—it also didn’t helped that it rained every day my first month there.

I’d been living such a fabulous life of travel and outdoor activities—a new me had bloomed that sought a certain lifestyle—which was none existent on Okinawa. I had none of my coping mechanism to keep my life balanced, so I threw myself entirely into the work that needed to be done. My emotional, physical, and spiritual health suffered. Professionally, I strived.

I couldn’t believe I had fallen into my old pattern again (being a workaholic). I became disappointed and frustrated with myself, which wasn’t at all helpful. I finally just broke and went numb/blank, putting an end to my willingness to feel (beat myself up). My life centered on tasks and to do lists that needed to be completed. There was some satisfaction to be gained from it, but it meant I was incredibly unbalanced.

I came off Facebook shortly after arriving to Oki because the noise and BS was entirely too much and insanely futile to be involved in when I had so much to accomplish. Unfortunately, I also couldn’t keep my involvement with Actionable Change because of the steep hill I was climbing at work getting back into the groove and getting things the way I wanted them. By the time my orders were up, my boss was asking me to stay on, I had made my mark, and I was leaving things better than I’d found them.

I really liked III MEF, the leadership set an excellent example and command climate, but Okinawa was simply not for me. I had to leave, I just wasn’t coming back the same.

Today, I’m in the Rocky Mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. I’ve been spending the last week mountain biking, hiking, and reconnecting with the things I love in order to understand the meaning of my time in Okinawa and figure out what’s next for me.

Initially, I continued to feel nothing and mostly just heard white noise of irrelevancy to include my own thoughts and feelings…but I’m slowly returning to the issues that matter and provide me meaning, no matter how distorted they’ve become in society today.

There is one colossal outcome/event pending that will set the course of the next few years for my life, which is absolutely out of my hands, and that I’ve done almost entirely nothing to sway in the way I want it to turn out because I simply had never cared about it before…

So you know, who knows…it’s in God’s hands. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep squeezing what I can from what’s left of summer. Perhaps by the time my birthday comes along, I’ll know what my “new normal” is.

Turning 39

I’ll be turning 39 tomorrow hiking around Mt. Hood, Oregon. I couldn’t decide where I wanted to be for my birthday, even after giving it significant thought, so in the end, I went with the fact my car is due for servicing and I should bring it in to a dealership, Portland seemed as good as any place. The earliest the dealership could fit me in is on Friday, September 9th. I decided to stay in Hood River a tad longer and return to Portland to stay with a friend and take care of the car.

Last year I was in Brussel, feeling exhausted, run down, and reminiscing on the summer I’d dreamt up, but didn’t quite get to have.

“A summer that was supposed to leave me with rosy cheeks, windblown hair, sun bathed skin, and a toned physique from all the biking, hiking, swimming, and all sorts of other activities. It was a summer designed to leave me feeling alive!”

I didn’t have that summer last year, but I sure as heck did this year! Booya!  The above description is exactly how I find myself on my birthday, about to turn 39.

I started my 38th year with plans to write and travel, in a fight against my fleshly demons while wondering if I would ever find myself in a relationship. I hadn’t been dating at all and was clueless what kind of man I wanted in my life. I was on my way to spend time with my family, and praying to be more opened, to be better at sharing who I was with others, and allowing people into my life. My goals included continuing to hike, bike, and be active outdoor. I didn’t want to go back to my lifestyle prior to Germany.

The Year that Passed

I didn’t complete my writing projects, but I got a solid start. I traveled, but not to all the locations I’d originally hoped. I had some wonderful times with my family, but lost my mom to brain cancer. I grew more open and able to share who I am. I developed and nurtured some new friendships. My flesh led me to sin, which after repenting, strengthen my convictions. I began to date (well sorta). My faith and trust in the Lord continued to flourish as I openly shared my testimony. I had incredible adventures—I biked and hiked more than ever before in my life. It was an incredible year.

The Year to Come

What I pray for and desire in the year to come is to continue to live my life traveling/on the road, but also establish my home base for the years to come (probably in Squamish). I want to finish my writing projects and make it as a freelance writer and speaker. A huge accomplishment would be to at long last achieving financial success through my own endeavors.

I want to get to Basecamp of Mt. Everest, summit Mount Kilimanjaro, and drive across New Zealand. I want to become a better mountain biker and perhaps learn some rock and ice climbing skills.

I’ll put in my package to be selected as the Commander of 6th Communication Battalion and by the grace of God, I’ll be given the honor.

I want to keep growing in my faith and build on the progress I’ve made of opening up and making myself available to people I encounter. I seek to be more generous and even less selfish. I want to be a positive example of living a Christ centered life.

If it’s in God’s plan and timing—I’ll fall in love.

Being 39

I have ambitious plans, but I expect it to be another amazing year. It once again won’t be without challenges and hardship that will continue to lead to new discoveries and blessings. I’ll maintain a life that’s God led, God filled, and God driven. It’s the only way I know not to go wrong.

I appreciate all the love, support, and encouragement of my family, friends, and readers. I know God will be glorified in the year to come from the ways He’s going to work in and through my life.

Rolling up to the Rockies: Banff National Park

My amazement with Pukaskwa and Grasslands National Parks was due in part to my complete lack of expectations. I didn’t know what to anticipate so that allowed me to be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, since I’ve visited a few other mountain ranges, and had seen many pictures of Banff on Instagram…I had expectations. Expectations that initially led to disappointment.

I was already not keen on Calgary and after a weekend in the gym and living in the cookie cutter neighborhood, I was ready to get into the mountains. But as I drove along Trans Canada Highway and the Rockies came into view—the first thing that came to mind was: I need to get back to Germany. I immediately missed the Alps and the many quaint and charming villages that complete the appeal of the snow covered peaks and clear blue lakes. I’d wanted to be blown away by the Rockies, to experience love at first sight, and an immediate desire to relocate. That failed to happen.

To add insult to injury, the town of Banff is a total tourist trap. I’d like comment on its appeal, but it was lost amongst the sea of tourists who seem to move around like they were on a movie set.

I fought the urge to run back to my car to escape and instead made it to the information center, where multiple lines awaited those seeking information.  After a short wait, one of the well informed rangers gave me some recommendations on which hikes to tackle and which hikes I actually couldn’t do because I was alone. Due to the bear activities, some hikes required a minimum of four people and bear spray to undertake.

My First Hike in the Rockies: Bourgeau Lake

I exhaled deeply once I was the town of Banff was in my rear view mirror and I was on my way to the start of my first hike. The trail head for Bourgeau Lake is off of Trans Canada Highway. You have to watch for signs so you don’t miss the turn. The parking lot isn’t large, but it wasn’t an issue to find a spot to park.

Footwear change to hike

I traded my sandals for hiking boots and after entering the fenced in area, which made me feel like I was entering Jurassic Park, but is designed to keep the bears off the road, I was off on my hike. It was a slow start on a wide trail in the woods that eventually narrowed and got a little steeper. I passed a waterfall and began to have some views of the surrounding mountains. I felt the calm and joy of being in the mountains trickle through all my other thoughts and concerns.

I reached a small meadow area that led to the Bourgeau Lake where I climbed some of the boulders to enjoy the view and a cliff bar.


Bourgeau Lake Banff National Park

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

I was content and at peace once more surrounded by the beauty of the mountains.

Bourgeau Lake / Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Length: 7.2 km one way
Elevation gain: 725 m
Trailhead: Trans-Canada Highway, 13 km west of Town of Banff

Hiking time: 6 hour round trip (Took me 4 hours)

Observations Of Canada After A Month

I was born in Edmonton, Alberta but my parents returned to St-Come, Quebec when I was just a few weeks old. Except for a short trip to Nova Scotia, many years ago, the only impression or knowledge of my homeland was from growing up in St-Georges, Quebec. So when I started driving West, I didn’t know what to expect.

  1.  Dunkin Donuts have vanished from Canada…and been replaced with Tim Horton’s (Bad move)
  2. There are no St. Hubert restaurants outside of Québec (it once was my favorite restaurant – best rotisserie chicken and sauce). I figured it was a chain of restaurant across Canada.
  3. It’s hard to find curd cheese (also called squishy cheese) or poutine places outside of Québec. I can’t believe you can’t buy curd cheese in grocery stores outside of Quebec.
  4. Canadians really respect speed limits in work zones. It’s like Germans and crosswalks. I expect a lot of speeding tickets in the mail.
  5. The National Parks are as incredible as made out to be.
  6. There is no terrorist threat but if outdoor…take the bear threat seriously.
  7. Most Canadians are well versed on American politics and issues.
  8. Canadian flag proudly flies everywhere.
  9. There’s been a French radio station everywhere I’ve been but not necessarily a French T.V. station.
  10. Canadians know of two seasons: winter and construction season.
  11. Generally speaking, Canadians are quite polite and even call you to give you money back.
  12. Canadians are (rightfully so) not happy Hollywood decided to make Neil Young from California versus from his real birth place of Toronto in the upcoming movie about the Canadian singer and songwriter.
  13. Food is noticeably more expansive than in the U.S. (and so is gas).
  14. Western Canada is undergoing a recession due to the drop in oil prices, but I didn’t hear about it until I go to Saskatchewan and it was on the news everyday in Alberta.