Woman of the Week: Rose Carty Armstrong

It’s always an honour to recognize someone, not necessarily for what they have gone through, but for what they have done since going through it. Rose Carty Armstrong is a great example of moving forward when times are tough by learning and growing, and then openly sharing with others so that they can learn and grow too. It’s a pleasure to introduce you to this week’s Woman of the Week, Rose Carty Armstrong.

Tell us a little about yourself

I was born in Montréal, Quebec. I moved to Ottawa, Ontario, in 1997. I have one son, who turns 25, December 2015, who will forever be the apple-of-my-eye! I married in 2011 to my second husband, a most wonderful man, Michael – who was born in Ottawa – (everyone who knows him thinks he is awesome; it’s not just me!) I moved to North Carolina to be with my new husband after our wedding as he has been working in the NASCAR industry for 15 years in this state. My son was married this year in May to the most wonderful woman, our daughter-in-law, who is one of the best people to come into our lives. They have a daughter, Faith. Our granddaughter has placed that “twinkle” back in my eyes because she is so precious and fun!
My career has been all about learning as I go. I completed high school, some college and some university. I was lucky to have found a niche in the technology sector in 1980 – and through the years, I have either learned what I know from books, from trial-and-error, and from learning from the best in the industry. My experiences including over 30 years in IT (systems and database management) and 8 years in project management and fundraising, and many years in volunteerism. What I hope I bring to each are my people and communication skills and positive thinking. Currently, I am not working. I am focusing on what it is I want to do going forward – I’ll know it when it hits me!

My newest hobby is adult colouring. Through some tough times health wise, colouring has given me the opportunity to bring calmness to my being, to my body and to my mind. I’m learning by connecting to different colouring Facebook groups – there is actually so much to learn! My biggest-forever hobby will always be music – attending concerts, listening to my favourite songs etc – that is my true way to bring calmness and light into my day! I also love to sing and I sound best when I’m alone in the room ;-)!! My other hobbies are NASCAR and racing! I have also started to cook and bake, looking for good-for-us recipes and learning to keep my weight down and my health as “up” as possible! Oh! And birds, birds, birds! We love the wild birds outside of our home, because we have a myriad of birds! I guess my best activity is walking, especially when we can walk and see different birds! I guess I’m a bit of a bird-brain lol!

Who inspires you in your life? Who do you look up to? And why?

My biggest inspiration will always be my mother, Gayle. My mother lived through extremely difficult times, to the point where she took the brunt by protecting us, her children. And through it all, she continually repeated that “there are others in the world who have it much worse, so remember how lucky we are”, “always try to never regret; you will be happier because you can’t change the past” and “be positive! Keep smiling!” I have always said, and will always continue to say, if I am 1/8 who my mother was, I could be very happy about who I am, because my mother was a saint in my eyes!

Another inspiration is my husband. It is difficult to move from one country to another, and he did it, alone. When I moved here, it took me a very long time to become accustomed to not being with my son, our family and my long time friends. My husband inspires me because he never gets mad, he is so completely understanding and supportive, and of course loving. I am learning to be better at all those things, because of Mike.

Another inspiration in my life is our daughter-in-law, who has been through so much and still, to this day, speaks in a calm tone, looks to the positive in life and has taught me to live life with the least bit of drama because life is to be lived fully! I also have my female friends who have been there so often, teaching me about different things in life. I learn every single day because of each of them. I’m so blessed!

I must include my brother as a huge inspiration for me. My brother lived through as many difficult times at the hands & verbal abuse of my father, as my mother did.  I’m so very proud of him. He made it through days where I thought we would lose him. And he kept at it, trying to better himself, which he did! It takes an extremely strong person to be where he was and where is today. He continues to inspire me every day!

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?

Like a lot of people, I have lived through challenges. I feel very lucky to be a survivor, and to still be loving life! My eldest sister, the oldest in our family, passed away when she was 8-1/2 years old from leukemia – she lived through it for 3 years (I was 7 at the time she passed.) I was stunned as a young girl and was sick for ten days because of losing my sister. As well, I lived through domestic violence in our home when I was younger (physical beatings, mental/psychological/emotional trauma). My mother was badly beaten through her marriage to my father, as were my brother and myself (thankfully our two youngest sisters were not.) My brother has lived through many years of abuse from my father, even long after the divorce was finalized. My parents’ divorce was one extremely ugly divorce – it lasted eight years, with threats throughout that time period by my father. Then, I lost my mother in 1998 to breast cancer. I am positive that the physical, emotional and psychological violence she lived through did not help. I miss her the most as she was my very best friend. I feel her every single day, and I pray and talk with her, and that helps me on those tough days and even when I look at her photo and laugh remembering great times we had together.

It all sounds gloomy as I write this, but I made it through, and all because of my mother’s outlook on life (as I mentioned above that she was my biggest inspiration.) I was married before, and the divorce was not an easy one; then I was a single mother for a long time, and I loved my son and we made it through tough times together. Then, I met my second husband and I’m so very blessed with Mike in my life. I have lived through severe asthma, where I have almost died a few times.

I have also lived through PTSD, where the past experiences at the hands of, and verbal abuse by, my father came back to the forefront of my life; it was a haunting time. I worked with an amazing therapist in Ottawa, who used EMDR therapy to help me through it, and I made it through within less than one year – something that is often unheard of for people who have lived through domestic violence. As I went through the beginning stages of PTSD therapy, I remember feeling empty, an empty shell, nothing inside of me. As I worked through the therapy, I envisioned each separate area of my body, my mind and my soul, rebuilding. At the end of the therapy, I felt whole again. I was a better “Me” than I was before! Although it was the toughest thing for me to live through, I am happy that I went through it because I am stronger than I have ever been in my life.

What does all this mean now? I made it through! I leaned on family and friends as I learned how to cope. When it was beyond where family and friends could be helpful, I sought professional advice and options on moving forward in life. I listened, and I learned, and I tried as often as possible to put things into perspective. As my mother said, there is always someone who has lived through much worse than us, so we need to be grateful where we are, and that we CAN move forward. My mother’s words still support me to this very day.

The last biggest challenge was moving from Canada to the United States. I went through those “Top 10” toughest things to go through in life – leaving my son, downsizing / giving away items from my home because I couldn’t bring everything to the U.S. home, selling my house in Canada, leaving my job, moving to a new country (which included the very tough part of being granted a US Visa), not knowing anyone in the new place I moved to in North Carolina, not being allowed to go for a job while we awaited our approval for our “green cards”, running out of money at certain times because I wasn’t allowed to work; and the biggest part was living through a depression for the first 2-1/2 years I was in North Carolina – I think I cried and cried and cried for months and months. I love my husband but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was so difficult leaving my son, family and friends, and familiarity in Canada. But, I made it (it will be five years March 2016 since I moved to North Carolina). We were granted our “green cards” (permanent residency) almost two years ago! A huge accomplishment!! When I have the chance to visit family in Ottawa and Montreal a few times a year, my body, mind and soul are “refilled” with their love and I can live in the U.S. knowing I will see them soon! It is because of my husband’s understanding (he lived through heavy emotions when he first moved here, alone) and his love & caring as I went through those times.

The biggest thing I learned and what I would share with others through my challenges is to lean on others, family and friends. You are not alone. And if you feel uncomfortable to turn to family and friends, call a professional, because he/she is there to give you options, help you to move forward, one step at a time (big or small). You will feel stronger. You will feel happier. Keeping the past on your shoulders (or in our minds) will only keep you in the past – live for today, and continue to move forward. You are worth it. I know I was!

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of who I am right now. I am most proud of being the way I am – friendly, positive, fun, loving, caring – even after difficult times. My life HAS NOT ALWAYS been difficult. I remember the good times, the laughter, and the love!

I am also proud of the non-profit organization – Music for Life Fundraising Concerts, cancer concerts to raise money – which I started in 2007. Although I am closing the organization this year, I feel the time and effort I gave, and hopefully the support and mentoring/coaching I was able to give to all our beautiful volunteers, helped us accomplish over $52,000 in funds raised since our start years ago; and funds went toward cancer patient care and needed equipment. The concerts were held from Vancouver, B.C. to New Brunswick, although we did do a focus of a few concerts in our corporate city of Ottawa, as well as Montreal.

It is time now for me to move to new horizons, new volunteerism, and new fundraising efforts. I love Canada, and I hope to be able to continue supporting different ventures in the future! And I’m already looking for new ventures here in North Carolina! I love helping people!

What do you want your older self to know?

I saw this question and needed to come back to it a few times before I could answer. While going through PTSD treatment, specifically EMDR, I actually went to a “place” during the therapy where I met my younger self (I think I was 4 years old). We both hid behind a wall; there was violence on the other side. At one point the violence stopped. My younger self held my hand and brought me to the other side of that wall, a place I was afraid to go. I looked down at “young me”, and this little girl looked up and all she said was, “you are okay; you are doing great now”. It hit me like a ton of bricks! I was okay now.

I would tell my older self, “it’s okay, I will be okay going forward, because I have survived, and I have made it by looking and working toward the light, not the darkness.”

Favourite quote

This is the quote that I put in my high school yearbook – it means just as much today, as it meant way back then: “The road to a friend’s house is never long.”

14 point Assessment

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