The Day One Tweet Changed Everything

Sometimes, my Facebook account surprises me. Today, it reminded me of a traumatic event I had tried hard to forget. But I had also forgotten how much good came from it. And all because of one tweet.

Three years ago today, on US Thanksgiving, I was robbed in the security line at LAX. My purse was spirited away in seconds, by someone who just as quickly disappeared into the crowd and was never seen again.

As usual, I had requested a wheelchair and an attendant to escort me through security. Their role is to help get me through the line, assist me in getting my belongings scanned and collected at the other end, and then get me to my gate. I usually have a decent experience – but not this time.

This attendent in LAX didn’t know how to escort a blind person through security, was rude, and worse, actually pushed me and the wheelchair into a cart of plastic bins to get them out of his way. I was appalled. Then, he chose not to stay by me when I was retrieving my belongings – instead, he yelled at me to hurry up and get back into the wheelchair because he “wanted to go home”. I guess he had a turkey dinner waiting for him.

Well, in my haste and confusion and with no assistance, my purse was stolen right off the line. My iPhone, iPod Touch, Surefire flashlight, wallet, cards, keys, sunglasses and my specially made reading glasses, all gone in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, they did NOT get my passport.

I was scared, devastated, crying, and helpless – and at the mercy of a negligent attendant who wanted nothing else but to go home on a Thanksgiving afternoon. I had no idea what to do.

But suddenly, happily, things began to turn around.

A very kind attendant relieved my surly guy, who apparently did go home. She then got her supervisor involved. Her name was Diane, she was an angel, and she ROCKED. She first apologized for her employee’s attitude and neglect. And in a kind act that astounded me, Diane reached into her purse and handed me $10. I KNEW she didn’t have that much money, and it was a big sacrifice on her part.

But the most important thing Diane did that day was letting me use her cell phone so I could do the best and most expedient thing I could think of. I sent out one desperate tweet about my predicament.

That tweet got the attention of friends and acquaintances, who offered help and moral support. My dear friends Lorraine and IdaRose sprang into action. Lorraine managed to cancel bank and credit cards, while IdaRose and her husband Neil arranged a cab (actually a white limo!) to pick me up at the airport to take me to their annual Thanksgiving feast. I was wined and dined and hugged many times that evening by a crowd of very supportive people, got to hang out with friends I love, and even had a night at a nearby hotel paid for so I could rest and recover from the day.

THAT is what I was thankful for on that Thanksgiving Day – and what I recall today with tears in my eyes.

Things are just things, life has its scary moments and hard times, but it’s people, in person and online, those in hugging distance, and those who offer them from afar, that make life worthwhile. 

Thanks again Diane, for making me feel I mattered when all I felt was lost. Thanks, Lorraine, IdaRose, and Neil, for being there when I needed you the most. Thanks to everyone who saw my tweet, tweeted, retweeted, and made my heart sing. Thanks also to my dear friends Dick (who left us this year) and Barbara, who have always given me a place to call home. I will never forget your love and support. And I’ll always try to pay it forward.


A Special Day in November

Sometimes on certain days, events that touch us collide unexpectedly. Today, the 17th of November, is one of those bittersweet, triumphant days.

First, there is the reminder of someone no longer here.

My husband Dave would have been 71 today. That’s young by any standard, but he didn’t live long past his 66th birthday five years ago, when I tied a balloon around his IV pole in the hospital, and he was mortified about that.

His heart condition debilitated him a great deal, so on his birthday I always post a photo of him where he looked healthy and vital. He deserves that.

Photo by Cathy BrowneHappy Birthday dear. We miss you!

November 17th also affects me on another level.

It’s World Prematurity Day, which draws attention to the issues and challenges of premature births around the world. Prematurity is the world’s number one killer of young children – something that shocked me in this day and age.

But today I prefer to focus on the miracles, the triumphs, the joys that come after the early struggles, the sleepless nights in the NICU, the hoping and praying. There are kids who’ve defied the odds, who are living their lives despite limitations and challenges – or perhaps, because of them. There are kids who’ve grown up and are well into adulthood and even middle age.

There are kids like me.

Sixty one years ago, I was born very early, and weighed around two pounds. I was exposed to too much oxygen in the incubator, which thankfully saved my brain and lungs,                                                                                                                                 but destroyed the delicate eye tissues. But I survived, and thrived – due to a mother determined to keep me in ‘normal’ school, supportive teachers and family members, and a love of learning that spurred me on to become the first person in my family to graduate with a B.A.

I’ve had a long career in PR, I’ve become a familiar presence on social media, and I’ve found my passion in photography. Not bad at all, I’d say.

We’re a scrappy lot, we preemies. We’re survivors. And I am happy to celebrate all of you and your families today.

Photo by Cathy Browne

If you are the parent or grandparent of a preemie, or know of a special preemie who deserves to have their story told, head over to the World Prematurity Day Facebook page, where you can share stories and videos about your baby or a baby you love and learn from families around the world. The World Prematurity Day page also features a digital world map where the public can add their story to the interactive map.



It’s Time for Kindness

It’s getting close to the holiday season, a time of giving and receiving, of joy and family and good cheer. But it’s not a happy time for many people, who may be homeless, poor, hungry and struggling.

It’s time for all of us to be kind, to give back. And I can’t think of a better way than to be part of my friend Marc Smith’s 4th Annual #30DaysOfKindness campaign. Marc has a huge heart, and a keen sense of community, and it’s a testament to his hard work and ability to motivate people that the 30 Days Of Kindness is one of the most popular features of his 30 Day Adventures series.

I participated in the 30 Days Of Kindness last year, and felt so good about my contribution that I’m doing it again! This year, I’m supporting one of the most inspirational organizations I know – Beauty Night Society, founded by the amazing Caroline MacGillivray. Beauty Night is dedicated to building self-esteem and changes lives of improvished women and youth in Vancouver through wellness programs, life skills development and makeovers.

This month, Beauty Night is in the process of soliciting donated items for 1500 Christmas stockings that are being sewn, decorated, filled and delivered to their clients. The stockings are created by fashion designer Nancy Perreault, and are sewn by volunteers. Other volunteers dressed as elves hand out the stockings at shelters, transition homes, housing locations, drop in centres, and health care facilities.

I’ll be donating a few bags of goodies myself – but I need your help to make this act of kindness the best it can be.

Here’s what we need:

Journals (the most requested item)
Coffee Cards
Granola Bars
Body Care Products
Nail Care Products
Dental Care Items
Skin Care Products
Hair Care Products
Makeup Samples

From 2-5 pm on Monday, November 23rd, I’m camping out to accept your donations at one of the most community-minded businesses in my South Hill neighbourhood – Eastside Fitness, located at 5854 Fraser Street at 43rd Ave. Please drop in – I’m happy to take whatever donations you’d like to give! And if you’re unable to make it on Monday, let me know by commenting below, or emailing me. I’ll be happy to facilitate your contribution.

I can tell you from my experience that nothing feels better than offering help, no matter how insignificant it may seem. I have been helped by so many people myself – and I’m forever grateful. The best way to repay people for their kindness is to give back as much as I can as long as I can.

Won’t you join me? Your kindness will never be forgotten.

Remembrance Day in Photos – No Words Necessary

Photo by Cathy BrowneIt was a glorious day to celebrate Remembrance Day and commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces, and the next generation of Canadian military.

Under the canopy of a brilliant blue November sky, I joined thousands of men, women and children standing in respectful silence, and when we could, erupting in heartfelt, grateful applause for everyone who has fought, suffered, and died keeping us all safe and free.

I am letting my Remembrance Day pictures speak for themselves. There is not much more to say, except Thank You.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by CAthy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne


Saying Yes

This is Day Nine of my 30-day #NaBloPoMo commitment to write a blog post every day in November, and I must say I’m a bit fried, but also pretty pleased with myself.

It’s definitely not an easy exercise, but I’ve managed to come up with a topic every day so far. And today, my thoughts are revolving around a little gift I received the other night from a good friend.

It’s a little metal disc that sits comfortablty in the palm of your hand, with the word “Yes” etched on it.CAB_8777

It’s a reminder to me to be positive, no matter what life throws at me.

It’s “YES” to celebrating victories, large and small.

It’s “YES” to reaching out to friends (and friends I haven’t even made yet) for conversation, connection and support.

It’s “YES” to continuing to set goals and succeeding beyond my expectations.

It’s “YES” to simple pleasures, like strolling Vancouver’s magnificant seawall.

It’s “YES” to more hugs, and more laughter.

It’s “YES” to pursuing what I love and sharing my world in photos.

It’s “YES’ to me.

Thank you, Marc Smith. You have a good and expansive heart!

Oh, by the way – there is a “NO” on the flip side. But I haven’t bothered to turn it over.