From the Daily Gleaner: Up for any challenge
When Linda Bulmer was a teenager, her mother gave her a magnet that read: If a mountain gets in your way, climb it.
"Somehow, for her, that summed up something about me.
"I still have the magnet, but I didn't know I would actually climb mountains to go along with (it)."
Bulmer has been to Everest Base Camp, the summit of Kilimanjaro, trekked the Inca Trail in Peru and the Chilkoot Trail, the historic gold miner's gateway from Alaska into Canada.
"I've been trekking since I was 21 years old," she says, spending a lot of time in the Canadian Rockies when she lived in Alberta and the US Rockies when she lived in Colorado. "Every other weekend I would be in the mountains."
She's always enjoyed being outside in nature.
"The hiking to me is just a joy and very analogous with life. I am still amazed today by how far I can get by putting one simple foot in front of the other. I just feel that as long as you don't get overwhelmed with the journey, and just ask yourself if I can take that next step and evaluate that, and take another ... you wind up at the summit or at these amazing places where a lot of people will never be able to go."
Bulmer is motivated to stay mobile because she lost her mobility about 20 years ago, after the birth of her youngest child.
"I had an attack of a form of arthritis called reactive arthritis. I have a gene in my body that can be activated by bacterial infection and it was. I lost mobility. I couldn't lift her, I couldn't feed her, I had to stop breastfeeding. And I had to live with my parents for two months. I couldn't walk, I couldn't do anything," she remembers.
"It took me about two years to recover from that. I was always a young, active, outside person. I was just back from living in Colorado and a lot of my joy came from being mobile and fit. When I lost it, I said, 'Oh my God, I can never lose this again.' I have to work to get myself back and manage what I have."
She has to manage her diet and give her body the exercise it needs.
"It's like cause and effect. The tagline for arthritis is Fight It and it is so true. You are constantly fighting the aches and pains. If you give into that, then you lose more mobility. That was my motivation."
It also motivated Bulmer and her family to raise $30,000 for The Arthritis Society.
Aside from outdoor activities, she lifts weights and does yoga. She's been a volunteer instructor at the YMCA for more than six years, teaching yoga and Pilates, as well as pole walking and weight training.
"If I don't work my body every day, it's uncomfortable for me. I just have to."
Her most recent trek, a year ago Thanksgiving, was to Everest Base Camp. She tries to do something every year.
"My preparation this year for the trip coming up was to get my scuba diving licence. It's pretty interesting because I have a phobia of water," says Bulmer.
"My husband has not gone on all of the treks with me, of course, but he likes treking, so occasionally we go together. My last year's Christmas present was another trek in New Zealand called the Milford Sound and Routeburn. It's about an eight-day trek. And it was under the condition that I get my scuba diving licence because he loves scuba diving."
This will allow them to head to Australia after the trek to scuba-dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
"I didn't know whether or not I could do that because I do have a phobia of water, but he has been so good in letting me follow my trekking dreams and coming with me when he can, so I said OK, I'll try."
They travelled to Belize in the spring where she successfully completed her open water diving certificate. She swears she's not fearless, that there are things she's afraid of.
"I was raised with a you should do something you're afraid of every day type of attitude. I do believe that if we're not pushing out of our comfort zone that it not only doesn't stay the same size, it actually shrinks. I look at fears and I actually just try to take that next step."
That's how she conquered her fear of water. She took it one step at a time and didn't focus on the fact that she had to get her diver's certificate. First step, she took an online course. Then she got on the plane to Belize. Then she showed up that first day and got on the boat. "I was still showing up. ... Literally it's called a giant stride into the water, you take a giant stride off the boat," she says. "My knees were shaking, the guy was holding my hand, I was all rigged up, and I took the giant stride."
She admits she was in shock the rest of the afternoon, and when she got back on shore she curled up on her bed and went inside herself. But she showed up again the next day and did it again.
"I come from gutsy parents who took chances, who were survivors and passed that on to me."
And in February, she'll get to go on this adventure to New Zealand and Australia.
"That's going to be an amazing journey, putting the two together."
Career-wise, Bulmer began as a chemical engineer, earning her degree at the University of New Brunswick.
"I got a masters in Colorado in electrical engineering with a concentration in telecommunication, so that took me into the information technology world. I was an architect, a management consultant for many years," she says.
"I've had an over 30-year career, so I've done a lot of things. So after about 23 years, I decided I wasn't quite done with the faculty of engineering and a job came up at the university here to teach entrepreneurship in business to engineers, so I chaired that program and was a professor for four years. Now I'm just back to doing independent consulting work and writing again, there might be another book in me yet."
Yes, she wrote a book.
"A business book, so nothing exciting. I was the co-author on that one. I'm working with my partner again on another business book, so we'll see."
Bulmer is married to Alex Macdonald and they are the proud parents of Reg, Ryan, Hunter and Halli.
Reg lives in Hong Kong and is an entrepreneur/venture capitalist. Daughters Ryan and Halli are both at McGill University. Halli is studying chemical engineering and Ryan is taking resource management. Hunter is a graduate of mechanical engineering (McGill) and is getting his masters in engineering and entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria.
"I think that they are humble and empathetic, but sometimes we still need to be reminded about enjoying the simple pleasures," says Bulmer.
"I want them to practice balance in their life, work hard, prepare well and have courage to take the next scary step but balance that with time to look after themselves with nature, exercise, love and laughter."
She and her husband have been married 28 years. They met when he was moving from New York City to a new career in Denver. She was working in the oil patch in Calgary, where she knew his brother, and was starting to do some work in Denver.
"He flew through Calgary on his way to Denver. I'd just got back from Denver on some business."
They didn't date right away, but once they started, within four months he asked her to marry him and she said yes.
"I knew that I needed a strong person that was very confident in himself, and I knew that I still was on a path. I wanted somebody that would allow me the freedom to keep growing and was not intimidated by that. When I met him, I just knew that he was that type of man."
Bulmer grew up in Johnville, N.B., with six older sisters and one brother. She says it was family that brought them to Fredericton. Her husband had never been here, but she says eventually moving back to the province was one of her prenups before they got married. He agreed, probably because he thought she'd forget about it.
"It was a big transition. I'd lived away for quite a few years. And it was a big transition for him and the two kids at the time," she says. "Things are good here. It's a great place to raise kids. It's easy to keep kids involved in nature here."
To relax, she likes to get outdoors, whether its snowboarding, kayaking or canoeing. She's also a novice bird watcher and loves the game Scrabble.
"I'm getting back into bridge. I used to be a marathon bridge player before the kids were born. It's like golf, it's too much time to take when you're raising kids," she says. "I love cooking. Probably my number one therapy is baking."
Once she had kids, they became her priority.
"It's not even an effort to do it. That's what you want to do. And sometimes you get reminded that you need to balance it a little bit, that you have to give back to yourself," she says. "When I got sick, I guess that was a reminder that I can't let my system get this low again. I've seen those priorities shift a little bit, about how much I give back to myself. But my family is still, my number one priority."
Where once she was more interested in having things, these days she'd rather spend her money on experiences.
"I'd rather get out there and go to some remote place and look around and know that I'm blessed to be able to see this."
Bulmer has already done what she would call her dream trips, but that doesn't mean there isn't more she wants to see.
"You do get addicted to the longer hikes. The summits, you do get addicted to. ... There is one in Argentina called Torres del Paine, which is interesting. And I would like to do Mount Fuji. I don't think that's a difficult one at all, but it's a summit and it's interesting and it's supposed to be life-changing."
Trekking has definitely been a life enhancing experience for her.
"It brings the appreciation to the forefront, the gratitude to the forefront. It keeps it fresh, which I love," says Bulmer. "It does give you a sense of confidence that you did this, you can do this - whatever comes up, whether you plan it or not."
Life has taught her that we don't have control over much. She believes in preparation, as she never wants to look back in regret, wishing she had done more. But at some point, it's out of our hands.
"Once you get to that point, the freedom is amazing," she says. "I've been in scary situations, life threatening situations, but at the same time I have the faith that I'm protected out there."