Lisa is such a beautiful, bright soul. She is an animal lover, a business owner and raised her two boys on her own. She has recently had to go through the loss of her mother, father and her beloved dog, three major losses in eight months. Despite her grief, she is there to help others. She has an infectious smile and she absolutely would do anything for you and your beloved fur family. Meet Lisa, this week’s Woman of the Week.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am overwhelmed at being nominated for Woman of the Week! Thank you so much!
So, a little about me…
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but my family moved to the Ottawa Valley shortly after that. I grew up in Kinburn, Bayshore, and later Stittsville. I am definitely a country mouse/small town girl (yes, at that time, Stittsville was very much a small town where it was safe to walk the streets at night and everyone knew each other!)
My parents divorced not long after my sister was born and I was about 4 or 5 years old. My Dad moved back to Winnipeg and married a lady with two daughters and went on to have another daughter with her. My sister and I stayed with my Mom in Ottawa. I am fortunate because I had a wonderful relationship with my Dad and my step-family, which was not always the case in that era.
My mother was colorful, difficult, very intelligent, inspirational, and challenging.
I married my high-school sweetheart and had two fantastic sons with him. Our marriage later deteriorated to the point where I felt abused and disrespected and I refused to have my sons grow up thinking that was what marriage was supposed to look like. We separated and I raised my boys with minimal input from their father, which was way easier than staying together. The boys and I did Scouting together, which provided them with positive male role models and great life skills. (Their Dad joined as well so they had some fun times together there too!) It gave me some respite from being a single parent and I met some lovely people along the way. I enjoyed volunteering with youth and helped organize many camps and Jamborees in the 12 years I was involved. My sons have grown into lovely human beings that I adore. My eldest is a biochemist and is married and hopefully they will soon make me a Nana! My youngest is studying Culinary Management at Algonquin College and is a bright light in my life!
I am very lucky in that I knew from a very early age that my vocation was to work in the veterinary field. I started working in a vet clinic when I was 16, went to college to become a Veterinary Technician after high school, and returned to Ottawa to work at the same clinic as a tech (nurse) and later managed the practice for 25 years. After the husband and wife team who owned the clinic retired, the practice was bought by a group from Toronto who were more profit-driven and completely changed the culture of the practice. They kept me on for about a year to make the transition smoother and then let me go and replaced me with their own manager. It was a crushing blow and it took me many years to recover from that loss. After working reception at a few clinics, I recently started a business called The CriTTer Concierge doing in-home nursing care (think VON) and pet-sitting and I absolutely love it! My passion has always been to help people be the best companions to their animal friends that they can be!
Aside from my life with animals, I love to dabble in many arts and crafts! I make beaded jewelry, paint, do rubber stamping, stained glass and mosaics, and have recently started quilting.
I am very involved in my professional organization, the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians, and serve on the Complaints Committee since we are a self-regulated profession now. I also help to facilitate Professionalism and Ethics workshops for new technicians. I am passionate about improving things for Vet. Techs., having been one for over 30 years!
After spending about 15 years on my own raising the boys, I reconnected with a man who was a neighbour when we were in our teens (he was a friend’s older brother). We hit it off famously and, within a year, we were married. He is a wonderful man and a huge supporter of all my endeavors. It amazes me how the universe seems to bring us who we need when we need them. Last year, I lost my Dad, my Mom, and my faithful old dog, all within 8 months. When I thought my heart would break, Ron was there to gather up the pieces and hold them together while they mended.
Who inspires you? Who do you look up to and why?
My inspiration is my Mom! I believe it was her choice to live independently and raise my sister and me but she did so at a great personal price. She was a single mother when there was still a huge stigma against them. She had a university education and started her career as a Recreation Director in a tough part of Toronto, became a social worker, and then went back to school when we were young to become a much-loved high school teacher. To do this, she left us with a wonderful, grandmotherly woman from Monday to Thursday and then spent Friday to Sunday with us until we were school-aged. It was hard on her and us but she knew that’s what she needed to do to provide a better life for us. We never wanted for anything except, perhaps, her attention. She was tough, funny, smart, kind, strong…and I hope I got even half of that from her!
She was so happy that I’d met Ron (she used to party with his parents at neighbourhood get-togethers). She recognized that I finally had someone to love and who would love me the way that I deserve to be loved; that everyone deserves to be loved. In fact, her last words to me were, “It’s so nice to see you happy and beautiful, I love you”.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your life? What did you do to move through them? What did you learn? What do you wish to share with others?
One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to be part of the decision to take my Mom off of life-support after she fell, had a brain-bleed, and subsequently developed pneumonia, which she could not recover from due to her compromised health status. I can tell you, from experience, that we do much better for dogs when it comes to end of life assistance. I was very frustrated and upset with the process and will likely always struggle with my memory of those days.
What are you most proud of?
I truly feel that I have led a blessed life. I haven’t had to endure much of what I see others struggling with. Through my separation and the loss of my long-time position in my beloved vet practice, I did a lot of self-talk, pulling myself up by my bootstraps, and knowing that better things must lay ahead. I went for support and counseling when I felt I needed it. I have many friends and family who love me and helped to buoy up my spirits and, of course, the boys were a big incentive to push on.
I guess that’s what I’d like others to take away from my story – that they are worth it and that you can prevail if you think positively and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I am most proud of my two sons and the men they have grown into.
One of my favourite quotes is “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~ Anatole France
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