Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: November

Remembering Roy Mason, Stoker, HMCS Woodstock, World War II

Roy Mason, Royal Canadian Navy, WWII

 

My mother called Sunday and said “You won’t believe what I found”.  I love statements like that.  Intrigued, I headed over to her place and was thrilled to see an old scrapbook of my grandmother’s; one I had never seen before.  Even more intriguing, my mother had never seen it before either.  And the icing on the cake was that the scrapbook contained articles and papers about WWII, one in particular was about my grandfather and his involvement in the Navy during the war.   The synchronicity that she would find this 3 days before Remembrance Day was remarkable.

My grandfather passed away when I was 13.  I can vaguely remember him talking about places he had seen during the war when he and I were watching the Royal Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.  Other than that, I had little interest as a young girl, in World War II.  His stories were unheard by me at that time.  What I wouldn’t give now, to go back and hang off of every story he wanted to tell.  Similarly, my mother knew little of his undertakings in the war.  We took it for granted that these stories would be at our disposal when we were ready to ask questions but then the opportunity was lost when Grandpa passed.  And now … now Mom found this scrapbook.  It was in poor condition but the article was there in plain sight.  A story for me to “hang off of”.  It follows:

 

Roy Mason, Stoker, HMCS WoodstockRoy Mason, Stoker, HMCS Woodstock

 

 

Although it is brief, I now have new research initiatives.  I want to explore where Gibraltar is and it’s connection to the WWII; investigate the sinking of the HMCS Louisburg; find out who were other sailors aboard the HMCS Woodstock from across Canada.  I feel like I’m just starting to get to know my grandfather and it’s been almost 30 years since his death.  Oh to be able to talk with him now.  I could tell him how much I appreciate all that he, and all other veterans and soldiers, have sacrificed.  Remembering you today Grandpa…

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

Liebster Award Nomination

Leibster Award, New Blogger

I blog to share because “sharing is caring”. I’ve said that before. It’s therapeutic for me to just share whatever I’m passionate about in the moment and if other’s join me on my journey, wonderful. If they comment and share back, even better. Yesterday though, I received a gift that I never dreamed of. I was nominated for The Liebster Award. An award to spotlight new bloggers and to allow them the opportunity to pay it forward. I’ve seen the badges on other blogs but never thought I’d get to put the badge on mine.  Well guess what?  Today, that all changes.

I need to thank Beth Wylie for the nomination.  She is a fellow blogger (Life in the Past lane) that I met a few months ago through blogging and Twitter.  On her brief bio she is described as:  “an Arklahoman- an Arkansas native who became an Oklahoman by marriage. She’s on a mission to shake all of her ancestors out of her family tree even if it takes a lifetime. When she’s not researching family history, she’s busy being a healthcare administrator, wife and mommy to a precocious three year old”.  Through brief conversations over blog posts and twitter, I derived that we have much in common.  We are both Gingers, which in itself creates a unique bond, we are passionate about our family history, we love to blog despite upholding demanding careers and busy families and we love Outlander.  Practically twins if you ask me.  I love to visit her blog to hear about a family history search South of the border.  I am truly grateful, honoured and thrilled that Beth nominated me.

There a few rules to accepting a Liebster nomination:

Leibster Nominee, New Blogger

 

My Nominator’s Questions:

1. What motivated you to start your blog and how long have you been blogging?

I am a journaller.  I think I got my first diary when I was 8 and from then on, I was writing my feelings.  I have a subconscious need to get my story out.  I’m not sure why or where this comes from for I have always had a need to do this.  In my early twenties, it became therapeutic when I suffered a few identity crises.  With the onset of blogging and social media it was a natural progression to take to the internet to get the stories out.  As I mature, my writing has a more meaningful purpose and blogging has helped with that evolution.  I’ve been blogging for about 4 years but only 1 seriously and consistently.

2. Where do you get the ideas for your blog posts?

Good question.  I don’t always know.  I make lists but I rarely choose from my list.  It is usually a surge of inspiration that will come at random times.  The Crestleaf 12 Month’s of Fascinating Family Finds challenge has been a great way for me to stay on track with my family history.  I have lots of great stories to share about that and the challenge gives me the focus to do it.  I’m pretty certain I have ADHD so any help with focus is great.

3. Do you ever get “writer’s block,” and, if so, how do you deal with it?

I have yet to experience writer’s block with blogging.  I used to suffer it immensely with university papers.  It helps when you write for yourself.  When I have to write to someone else’s expectations, it’s much more difficult.

4. What is the best advice you can give your fellow bloggers, especially new ones?

Read all you can about creating a blog and then toss it all away.   Take what you understand and make your own rules.

5. How do you network with other bloggers?

Twitter and by posting on their blogs.  I’m interested in taking it to the next level and start going to blog conferences to actually meet some of my “Blog World” friends in person.  I’ve met so many unique and wonderful characters in the Cyber World but it makes me long for a physical face-to-face chat over a cup of tea or coffee.  As great as it has been to meet so many people I’d otherwise never get to know, I love the energy of being with another person in the physical realm.

6. What is the best feedback you have ever gotten on a blog post?

One where someone read a post about a lost family branch and actually knew my family and gave feedback on sources of more information.  It was like finding a chest of rubies in the shipwreck you’ve been trying to uncover for years.

7. What kind of writing experience did you have prior to starting your own blog?

Bachelor of Arts in Drama.  I thought I’d be doing more acting but ended up writing a lot of papers about plays.  I’ve also written a few magazine articles about graduates for the post-secondary institution I work for.

8. What is one goal you have for your blog in the next 12 months?

To finish all 12 months of the Crestleaf challenge without missing any months.

9. What is your favorite blog?

I have many favourites for different reasons.  I like Life in the Past lane because I feel I relate to Beth’s genealogical journey. I like ADHD Kids Rock because of challenges myself and my son face with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). I like A Bowl Full of Lemons because I like organization and DIY stuff.

10. Who is the one person (not related by blood or marriage) that has influenced you the most.

Richard Branson.  I love his “Screw It, Let’s Do It” mantra.  And I love his philosophy that if you take care of the people they will take care of you.

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. First female ice-resurfacing machine operator in the Township of Norwich (the Zamboni driver)
  2. My favourite food all my life has been spaghetti
  3. I can clog
  4. I love Macaroni and Cheese loaf
  5. Christmas fanatic
  6. I’ve written 3 (maybe 4) major papers about George Bernard Shaw
  7. My first album was Destiny by The Jacksons
  8. I saw Michael Jackson in concert when I was 11
  9. I am fussy about food textures
  10. I have a secret crush on Hugh Jackman and Robert Pattinson
  11. I’ve seen every episode of Friends at least 3 times

My Nominees

Wear Out There, Christina Proctor

 

  1. I am an Image/Leadership Consultant on the side and I’ve fallen in love with Christina Proctor‘s blog Wear Out There.  For me, it’s (somewhat) local – I’m Canadian in a Southwestern Ontario world so I relate to many of the local business and style recommendations.  I also connect with her on her “About” page.  I believe that choice of style and expression can be the difference in the pursuit of success.  Congratulations on a great blog and presence Christina!

 

On Becoming a Wordsmith

 

2.  On Becoming a Wordsmith is a special blog to me.  It was created by my high school English teacher, Elaine Cougler on her “journey to publication and beyond”.  After high school, I ventured off to the world of post-secondary education, established a career and a family and several years later reconnected with Elaine.  She had since retired and told me about her dream to publish.  I enjoyed following her blog about all the steps she took to make her dream come true.  The first book of her trilogy “The Loyalist’s Wife” is a remarkable telling of a story of a young couple’s struggle to start a life in a new world with a looming Revolutionary War.  The young man in the story, John Garner, joins Butler’s Rangers in the fight for Loyalist freedom.  “So what”, you say?  My 6X great grandfather, William May, was a member of Butler’s Rangers.  It was like reading my own history.  Not only am I so very proud of my teacher’s pursuit of her dream but she has been a huge inspiration to me in following my own.  Congratulations Mrs. Cougler!  (I know it’s Elaine but there is a certain amount of endearment that comes from referring to you as the teacher who helped instil a love of literature and writing in this girl’s heart).

 

My Travels, Crazy Aunt Susan, Susan McLachlan

3.  My close friend and colleague, Susan, started a blog a while back, My Travels, to capture her travel experiences.  She only blogs when she travels but it allows me to almost be there with her.  With a busy family of 2 young boys, I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like so it’s a great way for me to feel a part of it.  Unlike other travel blogs, for me, I know Susan and can imagine her experiences.  I am nominating her blog and hope it encourages her to continue sharing her journeys.

 

ADHD Kids Rock, Jeff Rasmussen

 

4.  I don’t think my next nominee qualifies as a small blog but I believe it is relatively new.  Jeff Rasmussen is a 15 year old individual with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).  He has had significant challenges going through school and at 13, he created a web site and blog to share his experiences, strategies and stories to help other kids who have similar challenges.  I love visiting his blog ADHD Kids Rock, because someone close to me is one of those kids.  Jeff embraces his ADHD and celebrates his gifts.  It’s a unique perspective.  Often, when I am researching ADHD to understand how to work best with its challenges, the focus is on “how to deal with it” or “what are the symptoms”, “how to medicate it”, “how to feed one with ADHD”; most resources are about reacting to ADHD and not accepting it.  Thank you to Jeff for having the courage and the drive to go forward with his vision.  He has certainly touched us and given us a positive place to go to learn about and embrace ADHD.  Congratulations Jeff!

To my nominees, I pose the following 11 questions.

  1.  How has blogging changed your life?
  2. Where do you get ideas for your posts?
  3. What 3 tips would you give new bloggers?
  4. What do you find the most challenging about blogging?
  5. Has blogging brought you any surprises that you didn’t expect when you started?
  6. Which social media platforms do you use (if any) to promote your blog?
  7. How did you gain your expertise on blogging?  Did you take courses, have someone assist you or did you just jump in?
  8. What is the single most rewarding thing you get out of blogging?
  9. Have you attended any blogging conferences?  If so, what did you gain from attending?
  10. How do you nurture relationships with your followers?
  11. Which of your strengths has helped you the most with your blogging?

I hope you enjoy your nomination as much as I did.  Thanks for your inspiration and your stories.  I wish you abundant success as you continue on your blogging journey.

The Sound of Happiness

When I was young, let’s say my teen years, happiness was loud. Sounds of laughter, loud music, screams from roller coasters, the phone ringing when a friend would call, traffic because I was in a car travelling to the next event, parties etc. I loved the buzz of having noise around me. I preferred visiting the city over camping and hiking. If I was alone, I turned on the television or the stereo at high volumes to have sound with me all the time. I fell asleep at night to the radio. I felt safe and I was happy.

Loch Ness

Tranquil Loch Ness

 

Sometime in my early twenties, that changed. I spent 4 months in England for school and when I think back to my most loved memory of that stint, it was a day spent outside Inverness, Scotland, on a rock, skipping stones on Loch Ness. We ventured away from the crowds of tourists who wanted to view the lake from Urquhart Castle and shimmied our way down an embankment with a snack of apples, crackers and cheese. There were just 3 of us, 2 other travel companions and myself. It was so tranquil. I remember being hyper-aware of the sound of each skip of the stone before the final “plop” into the lake. I felt calm and I was happy.

Soft snow falling

Gently Falling Snow

Another time, my oldest was 2 and we were at a cottage in the winter in Northern Ontario – far off the beaten path of civilization. My husband, son and I were outside playing in the snow – real snow – 5 feet deep. We were doing somersaults and jumping off the deck into the fluffy banks below. After one spectacular jump, landing on my back looking up at the giant flakes of snow gently falling from the sky, I felt I had been pulled back out of warp speed and my senses became super-attuned. It became quiet, my body completely relaxed into the snow-form my body made from my jump and I could hear the sound of every snowflake land around me. I felt love and I was happy.

Birds chirping

Early birds calling

Just this morning, being on holidays and sleeping in without the hurried routine that I am accustomed to on a “regular” day, I had the window open and I listened to the birds as they began their calls. The world was still asleep. There were no cars, back-up alarms from heavy trucks, sounds of conversation or lawn mowers. Just the sound of the birds and the trees swaying in the breeze. I felt peace and I was happy.

The sound of happiness has changed from when I was young. Once busyness and noise was necessary to feel content. Now, the absence of noise is much more profound in experiencing happiness. I still have great moments of happiness when there is lots of uproarious laughter and sounds but I do cherish the tranquil moments of silence.

What are the sounds of happiness for you?

Playoff Time for the Norwich Merchants – A Special Team


The Norwich Merchants


It’s hockey play-off time in Canada and it’s Friday night.  You know what that means … (or maybe you don’t if you’re not from around these parts) there will be a hockey game somewhere to watch either live or on television.  My family can be a stereotypical Southwestern Ontario family in that we love our hockey.  And in our Oxford County community, our Merchants are in a “do-or-die” playoff situation tonight against New Hamburg.

The Merchants and I have a special relationship.  At several points in my life’s journey, I have been connected to this Junior “C” hockey team.  Here’s how:

1.  As one of  the few female ice resurfacing machine operators (The Olympia) in the Township of Norwich, I used to clean the ice for the Merchant games.  This was one of my favourite jobs of all time.  I loved waving at the kids in the crowd, being a part of the hockey experience and having the community all together in one place showing their community spirit.  And just driving the machine itself felt very empowering.  That’s a lot of machinery to be trusted to one small person.  It was fantastic.  Not-to-mention, it makes for some great interview ice breakers since this fact is on my resume.

2.  I met the man I married working for the Township of Norwich at the Community Centre/Arena.  In fact, he trained me to operate The Olympia for the prestigious Merchant games.  I regret that I never got a picture of myself driving it.  I do, however, have this picture with my husband and I on it.  We were only dating at the time. #SickeningSweet

Myself and The Boyfriend (currently husband)

Myself and The Boyfriend (currently husband)

3.  The Merchants trainer, Mark, was my boss while I worked at the Community Centre/Arena.  He could tell you some scary stories about some of the mistakes I made learning to drive the Olympia.  He’s part of the reason I’ve been able to move forward in my career.  He must have told a few good lies as a reference, to a few of my employers along the way; to which I am very grateful. (front row, second from left)

2013-2014 Norwich Merchants

2013-2014 Norwich Merchants

4.  My brother-in-law, Jason, was a former Assistant Coach for the Merchants. (in above: front row 3rd from right) Those were some exciting times to be cheering on the team with a relative on the bench.  It became a regular night out for the family since my parents, my sister’s family and me and my family, would have a reason to go out together.

5.  My nephew, Sawyer, was selected to be a “Mini-Merchant” for a game.  This meant he got to put on the jersey, skate to the centre of the ice and hold the flag for the National Anthem.  Another reason for the families to come together.

Sawyer as the Mini-Merchant

Sawyer as the Mini-Merchant

6.  My son’s, Noah, and Sawyer’s rookie minor hockey team, got to play an exhibition game during an intermission for a Merchant game.  This meant that they not only played, but, got to hang out with the “Big Boys” in their dressing room before they went out.  They each felt very special to be buddied up with a Merchant of their own.  My son even made sure he got a hat signed by all the players afterwards.  He just took the hat for show-and-tell this week.  He is still feeling very proud of those moments.  Those guys made some significant impressions that night.  I hope they know the magnitude of their influence.  #SmallTownHeroes

The Big Bro's and Lil Bro's

The Big Bro’s and Lil Bro’s

 

As you can see, the Merchants show up in a few key spots of my life’s journey.  So here’s a little shout out to this special team!   #GoMerchantsGo!!

 

 

Remembrance: James Allen Mason

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

I made a significant find a couple of weeks ago. In my pursuit to find more about my Mason ancestry, I noticed a gap. My second great grand-uncle, Charles Mason, had 3 sons, John, David, Walter and James. I had extensively searched the older brothers but never pursued James up to that point. To anyone new to ancestry research, one does not simply uncover an ancestor’s story in a couple of clicks on the computer (although sometimes, one might get lucky and that does end up being the case). It’s like solving a logic puzzle, you go over the clues you have and read, reread and reread them as your brain searches frantically for a lead. It’s the ultimate in detective investigation. When you get that lead, you go to your resources, search and cross-examine your search until you can verify your lead as fact. Then, you add it to your tree. This is at least, how I have tackled my ancestry. When you uncover something, it’s like unearthing treasure. I find it exhilarating.

It took me a while to find anything on the James Mason I was looking for until one day, a record showed up on Ancestry.com.  It was his Attestation Papers for joining the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force for the First World War.  He enrolled in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada on July 13th 1915.  His actual signature shows up on the scanned copy of the document.  There is something I can’t describe, that I feel when I look at the actual physical signature of James Allen Mason, the then, 17-year-old youth.  It’s a force that almost makes the hairs on my arm stand up knowing that his young hand would have made that signature in the flesh almost 100 years ago.

A part of the 45th Canadian Battalion, he set sail across the Atlantic in March 1916 to arrive in Liverpool on March 25.  On July 7, 1916, the Battalion was absorbed into the 11th Reserve Battalion which reinforced the 52nd Canadian Battalion serving in France.  Sadly, serving with the 52nd Battalion brought James to serve the ultimate sacrifice.  It was during the Battle of the Somme that he lost his life.  Only 19 years old.  I was hopeful that James would have returned to Manitoba to live a new adventure, one that I would continue to trace, but alas, it ended abruptly in the trenches of France.

Vimy Canadian Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France

Vimy Canadian Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France

Exploring further, however, I learned that James has left the most honourable legacy.  He is buried amongst his fellow soldiers, who also gave their lives for our treasured freedom, at the magnificent Vimy Memorial in  Pas-de-Calais, France.  I’ve heard about the Vimy Memorial and felt proud to be a part of a nation that provided such support to both World Wars but now, I have so much more to identify with.  I have a first cousin, 3 times removed, who gave his life so that his family, his nation and his descendents could live free. Thank you to James and all the others that gave so much.  #IRemember!

 

 

Bibliography

 

“45th Battalion (Manitoba), CEF”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified July 8, 2014.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/45th_Battalion_(Manitoba),_CEF.

“52nd Battalion War Diary”.  Library and Archives Canada.  October 6 – 13, 1916.  http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e045/e001116631.jpg.

“Canadian National Vimy Memorial”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified November 2, 2014.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_National_Vimy_Memorial.

“Historic Sites of Manitoba”.  The Manitoba Historical Society.  Accessed November 9, 2014.  http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/oakriverwarmemorial.shtml.

“In Memory of Private James Allen Mason”.  Veterans Affairs Canada.  Accessed November 9, 2014.  http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/1571699.

Laughton, Richard.  “11th Reserve Battalion”.  Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group: “The Matrix Project”. 2006-2013.  http://cefresearch.ca/matrix/Utilities/reserves/11th.htm.

“Mason, James Allen”.  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Accessed November 9, 2014.  http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1571699/MASON,%20JAMES%20ALLEN.

“Private James Allen Mason”.  Canadian Great War Project.  Accessed November 9, 2014.  http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/searches/soldierDetail.asp?ID=50172 .

“Red Poppy Clip Art”.  flickr.  Accessed November 10, 2014.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/bycp/5651100233/.

“Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial nr Vimy France”.  National Education Network Gallery.  Accessed November 10, 2014.  http://gallery.nen.gov.uk/asset91156_23-.html.

 

Acknowledgements:

A special thank you to Christian Cassidy for providing some valuable resources for discovering more about Private James Mason and Cardale, Manitoba where he was born and raised.  You can learn more about Manitoba and its history on Christian’s Blog: West End Dumplings.

 

 

Waiting can Be Meaningful – Thoughts Around Thanksgiving

Sitting and Waiting

Sitting and Waiting

I sit here in Starbucks and I am content.  I’ve got my grande, blonde roast coffee, my cheese and fruit bistro box, my journal and my ipad.  Jazz is gently playing in the background and I hear the 2 happy barista merrily preparing client lattes and frappuccinos. Life in this moment is good.

Moments like these fulfill me.  Sometimes, in my crazy life, I am forced to sit down and take it in and I am grateful because otherwise, I would miss it.  My ipad is out of juice, it’s an hour until my next appointment and I have nothing to do but wait.

Waiting for me is not a time waster or a means to an end (usually).  It is a gift.  I heard my husband tell my boys the other day, that he didn’t enjoy amusement parks because he hated waiting in lines.  I had to ponder that because I have always love amusement parks.  It never occurred to me how much time I spent in lines.  As I thought, I realized some of the best parts of the day were spent in lines.  I remember great conversations and laughter.  I remember making new friends and meeting new people.  Sometimes, I got to see cool things because I was in one place for an extended period of time.  Things like witnessing a proposal or watching a baby bird take its first flight (believe it or not, this can be possible in parks in Southwestern Ontario).  I’ve found my next hair style or shoes that I would need to scope out.  Other times, I just stared off into space, reflecting on the day or letting my thoughts just settle; recharging my batteries.  Never did I hate waiting in line.  I was grateful.  Grateful for the opportunity to slow down and be present.

I know how easy it is to find fault in things.  I’ve been prone to it throughout my life.  Looking for beauty in the face of a beast, however, has been a practice that has helped in my pursuit of meaningful life.  Seeing the gifts that waiting can provide makes one much more content than focusing on the aggravation of loosing time.  Especially when the end can be a thrill no matter how short.