#WhatISaw Has Opened Eyes

In addition to my #NaBloPoMo project – trying to post every day for the month of November – I also had another project on the go.

I called it #WhatISaw and I posted iPhone photos on my Instragram account. It was a very interesting, sometimes difficult exercise. Where to shoot, what to shoot, and will it be interesting enough??

As it turns out, I had more then enough interesting photos to shoot, in my own neighbourhood, and anywhere in Vancouver I happened to be.

It’s done something else, though.

I think #WhatISaw really has driven home the point that a legally blind person like me can give the rest of you a real, tangible idea of how we see our world. I’ve shot whatever I felt like, and sometimes it’s been fairly ordinary, sometimes beautiful, sometimes funny. But it’s been straight through my eyes, um, eye.

I’ve enjoyed it so much I plan to keep going. But I think I may change it up. #WhatISaw could be #WhatIAte, or #WhoIMet on some days. But the main thing is that you’ll continue to see me!

And within a few days, they’ll all be linked to my Flickr page as well.

And if you have any ideas on what you’d like me to discover, please let me know. I’d love your input!

And now, I’d better plug my iPhone in. Who knows what awaits me tomorrow?

Thanks for your support. It’s greatly appreciated.

Busy Brain – From Nostalgia to Pet Peeve

It’s funny how the brain works. I started the day feeling nostalgic, and ended up a wee bit peeved.

It started with an exchange I had with a friend on Facebook about A Charlie Brown Christmas turning 50, which then had me going down memory lane about all the major events that are forever etched on my mind as a kid growing up in the 60s.

The assasinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luthor King. The civil rights movement. The Vietnam War protests. The (first!) Trudeaumania. The first moon walk.

For me, all of them are in black and white – because in the 60s, our TV set was small, boxy and certainly not colour.

It’s memories like this that are burned in my brain…

As I look over at my big flatscreen TV, it seems hard to believe. So many things have changed in my lifetime. So many things we take for granted were unheard of when I was growing up.

There were no fax machines, no voicemail, no PCs, no email, no Windows, no Macs, no cell phones, no iPads – and no digital cameras.

There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook, no Snapchat, no Pinterest.

Wow. When you actually list everything, it’s amazing, and daunting. Ancient history to so many people who’ve simply grown up with everything I’ve been lucky enough to adopt as they happened!

Our society has gained so much. I know for myself that technology has helped me navigate the world in ways that I could never dream of as a kid. My photography is a testament to that. And I absolutely love my gadgets. I can’t picture my life without them.

But there are downsides to everything, even amid such incredible progress. One pet peeve in particular has been gnawing at me lately, and that’s where my mind took me next.

I fear we’re losing our awareness of the world and people around us. I see downcast eyes glued to phones and ears stuffed with earplugs of every variety. What I’m not seeing is as much direct interaction between people, and because of that, I fear we are at risk of losing compassion and empathy for others. I see it on our transit system all the time. I just hate it when I see elderly, pregnant, and disabled passengers standing because people refuse to look up and offer their seat.

And you know what? This distraction can also be dangerous. Aside from the real and constant danger of texting and driving, people on foot are also in danger of hurting themselves and others. I’ve almost run into several people on the street or even worse – on a flight of stairs! – who stop dead because they’re texting on their phones.

I’m not alone. I’ve had a few conversations about this lately.

Believe me, I can get preoccupied with my iPhone too – but I’m making a very concerted effort to limit my use when I’m with others, and I never use it when I’m walking. I wish other people would do the same.

OK, rant over. I have no idea where this busy brain will take me next…

TEDxVancouver Memories – Mohamed Fahmy

I’ve been a fan of TEDxVancouver for several years now. I also photographed the event for fun a few years ago. This year, I offered to join the small group of volunteer photographers for two reasons. First, I always welcome the opportunity to showcase my photos. But I also wanted to hear Mohamed Fahmy speak. I’ve been drawn to this brave, passionate and articulate man and his struggles over the past few years.

Mr. Fahmy, you may recall, is the award-winning Egyptian-Canadian journalist and author, and former Egypt Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera International who in 2013 was wrongly imprisoned in Egypt for more than 400 days for allegedly collaborating with and airing “false news” on the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. He was finally pardoned by the Egyptian government in September of this year.

Here’s his conversation with host Riaz Meghji.

And here’s what I was able to capture on camera.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

The capacity crowd was mesmerized, and Mr. Fahmy was given a standing ovation at the end of the interview. But it wasn’t all seriousness.

Near the end of the session, Riaz asked whom Mohamed would like to play him if a movie were to be made on his life. Knowing that George Clooney’s wife Amal Clooney was one of his lawyers, the audience broke up. Mr. Fahmy smiled, and said that he was grateful for everything the Clooney family has done for him – and left it at that. Riaz got a further round of laughter by offering to stand in if George was too busy! It was a welcome moment of light-heartedness during an intense discussion.

I’m thankful that this man who has suffered so much trauma can now enjoy a new life here in Vancouver, where he’s a Global Reporting Journalist in Residence at UBC. And I’ll never forget what a privielge it was to be there to capture these moments.

But there’s more!

This was hands-down the best TEDxVancouver I’ve attended, so I’ll also be showcasing some of the other speakers who enthralled me, motivated me and moved me to tears and laughter.

Stay tuned.

NaBloPoMo – Near the Finish Line

Today is the 25th of November. I’m 25 days into my NaBloPoMo project – essentially, writing a blog post every day for the 30 days of the month. This is my 22nd post, which obviously means I’m a few days behind and won’t make my 30 in 30. It made me stop and take stock, and I wondered out loud if I should be feeling disappointed.

But you know what?

I’m not.  

I’ve accomplished a lot in my first-ever NaBloPoMo. I’m doing better than I thought I ever would. I’ve possibly surprised some of my more proficient blogger friends with what I’ve done so far. I’m happy, not only with the number of posts, but also with the kind of posts I’ve actually written.

I’ve been true to me, I’ve been able to showcase my photography, and I’ve been a lot more courageous, a lot more disciplined than I thought I’d be. I’m also very touched by the feedback and encouragement I’ve received, which I never expected. Thank you.

I still have five days to go. There will be more words, more photos. I just needed today to regroup, screw up my confidence, pat myself on the back and move on. I’m hoping that most of us who sit in front of the computer screen and give our words a voice need to do that once in a while.

And after this NaBloPoMo exercise is over? I am promising me – and you – that you’ll hear more from me. I’m enough of a realist to know that I may never write 20+ posts every month – but I’ve caught enough of the writing bug to feel certain that I will continue.

I hope to cover more of what makes Vancouver the place I love through my words and photos – food, drink, events, arts, non-profits, people – but it doesn’t mean that I’ll lose my passion for or stop writing about advocacy, politics, PR and social media, the people I care for, and every once in a while, my cats!

Someone wrote me after hearing me on CBC Radio last week, and told me that I write like I talk. Good. It means you’re getting the real me. And whether or not I write a dozen posts or 20 every month moving forward, that’s exactly what I want to deliver.

At the end of the day, that’s what will matter to me.

And on I go…


Help CBC Help the Hungry

I’m a self-confessed CBC Radio nerd. I figure I’ve been listening non-stop for at least the last 40 years! The voices of CBC legends Peter Gzowski, Bill Richardson, Arthur Black, Vickie Gabereau and Barbara Frum still make me smile, even though I haven’t heard them on-air for years.

And I love my local CBC heroes in Vancouver – I never miss Rick Cluff on Early Edition, Gloria Macarenko on BC Almanac and Stephen Quinn on On the Coast during the week. It’s those people I and so many of my fellow Vancouverites will flock to see on Friday December 4 at CBC Vancouver’s annual Open House in support of Food Banks BC.


There’s never, ever been a more important charity to support.  Did you know that in BC, 100,086 individuals are relying on a food bank each month – and one out of three of these people is a child?

Last year through the national food sharing system, Food Banks BC distributed more than 1.8 million pounds of food worth close 4.5 million dollars to its 97 food banks throughout the province! Additionally through its BC Share program each year, Food Banks BC receives more than 1 million dollars of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

So, come down to the CBC Vancouver studio at 700 Hamilton St., meet your favourite personalities, enjoy live entertainment throughout the day and tour the CBC studios.

Image 2015-11-24 at 11.05 PM

And donate, please. You can donate online any time starting now.

The pledge lines will be open on Dec. 4 from 5 a.m. – 6 p.m. PT
Onsite donations will be accepted at CBC Vancouver: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.

I’ll be there for most of the day – with my camera, of course.

Hope to see you there, Vancouver!