Saturday 30 April 2016

Reminded That Life Is Short. Don't Take it for Granted or Waste a Minute of It!

Today I was reminded once again how life can change so quickly

It has been a very sad day.

I'm sitting here thinking how important it is to find your joy, and live each day to the fullest, and never take friends, family and life for granted. I'm once again reminded that the people around us are what makes life special and full.

I woke up to read that a follow Ottawa blogger had passed away. We weren't close friends, and although we had met in real life, the majority of our interactions were on-line. Still, I felt a connection with her, united by mutual friends, location, age, and life experiences as bloggers, as women, and as moms. I got a glimpse of her true spirit, and the type of person she was through her social media shares (I call them smile-makers) of her day, dog, coffee, and her obvious love of her family. 

Her positivity and zest for life was so evident. Those smile-makers touched me, and no double many many others. I think she made a conscious choice to share happy and positive, and that she knew this would inspire others to find the good and happy and positive in our lives and focus on that. 

I wonder how she found the strength to do this. How do you deal with the news that your entire life is about to change. How does one fight the good fight, and stay positive, and maintain some control, when so much is out of your control? How do you make every moment count and live in the moment, while thinking about a future you might not be a part of? How do you fast track a lifetime of lessons, insights, words of wisdom and I love yous.

I'm brought to tears just thinking about my own kids going through all those important and defining moments yet to come without their biggest reality checker, lecturer, champion and cheerleader there to provide support, love and the occasional shoulder to cry on. I'm brought to tears thinking of her family now coping with such a huge loss, and the overwhelming task of moving on and finding joy. 

I was taken by surprise by the news that she had passed away. Her word for 2016 was Joy. The optimism of that post leaves me both heartbroken and inspired to try to emulate her by looking for and sharing happy, positive, good and joy. She was young damn it! Several years younger than me! She was a writer with so many more stories to tell. 

At the end of this reflection I'm left with this. No matter how crazy my kids drive me, I'm here to be annoyed. No matter how grumpy my husband is, I get the opportunity to tell him so. My family still gets to benefit from my advice and words of wisdom whether asked for, or wanted. We're blessed to be able to live in the moment, live life to it's fullest, find our joy, spread happy and positive, and show and tell our loved ones that we love them every day.

I thought I was finished this this post, but it turns there was more sad news to come. As I finished the paragraph above I received a text that from a friend telling me someone I have known for more than 20 years passed away a few weeks ago. Our families had lost touch, but before that for years there was a group of friends that experienced university, marriage, buying our first homes, and the adventure of having kids together. I am shattered and heartbroken. There won't be a chance to reconnect, reminisce, hear him laugh, and see that smile. That warm happy smile that always had just a bit of mischief in it. I am heartbroken for his wife and kids, his sisters and his parents. I am just heartbroken.

Life is short, so don't take it for granted or waste a minute of it! 

Yep, just me Cathy reflecting out loud about life, love, family and loss. 

Friday 29 April 2016

Commonly Misused or Misspelled Words Beginning With Letter "L" #GrowYourVocab

Ten Words Beginning with the Letter "L" Commonly Misused, Confused or Misspelled.

This post was brought to you by the letter "L".

Label: "Descriptive term, or item used to identify someone or something".

Legible: "Possible to read or decipher, Plainly discernible, apparent".

Liaison: "Means of communication, One that maintains communication".

Licence: (License - British spelling) "Permission to engage in a regulated activity, Document, card, plate or tag issued as proof of official or legal permission".

Liquefy: "To cause to become liquid".

Latter: "Person or thing mentioned second of two". 
Ladder: Tool made of "bars, rungs or steps fixed between two supports".

Lessen: "To decrease or make less, To become less".
Lesson: "Something to be taught, Something to be learned, An assignment or exercise".

Liable: "Legally responsible for or subject to".
Libel: "Published statement damaging of a person, Discredit by circulation of libelous (alt spelling: libellous) statements".
Libel vs Slander: Libel is a "published or written statement to damage reputation, discredit" or harm a person. Slander is an "utterance of or dissemination of false statements or reports concerning a person in order to defame or injure that person". Legally: Libel is written, whereas Slander is verbal.

Lightening: "To make lighter, Reduce weight of". 
Lightning: "Abrupt discontinuous natural electrical discharge in the atmosphere".

Loose: "To free or release, Not tight".
Lose: "Misplace, Lose your way, Unable to find".

Take a peak at my #GrowYourVocab: Led, Lead, and Lead and put an end to this confusion.

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about the letter "L".
Definitions via the Free Dictionary.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

3 Bruce Willis Movies: This Week's #What2Watch Recommendations. #W2WW

What to Watch 

It must be Wednesday! 
And time to answer the burning question asked by friends and family: "What's Good to Watch?" 
I share movie and show recommendations on Cathy Thinking Out Loud every Wednesday (aka #W2WW). This week's recommendations: Three action movies recently been added to Netflix Canada starring Bruce Willis. Add Lay the Favourite and Tears of the Sun to the list and you have a Bruce Willis Movie Marathon. Check the ratings to make sure these are appropriate for your streamers.

Cop Out
Classic Bruce Willis delivering funny one liners with a straight face.

A Good Day to Die Hard
In the tradition of the Die Hard series, lots of action, beating up bad guys and one liners. 

Quite the cast in this movie! Action, bad guys and comedy.

I'd love to know what you're streaming these days. Please share in the comments section!

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about what to watch.

Note: I have not been compensated for this post and my #W2WW, What to Watch posts are simply something I like to share with my readers. They are not connected to Netflix, or my involvement with the Netflix Streamteam.

Style, Speed & Sustainability! @FordCanada #FordFarmToCar I'm Impressed!

When I thought about Sustainability and Cars it was mostly limited to gas consumption, emissions and recycling, but not any more.

Certainly not after the #FordFarmToCar Sustainability Breakfast at the BConnected Conference. Not only was I pleasantly surprised to see Ford's innovative efforts to find, develop and use sustainable materials, but also by the unique way Ford decided to present this information to the attendees. We were treated to a delicious breakfast, with a menu created from food products Ford is currently using or testing for use in their vehicles, and a collection of #FordFarmToCar recipes bound in such a way that additional recipes can easily be added. 

I just kept thinking over and over again: I did not know that! 

I love Ford's commercials, and social media engagement. It's interactive, personal and positive. Anyone who reads my blog knows it's no secret that I believe a brand should be more than just about their bottom-line, at least if you want my business. That's why I was so surprised I didn't know more about the #FordFarmToCar initiatives. Even more surprising is this isn't new. 
Ford started using plastics made from soy as early as 1940!

Currently Ford uses soy for headrests and seat cushions, rice hulls to reinforce plastic materials, wheat straw reinforced plastic, coconut coir, and cellulose from sustainably grown and harvested trees and plants. On top of the biomaterials and food by-products being used, Ford is currently testing uses and ways to incorporate sugar cane, tomatoes, corn, bamboo and algae into their manufacturing and vehicle production. 

I respect the fact when Ford was asked tough questions in the Q & A portion of the presentation, they didn't shy away from tackling them head on, in terms of what they are doing, how they are doing and why they are doing it. This included questions around the issue of reallocating farming resources to grow for manufacturing rather than food. Efforts to develop innovative ways to fully utilize all parts of a plant and use food by-products such as tomato skins over reallocating farming for food resources to farming for manufacturing purposes really appeals to me. 

This type of approach to sustainability and an openness to discuss concerns, answer questions and encourage feedback has a direct impact on my purchasing decisions. I see it as a win win win. It's good for me, good for Ford and good sustainability practices. In my opinion we all, including brands, have responsibilities around our Earth, our carbon footprint and finding ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink how we consume. Efforts to use, test and develop sustainable options for the vehicles they make is an example of how Ford takes responsibility. Well done Ford! 

For more information about Ford's approach to sustainability and its use and research into sustainable materials refer to Ford Motor Company - Sustainability Report2014/2015, which includes information on sustainable materials. And for some of that personal and positive engagement I spoke of follow Ford Canada and their social media team on twitter Ford Canada, FordCraigSilva , and Matt Drennan-Scace to name a few. 

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about #FordFarmToCar Sustainability Breakfast.

Note: I was not compensated for this post. The purpose of this post is merely to share with my readers. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday 19 April 2016

From Squabbles To Rainbows: Siblings Bond Over @Netflix_CA #Streamteam

Putting an end to the dreaded sibling squabbling ... 

and enjoying some well deserved peace and quiet.

I have two boys, born 20 months apart, and from an early age it was clear they have very different personalities. Their likes, interests, and hobbies are completely different. Even now as young adults they bicker and poke at each other over almost everything (it drives me CRAZY!). Having said that there are a few exceptions to the rule of sustained sibling squabbling. One such exception, when bickering turns to silence or even better laughter is when they watch a show they both like together. Suddenly the bickering "evil offspring" are all sunshine and rainbows. AND Mama like rainbows. 

Equation for Peace and Quiet, Sunshine and Rainbows:
As easy as 1, 2, 3
(Thing 1 + Thing 2) 
Sibling Bonding over 3 of their
favourite Netflix shows:
House of Cards
Arrested Development 
The Ranch
Peace and Quiet and Sunshine and Rainbows.

The above shows aren't appropriate for younger kids, but there are loads of great selections younger siblings are sure to agree on. Here are three great series perfect for some sibling bonding time. 
Project Mc2
Pee-Wee`s Big Holiday
Kong: King of the Apes

Kids still having trouble agreeing on what to watch? This Netflix What to Watch Fortune Teller is a great way the kids find consensus on their own. (Not a bad idea for the Hubby and me either lol)

You can follow along on all the #Streamteam adventures using the #Streamteam hashtag, and for Netflix Canada updates follow them on twitter

Happy Streaming!  

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about siblings bonding over Netflix.

Note: As a member of the Netflix Streamteam I receive Netflix and a streaming device free of charge for the purpose of my Netflix Streamteam reviews and posts. All opinions are my own. 
Images for Shows and Fortune Teller are courtesy of Netflix. 

Wednesday 13 April 2016

3 Recently Added Series to Stream on @Netflix_CA #What2Watch #W2WW

What to Watch 

Netflix has added some great new series to stream! 
As you know "What's Good to Watch?" is a common question amongst my friends and family, and the reason I share movie and show recommendations on Cathy Thinking Out Loud every Wednesday (aka #W2WW). This week's recommendations are three series recently added to Netflix Canada for your streaming pleasure. 

Doctor Foster (TV-14 Rating)
Suspense Drama (British) - Very good series!

The Divide (TV-14 Rating)
Suspense Drama - I thought it was excellent! Fingers crossed there is a Season 2 

The Ranch (Tv-MA Rating)
Comedy - I thought it was hilarious, but crude and not for the kiddies!

I would love to know what you're streaming these days. Please share in the comments section!
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about what to watch.

Note: I have not been compensated for this post, and my #W2WW, What to Watch posts are simply something I like to share with my readers. They are not specifically connected to Netflix, or my involvement with the Netflix Streamteam.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Three Things to Add to Your #Clearwater Itinerary #Florida #travel @VSPC

I discovered three new things to do when visiting Clearwater. I can't believe after visiting Clearwater so many times this was the first time visiting all of these! 

I have been to the Clearwater/St Pete area at least 25 times, including a trip this past March. I'm shocked that in all that time I have never been to: 

Three very different experiences perfect for all ages. I suggest combining a visit to the Aquarium with Frenchy's for lunch since they are located quite near to each other. 

Clearwater Marine Aquarium:
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a hospital for injured marine life, but their goal is more than that. At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium they also strive to educate and encourage preservation and conservation of marine life and their habitats. FYI Parents: Their programs include kids educational activities and camps.

Interesting Fact: You may not realize that the movie Dolphin Tale is based on a true story, and that Winter was sent to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in the hopes of saving her life and rehabilitating her. Winter and her closest friend Hope, also a rescued dolphin live permanently at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As part of the cost of admission to the Aquarium you can take a trolley or boat ride over to a secondary location where you can enjoy Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure. You will find loads of information about Winter, her prosthetic tail, and props from the Dolphin Tale movie sets. 

Image courtesy of Clearwater Marine Museum

Image courtesy of Clearwater Marine Museum

Frenchy's Rockaway Grill:
Reasons to go to Frenchy's Rockaway Grill: 1) Fun lively atmosphere, 2) location location location, it's right on the beach with a fantastic view, 3) great food and service. The view of Clearwater Beach makes it the perfect destination for lunch, but the delicious food and great service is why I'll be returning many many times in the future to Frenchy's.

Interesting Fact: Frenchy's has their own seafood company making daily deliveries to each of the Frenchy's locations, so you're guaranteed the seafood is always fresh. So fresh that they're known for their grouper dishes, and I can personally attest to the fact the Grouper sandwich is indeed delicious! I highly recommend it! My Mom enjoyed the She Crab Soup and her Shrimp Scampi which came with a very tasty Coleslaw (I may have stolen a bite or two). For those who like a non seafood option my Dad and Thing 1 both very much enjoyed their Burger and Chili-Dog served with chips. We all left totally satisfied with out meals and the experience, and I think that is key; it felt like an experience rather than just a meal. As I was leaving I caught a glimpse of the Seafood Ceviche which looked delicious, and it will definitely be the first thing I order on my next visit!

FYI: Frenchy's has several locations.

The Dali Museum and the Dali and Disney Exhibit:
I wasn't really sure what to expect, but The Dali Museum is well worth the visit. I was pleasantly surprised and how much I enjoyed it. Besides the permanent collection which includes an amazing collection of Dali's work in a unique building that is an art piece in itself, there is a magical garden, a children's education center, a cafe and a wonderful gift shop. Gallery public tours and audio guides are free with admission.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Dali and Disney: Architects if Imagination Exhibit. It was interesting to see how their lives overlapped, and how they influenced each other's work. Interesting Fact: Both Dali and Disney were on the cover of Time Magazine. 
FYI Parents: The Dali has an interactive education center for the children visiting the museum. 

I can think of nothing but positive things to say about the Dali Museum; the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, it's very well run and organized, and I'll definitely be recommending "The Dali" to my friends and family.

Well that's my take on three great options to add to your To Do list on your next visit to the Clearwater-St Pete Area. Looking for a few more ideas? Check out my post on things to do in the Clearwater-St Pete area and be sure to take a look at the Visit St Pete Clearwater website for all sorts of information on events, links and ideas for your next trip to the St Pete-Clearwater area.

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about 3 new things I tried on my visit to Clearwater - St Pete Florida this spring.

Note: I received admission to the Clearwater Aquarium, The Dali Museum and a meal at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill for the purpose of this post. All opinions and recommendations are my own and reflect my personal experience. 

Sunday 10 April 2016

The Wait: Realizing My Entire Life Could Change in a Matter of 10 Minutes

There are many important and defining moments over a life time. Moments when something shifts or changes, and we know nothing will ever be the same.

A recent appointment and a ten minute wait had me reflecting on all the other women who have sat like me waiting to hear whether their entire life would change in a matter of 10 minutes.

It's unusual for me to discuss my age, my health or mammograms on social media or my blog. I'm a very private person so tend to "think out loud" in more general terms than personal specifics. When I stray from this policy is when I keep mulling over something and feel like "thinking out loud" about it is somehow more important than my desire for privacy. 

Recently I had a mammogram appointment. It was nothing to be alarmed about since it's standard at my age. Although I would never call it a barrel of laughs, it involves more discomfort than actual pain. The staff were thoughtful, friendly and knowledgeable. The appointment was quick lasting about 15 minutes, and digital imaging means results are quick.  

I was also told since it was my first mammogram it's not unusual to get a call back to help establish a baseline for what is normal for me, and if that was the case I should hear within a few days. So when the call came a few days later stating they would like to make an appointment to take a few more images I thought nothing of it. 

I arrived at my second appointment, although not looking forward to it (remember it's no barrel of laughs) pretty indifferent. I've never had any serious health issues or illnesses. So far so good. When the time came for the mammogram I was told they would only be taking images of one breast and they needed some magnified images, which would be taken to the radiologist while I waited to see if any further images or action was required. 

So knowing it was only one breast specifically and I would wait while the radiologist reviewed the images made me less indifferent. For the first time I began to think about what if something was wrong. I had not mentally prepared for the possibility of such news. We finished with the imaging, and sat to wait. 

In that 10 minutes my entire life could change. How many women like me have sat here alone waiting to hear if their worlds would be turned upside down. I have several friends who have survived breast cancer. They must have been here at one point, nervous but reassuring themselves it was nothing. I started to wonder how they felt in the 10 minute space of time just before everything changed. Were they nervous like I was. Were they playing multiple hypothetical scenarios in their head like I did? 

If they asked for a biopsy would it hurt? I'm a total suck, and don't like pain. Would I be able to handle chemo and treatment? Would treatment work? How would my family deal with this? My youngest is in his last year of high school, preparing for university. My husband was away for work. Would I wait till he got home to tell him? Would I be able to do that? Surely I would need someone to talk to.

All these thoughts and so many more running through my mind. 

I'm one of the lucky ones. My 10 minutes resulted in no life changing news. All appeared to be normal and fine. As I breathe a sigh of relief for myself I can't stop thinking about all those whose 10 minute wait ends differently. How scared and totally unprepared they must have felt, since how can one ever really be prepared for receiving the news that "we found something" after a mammogram. 

I have no solution, or advice or comforting thing to say. This experience has provided me no insight into how one might prepare or cope with a different outcome than the one I had. I can't say I know how you feel, because I don't. But in those 10 minutes as I sat there alone, before results determine if my world would change or stay the same, I felt two things; an overwhelming sense of connection and solidarity with others who have faced those 10 minutes of uncertainty, and incredible sadness for those whose 10 minutes ended in bad rather than good news. 

Yep, just me thinking out loud about how one's life can change in the matter of 10 minutes. 

Ode to My @BesideU_Canada Backpack #RFIDguarded #TravelPlayWork

Ode to BESIDE-U Canada Minneapolis backpack ...

Comes in three different colours, 
and has pockets a many.
It combines style and function, 
and storage plenty.

It's both sturdy and strong, 
but still feather light.
Perfect to transport my stuff, 
on a road trip or flight.

Both a RFID guarded pocket and.
spots for a laptop and tablet.
To protect my personal information,
and all of my gadgets.

The features included have 
exceeded all expectations. 
Design that suits Mother and son, 
and appeals across generations.

In less than a month I will be attending my sixth conference, and the Beside U Canada Minneapolis Backpack is perfect to pack up all my conference essentials. It easily fits and keeps organized: my wallet, laptop, tablet, phone, notepads, and all the other gadgets and accessories. One Bag, fulfilling all my needs! The only way to improve on this would be to add the Alyssa Wallet and the Carli Crossover Bag which can be used in combination with the backpack or separately when only few essentials like a wallet, phone and room key are required. Together they create a mobile organizational system perfect for commutes to work, travel, a conference or daily life.

Mom's favourite features:

  • I like the simple design that incorporates lots of compartments without looking busy.
  • I like that this design of this backpack is great for either myself or the men in my family. No need for a closet full of backpacks.
  • It's has a strong light-weight water-resistant nylon exterior.
  • I love all the pockets and compartments, including two large exterior pockets each with a smaller zipped compartment on the pocket flaps, that make staying organized easy.
  • Separate interior sleeves to protect a laptop (up to 15 inches) and a tablet. Finally somewhere to put my tablet!
  • Interior RFID guarded zipped pocket large enough to fit a wallet, to protect against identity theft and blocks RFID signals from being unknowingly scanned. 
  • Padded adjustable straps and top carrying handles.
  • Logo keychain.
It took me a while to finally decide on a bag from the Beside U Canada website because there were so many great products and bags to choose from. Personally, I think combining this backpack with a small crossover bag allows for flexibility and mores it from an excellent accessory to a "system" perfect for travel, play or work. 

It's easy to see why this is the perfect backpack to organize all my conference essentials and gadgets, but it turns out the Minneapolis backpack is perfect not just for Mom, but also for son. No sooner had this backpack arrived before Thing 2 grabbed it for his trip to Spain. Take 2 from Thing 2 - Have Backpack Will Travel - to Spain

Take a minute to read my friend Aeryn Lynne at Geek with Style post. She does a great job of explaining RFID and why RFID guarded pockets are important to protect your private information.
Beside U Canada: on Twitter, on Facebook 

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about #TravelPlayWork and my Beside U Canada backpack.

Note: I received a Beside U Canada Minneapolis backpack free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.