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.


Today, I Just Want to Share Some Thoughts

It’s not my usual post. This sums up what I’m feeling these days.

12249713_10153827361778530_6810748367091844170_nI hope I’m not alone.

It’s been a week since the tragic, terrifying events in Paris. Just over a week since the devastation in Beirut. Days since the carnage in Nigeria, and hours since a bloody hostage-taking in Mali. And intermingled with our horror at these and countless other events, is a surge of fear, mistrust and hostility for Syrian refugees who are attempting to flee their own hell.

My mind is reeling at what I’m reading and hearing.

US politicians threatening to block Syrian refugees from entering their states.

GOP candidate for President of the United States Donald Trump talking about setting up a Muslim database, issuing special identification to Muslims, or even shutting down mosques altogether.

People signing petitions to keep Syrian refugees out of their cities.

And so much hate online, to the point where I can’t read any comments at all any more.

I was talking to a friend about this the other night, and we shared our thoughts on whether this hatred has been here all along, or if this is something new.

It’s not that that xenophobia, racism, intolerance and hatred haven’t been around since the dawn of time. The biggest difference for me is that not only is the horror and chaos happening before our eyes, but the vitriol is also immediate thanks to the Internet and social media.

As a result, we’re seeing fewer discussions based on an educated perspective, just heated arguments fueled by fear and ignorance. That scares me.

Please understand – I’m not a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ as someone called me with much scorn recently. I’m a practical person who believe in keeping our country and all countries safe and secure by doing everything we can to prevent groups like ISIS from infiltrating our borders.

But I also believe in compassion, in opening our hearts and our countries to people who have had their lives destroyed.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and perhaps this opinion could result in some anger directed my way. That’s fine. I can handle that.

But let me leave you with a poem that I have shared a few times, and that continues to shake me to the core no matter how often I read it. I hope it opens some minds and hearts.

And if you’ve had the patience to read all the way to the end of this, thank you for reading

Home, by Warsan Shire
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.
your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.
it’s not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.
no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive
and you are greeted on the other side
go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage –
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?
the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces – for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.
no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what
i’ve become.

How a Smurf Saved My Day

I was on the way home from a busy day running errands, attending a long meeting at City Hall, and grabbing a quick bite for dinner. And I could feel the bubbling up of dread.

Oh God, I haven’t written a blog post yet!

You see, I’m in the middle of my very first #NaBloPoMo ever – shorthand for Write a Blog Post a Day for a Month. It’s been hard. I’ve missed a day or two because I’ve been on photo shoots. And the guilt is growing.

What will I do??

I’m tempted to just throw in the towel and admit it’s too damn hard, that I’m just not cut out for this kind of dedication. But heck, I am so close to getting to 30 posts in 30 days. I want to prove I can do this!

And then I see him. Sitting in all his azure grandeur in the window of my local thrift store.

Photo by Cathy Browne

A big, blue Smurf. And the memories came flooding back.

I had a story to tell, after all.

Years ago, I’m guessing in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I had what was one of my most bizarre PR assignments. To help launch a new Smurf-inspired canned pasta, I had to escort a seven-foot high Papa Smurf figure to all of the morning radio shows in Toronto and drop off samples.

Let’s just say it was a memorable experience.

My model inside the giant Smurf was not happy. He couldn’t see that well out of the eyeholes because he was short. It was the height of summer and that suit was HOT. And I had to escort this giant form in and out of office buildings and up and down elevators and escalators for days on end.

And for some reason he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that his escort didn’t see much…!

Needless to say, this was one for the books. We’d be in a studio, dropping off the product, and he’d start to whimper because he was so miserable. And I’d have to nudge him and say “Quiet!” in a fierce whisper. And when we actually did an outdoor drop, with school kids milling around, I swear to God I heard soft sobs coming from that big blue body. It was, after all, around 80 degrees.

My God. What a riot.

Anyway, thanks, Big Stuffed Smurf, for giving me some inspiration, and a bit of a laugh.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the PR profession is all glamour!

And Then, CBC Called…

Yesterday, I posted on the significance on November 17th for me. Not only was it my late husband’s birthday, burt it was also World Prematurity Day, and as a middle-aged preemie myself, I wanted to celebrate the occasion by telling my story. I was really touched by the response!

And then today, I got a call from CBC Vancouver, wanting to talk to me as a follow-up to my piece and my life as a tiny survivor. I was excited, happy and terrified! But I had met  host Stephen Quinn a few times before, and was very comfortable, so I made it through!

You can hear the CBC On the Coast interview at approximately 1:16:55.

I’ve discovered that I’m also in an article on the CBC web site. I am truly blessed.

But it’s not just about me. It’s about every tiny baby who’s struggled, survived and is a miracle, no matter what they achieve in life. Anything and everything is possible.

Stay scrappy kids. This old gal did.

Celebrating Canadians in 3D

My friend John Biehler is a geeky genius. His current passion is 3D printing – and he’s even co-authored a book on the subject.

John’s working on an amazing art project with the Simons chain of department stores and celebrated artist and author Douglas Coupland. Over the course of the next several months and coinciding with Simons’ expansion across Canada, the #3DCanada team will scan the faces of Canadians across the country and produce miniature busts of each person. Not only will they have a 3D keepsake, but at the end of the project, Mr. Coupland will produce a work of art literally showcasing the face of Canada in the 21st Century.

Check out the 3D Canada video below.

I dropped by to cheer John on, and to meet Doug Coupland. (I confess to being rather starstruck.) And of course, I took some photos.

Here’s my #3DCanada experience at the Simons Park Royal location.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne




Photo by Cathy Browne


Photo by Cathy Browne

And of course, I had to take a selfie.

Photo by Cathy Browne

It was a fantastic experience, the Simons store is gorgeous, the crowds were huge and enthusiastic, and it was particularly rewarding to see so many parents and kids there. I can’t wait to see – and photograph – the culmination of the #3DCanada project in the next year or so!