I am a 54 year old woman, single mother, sister, friend, niece and aunt whose purpose in life is to help others. For the past 20 years I have been helping seniors maintain or improve their quality of life in various ways. Prior to this career, I worked as an Administrative Assistant for Members of Parliament and 2 Senior Partners in a Consulting Firm. Since 1997, I have worked in the field of recreation in retirement homes, long term care and agencies that work for seniors in their community such as Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS). It was at ROSSS where I was encouraged to grow and develop my skills. My position grew from social recreation to embrace and implement my skills of community development, fundraising, outreach, and building partnerships. I was blessed to work at ROSSS for 8 years. It was at the 8 year mark that I felt I needed a new challenge and started working for Visavie, a 30 year old company that helps seniors for free find the right fit in a retirement home. I have been with Visavie for 4 years working as a Senior Living Advisor. Two years ago my position changed. I still work as a Senior Living Advisor but I am also responsible for regional development. I love and thrive in both of these roles. I love the opportunity to work one-on-one with seniors and their families and the opportunity to educate and build partnerships with organizations in the community where we work together to help the senior population.
Now, you asked me to tell a bit about myself. I come from a family of nine – two sets of twins. I have a twin brother who I just absolutely love. Being a twin is a blessing! No matter what you go through in life, you always have a best friend to help you along the way. The best example of unconditional love. My twin and I are the second youngest in the family. Our youngest sister lives in Winnipeg. Our family is a loving family who cares and supports one another on our journey of life. My parents are deceased. My father passed in 1991 and my mother in 1997. While in the hospital, my father and I discussed the option of me moving in with my mother after he passed. He was concerned about her being alone. My mother was a full-time mother, caregiver, and never learned to drive a car. However, she did have her 3 wheel bicycle that she used to visit friends, deliver her Avon orders, and get groceries. She also had diabetes. As I was single at this time, I agreed to discuss with my mother the option of living together when I felt the time was right. Six months after my father passed, I brought up the subject and my mother was very happy to have me come to live with her.
Over the next six years, I watched my mother’s health deteriorate. Her diabetes affected her kidneys. She chose to have peritoneal dialysis which is done through the abdomen. I had to learn how to do this procedure as well in case my mother was not able to. This was a good thing as when her electrolytes would “go out of whack” I had to help my mother and set it up for her. It was quite the experience. Also, having to give my mother her insulin shots on occasion was something that made me feel weak but in these times such as these we always find the strength to do what we must do. As my mother’s health deteriorated, I saw how she started becoming isolated. Friends don’t mean to stop visiting, they just don’t know what to say. I think, in their own way, they start to grieve the loss of a friendship (anticipatory grief) and just don’t know what to do. It was this experience with my mother that I felt being led to look into going back to school to take social recreation programs and to work with seniors. I applied at Algonquin College and was accepted into the Social Recreation and Leisure Services Program. It was a 2 year program. My mother and I agreed that I would continue to live with her during this time. I started in September and loved it! Unfortunately, my mother passed away on November 11, 1997. She chose to stop her dialysis and passed away peacefully in the hospital. If you recall, January 1998 was the ice storm! I remained living at my mother’s home until 1999 when I graduated with honours and then married.
I was married 17 years and we now share our two beautiful daughters. I moved out December 2016. In September 2017, my ex-husband fell and broke his neck. He was in a halo for 3 months. During this time we still shared our girls but the stress on everyone was just too much. He did not heal after 3 months in the halo and needed to have surgery to fuse his vertebrae and spine in December. He is still in the halo for another 3 months. We both decided before his surgery that I would keep the girls full-time until he is completely healed and able to care for them. My girls and I do whatever we can to help him. I bring meals and help tidy up when I am visiting. My oldest girl helps him wash his hair. We all work together. From this experience, if I can offer any suggestions, I would offer the following two; First, if you separate/divorce try to remain on a friendly basis. It’s best for everyone. We were friends before marriage and we are friends again. Second, when you become a main caregiver, do not get into the cycle of caring for everyone else but yourself. It catches up with you as I learned the hard way. In life, in difficult times and in good times, I have my faith to carry me through. God is always there to help me and to guide me. He has the best plans for my life and I try to follow Him as He leads.
One thing that most people do not know about me is that I like to sing. As a young woman, I sang in the church choir with my mother. As a mother myself, I started attending Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in North Gower in 2006. I have grown so much in my faith and with my church family. I sing on the worship team and actually lead worship. I also sat on the LBA (governing board) for 6 six years. I have volunteered running children’s groups, women bible studies and am now the Coordinator for our Community Outreach Team. This was a new role that I took on last June. As I stated at the beginning of my introduction, my purpose in life is to help others. I love the way that I am able to live my purpose everyday through my work and with my church.
Who inspires you in your life and why?
My clients who I serve inspire me. Every person has their own story and I am blessed to be able to come into their lives to help them and to become part of their story. I learn so much from each individual.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your life?
Some of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome in my life have been the loss of a nephew by suicide when he was only 25, the loss of my parents, and the end of two marriages.
What did you do to move through them? What did you learn?
My first marriage should never have happened. We were too young. I was only 19 when I first got married. What was I thinking? I was still “finding myself”. I am on a journey of healing and now identify that we must take responsibility in our failed relationships and deal with our own issues. If we don’t, we carry that junk with us into the next relationship and so on. Losing my father was difficult. I went through depression at this time and needed to seek help and to work on healing. Losing my mother, my best friend was so hard. I remember when I had my first daughter, without even thinking, I picked up the phone one day and dialed my mother’s phone number. When I realized what I had done I quickly hung up. I laughed at doing such a silly thing but then cried as I missed and needed my mother at such a milestone in my life. Through all of these challenges I have had good friends, family and God who helped me though each and every one. I also learned how my life as a child has affected my life as an adult and my relationships. We have to take responsibility and action to improve the things that are not good in our lives. We cannot go through life blaming others for what is not working in our own personal lives. We may have developed skills in order to survive our environment as a child but, as an adult, we must take the necessary steps to become healthy and whole, physically and emotionally.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my two daughters. They are both strong, kind-hearted, caring young people. I know that God has a plan for their lives too. He chose “me” to be their Mother. I get to watch them grow and see God’s plan for their lives unfold. What a blessing that is!
What do you want younger women to know?
My advice to younger women is the following: You are here for a purpose. You are unique. You have special gifts and talents that no one else has. Enjoy your journey in finding your purpose and accept all of the experiences you have, good and bad. These experiences grow you and lead you to your next step, your next adventure, on your journey. You will meet people that are meant to be in your life and those who are not. Those who are meant to be in your life will bring positive attributes into your relationship. Those who are not meant to be in your life will bring negative attributes into your life. LIsten to your “gut feeling”. It is always right. There are times to think with your heart and times to use your common sense. Choose wisely. Never apologize or feel bad for making the right choices for you. Always care and love yourself first for you cannot give to someone else what you don’t have.
What does living fully mean to you?
Living Fully means taking care of yourself, living your life with purpose, enriching your life by engaging in healthy friendships – personally and professionally, helping those in need, experiencing life through joy and happiness, experiencing the negative things in our life – deal with them, let them go and move forward, share what you learn with others along the way, listen to others, take healthy risks, enjoy adventures and have fun! Enjoy your life! You are here for a reason.
My favourite quote is a bible verse. I try to apply it in all aspects of my life.
Luke 5:11 (NIV)
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”