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


Remembrance – and Remembering

Tomorrow, I’ll be joining thousands of Vancouverites in Victory Square for Remembrace Day ceremonies, remembering the sacrifices of brave men and woman through many wars. I’ll be capturing special moments on camera. So today, on Day 10 of my #NaBloPoMo adventure, I’m honouring an uncle I never knew, and also cherishing the memory of another man who meant the world to me.

My uncle, John O’Donnell, lost his life close to the end of WWII at age 23, robbed of a future, and taken from his loving family too soon. Here is the description that I discovered with the photo…

O’DONNELL, Lance Sergeant, JOHN JOSEPH, D/26811, 22nd Armd. Regt., Canadian Grenadier Guards, R.C.A.C. 26 February 1945. Age 23. Son of Frank and Ann O’Donnell, of Montreal, Province of Quebec. Grave Ref. XXII. A. 9. GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, Netherlands.

JohnO'Donnell.MontrealGrenadiers.WWII.diedMarch1945I’ll never forget the effects of war and loss on the family, friends, lovers and of everyone lost in such conflicts. But I always remember someone else on November 11th.

Back in 1969, when I was 15, I lost my grandfather, Frank O’Donnell on Remembrance Day. He was my best friend and I still feel his loss like it was yesterday. He raised eight kids in Montreal’s Pointe St. Charles neighbourhood, lost his son to war and his wife to heart disease far too early. He loved the Canadiens, Labatt 50 and Export A cigarettes. When I was a sickly infant born way too soon, he walked me up and down the hallway, whistling softly.

CAB_49701He never stopped whistling, or caring for me. I learned to say Jesus Murphy because of him! And he was a constant source of love and support to my mother and her three girls through tough times.

He called me Caddy. I adored him. I never stop remembering him.

He was a chemist. He would have liked that Dave was a chemist too.



Love you, Gramp.

Aim, Pray, Shoot – Me and My Photography

Well, it’s #NaBloPoMo Day Four, and I left you with a question – why on earth would I find my passion in photography? And how the heck do I take the pictures I do?

This post will tackle the first question.

Photography has always been a way for me to hold onto memories of trips, life events and people that I would have trouble seeing in detail. Before the emergence of digital photography, I took tons of photos, got them developed, and pored over piles of photos, some of which ended up in an album. Many, of course, ended up discarded, because really, how many scenic photos of the same mountain or lake do you need?

The minute I got my first little point-and-shoot digital camera, I was ecstatic and liberated – and a lot less guilt-ridden! Who cared how many photos I took? I could DELETE them! So I happily snapped my head off.

But I took photos because I COULD, not because I WANTED TO. Then, almost ten years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan – and my entire reason for shooting photos changed completely. I realized that I needed to go back to Canada with memories that would last forever. And that’s when I started to seek the interesting, the unusual, the unexpected everywhere I went.

The photo below was the very first shot I took on a cheap little CoolPix, where I actually thought about composition and the story it would tell. It was just an old bike, near a very crowded temple, but it’s still one of my favourite photos.

Photo by Cathy Browne

My favourite Tokyo shot

I also came across a young boy having a meltdown during a tour of an observation tower, and he simply decided he was done. There was no mistaking what was going on in this shot!

Photo by Cathy Browne

He’s done.

My trip to Japan also sparked a lasting interest in architecture, and this building caught my eye.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Not what I expected in Japan

That was the beginning of my journey. Baby steps for sure, but I made sure I was telling a story.

In 2009, Dave and I moved to Vancouver, and I was presented with new fodder for my photography. There was plenty of opportunity to take all the usual gorgeous shots of the mountains and the seawall, but I still giggle at the very first one I took.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Well, we’ve been told.

So I persevered. Then when Dave died in 2011, I found myself at loose ends. I needed something to ground me, to focus a lot of restlessness, distraction and emotion. So, I took the plunge and bought a Nikon D7000 DSLR and a few lenses, and I thank God I did. Not only because I did regain much equilibrium, but also because I found out I was good! The wonderful thing is that other people think so too. My camera gear and an iPhone have totally expanded my horizons, so that I’ve been able to take an incredible variety of photos that reflect what I love most – food, wine, travel, the outdoors, events, people, and yes, my cats.

Here are a few more shots, but if you really want to see what I can do, feel free to check out my Flickr Page. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Why do I put so much of my heart and my time into my photography? Because I truly love what I do. And I also believe that I’m more than just an inspiration. I’m worth hiring.

It’s what keeps me going.

Let me know if this has been an #EyeOpener for you.

The Me You May Not Know – Chapter Two

Day Three of my #NaBloPoMo journey…

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, I was just about to tell you how my life took a 360 degree turn after I was rejected for a teaching degree.

So, here’s what happened.

I got mad. Very mad. I had been through a lot in my life, and I had accomplished a great deal. I had already exceeded many people’s expectations. I was NOT going to let some official in a suit tell me that I was incapable of teaching ‘normal’ people.

So, I went to the university newspaper, and I made noise. And they wrote an article about my situation, calling me a ‘squeaky wheel’, which pleased me no end. And later, mid-way through the fall semester, the Education faculty reversed their decision, and accepted me. But I was long gone.

I had discovered the power of media relations. I left Montreal and moved to Toronto, and began what is almost a 40-year career in PR. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

I started in non-profits, most notably with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and then, in the early 1980s, I started working in the emerging tech PR business – and it was my love and my passion for many years! And I couldn’t have started at a better time, as the world was evolving from electronic typewriters and press kits and news conferences, to computers, voice mail, faxes, email, and in the last decade, social media, tablets and smart devices.

Over the years, I’ve worked in Toronto, Ottawa, Silicon Valley and Vancouver. I’ve worked with the best PR practitioners in the business, for the best and most innovative companies in the world. I’ve been able to meet industry giants, world leaders, visionaries and the hard-working people who are the ones who bring ground-breaking products to life. My only regret is that social media came a few decades too late for me to share some of these memories with posts, tweets and selfies!

Thinking back, I can’t believe my good fortune. I saw and was part of the most incredible technology innovation we’ve ever seen, and embraced it all. As a result, I have both the traditional PR tools and the tech savvy that makes me the person I am today. I can’t help but think how much value I can offer a generation that takes so much of what we have today, but that’s the stuff of a later post!

Much has happened on the personal front, too. I got married to Dave Kane in 1981.

Photo by Cathy Browne

The Two of Us

And I was widowed in 2011, after watching Dave’s heart fail over the course of two decades following a near-fatal heart attack at 44.

We were bolstered by family and friends both online and off. Indeed, the love, friendship, encouragement and support of my social media community keeps me and my cats going to this day. I couldn’t have made it otherwise.

And then, unexpectedly, another door opened that changed my life yet again. I picked up a DSLR camera and found new meaning and passion, and the courage to keep going.

But how does a legally blind person take photos like these?

Photo by Cathy Browne

Rose after the Rain

Photo by Cathy Browne

Storm along the Seawall

Photo by Cathy Browne

Paris – Where Else?

That’s my post for tomorrow – stay tuned. It will be an #EyeOpener.

Blind Tastings – It’s Not Always About Food. It’s About Comfort

Just a thought prompted by a conversation I had with a lovely friend a few days ago…

A restaurant can be so much more than a place to eat a favourite dish, or grab a few drinks with friends. It can be a sanctuary, a refuge, a source of warmth.

Three and a half years ago, my husband Dave was very ill in hospital with heart and kidney failure. Everyone, except he, knew he would’t make it this time. And every day, I was there, for five months. And every evening, tired, drained, I would stop by one of my Yaletown haunts to grab a little something to eat before I went home to the cats and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

I had three favourites – Hapa Izakaya, where I could satisfy my nigiri fix when I felt the need to eat extra healthy; Cactus Club, where I could sit in one of their cosy little booths in the back and silently cry and no one would notice; and Society, where the staff treated me so kindly, they would stealthily take my dinner off my bill and I’d only pay for my wine. They all gave me solace when I needed it most – and I never really thanked them, or acknowledged their kindness. I regret that.

I remember one night so vividly. It had been one of those hard days, when nothing went right, nothing was good and everything looked grim. I was so tired, so sad, that all I wanted to do was grab a bite and go home. I slipped into Hapa, was greeted warmly, and ordered a light meal. It didn’t take me long to notice that the young man sitting beside me was ordering some interesting dishes.

Naturally, I thought he must have been a food writer (I know a few!). But when I asked him, he laughed and said no. He just knew the chef and was a kind of guinea pig. Then he asked me if I lived in the area and if this was one of my local places. So, I told him that this was one of my go-to places on the way home.

He was still well into his meal when I finished, so I said good night and called for my bill. And he laid his hand on mine, and told me to go home. He was taking care of the bill.

I almost fell to the ground in gratitude. And I hugged him, in tears. I’ve never forgotten.

Why is this memory so strong this week? Because I’ve again been blessed with kindness from a variety of people, and again, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

I think we forget sometimes how fantastic humans can be to each other.

Let’s not forget.

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