Jessica Janzen Olstad is a motivational speaker, published author and a ‘serial-perneur’. She and her husband, Hot Ronnie, are the founders of the Love for Lewiston Foundation. After losing their son Lewiston just over 4 years ago she decided that she would stop wasting time and would get moving on her big dreams – speaking, writing and inspiring others to do the same. Her clothing line – The Lewiston Label – highlights the life lessons Lewiston taught her. The foundation is impacting lives across Canada and supporting critical research and medical needs for families fighting Spinal Muscular Atrophy. To date, in just 3 1/2 years, they have raised over $1, 000, 000. She loves spending time with family, soaking up sunshine, being by water – and dreaming really big always with the daily focus to “run towards the roar”.
In this episode:
- Run towards the roar! The things that scare you the most and that are the hardest to do will be on your highlight reel.
- Bring the joy even in life’s most challenging moments and difficult times.
- Own your time from dusk until dawn. Evening and morning routines can set you up for success and the unexpected.
- Find the rhythm for the season of your life. There isn’t balance. Things are going to ebb and flow and be up and down.
- You get to define your journey and write your story. You have to believe that anything is possible and then go after it.
Connect with Jessica:
- Website: https://jessicajanzen.ca/home/
- Book: Bring The Joy
- STAY TUNED for Jessica’s upcoming virtual course: The Hard Work
- A 6 week course with a gritty approach on how to turn your pain into rocket fuel for women who have experienced hurt, loss or grief and want to use it to find their life’s purpose.
Mentioned by Jessica:
- Book: Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power by Levi Lusko
On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had an incredibly inspiring conversation with Jessica about bringing the joy and running towards the roar. We talked about owning your time from dusk until dawn, finding the rhythm for the season of your life, and how you can define your journey and write your story.
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 31 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
Jessica is warm and engaging. She keeps it so real in terms of her journey, motherhood, work, and the challenges and success along the way. You will be absolutely inspired by Jessica’s story, the lessons learned from her son Lewiston, and how she has turned pain into rocket fuel.
LIFE LESSONS FROM LEWISTON
Jessica and her family have a clothing company called The Lewiston Label and it truly highlights the life lessons that her son Lewiston has taught them with these inspiring messages written on the shirts. For Jessica, one of the most valuable and important lessons, has been to run towards the roar. In fact, she has a tattoo with that very message on her forearm.
THROUGH THE EYES OF A LION
When her son Lewiston passed, she was gifted a book called “Through The Eyes of a Lion” written by Levi Lusko, a pastor out of Montana. In that book, he talks about the death of his daughter who unexpectedly passed away five days before Christmas due to an asthma attack. In one of the chapters of the books, he talks about the way that lions hunt and he brilliantly uses this as an analogy for our lives.
CIRCLE BACK AND RETREAT
Female lions are the primary hunters in a lion pride. Male lions provide the pride with protection while the females provide the food. While hunting, the female lion chases the prey towards the male lion. The male lion will be waiting and he uses his roar to scare the prey to run back towards the female. Often in life, when we are running towards things and having forward momentum, things can get scary, hard, or unknown. It’s like we hear this big booming roar. This leads us to circle back and retreat.
RUN TOWARDS THE ROAR
Levi Lusco says that if you run towards the roar, that’s where you will find your freedom. That’s where you’ll find the moments that will be on your highlight reel. Jessica’s friend Danielle, from Sphere Optometry in Calgary, asked the question “What are some of the greatest risks you’ve ever taken?”. She posted people’s responses on social media. Responses included things like I quit my job and started my business and all spoke to the idea of stepping out to do said thing. Those are always the moments that are on a highlight reel. So often we circle back and we get clobbered up because we’re scared. It gets hard and it’s unknown. You hear things. It’s not going the way you had planned.
DO THE HARD THING
It is said that a lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away. So, you might be running towards the roar but you might not even be running towards the dangerous thing. You just think you are. This has been so important for Jessica. It has been a message that she has applied in finding freedom and starting to live the life that she’s dreamed of living. Now, she is living a life by design, on purpose, for a purpose, and very strategically. For Jessica, this life lesson means that even if it’s scary, she’s going to go do the hard thing.
TURN YOUR PAIN INTO ROCKET FUEL
These life lessons resonate with people. The latest one has been using pain as rocket fuel. It’s hard but you can choose. You can either choose to sit in it, wallow in it, and have it suffocate you and keep you stuck. Alternatively, you can say this is super painful and really hard but I’m going to learn from my experience. You can use that pain as the rock of fuel because the days get hard. You hit the obstacles, you get tired, and you get exhausted. However, you can use that pain, issue, or circumstance to help you find the silver lining. You can use it to help you move forward and to get you to the next step. For Jessica, when it’s gotten really hard she uses the pain as rocket fuel. This is exactly what you need to get you where you want to go.
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
After the death of their son Lewiston, Jessica was reading Levi Lusco’s book in the Vancouver airport. She read that most people die at the age of 25. It was the next line that rocked her. It said that they aren’t buried until they’re 75 or 80. Right now, Jessica’s 5-year old daughter believes that anything is possible. We all believe that. We have these beautiful ideas and then, we start living life. You get a mortgage, get married, and think about all the things that you are going to do. Then, you think that it’s too hard. It’s too big of an expense so you can’t do that. You think that you could never take your family on a crazy trip to Africa or whatever it is. We limit ourselves. In essence, we slowly die and wither away. Some people just exist in a body coasting through.
Jessica says “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Running towards the roar is what’s going to be on your highlight reel. She wants to give it all that she’s got! These are the moments that scare you the most and the hardest things that you do. Do the thing and keep living even when it’s hard.
DREAM BIG, GO ANYWHERE, DO ANYTHING
Jessica says that she struggles to hang out with people that don’t believe that anything is possible. She doesn’t have time for that negative energy. She believes that your brain will offer you the solution. When the beliefs are in place, you will start to get super creative. Jessica believes that you can dream big, go anywhere, and do anything. When you believe it’s possible, your brain starts to offer things to try or people to connect with. As we get older, our hormones and health can go wacky and things can get hard. We can lose that sense of wonder and that fire in us to keep going.
FIGURING IT OUT TOGETHER
Jessica has fond memories of her family trip to South Africa. At one point, though, they found themselves driving the wrong way down a one-way street! However, this is a beautiful memory for Jessica because, as a family, they were figuring it out, problem solving, and having an adventure together. That’s what sticks.
STARTING A FAMILY
Jessica and her now husband worked together, were friends, and went through a period of on and off again dating. Then, they fell in love and got married. For the more detailed version, Jessica encourages you to read her book “Bring The Joy”. Jessica was experiencing stomach issues and was told that she would probably never get pregnant or that it would be a really big struggle. However, she and her husband essentially looked at each other and got pregnant. They had been planning for a two to three year timeline with maybe having to do IVF but that just wasn’t the case. When their daughter Swayzie was 4 months old, Jessica got pregnant with Lewiston.
BETTER THAN TEXTBOOK
It was another healthy pregnancy. She was teaching fitness classes up until she was 34-35 weeks pregnant. She walked into the hospital at 6:55 and had her son two hours later at 8:55. It was a natural birth with no painkillers required. Jessica left the hospital 10-12 hours later and was home watching playoff hockey and eating pizza with her family. The experience was better than textbook.
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
When Lewiston was 2 and ½ months old, their family was on vacation in Winnipeg, and he went limp. Jessica took Lewiston to the hospital and they ran a bunch of tests. Her husband had already headed back to Calgary so he returned to Winnipeg. After six days, they had no answers. When they returned to Calgary, they had to redo all the testing and connect with their family doctor.
On August 5th, 2016, when Lewiston was two and a half months old, they got a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which is neurological disease. It is a rare genetic disease that both Jessica and her husband are carriers of. They had had no idea. Lewiston was not able to reproduce proteins that tell your nerves to talk to your muscles. Basically, with SMA, you deteriorate and decline really quickly. In 2016, there were no treatments or cure. There were clinical trials but nothing like there is now. The landscape of the disease has changed. Jessica, her family, and The Love for Lewiston Foundation have fought so incredibly hard for this along the way.
BRING THE JOY
With news of this diagnosis, Jessica crumbled to the floor in the hospital room. However, they got strength to get to their knees and then, their knees to their feet. Then, from their feet they were able to walk. They said that no matter what this looks like they were going to bring the joy.
Jessica thought that if she was dying that she would want it to be joyful. She wouldn’t want it to be depressing. Jessica wouldn’t want it to be dark, to be smelly, or to feel stale. They did everything from dance parties, to diffusing essential oils, and so many other beautiful things.
THE LOVE FOR LEWISTON FOUNDATION
Lewiston passed away three days shy of his six-month birthday. Jessica and her family said that they weren’t going to have any more pity parties, they were going to have a dance party. They would bring the joy. They decided to celebrate his first birthday by hosting friends and family, selling tickets, and doing a little auction. It was just this small, simple idea. They ended up raising 42 thousand dollars in one night! This led them to start The Love for Lewiston Foundation. In three and a half years, they have raised over a million dollars. This money goes towards SMA research, helping families in need, and giving back to The Alberta Children’s Hospital.
CHANGING THE TRAJECTORY
The experience flipped Jessica’s life upside down. It totally changed the trajectory of where she thought that she was going to go and what life was going to look like.
JESSICA’S WORK JOURNEY
In 2013/2014, Jessica worked with a software company. Prior to this she and her husband both worked for Jugo Juice. Jessica worked in operations and her husband in construction. When the company got publicly traded, Jessica felt that it had lost it’s family feel. As well, she and her husband drove to work together, their offices were eight feet apart, and then, they would come home together. When she got headhunted to work for another company, Jessica felt that this was probably good for the health of their marriage if they were not on top of each other. They were also both struggling with the changes to the company and it not being what it once was.
GIVING HER RESIGNATION
Her new position was good in the beginning. Jessica was in sales and it was a high pressure role as she was selling millions of dollars worth of software to massive companies. She loves sales, the hunt, the chase, and figuring it out. However, it never seemed to be good enough for the team. There was a lot of pressure and a horrible work culture. Three or four days before Jessica’s 30th birthday, she handed her resignation letter to her boss. Jessica’s boss was amazing but Jessica felt that the head of the company had it out for her. He needed somebody to be the hit person for when things weren’t going right. Jessica was that person.
When Jessica gave her resignation, she had no plan. At the time, she and her husband were living paycheck to paycheck. Jessica had always wanted to have her own business and decided to do some consulting. She landed a smaller client and then, she landed a bigger client. This client took her on as an employee so that she could have maternity leave. Here in Canada, you can get a year long maternity leave but you have to be paying into EI to do that. This allowed Jessica to work right up until she had her daughter. Since then, she hasn’t had another paid maternity leave.
Jessica and her husband have three kids. Their daughter Swayzie will be six in April. Lewiston, who is up in heaven, will be turning 5 in May. Jessica says that he is her simplest child to take care of in that he requires the least amount of mothering. However, for the most part, he is emotionally the toughest because of the emotional roller coaster of grief. They have another son named Hollis and he’ll be two in April.
BACK TO WORK
Hollis was 10 days old when Jessica went back to work. They had some large financial commitments, she and her husband are both self-employed, and there is no maternity leave. It’s been a juggle for sure in the best way possible!
A LIFE BY DESIGN
Jessica has built her life by design. They have an incredible nanny who literally is the wind beneath her wings. The only reason why they can soar is because she’s in their life. She does laundry, bakes fresh muffins and cookies, preps meals, does errands, cleans the house, and plays with the kids. Jessica says that they would be a disaster if it wasn’t for her. She always knew that she wanted a nanny. Because Jessica works from home, she can go down and have lunch with the kids or the kids can come up and bring her a picture that they have coloured.
ALWAYS CHANGING AND EVOLVING
Jessica’s husband has been super involved and supportive as well. It’s been a roller coaster and it’s always changing and evolving. Motherhood is the hardest thing that Jessica has ever done. She says that she is a better mom because they have a nanny and because she has set work hours. Now, she feels like she can really be present and with her kids when they are playing.
A GOOD SPOT & A GREAT SEASON
Jessica says that it has taken her a long time to get to this spot. There have been emotional rollercoasters along the way. Right now, they are in a really good spot and a great season. She is going to celebrate that!
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Jessica learned the lesson of the importance of a village really early. When Lewiston got sick, she wrote a post that said that they were going to need help. People reached out and she told them what she needed including winterizing their yard and clearing their gutters. A team of people showed up to support her family.
BREAK THE CYCLE
If we stay in the cycle of being overwhelmed, we just show up worse and worse every time we show up. What are you going to do to break the cycle? What are you going to do to change the narrative or to change the story? You are exhausted. The house is a disaster. You can’t function. You can’t find anything. Break the cycle! Do you need some childcare? Do you need to dip into your savings to have someone come to clean your house?
MY PERSONAL CONCIERGE YYC
Jessica’s girlfriend started a business called My Personal Concierge YYC . Think of a job and she’ll do it for you. She has helped Jessica with stacks of files that needed to be shredded and organized junk removal for stuff in their garage. Jessica says that she has gotten so good at either asking for help or outsourcing for help. She says that this is a game changer for a mom because moms are juggling so many things these days including keeping up with emails and texts, phone calls, kids, and the household. If you are working mom, you are also trying to stay on top of your job or business.
OWN YOUR EVENING & MORNING ROUTINES
Stay tuned! Coming soon on Jessica’s new website there will be a free resource and guide about owning your evening and morning routines!
FROM DUSK UNTIL DAWN
Levi Lusko did a podcast episode about 4 years ago that really resonated with Jessica on the topic of ‘dusk until dawn’. Your Monday to Friday nine to five is going to blow up because that is just life. It’s guaranteed that “stuff” is going to hit the fan with interruptions, kids getting sick, kids not able to attend school, or hockey practices being moved. However, we can own the time from bedtime through till the start of the day.
OWNING HER MORNING
Jessica has started understanding what it looks like for her when she’s at her best. When she has an hour or two to herself in the morning, she is a much happier person. Jessica used to go to exercise classes but now finds it too hard. She now has a spin bike and some at-home gym equipment. Jessica and her husband made the commitment to invest in having a place to work out. It’s partly the kids’ playroom, but Jessica doesn’t care. She just wants to move her body.
A HOT CUP OF COFFEE
Jessica also wants to be able to have a hot cup of coffee without having to microwave it nine times! Her one to two hours in the morning is precious. She sits by their fireplace with her hot cup of coffee and writes out her goals and her gratitude. Jessica will journal all the thoughts in her head.
OWNING HER EVENING
For Jessica to own her morning, she has to own her evening as well. Jessica has a nighttime face ritual. She has clear skin and wants to continue to take care of that. Jessica grinds her coffee beans the night before because their grinder is super loud. She preps the French press and the kettle and she sets out her mug and wooden spoon that she uses. Jessica cleans up the kitchen because she likes walking into a clean kitchen in the morning. Before she goes to bed, she makes sure that her gym clothes are laid out or her comfy sweat suit that she’s going to wear to sit by the fireplaces. These things ensure that she doesn’t disturb the whole house in the morning.
FILLING HER CUP
As a mom, outsourcing is one thing, but this is something that you get to own. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s just your time and being organized. When Jessica owns her evening and gets to bed at a good time, her morning goes better. When she has that time in the morning, if “stuff” hits the fan in the middle of the day, because life happens, at least she has taken care of what she needs. She feels taken care of. When Jessica is filled up, then she can help fill up other people.
KEEPING IT REAL
Jessica keeps it real about motherhood. Right now she can’t get her son Hollis to sit at the table for the life of her. Sometimes she can’t get him to eat or he will eat and then, just spit the food out. Sometimes she wants to lose her mind! If her daughter Swayzie has eaten her dinner and is having ice cream for dessert, he will start screaming because Jessica won’t give it to him. She thinks why can’t we just have a family dinner where we all sit at the table and love each other! The dream scenario where there are candles and Spotify music playing in the background.
Jessica says that dinner at their house is like a freaking gong show! Half the time, Hollis is either poking at or making a hole in the wall or he has spilled his entire dinner. For sure, one beverage a night is spilled at their house. It’s chaotic and it’s hard. Jessica is trying to be a good mom and prep the meals and do all the things.
A PERSPECTIVE SHIFT
A lot of medical moms follow Jessica as well as families that have lost children. She says that this season that you’re in, the thing that you are struggling with, is probably someone’s biggest blessing. For Jessica, that’s the check-in. There is a parent sitting in a hospital room begging for the moment that you’re in right now. It’s a perspective switch. Now, she lets it roll.
Her little guy isn’t going to stay in this stage forever. Right now he says “Ma” (loudly), rubs his belly to say “please”, and does some head nodding. They have no other form of communication. Jessica wishes that he could just talk! However, she knows that this is a blessing. Jessica knows what it’s like to sit in that hospital. She remembers wishing that she could clean her own kitchen, not eat out of a container, and do her own dishes. She longed for that.
Yes – she gets frustrated and has moments when she feels like she wants to throw in the towel. Sometimes Jessica’s daughter sasses her more than she cares to admit. In the difficult moments, Jessica can feel like she has failed as a parent but she reminds herself that these challenging times don’t mean that she is a failure. This is just the season she is in. To shift her perspective, Jessica pictures herself sitting back in the hospital room or pictures a mom watching her baby seizure for the 17th time in one day. Then, the rice on the floor and the spilled orange juice almost becomes laughable.
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
Jessica says that this perspective shift is harder to do in the moment when you’re frustrated, you’ve had a long day, and there’s bills piling up. For Jessica, that is why her morning routine is so key because it helps to level set her for the day. This is what’s worked for her. Jessica has traveled a lot for business. She has been on a lot of planes with a lot of screaming kids. Every time a kid screams, she wants to cheer because that kid’s got healthy lungs. They don’t have any respiratory issues. Perspective is everything.
The message of “dreaming big” will be coming on a Lewiston Label sweatshirt soon! Jessica doesn’t like when people tell you that what you want to do is not possible.For Jessica, this sentiment is like fuel to do the thing.
LIVING LIFE ON PURPOSE
She is a really curious person and asks a lot of questions. Jessica has also had many incredible and inspirational mentors that have been important in her life. Because they’ve believed in her, it’s helped Jessica believe in herself. She wants to show up as best as she can and she wants to have lived her life on purpose. Jessica doesn’t want to waste the breath in her lungs and the beat in her heart. They’re there for a reason. If you’ve got those two things., anything’s possible. Jessica sees her life as a canvas and she gets to be the one to paint it. Roadblocks get thrown your way and a chapter doesn’t work out how you wanted it to but that’s just part of the story.
Jessica is working on a number of things. Her number one goal is continuing to raise money for The Love For Lewiston Foundation. She’s talked about building a wing at The Alberta Children’s Hospital even though that almost makes her want to keel over! She would love that every family that is battling a disease wouldn’t have to worry about finances ever again. She wants a cure for SMA and to help fund research to get that to where it needs to go. Raising a million dollars for The Love For Lewiston Foundation was incredible to achieve!
THE HARD WORK
Jessica will soon be launching a course called “The Hard Work”. It is about getting unstuck after loss and grief. She has been stuck so many times in her own life including this past October. She didn’t want to get out of bed, to work out, to talk to people, and she had no motivation. Jessica said that she was bawling all the time. Mentally, she felt like she was spirally. It was really scary for her. Suicidal thoughts that have come up in the past were creeping up for her. Jessica’s mental health was an utter mess. Thankfully, though, Jessica knows the tools and the steps to get out of feeling stuck. This is what she wants to share with people.
Some days you don’t feel like doing it. Jessica has been there where she doesn’t even have the energy to put on her running shoes, let alone get out the door. The course is about the tools and the things that you need and can implement right now to get unstuck. Then, you can start living the life that you dream. You can start dreaming really big and build an actionable plan.
PUT A PLAN INTO PLACE
Jessica says that so often she’s dreamt really big but then hasn’t put a plan into place. Start with writing down the goal. Then, you need to break it down. This has been a challenge for Jessica because she likes to go and move. Sitting still to put the plan on paper and to outline tangible steps can be tough. Then, those steps have to actually live in your calendar. Getting strategic with her time, time blocking and keeping herself accountable, has really helped Jessica to see the success.
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
Jessica has talked about how her book is going to be a New York Times best seller. It’s not… yet. Now, Jessica has a plan in place. To be a New York Times best seller, they want to see 10,000 copies sold, 200 Amazon reviews, and for Jessica to have a hundred thousand followers. Jessica now knows all the steps. Things don’t just happen by chance. They happen with a plan and execution of that plan.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED BY THE “NOS”
Jessica is currently trying to get a publisher for her next book. She has had some “nos” but she is in a good mindset. Jessica is not backing down just because she heard “no” the first couple of times. It’s so easy to get discouraged by those “nos” and to let those be the reason that you stop moving forward.
Jessica is working on putting her phone away when she’s with her kids and just being present. It’s hard because Jessica loves to work and loves what she does. It fires her up, inspires her, and gets her going. Jessica reminds herself that her to-do list, emails, the DMS, and the messages are always going to be there. It’s never going to be done. Changing her mindset on this helps. She remembers that she has shown up for a number of hours for work and that she has done enough for today. Jessica’s husband and kids are the most important people in her world. Someone across the world or someone she doesn’t even know doesn’t get to take priority over her family time.
SACRIFICES & LESSONS
Jessica says that people see all these things like that she’s raised a million dollars, that she has written a book, and that she’s been on Jillian’s Harris’ channel. They sometimes forget the sacrifices and the lessons that come with this and that Jessica has had to learn this the hard way. At times, Jessica has felt disconnected from her husband and she has experienced having a child that has behavioral issues because all she wants is Jessica’s time. This is the journey. Jessica is writing her own story and there’s going to be mess ups. She gives herself a whole ton of grace. Jessica continues to say okay she messed up and she gets to have another go round tomorrow.
FIND THE RHYTHM
Jessica has learned that balance is BS. Instead, find the rhythm for the season of your life. This is a realistic thing. There just isn’t balance. There are seasons where one thing is going to need more attention than another. Maybe you have a sick child or maybe your husband is going through something at work. There are seasons that we have to be in. Sit on a teeter-totter for more than five minutes and you’re going to go a little off balance. You are going to lose that center of gravity. It’s bound to happen. Be okay with the fact that the seasons are going to ebb and flow. It’s going to be up and down.
DEFINE YOUR JOURNEY
Dream big. Go anywhere. Do anything. Jessica says to not look to her for mom of the year. She can give you about 20 other accounts that are slaying. Moms who are eating the organic fruit, shopping at the farmer’s market every week and preparing the meals, and not taking a frozen pizza out. This is what she knows to be true. Jessica says that we get to carve out what our life looks like. We get to be the ones that define our journey. You have to believe that anything’s possible and then go after it.
KEEP SHOWING UP
She is so excited to be carving out a really beautiful future for her family. A future where they see that they can go after anything and make it happen with the failures, with the triumphs, with the hard moments, and with all the nos. You just gotta keep showing up, do the hard work, and stay consistent. The journey is going to be up and down but it’s one hell of a ride. This is your year. This is your day. This is your month. Just keep showing up.
Thanks so much to Jessica for this inspiring conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!