Gratitude Rocks Motivated by Nature

Gratitude - defined as thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation.  A feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.  The Brighter Side believes that by having "An attitude of gratitude creates blessings".  And if you feel the same way, you'll LOVE these Gratitude Rocks. 

It all starts like this... Meet Susanne Alexander-Heaton.  She's the author of the Award Winning book called The ABC Field Guide to Faeries, which is dedicated in loving memory of a courageous young girl named Sarah Lisa Foidart, who lost her fight to a very rare brain tumour.  The book is full of love and passion with incredibly stunning images.  It's a book everyone should read, full of encouragement - urging readers to be kind to ourselves and this planet we call home.

And now, building on her gratitude, Susanne started (what she thought was) something small.  She hosted a celebration evening where she wanted to give her supporters a "thank you", Motivated by Nature.  Collecting from nature, she paid artists who utilize the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre to paint key words connected with each of the 26 faeries in her book on these rocks and give them away at the celebration.  And now, it's your chance to support these artists!  These Gratitude Rocks are now available through 6 stores in Calgary!  The proceeds from EVERY rock sold goes directly to the artist who painted it. 

Take a look at these pictures!  They're beautiful and full of love, passion, and dedication!  They may be a gift for yourself and your home to lift your spirits, or you give them to someone whom you feel would benefit from the message.  Whoever is on your giving list, let Susanne know how you (or they) benefit from the message on the rocks, then tell your story at gratituderockscalgary@gmail.com, which will then be shared with the artists who created them. 
Know that by purchasing these rocks, you will help the faces behind the words.  The Calgary Drop-In Centre philosophy is this "To compassionately be ‘the voice’ for the marginalized, disenfranchised and homeless population of our city. Regardless of the circumstances leading to their current situation, to be of service, without judgment, and to fairly and appropriately provide programs and support that assists each individual in their efforts to move forward with their lives."  And with your support to Gratitude Rocks, you could be lifting these artists spirits.  Letting them know their words touch home with you and those you give them to. 

How many people in our city are affected by homelessness?  Read the statistics here.  And each and every person who is at the Drop-In Centre has their own stories, their own life lessons.  Get to know these artists behind the words they've written on these Gratitude Rocks.  Their words speak volumes.  And with your support, who knows, the next word they paint might just be SMILE!

Gratitude Rocks are available for purchase in Calgary at these locations:

7th Chakra 1301-17 Avenue SW, phone 403-668-1743
Glenbow Museum Shop130 9 Avenue Southeast, phone 403-268-4100
Self Connection Books 125-4611 Bowness Rd NW, phone 403-284-1486
Soul Food Books 3-213 19 St NW, phone 403-270-0410
The Divine Mine 222, 11566 – 24th Street SE, phone 403-279-9555
Our Angels Centre for Well Being #3 2009-33 Ave SW (Marda Loop), phone 403-226-7665

For more on The Drop-In Centre visit them online at www.thedi.ca
Join Susanne Alexander-Heaton on Facebook



It certainly is hard to find The Brighter Side of life if you don't know where to look.  And not every one can just take in all that life has to offer and enjoy the day at hand.  My dad use to say to me, tomorrow is another day, and you can find the happiness in the days ahead.  Today may not be your best day, but there's always tomorrow.  Unfortunaetly not everyone sees life as the "glass half full".  Which is where UMatter2.me comes in.  Studio Gorgeous has teamed up with Partners for Mental Health in support of Teen Suicide Awareness to say UMatter Thursday November 29th, 2012.

Local business owner Karen Judge, in cooperation with Partners for Mental Health, is launching a day of awareness and action in support of teen suicide awareness called UMatter to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage teens to reach out for help.

The day’s events include a morning pep rally at Western Canada High School, sales of Mental Health awareness merchandise and will conclude with a Stand Up Because UMatter event at The National Music Centre (Cantos). Attendees will enjoy various stand up performances from a variety of local talent. Net proceeds from the event, in addition to merchandise sales, will be donated to Education Matters in support of the Arts within our public schools.  “The Arts are a great way for all of us to express our thoughts and feelings”, says Studio Gorgeous president, Karen Judge.

Teen suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth. We don’t talk about it, understand it or support it. Partners for Mental Health is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the way we think about, act towards and treat mental health.

Judge is an avid supporter of Partners for Mental Health and is a member of their Calgary advisory team.  “I want people to understand that mental health can no longer be ignored, we’re all affected and touched by it. That’s why I’m seeking the community’s support as together we can make a difference.”

“Start the conversation about the cause with your friends, your family, and your co-workers. Spread the word for real, lasting change.” says Judge.

The goal is to prevent teen suicide. And we can achieve this by raising awareness and  informing people about one simple preventive action – to get parents and teens to understand there is help and hope by calling 211, where everyone’s story matters.  Help other's know there is The Brighter Side out there!

For more information visit www.UMatter2.me
Other links:


Best Sugar Cookies EVER

Sometimes finding The Brighter Side is as simple as a delicious treat.  So we have a treat for you!  This is a recipe that I get asked for all the time.  I'll admit, when it comes to baking, I'm not the best.  Especially cakes.  But these cookies have been a hit EVERY TIME!  You can't mess it up.  The decorating is my favourite part.  I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as my children do... and my husband!

Desi's Delicious Sugar Cookies

Desi's Delicious Sugar Cookies
Photo by: The Brighter Side YYC
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, chill dough for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
Cut into shapes with cookie cutter.
Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.


Stage West Two Hit Wonders

I was reminded this past weekend why I absolutely love what I do!  For 20 years now I’ve been an announcer (or DJ) on the radio.  I’m more of the announcer type than the DJ type.  Especially with the definition of a DJ in today’s world.  When I think of a DJ, I think of a Club DJ.  They are exceptionally talented individuals who keep the music going, keep the party going and spin the records sending your adrenaline running. 

But as an announcer I have the opportunity to talk about things to make you laugh, smile and forget about your problems. AND that message also comes through with the music we play on our shows.  Music is really the “soundtrack to your life”.  It’s about the emotions your feeling when you hear a specific song, it’s the relation you have to the words, and it’s the time and place you are in your life when you hear it. 

Stage West Calgary
Two Hit Wonders
Two Hit Wonders at Stage West reminded me what it is about the music that sends peoples emotions on a whirl wind tour.  Two Hit Wonders could be an artist who had two number one hits on the Billboard charts, or reached the top ten twice, or reached the top forty twice, or had 2 hits in a specific genre, or a song that was a hit twice by different artists.  The cast and band of Two Hit Wonders at Stage West did an AMAZING job of these hits.  The costume changes were awesome and the singing was outstanding!  Elena Juatoc (www.elenajuato.ca) you really blew me away with your incredible voice and dancing.  Andrew McGillivary was in character for each set, and made me laugh out loud several times.  And Kraig Waye, I have to say, this is as a compliment, I really loved your personality… and you had me wishing in the end you were my little brother.  There’s something very charismatic about you.  (I hope you take this as a huge compliment!)  I really enjoyed the entire cast and band.  I had a GREAT time out.  Thank you.  (And the food was terrific!! As usual.)

Stage West Calgary
Two Hit Wonders
Stage West Calgary
Two Hit Wonders
The songs that really brought me through memory lane were Game of Love (Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders) thinking of my high school friends singing that around the campfire, What The World Needs Now is Love (Jackie DeShannon) and I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) takes me back to the short life I had working at 66CFR Good Times and Great Oldies, Glory of Love (Peter Cetera) was one of the first songs I wrote out as a teen so I could sing it over and over and over… and the theme song to The Karate Kid Part II, (I Just) Died In Your Arms (Cutting Crew) reminds me of one of the first dances I went to as teen through Air Cadets, Funky Cold Medina (Tone Loc) was just a party song in High School, and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life (Jennifer Warnes & Bill Medley) reminds me of where I was when I saw “Dirty Dancing”.  They all reminded me what people feel when they’re listening to music and to the radio.  We all have that song that brings us back to a moment in time.  It sends an emotional wave, either good or bad, through our souls.  With that being said what a wonderful world we live in for having music touch our hearts. 
Stage West Calgary Two Hit Wonders
For those making music, keep doing what you’re doing!  Your songs touch everyone, no matter what the genre.  Thank you Stage West!

Stage West Calgary Facebook
Stage West Calgary Online
Stage West Calgary Two Hit Wonders


Smart Betty is a Smart Choice

Smart deals are everywhere it seems.  You sign up for coupons, they give you a deal, the retailer is happy you're in their store hoping you'll come back for more.  But which coupon deals do you sign up for?  Which ones are the real deal?  Who can you trust?  And which one doesn't overwhelm you with constant emails!?!!  Let me introduce you to Smart Betty.

They not only offer amazing deals with discounts of as much as 50-90% off to local, hand picked businesses, BUT every time you buy, Smart Betty gives back to the community by donating 10% of their portion of revenue.  THEY GIVE BACK TO LOCAL CHARITIES!!  Yes I'm yelling!  That's awesome.  It's a win win for you and for your local organizations looking to get more revenue for their charities. 

And if you're the retailer it's good business for you!  The 10% comes out of Smart Betty's revenue. 

Smart Betty is all across the US, and now Canada too!  You'll find her in Alberta, BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.  So you can get amazing deals, and give back to the communities that mean the most to you, in your own neighbourhood! 

So how does it work?  You'll get emails letting you know about the discounts and deals, you click "buy now", you'll get a link with your voucher for the discount, print and present the coupon.  Then the 10% will go to the charity within your community that YOU have chosen to support!

Seriously?!  Why wouldn't you sign up?!  It's the real deal.  The Brighter Side has signed up to use this! It's not only a GREAT deal, but the Amazing People behind Smart Betty GIVE BACK to your charity of choice.

Have a look for yourself.  Visit Smart Betty online and start saving, and GIVING today!
Here's a list of all the community organizations that have partnered with Smart Betty in Calgary!

Listen to internet radio with Brighter Business Empower on Blog Talk Radio

Smart Betty Online
Smart Betty Calgary Online
Smart Betty Facebook
Smart Betty Calgary Facebook
Smart Betty Twitter


Making Changes Creating Futures for Women

Most will consider the normal way of life is to move out, go to college or university, get your diploma or degree, rent an apartment.... and let life begin.  Reality sometimes states otherwise.  We don't always have control of circumstances.  This is called LIFE.  Life happens, good or bad, it just happens.  It's what we do with that life experience that will dictate on how we live it.  And if life brings you to a place where you feel at a low, know that there is ALWAYS someone out there willing to pick you up again.

I'd like to introduce you to Making Changes.  Their goal is to create futures for women.  Making Changes currently delivers two programs.  The first is The Walk-In Closet.  

The Walk-In Closet offers women with financial barriers a selection of new and gently used clothing from which to choose their new wardrobe, free of charge.  The Walk-In closet wants to empower women by providing knowledge and a selection of work attire for their transition into the workplace.  It's for women who want to join the workforce, return to school or engage in volunteer opportunities.  And with the wardrobe and accessories, they believe that helping them feel and look their best is a start on the right foot.  

And to coincide with The Walk-In Closet is the second program; Employment and Life Skills Program.  This program offers immigrant women an opportunity to increase their confidence as well as to gain information about returning to work, changing jobs, foreign qualifications and going back to school.  

Making Changes has focused programs for unemployed and underemployed women to enable them to enter the workforce and become self sufficient.  What a wonderful feeling.  To be standing on your own two feet, and feel good about doing it.  

There are several ways you can help the Making Changes Employment Association of Alberta, including: cash donations, clothing donations, clothing drives, in-kind donations or by getting involved in one of their many volunteer opportunities.  

How many times have you gone through your closet and said, that doesn't fit anymore.  And it's a GREAT suit!  Or how many times have you gone through your closet and said, I just don't wear this anymore... and again it's a GREAT outfit.  Well now you know what to do with them.  Think of Making Changes.

There's also another way to give back, and a it's at a GREAT event.  Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design (EHC) is hosting DRESS CODE the fashion event.  It's to raise funds for Making Changes Association's Walk In Closet Program.  They will be showcasing the talents and skills of EHC couture students work giving a rare in site into the secret world of couture fashion.  Guest will enjoy the talent of local musicians, sip on wonderful win and taste delectable delights, plus have the opportunity to mingle with other fashion aficionados, and bid on silent auction items.  Plus a VIP event before the show will give guest a rare opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes and meet special guests before the show.  The DRESS CODE fashion event takes place Sunday November 18th at the Calgary Winter Club.  For more information click here.  To purchase tickets click here.

Ecole Holt Couture School Facebook
Ecole Holt Couture School Online
Ecole Holt Couture School Twitter

Making Changes Assoication Online
Making Changes Association Facebook
Making Changes Association Twitter


Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes by W.Brett Wilson

Book Review by Sheri Bruneau - Brighter Business Empower

When the opportunity to review Mr. W. Brett Wilson’s new book, “Redefining Success:  Still Making Mistakes”, came along, I couldn’t pass it up.  Although I don’t know Mr. Wilson personally, I have been an avid fan of Dragon’s Den and have watched various entrepreneurs try to pitch their idea to the panel of ‘Dragon’s’.   While Mr. Kevin O’Leary would often say, “How is this going to make me money?”, it was Mr. Wilson (and a few other Dragons) that would show true compassion. I also have a little bit of a soft spot as Mr. Wilson calls Calgary his home – which is also my home town.
When the book arrived at my home, there were two books.  One was addressed to me and signed by Mr. Wilson and the other was for me to give away to one of my readers however I like – also signed by Mr. Wilson.  I was pleasantly surprised at the kindness of this gesture.  After reading his book, I looked back at the letter that came with my books (addressed to me and signed by Mr. Wilson – not typed). I realized that something as little as addressing and signing a letter can seem so simple, but can be a lasting impression.
As I started to read Mr. Wilson’s book, I had two areas of focus that I wished to learn:
  1. What can I personally learn from this man and all of his success?
  2. What can I take and put into practice for the two companies that I run?
As I read and came across something that I found valuable, I would fold the corner of the page over.  After reading half the book, my new book looked like it had gone through the wringer!  One of my favourite parts of this book are the quotes that are interspersed throughout each chapter.  Although there are many, I think this one is my favorite:

“My new life motto is: simplify.  In order to live a life of integrity – by reprioritizing, rebalancing and redefining success – sometimes you just have to get rid of the junk.” – WBW

The book is broken into ten chapters.  Each chapter is titled with words that reflect the kind of person Mr. Wilson is and has become.  Chapters titled, ‘Making Choices’, ‘Choose Integrity’, ‘Go With Heart’, ‘People First’, and ‘Philanthropy Is Good Business’ are just a few of the chapter titles.

What Can I Personally Learn From This Man And All His Success?

Throughout the book, there are many lessons that I can personally take from Mr. Wilson.  One that continues in my thoughts is the one about making choices.  I’ve already had to make choices in my life that were difficult.  After seventeen years of teaching, I chose to leave a profession that I truly thought I would be in forever.  The choice to leave was not one that I took lightly and had many things to consider.  Leaving my dear teaching partner was one of the hardest things I had to do.  That being said, the choice to leave the education field is not one that I have looked back on or have regretted.  My choice to take the scary step to start my own business (without having a single business class) was a huge step for me!  My choice to start a second business with my wonderful business partner, Christina Rowsell, was also a choice that I did not take lightly.  In my family, my husband and I often talk with our teen-aged kids about choices.  Choices about who their friends are, choices about what they do with their little bit of free time, and choices about their attitudes. As my businesses grow, I know there were be many more choices that will have to be made and considered.  I do believe that we all have a choice.  It’s the choices we make that will determine the road we travel in life.
Choosing integrity is another part of this book that really resonates with me.  I grew up with two, hard-working parents who moved from Edmonton to Calgary when my twin sister and I were six months old.  My brother was three years older than we were.  They had no extended family to call upon or turn to.  In the chapter’ Choose Integrity’ Mr. Wilson touches on many facets of integrity:  be fair, be respectful, learn from challenges, and never give up.  These are all qualities that my parents instilled in me and that I hope to continue to instill in my children.
“Never be afraid to fail.  Be afraid of not learning from mistakes.” – WBW

What Can I Take And Put Into Practice In My Businesses?

Along with ‘making choices’ and ‘choosing integrity’, ‘people first‘ is one that I am dealing with right now in my business.  As Mr. Wilson puts it, “Partnering with the right people is the best way to find lasting success and satisfaction in business and on a personal level.”  Those words are ones that I will continue to come back to.
Mr. Wilson also talks about looking for passion.  When I met Christina Rowsell, she wanted to interview me to blog about my company.  Although I listened to Christina for many years on the radio, I had never met her.  We had a great first meeting and discussed many things.  The one thing we discussed were the businesses we come across in our lives.  My company had grown from a residential organizing business to one that also included business services ( Social Media,  time management and productivity).  We were finding that businesses I worked with and businesses that Christina were blogging about were having the same issues:  how to move their business forward to the next level.  Over many coffee meetings Christina and I discussed what we could do to help businesses – educate and empower them to grow.  Building off of Christina’s blog, ‘The Brighter Side‘, we formed Brighter Business Empower.

“For most successful people, hard work and enthusiasm are usually evident in everything they do.  I don’t buy that people have different morals and values in their personal lives than in their business lives.” W. Brett Wilson

As Christina and I look at building, expanding, and tweaking Brighter Business Empower, I am confident that our passion for helping individuals and businesses will be our guide.  It is absolutely refreshing to meet and work with someone who holds the same values and has the same passion in life.
Philanthropy is good business is one aspect that I am just starting to fully understand as a business owner.  Get It Together has had many opportunities to give back.  Working with Inn From The Cold was definitely a highlight.  Giving up my time to help redesign their donation center was not only a fun project, it was such a rewarding one.  Although the project is not complete, I can hardly wait to see it when it is!  I know that as I move forward, giving back will be a higher priority in planning for the future.

As part of Brighter Business Empower, we find guest speakers to speak on various topics for business owners.  Our guest speakers are asked to choose a charity of their choice.  At every seminar, Christina and I go out and find donations for the Brighter Business Basket.  We sell tickets for $2.00 each and 100% of the proceeds go to the guest speaker’s charity of choice.  It is one area of Brighter Business Empower that we are very fond of.  After much consideration, I have decided to donate my extra copy that Mr. Wilson sent to the Brighter Business Basket in January.  I believe that all business owners should own this book.

Although I could go on and on about many insights that I’ve learned from reading this book, I wanted to touch on one last item.  Mr. Wilson uses the words, ‘moral compass‘ throughout the book.  When I first saw the word in the book, I had to read it over again.  My dear friend and life coach, Elizabeth Critchley, first introduced me to those exact words years ago.  It was Elizabeth that guided me with my decision to leave the teaching profession.  It is Elizabeth that I turn to for business and life advice.  And, it is Elizabeth that I look to as my mentor.  She has such wisdom, compassion and quite honestly, common sense.  I just couldn’t imagine my life without Elizabeth in it!  It is those words, ‘moral compass’ that guide me.  Not only in my personal life, but in my business life as well.

“A moral compass is a mental process that consistently points a person in a particular direction in life.”  W. Brett Wilson

I am so glad that I built up enough nerve to email Mr. Wilson when he was asking for people to review his book on Facebook.  The 252 page book is a fairly easy read filled with knowledge, wisdom and truth.  The teacher in me often says, “If you learn something new each day, it’s a great day.”  After reading Mr. Wilson’s book, I can truly say that today has been a great day!

W. Brett Wilson Online
W. Brett Wilson Facebook
W. Brett Wilson Twitter
W. Brett Wilson Pintrest

Sheri Bruneau Get It Together Inc
Sheri Bruneau Brighter Business Empower Inc

Deer Valley Dental Care

Dentists office have come a LONG way since I was a kid.  Going to the dentist was, well... torture.  Today it's far from painful, it's more like a spa experience.  Well, at Deer Valley Dental Care it is anyway.

I was in my quest to finding a new dentist for my children.  The previous one we had was a great dentist, but worked horrible hours.  I went to book their next appointment asking for a later time as my shift at work changed to be until 3pm.  Thinking that an appointment at 3:30 or 3:45 was still reasonable, I was shocked when the receptionist told me that the dentist takes her last appointment at 2:45!  Honestly, my jaw dropped.  This was a dentist specific for children.  What parent can take their kids to the dentist in that time frame.  Not the ones that work full time.  I told the receptionist I may have to look for a new dentist.  She didn't seem to care and said ok.  Guess they don't need my service.

Walking into Deer Valley Dental Care was a whole new experience.  From the row of massage chairs to the wifi bar, the juke box, the old coke machine (filled with water - as we all know Coke is not good for your teeth), to the kids corner, I knew this would be my last stop.  There's also a personal tough to the decor with paintings featured by the staff and even clients.  Plus a hand made canoe, built by Dr. Robertson himself!  Not to mention the extraordinary staff.  Dr. Dave Robertson has an outstanding list of professionals, all in one building!  No more driving from one end of the city to the next to see different dental specialists.

As for the kids experience with the dentist, they can relax and watch Treehouse our YTV with the large flat screens mounted to the ceiling!  Brilliant!!

If you need more information, here's a list of the 10 reasons why Deer Valley Dental Care clients love going there!

1.) Hours:  Monday to Friday 7:00am to 9:00pm!  Yes I said PM!!  Even on Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm and even Sunday from 12:00 noon until 4:00pm.  Talk about AWESOME!!

2.) Experience:  They have 11 friendly, caring and experienced dentists to choose from.

3.) No Financial Surprises:  Their treatment coordinators can help you understand what your insurance coves and they will even collect from your insurance company directly.

4.) Technology:  Today's dental equipment makes your dental visits as comfortable and convenient as possible.

5.) Pleasant Visits:  They have LCD cable TV's mounted in the ceiling above every chair for your entertainment while visiting.  Never miss your favourite show because of a dental appointment!  They even have a massage chair in the waiting room for you to use before or after your visit!  (LOVE THAT!)

6.) Emergencies:  They can usually get you in today if you have an urgent problem!

7.) Convenience:  They are easy to get to, right off of Deerfoot Trail, with plenty of FREE parking.

8.) Patient Education:  They have intra-oral cameras so they can show you the condition of your teeth, which provides a valuable second opinion - your own!!

9.) Comfort:  Sedation Dentistry is now available!  Even fearful patients can relax while they complete your dental treatment.  They guarantee that they will do whatever it takes to make you comfortable.  Even extensive treatment can be comfortable and they will always make sure it is for you  And of course there is always the massage chair in the waiting room!

10.) Cosmetic:  Their dentists* can help you get the smile of your dreams!

Finally a dental office that works for the WHOLE FAMILY!  Deer Valley Dental Care is in the Deer Valley Market Place #30, 1221 Canyon Meadows Drive SE, Calgary AB, T2J 6G2.  You can call 403-271-6300 or click here! (Open 363 days a year!)

Deer Valley Dental Care Facebook
Deer Valley Dental Care Online


Unknown Warrior from Taunton England

This past summer was an emotional one.  Not only did we get to travel to England for the first time, but for the first time I felt a connection like no other to a family I've never known.

We went to England for a beautiful wedding and ended coming back home with so much more than a trip of memories.  It was a trip of emotion and discovery.  My search began while writing about the Faces Behind The Poppy.  A story about my grandfather who fought in the Canadian Armed Forces for WWII.  But his roots were from Taunton England.   I didn't have much to go off of, other than my grandfather James Henry Rowsell lived in Taunton England from when he was born until he was about 10.  His own father William J Rowsell served in the British Army in WWI, but his where about is unknown.  To this day, we do not know where he ended up.  According to my father, his mother only told him what she knew.  And that was very little.  As my grandfather (James Henry Rowsell) passed away when my father was only 3.  And not much more was spoken of.

Here's what we know.  My grandfather James Henry Rowsell and his mother Alice Manning lived in a small home in Taunton England.  When he was about 10 they immigrated to Canada, with hopes of finding his father.  Our understanding is that William J Rowsell had amnesia from the war and got on a boat and went to Canada.  My grandfather and his mother never found William. So now, some 100 years later, I've started on my quest to find my great grandfather William J Rowsell.

While in England, we drove to Taunton.  Other than my great grandfather's name, I had the address of where my grandfather grew up.  I don't even have my great grandfather's birth date.  But through all the records, somehow the address of where he grew up was in our records.  Having never searched for a lost loved one, I had no idea where to start.  So, I started with the address.  And to my surprise, there it was.  A home in Taunton England, where my grandfather grew up.  So... I knocked on the door.  To my surprise, a young woman in her late 20's early 30's answered.  I explained my story that I had this address and thought that maybe my grandfather grew up here, and she let me in.  Her name was Rebecca and she was in the process of packing and moving to Ireland.  After discussing the history of her home, we believe that it's possible that my grandfather and his mother could have made this their home.  It was originally built in 1910, and that's when my grandfather was born.  Thank you Rebecca for your kindness and letting me in to take some pictures.  While I was there, I really had a sense of my great grandfather being there.  I didn't feel as though my grandfather was though.  Perhaps that's because we knew where he was, back in Canada and knew where he was buried.

While in Taunton, we also visited the local museum The Museum of Somerset.  It really took my breath away, as I had an overwhelming feeling that this is where my family history lies.  While there I found a book called Tracing Your First World War ancestors by Simon Fowler.  From the first chapter I was intrigued as to what I can find.  "Even though the First World War lasted only a little over four years and while there is almost nobody now alive who can remember it, it continues to fascinate historians - professional and amateur alike.  Most people are drawn to the subject by a desire to find out what happened to an individual, often a father or grandfather, during their military service, or are moved by the names on a local war memorial and want to know more about these men."  That's me!  The amateur who wants to find out about a great grandfather.  In this book, Simon Fowler gives you a starting point.  First and foremost, write down definite facts as well as anything that your are not absolutely sure of.  He also suggests that it's pretty important to know which service (Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force) he was with.  Find out which unit he served with, regiment or corps for the army, ships in the Navy and squadron in the Air Force.  Find out when he served and when he was discharged.  Do you know his date of death if killed in action or died of wounds?  Where he served, usually, but not always, the Western Front (usually referred to as 'France and Flanders' in the records).  Find out what injuries or disabilities resulted from his war service.  They may have been physical such as an artificial leg or shrapnel in the body, or psychological - perhaps he was plagued by recurring nightmares?  Also, see if he was awarded any medals.

Okay... I thought to myself... this is all great if you have this information.  All I have is his name, no birth date, no information as to his regimental number, where he served, or even if he survived.  He had amnesia, and according to my grandmother, he got on a boat and went to Canada.  Now what?  So I certainly have a lot more work to do.  This will be a challenge, but I'm up for it.  My heart tells me my great grandfather made his way back to England, although his wife and son made new roots and family in Canada.  I can't help but think that what if the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey was my great grandfather?  Perhaps it is, perhaps it's not.  After visiting Westminster Abbey and seeing the Unknown Warrior, my heart was torn towards the family that never knew what happened to him.  A reminder for us all that we should all take a moment of silence on November 11th to remember those gave us a lifetime of freedom.  For those who served, those who survived, those who died and those who serve today.  Lest we forget.

At the west end of the Nave of Westminster Abbey is the grave of the Unknown Warrior, whose body was brought from France to be buried here on 11 November 1920. The grave, which contains soil from France, is covered by a slab of black Belgian marble from a quarry near Namur. On it is the following inscription, composed by Herbert Ryle, Dean of Westminster:

The Museum of Somerset Online
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Army Museum Reference books online
Tracing Your First World War ancestors by Simon Fowler Amazon.ca


Faces behind the Poppy

On Remembrance Day we wear a Poppy.  The poppy has become a familiar emblem of this day because of the poem written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCraeIn Flanders Fields”.  It was there, in Flanders Fields, which these poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I.  Their red colour is an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

It’s because of our veterans that we get to celebrate The Brighter Side of life.  As today we remember the members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.  And those who survived to tell their stories.  Plus today we thank those men and women who still serve in the Armed forces. 

To think that my own grandfather scarified his life and his family so that we can have the freedom we have today.  His name was James Henry Rowsell.  His story began February 4, 1912 in Taunton England.  As a young boy he and his mother immigrated via boat to Canada.  They landed in Newfoundland in search of his own father who went missing after suffering amnesia.  His own father was never found, but my grandfather grew up Canadian, living the Canadian dream. 

As a young man he made his way across this country to make roots in Vernon BC.  Where he married Rita Kraayeveld.  Not long after, he gave up his own life and career and enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces 1940-1945. 

Today my father proudly displays the medals he achieved, 1939-1945 Star, Italian Star, France and Germany Star, Defense Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal, and one my grandmother received from the Queen after his passing in 1952.  But there has always been a wonder in my mind as to what he went through. What he saw and what he was thinking.

Thanks to the power of the internet and Google.  I believe I have found his story.  My grandfather was part of the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment - Rank Corporal - later known as the BC Dragoons Tank Corp.  I was so thrilled to have found this information as they have pictures where I can see where he was and what he was doing.  Please find the story here.  (As the pictures are restricted and I couldn’t copy them to show you.)  Thank you to the Okanagan Military Museum as well for their hard work in putting this information together.

Speaking to my father, who was only 3 when his father passed away, he has many stories that he remembers his mother telling him.  One was that he knew his father would be safe while serving in the war. There was a kind woman who gave my grandfather a rosary to keep him safe, and she often cooked meals for the men.  To her, whoever she was, I say thank you for your kindness and warm heart to watch over these men as they were in Holland.  Another story my grandmother shared was how my grandfather helped his fellow tank members who had burn wounds.  He would bathe them in salt water to help with their burn wounds.  Even though I never met my grandfather, I feel the kindness in his heart. 

There’s one thing I’m certain, that if my grandfather were with us today, he would be very proud of the boys he had, and the grandchildren that remember him today. 

Thank you James H. Rowsell.  Thank you to all the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  And a special thank you to the men and women who still serve today.
Christina Rowsell

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