Published on December 9th, 2013 | by Lorraine Leslie0
Lesley Paul – You Only Live Once
When I first met Lesley Paul in 2001 we were both new members at a breakfast meeting of the South Georgian Bay Rotary Club. There were only a few women in attendance but as the months passed it was recognized that the time had come for women to become Rotarians, especially in Collingwood. There was a natural camaraderie as we were both working in the health and well-being field. Lesley, a Pharmacist was well versed in women’s health issues and became one of the first and regular columnists for Women with Vision!® Magazine as it grew from a one page newsletter to the magazine you are holding today – fifteen years later.
When Lesley Paul came into the world on March 15, 1970 she became a ‘local’ – born, raised, married and raised her own family in her home town of Collingwood.
“My parents moved to Collingwood from Hamilton in the fall of 1969. My mom was just pregnant with me and my dad came to work at Stuart Ellis Pharmacy. So yes, I am one of the true locals!
“I started Kindergarten at Cameron Street Public school, which was only a block away from my house. I was there until the end of grade two, at which point my parents moved us to St. Mary’s Catholic School, where I created a new group of friends.”
“My Mom was always a little old fashioned when it came to my wardrobe….although I can attribute my love of fashion to my her. From my earliest memories I always wore dresses… most specifically white ones (now I wear a white lab coat most of the time). Friends of my family to this day remind me of my need to be clean…which possibly explains my fetish today. I was not allowed to wear jeans to school until grade seven or eight…in fact I’m pretty sure I had my first training bra before the jeans!”
“Elementary school was a pretty normal experience”, shared Lesley.
“My favourite years were by far grade six through eight. In grade six, my teacher’s wife had a baby. I think this was my first experience at event organization. The class managed to throw an in-class surprise baby shower for him and his wife, complete with decorations, food and beautiful gifts for the baby. In grade seven and eight I had my favourite teacher, John Murphy. He was rough and tough and you didn’t want to be on his bad side, but Mr. Murphy brought the best out in all of us. He played guitar and led the choir for the school and the church, so music was a huge part of our class time. And even though I couldn’t and can’t sing to save my life, he still let me be in the choir, albeit in the back row!”
“I wasn’t much into school sports; my athleticism came out in later life, but managed to play on a number of the school teams, sometimes only to be with my friends. My mom put me into figure skating. It was the thing to do in Collingwood. After a very short career, she realized that this was NOT the sport for me and my dad took me downhill skiing, which was where I spent every winter weekend. The Collingwood Ski Club became our weekend family home until I left for university.”
“At age fourteen the summer prior to grade nine was spent mostly on my bike, hanging out at Sunset Point watching the older boys windsurf. This was also the last time that I ventured to the drive-in with my parents.
With a chuckle Lesley shared, “On many a summer night my brother Andrew and I would get our pajamas on and take our pillows and blankets in the back of my parents Buick and head to the Collingwood or Elmvale drive-in. This summer was the last…there was no way I was getting out of my parents car with all those high school boys there!”
When Lesley started grade nine she started working at her Dad’s pharmacy. “My brother and I had always done odd jobs for my dad, who by this time in 1973 had purchased the pharmacy from Stuart Ellis. This was my first real position.
” I was a cashier in the old store, located two doors north of its current location on Hurontario Street. My mom pointed out that if I was going to sell cosmetics, I had to learn how to apply and wear them. This was great news for me, the girl who only a few years before was allowed to wear jeans to school. But even at school, I continued to wear skirts while most of my friends wore jeans and sweats. Don’t get me wrong, I was creating my own style, but much of my mom’s influence was still present.
I loved high school! As a student, avoiding sports at all cost I felt it important to do well, so I remained focused on my schoolwork, but I still hadn’t decided what career path to take after graduation.
Lesley went onto share, “At the age of sixteen I applied for a Rotary Youth Exchange. My dad was a Rotarian in the Rotary Club of Collingwood and since I was seven we had had students stay with us from a variety of countries: Germany, Brazil, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark to name a few.
I was so excited to be accepted in August of 1987. I left for a small town in Northern Sweden, Stromsund. I didn’t know a word of Swedish, so when I arrived 24 hours later in this town of less than 5000 people (which wasn’t even listed in our atlas) you can imagine that I was a little nervous.
My first week there was certainly character building. Summer was pretty much over in the northern town, so the cool rainy temperatures were enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. Growing up in a Rotary family I was quite familiar with the way things worked within the organization and with the students. You participated in whatever they asked you to. So of course when I was told we were planting trees as a fund-raiser for Polio Eradication I went along. In borrowed boots and coats (yes multiple) I trudged through the bushes listening to Rotarians laugh and joke in another language. I cried that night in my room, wondering what I had gotten myself into. School started two weeks later and I never looked back. This became one of the best years of my life!
“Picture this… Here I am coming downstairs on the first day of Christmas holidays. I had just woken up from a dream in my new language! I sat at the table with my younger host sister, who did not speak any English and had a fairly severe learning impairment. For the first time we chatted in Swedish about her week at her boarding school and our plans for Christmas. I was finally feeling at home.”
“What I did and saw that year could take me a year to describe… Now remember, I mentioned, I wasn’t into heavy athletics but I watched a traditional Lapp reindeer slaughter, tracked a moose that had been attacked by a bear, helped with the moose hunt, and of course sampled everyone of those animals. I skied through mountains on cross-country skis and skied downhill as well. I went to school with all the other kids and even helped teach the English class in exchange for Swedish lessons.”
“I learned to dance, to do needlework, to dress warmly and to eat blood soup and pudding (or how to avoid eating it on Tuesdays in the cafeteria!). In the winter I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark. In July before I came back to Canada my friends had a going away party for me in daylight, at midnight. How cool is that!”
“I made friendships that are still as vibrant today as they were twenty six years ago. Thanks to email and Facebook we still stay in touch, almost on a daily basis. My host parents came to my wedding and my friend Ullis was a bridesmaid.”
“At age seventeen, that February during my year abroad, I spent a week in a Swedish Apotek (pharmacy) for “take your kid to work week”. Their style of pharmacy practice was much different than ours at the time and I found they had more of a focus on the patient, something that didn’t really happen in Canada for almost another decade. When I came home that summer, I decided I wanted to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and go to pharmacy school.”
“Unfortunately my year abroad didn’t count in our school system, I still needed to complete grade twelve and thirteen back home in Collingwood. I concentrated all my credits into a year and a half, obviously focusing on maths and sciences, coached heavily by the best science teacher in history, Mr. Mark Redmond!
Just turning twenty, I spent it working in the pharmacy as much as I could, and spending nights and weekends teaching skiing at the Toronto Ski Club and Blue Mountain. That spring I returned to Sweden for nearly a month to visit my friends and second family.
My boyfriend had just left to move out west so feeling a little down I was out with my girlfriend’s at Jet North drowning my sorrows. Here I met Doug Paul. He is the son of my Dad’s friend so I knew of him all my life.
July 27th 1990 I had my first date with Doug. He picked me up in his little red Honda Civic that he had just bought that day. – we dined at the Alphorn, where everyone used to go for their first date from Collingwood.
Doug had just finished his first year of teaching in Wasaga Beach. That same night you can imagine his disappointment when I told him I was leaving for Michigan to go to pharmacy school in August! We spent the next five weeks together until I left for Ferris State University in Northern Michigan. My dad was skeptical about Doug and me getting together before I was going away. Our theme song became “Here for a good time, not a long time” by Trooper. We agreed to see other people when I left. That lasted until Thanksgiving.”
His parents and mine had been friends since my parents moved to town. In fact his dad was my mom’s doctor. On the day of my birth, Dr. Don Paul was away at a Leaf ’s game. The next day Don came in to visit mom and she said to him “I’ll get you for this! And she did!”
“I finished my schooling in three and a half years, graduating December 1993. I spent my summers in Michigan, fast tracking through the program. Doug joined me for July and August, seeing as he was off school during those months and he would help me study. I attended school in the morning and then the afternoons were spent playing baseball or floating down the river in inner tubes with my classmates and professors, studying of course!”
After getting her pharmacy license in Michigan and Ontario, Lesley and Doug were married July 9th, 1994. This is where Lesley’s Mom stood up and reminded Dr. Paul….”I got you Don!”
“It was a busy year, trying to study for the boards, plan a wedding and complete my internship for my Ontario license. I remember the day that I became licensed that September 1994. Of course in those days it was a phone call, to which your license became effective immediately. I hung up the phone, screamed with excitement…my dad handed me a key to the Pharmacy and said, “have fun” before walking out the door.”
And so began Lesley’s career. “Within the next year, my dad made me the “manager of pharmacy services”. Pharmacy was changing and moving towards a “care based model of practice” rather than medication focused. My job was to manage the pharmacy staff (we had a retail manager already) and to implement new programming. Around this time I was volunteering to the Canadian Cancer Society and giving sun protection advice on the radio…hence this turned into a long term engagement doing voice commercials for the Stuart Ellis Pharmacy on local radio station.”
For two years Lesley worked alongside her Dad but on April 19th, 1996, she threw a bit of a wrench into their plans as she gave birth to her first son Andrew. “I only took six months maternity leave and then was back at work in full force. I took some training at the University of Toronto and the following spring became a preceptor (off campus trainer) for the Faculty of Pharmacy teaching fourth year pharmacy students prior to their graduation. We were teaching the new patient focused care model, ironically what I had experienced in Sweden.
Three years later, Jonathan, Lesley’s second son was born on April 6, 1999. “Doug and I wanted our boys to be three years apart and we were pretty close! Again, after six months I was back to work.”
“My dad and I felt that we needed to expand our pharmacy services yet again and joined PCCA (Professional Compounding Centers of America). We built a small lab in the pharmacy and took pharmacy back to what it used to be and “made medicine from scratch”. As grocery and big box stores expanded into the pharmacy world this gave us a new niche in our environment and allowed us to provide individualized care to our patients.
Work, family and philanthropy have always been an important part of Lesley’s life.
“In the spring of 2000 my father and father-in-law approached me about starting a second Rotary Club in Collingwood, a breakfast club. So in February of 2001 the club was chartered and I became a Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Collingwood-South Georgian Bay. A good friend David Sturch moved over from the noon club to be President for a few months… in June I became the clubs second president. This is where I met Lorraine Leslie, the publisher of Women with Vision Magazine, and we’ve been great friends ever since. Rotary has always been a significant part of my life. As a little child helping my parents decorate halls for dances and fundraisers. As an exchange student in my teens Doug and I are now host parents for other young people from around the world.
In 2002 I became the co-chair of “Taste of the Town”, an event that is now in it’s eleventh year. I was the chair for five years before passing it on to someone else. It is the club’s largest fundraising event to date. I am very proud to be part of this organization that allows us locally to give back to those people in need here at home and around the world.”
“After practicing as a Pharmacist for a few years I discovered another disparity in the medical world. There was little or no help for menopausal women. With my knowledge of compounding and nutrition I felt this was a perfect fit for me. As women are living longer, they are spending more time alive after menopause and this brought out a whole new set of issues and concerns. In my grandmother’s life time no one talked about menopause so little was known. In 2002 when the Women’s Health Initiative Study abruptly ceased the use of synthetic hormones I felt that I could change that and help women through this natural but troublesome period of their lives.”
Lesley took courses through PCCA and became a Certified Menopause Practitioner through the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) a group dedicated to the research and well being of menopausal women.
“I felt it was important to have as much knowledge as possible and eventually I had physicians referring women to me for advice. It is very rewarding to know that I could take a woman from the brink of an emotional and physical breakdown and helping her to live again, through nutritional support, exercise and sometimes bio-identical hormones.”
My dad was backing off a bit at the pharmacy and spending his winters away in California. It was also around this time that I was getting very busy with work. The compounding business was growing steadily and we had more staff than ever, hovering around twenty-two or so employees. We were trying to expand our cognitive services and improve patient care. My kids were growing, my husband who is an elementary school principle was working out of town and life was undoubtedly stressful. I was trying to “practice what I was preaching” and get some exercise but felt I needed more. I had made some new friends who were runners and suggested that I might need to join them. My mom always joked that “runners always look like they are in agony”, and really why would anyone want to get that sweaty.
…Well guessing from the past eight years of my life she was wrong.
“In the spring of 2005 I ran my first half marathon in Ottawa with about twenty other girls from Collingwood. It was by far the most challenging thing I had ever done but boy did I love it.
Fast forward to November 2006, to the New York City Marathon, and I am at the starting line, scared to death, looking for my host father from my exchange in Sweden who was in a different corral. I never did find him, at least not until dinner that night, but I did painfully finish my first marathon.
I hadn’t trained properly putting in enough miles, but I did manage to raise almost $7000 for Team Diabetes. It wasn’t until October 2012 that I successfully completed my second marathon in Chicago. This time I was well prepared. I had run many half marathons in the meantime (including one in Sweden with my host dad) and followed a fairly strict training regimen. I finished eight minutes faster than my goal, with a smile on my face. The next day I rode a bike along the Chicago shoreline with my family. Other than the Around the Bay Race in Hamilton this past March, my running life has slowed down, but then again so has the rest of my life.”
On November 1st 2007 Lesley bought the pharmacy from her dad. As I handed him a golf club and he passed me the “mortar and pestle”, a tradition among Pharmacists.
I had no idea what the next six years would bring. We renovated the dispensary the following spring, adding a private consultation space and expanding the compounding lab. Everything was great. In early spring of 2009 the government announced radical changes in health care. The practice of pharmacy seemed more to do with paperwork and red-tape than helping patients. I was spending more time in my office than with my patients.”
“They say that everything happens for a reason and I now believe it. My passion in life has always been to help people. In June of 2013 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. At the same time we were approached about selling the pharmacy. It was a hard decision, one that occurred after much discussion with my husband and my parents. After all, this was the business that my dad had built. But the stress of the business was taking a toll on my family and me. Furthermore I needed to be with my mom… ”
On September 30th 2013, I changed my nametag from “pharmacist/owner” to “wife/mother/daughter/pharmacist”. My kids love having me home. And I don’t think that I will ever regret having this time with my mom.
I don’t know exactly what the future holds. I will go back to being a pharmacist at some point and working with women. Everyone needs a break to refocus. Always a career woman the past thirty years has brought me to a good place in my life. I can now take the time to sit down and chat with my sons about what is going on in their lives. Doug and I have found a new beginning…But for now, as my kids say: “YOLO; you only live once.”
© copyright Lorraine Leslie – Women with Vision Magazine September, 2013