Thursday, July 7, 2016

Black Cats Tell All With A Whole Lotta TLC And Help A Candid Conversation With Layla Morgan Wilde

I like cats, I like them a lot, especially big fluffy cats. Now there is a lot of myths about cats especially black cats that have been held for a long time.  It’s hard to believe, but people are actually terrified of black cats. They are often associated with evil and bad luck. Well one person is trying to dispel some of the myths about cats in particular black cats.  I am pleased to welcome Layla Mogran Wilde from She is a cat lover and is working to dispel some black cat myths through Black Cats Tell All. Hey Layla thanks for doing a Candid Conversation.

Cliff T.: So you are part of cat wisdom and that sounds interesting, can you give us some idea of what that means, as in what is cat wisdom all about?

Layla W.: When I founded Cat Wisdom 101 in 2011, I wanted but the URL was taken. After five years of blogging, I'm ready for a new version. Cat wisdom is the timeless and universal wisdom I glean from my feline muses. 

Cliff T.: So is the goal here to educate and entertain people with and without cats in their lives?

Layla W.: It's safe to say that all of my readers love cats. Most have cats but some are in between cats for whatever reason and find my comfort and connection with other cat lovers in my community.

Cliff T.: The reason for the question is that I see that you are a cat consultant, I have to admit I have not heard of such a job, please let us know what it is you do?

Layla W.: Twenty years ago, it was rare to find cat behaviorists, cat experts of any kind but now we have them on TV like Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet There are hundreds of books and many blogs like mine delving into cat care, cat behavior and cat culture. I originally worked with behavioral issues in cats but in the past year devoting more time to advocacy work, consulting in the pet industry and with celebrity cats. I might consult on how to reduce stress on a cross country move, travel safely to a photo shoot and how to navigate social media when a cat becomes popular.

Cliff T.: How did you end up working with cats? What got you interested in doing this kind of work?

Kayla W.: Cats are a life long passion but I fell into this field by accident. When I was living in Toronto in the mid-nineties, I noticed feral cats in my back yard and started feeding them. When the time came for me to move, I worried who would take care of the cats. We didn't have the network of cat rescue groups we do today.

I called my local paper, The Annex Gleaner and asked if they would put out a call for volunteers. I figured I might as well start a grassroots rescue group. They paper printed an article by a rookie journalist named Rebecca Caldwell.  I had no clue what to expect.

One day the doorbell rang and a young woman on a bicycle asked if I'm the person with the rescue group. I nodded, she handed me a hundred dollar bill and the Annex Cat Rescue was born. Overnight, my home become a hive of volunteers and I had to learn how to manage a rescue group. One of the volunteers was a lawyer who did all our legal work pro bono do get our charitable status. Other volunteers did TNR and a group would make catnip toys in my living room for fundraising. I'm proud to say, I was the inventor of the long tail or kicker type catnip toy in leopard and other fabrics. ( I wish we had Instagram then!). For a couple years my home phone number was the point of contact for the group. I fielded all calls about emergencies, vetting prospective adoptees, organized foster homes and implemented new adoption protocols.

When I moved to the U.S. in 2001, I left the group in capable hands who eventually wrote me out of their history. This is the only remaining evidence naming me as founder. It's from The Annex Cat Rescue's old website. The new one has reinvented the history saying it was founded by a group with no mention of me. They stripped me of my legacy. I've attempted to make contact several times over the years to no avail. It's a shame since there is so much more I could do for them now.

Cliff T.: Indeed it is sad to see that your legacy was taken like that.  Hopefully that will change.  So is there a good day and bad day scenario for cats and people working with them?

Layla W.: In my experience those who work with cats whether formally or as volunteers are a passionate bunch who care deeply about cats. There is always more need than the ability to fill the need, whether it's education, funding, staff. It's never enough which is why there is a high burn out rate for shelter and rescue workers. On a good day, nothing is more satisfying than saving a life or making a difference in the lives of cats and those who love them.

Cliff T.: What is the biggest challenge you see in your work that cat owners need to deal with and also what those who do not have a cat need to overcome?

Layla W.: The biggest challenge is empowering clients to take responsibility for their part of the issue. Most cats don’t think they are the problem or have a problem. They're simply responding to their owners behavior. Most of the time it's the owners who have created the issue and not the cat.

Cliff T.: Let’s look into Black Cats Tell All, what exactly is the goal.

Layla W.: In a sentence: to reframe black cats as adorable adoptables. My ultimate goal and dream is a color-blind world where cats are not judged by the color of their fur.

Cliff T.: Is it that bad for black cats, I mean are they more a target than say other cats?

Layla W.: It depends where you live in the world. A black cat in Japan is considered lucky. In Canada and The U.S. black cats are targets of cruelty based on ignorance and superstition.

Cliff T.: Layla, what are the biggest myths about black cats that are out there. What kinds of things are said about them and is there also violence they face?

Layla W.: The biggest myths are based on superstitions like black cats are in league with the devil and it's unlucky if one crosses your path. The long association of cats and witches goes back hundreds of years to the Dark Ages but gets activated every Halloween with stereotypical, scary black cat iconography.

Cliff T.: Can you give us a glimpse into Black Cats Tell All, meaning how do you plan to give black cats a voice, I noted that you seem to want to do that in the voice of the first person.

Layla W.: All the contributing feline "authors" are narrating their story from the perspective of the cat. It's up to their owner/slave/ assistant to translate the story accordingly. It offers a fresh perspective and plenty of creative opportunities to promote a positive message. The only caveat is to not include graphic violence or anything to perpetuate existing myths.

Cliff T.: I do know that there are some issues generally with cat population control etc that said I am assuming that Black Cats Tell All is meant to give a voice to cats and issues they face specifically black cats. Layla what has the feedback been like?

Layla W.: Black cats are 50% less likely to be adopted in a shelter. That means they are at higher risk to be euthanized. The response from black cat lovers is encouraging. They know the truth of how wonderful black cats and can't believe others don't. We've had some great press and social media support including a Facebook live video event by Cole and Marmalade. Fundraising is never easy and we're 50% funded but our campaign ends on July 14. One way or another I'm committed to bring this project to fruition.

Cliff T.: Excellent well thanks for filling us in on some of the details and for doing a Candid Conversation.

Layla W.: Thank-you. It's always a pleasure to share my passion for cats.

Layla Wilde is the creator and editor of Black Cats Tell All, a Nonprofit Kickstarter project via Cat Wisdom and she wrote to us from New York. The kickstarter campaign link is Visit CatWisdom101 across all social media @catwisdom101

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Excercise + Study = Healthy Mind Healthy Body: A Candid Conversation With Dr. Chris Shaffer, Troy University

Here is an interesting idea, go to a library study and exercise while doing it! Believe it or not that is what students at Alabama’s Troy University can now do. I think this is pretty cool and I called on the man behind the idea Dr. Chris Shaffer, Dean of Library Services and Associate Professor at Troy.

Dr. Shaffer what an interesting concept, thanks for letting me speak to you about it here on Candid Conversations.

Dr. C. Shaffer.: Thanks, I am glad to do it.

Cliff T.: This is a bold move, what prompted the idea to bring exercise and study together?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: I read an article about the concept and thought it was a cool idea. The bikes from FitDesk are reasonably priced, so I thought we would put three at our Dothan, AL location as well as three on the Troy campus and see what the response would be.

Cliff T.: From what I have read you have put exercise bikes into two of your libraries that allow students to exercise while they study, this of course done by having a spot where the student can place a book or laptop to use at the same time, what has been the reaction to the bikes?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Students, faculty, and our administration have really liked the idea. We were getting a ton of inquiries before we even had the bikes assembled.

Cliff T.: Can you describe the bikes, as in can the speed be adjusted on them etc.?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: They are your standard exercise bikes, but they have a table that will accommodate a laptop computer, or other reading materials. There is a knob that will strengthen the resistance as you pedal. A digital screen lets you know how many calories you have burned, or distance you have pedaled.

Cliff T.: Are you planning on adding more bikes to the current locations and in other libraries that are part of the Troy University campuses? And at which libraries can the students find them?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: Due to the response, we have ordered three more bikes for the Troy campus, and also six elliptical machines that go under desks. Originally, when it was just going to be three bikes, I was putting everything in a relatively small study room. Now, though, we have repurposed a larger space to accommodate all of the equipment. There is room for another six bikes at least should demand present itself.

Cliff T.: Dr. Shaffer do the students have to reserve the bikes, like they would say a computer or books? I am also assuming that a student would have to show student I.D. to use them correct?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: Actually, computers are first come, first serve. For the moment we are doing the same with the bikes. Based on what we observe, a policy will evolve. Some people are worried that users will spend so much time on the bikes that we need to set a time limit, which may happen, but since this is at the least a quasi-strenuous activity, I question whether people will stay on them for hours at a time. As for I.D. cards, we are a state assisted institution, and also a government documents repository, so the public is welcome to use our facilities.

Cliff T.: As I stated at the beginning of our chat, this is a bold move, what is the goal, what are you wanting the student body to take away from this project?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: In all honesty, it never occurred to me that we were going boldly where no library had gone before. The level of interest in this idea has proven me somewhat wrong, at least in the way people perceive libraries. What makes libraries cool is they relate to literally every discipline and interest. There are no limits to what you can do with a library unless you lack all imagination and creativity.

Cliff T.: I bet you have been getting quite the response from outside of the university as well. Did you anticipate such a huge response to the program?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: Never, but what a great thing to have happen. I have so far seen articles comparing what we are doing with a school in Austria, there have been interviews with USA Today, the Huffington Post, and the national radio program America in the Morning. NBC News also requested a statement.

Cliff T.: I know this is a tough question to answer, as for the rest of the world, what would you want the message about the program be?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: I never have just one message. I think one message is to try to lead a balanced life. Troy’s motto is educate the mind to think, the heart to feel, and the body to act. I don’t know that I had ever thought about how profound that truly is until we bought the bikes and started receiving so much attention, which led to a great deal of reflection on my part. However, if you think about it, if you follow the advice in that motto, you will probably have a successful, healthy, and happy life. Another thing to consider though, is this is a statement about libraries not being about the stereotypes they sometimes become. Think of Donna Reed transforming into a librarian (the horror, the horror) in Its a Wonderful Life. That is not what libraries are like today, and that is a large part of the American Libraries current Libraries Transform campaign. Libraries will also be about quiet places to study in part, but they are also places for innovation, creation, discussion, debate, lectures, film series, and yes, exercise.

Cliff T.: I would have to say that this is something I have never heard of or seen before. Have you been getting calls from other schools looking at this idea?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: If you look around the Internet, you will discover we are not the only academic library doing this, but I think it is safe to say it is a cutting edge idea.

Cliff T.: Dr. Shaffer, from the sounds of this is a very personal mission of yours, would I be accurate in that statement and if so in what way?

Dr. C. Shaffer.: I think it might be more accurate to say it is becoming a personal mission. It was an inexpensive experiment that I thought might be well-received. Obviously, I underestimated ever so slightly.

Cliff T.: Dr. Shaffer, I think you have definitely got a great idea off the ground, thanks for speaking with me and my readers here on Candid Conversations.

Dr. C. Shaffer.: Glad to; it’s been fun.

Dr. Christopher Shaffer, Dean of Library Services is bringing exercise and study together at Troy University, where he has brought in exercise bikes to the university’s libraries.

Dr. Shaffer also received the I Love My Librarian award last  year, so that might interest you as well:

Of course Dr. Shaffer wrote to us from Troy University which is located in Troy Alabama.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

An inspiring Candid Conversation about Thank God It's Wednesday with author Mark Langford

Balance is hard to achieve these days especially for those who are in the corporate world. However it can be done.  Though sometimes it has to come with a turning point in life, as was the case for Mark Langford, author of THANK GOD IT’S WEDNESDAY! THE BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL’S GUIDE TO REALIZING PURPOSE, PASSION AND LIFE/WORK BALANCE.  Mark it is a pleasure to meet up with you thanks for doing a Candid Conversation.

Mark L.:  My pleasure, Cliff and I appreciate your interest in promoting life balance to your readers.  You have a great blog concept and I’m honored that you asked me to contribute to it!

Cliff T.:  Thank you, I mentioned that sometimes an event has to come to pass for people to change things and direction in their lives, you had just such an experience.  What were you doing and what happened that caused you to decide to make some changes and what was the event that caused the sudden stop in your life?

Mark L.:  Well, I can trace the inception of my current station in life as a Transformational Career Coach back to a near death experience I had while living and working overseas in 2004.  I was working in Switzerland launching one of the world’s first deployments of Internet television.  In full health and at the pinnacle of my career I contracted a penicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) infection following a routine, outpatient Arthroscopy.  It caused me to spend 41 days immobilized in a foreign hospital, undergo a dozen invasive and very painful surgeries, and to lose 35 pounds (and I’m a guy that needs to gain weight, not lose it!).  I came out of one 9-hour surgery in really bad shape and my lungs filled-up with fluid – it felt like I was drowning in my bed.  Between the panic of not being able to breathe, the non-stop pain, and emotional fatigue, I finally surrendered all my resistance and I told “God” that I wanted out.  I was really ready to be done with it all.  In that moment – when I dropped all my resistance - that I entered into a state of utter bliss and complete knowing.  It was like being in full awareness and omnipotence – like stepping into the Library of Congress for the Universe that stored all knowledge and intelligence.

I truly believe that I communed with some higher power that evening.  I felt as if I was being held like a babe in arms and I experienced the most pure, unconditional love I have ever known.  The most amazing part was that this divine entity allowed me to ask it questions.  It provided me with answers to all of my burning curiosities about things like life, love, and why things are like they are in the world.  For hours I laid there in this dreamlike state, asking question after question and being granted answers that came in the form of thoughts and feelings (not words).  Ultimately, I posed the question everyone wants to know and asked, “why am I here?” and to my utter astonishment, I received a response.  This Being conveyed to me that I was born to be a teacher and healer.  But what I forgot to ask in my amazement was “how” I was supposed to apply this gift in my life.

Cliff T.:  Wow. Talk about getting shaken and stirred. So after getting back on your feet what did you decide to do?

Mark L.:  I wish I could say everything fell magically into place after that mystical encounter. Instead, it launched me into a deep 10-year study of how to integrate higher consciousness and spirituality into my life and career and how to help others do the same.  My ultimate breakthrough came when I began working with a life coach. That’s where it all clicked and became clear that I was meant to use my gifts in the business world and to support they type of people I knew best: business professionals like myself to move past their “Work Sickness” (live to work syndrome) and to how to create the time and space to let their unique gifts to emerge.

Cliff, what I can tell you is that now I feel gratitude every day because I get to do what I absolutely love.  I get to help people to define and live their passions and purpose and to guide organizations to figure out their greater good.  I feel like I am living proof that someone can have a great career as well as the level of life/work balance they desire.

Cliff T.:  Was this the path to learning about as you put it “Work Sickness?” What was that like to realize that work was not helping, but in fact was hurting you?

Mark L.:  So perhaps I should first explain a little about what I mean by the term “Work Sickness”… Work Sickness stems from following someone else’s “playbook” – external beliefs and expectations - to the exclusion of your own personal inner knowing.  It manifests itself in the form of being constantly on the “grid” (i.e., checking email, texts and making oneself available to work even during personal time), feeling anxious and unfulfilled, and often shows up in the form of cynicism, fatigue and being overwhelmed. Work Sickness also saps energy, limits creativity, and evaporates hope leaving its victims feeling trapped by routine with seemingly no means of escape.

 And, just to be clear, I am not saying that work is “bad.”  In fact, work is a fundamental component of human existence as it transforms thoughts into things that improve and expand our ability to experience life.  However, working to live is another story.  If you have Work Sickness, then you do things out of compulsion instead of from joy.  And, when the joy of living is eclipsed by a sense of obligation, self-sacrifice and lack-of-control, that’s when it hurts you – psychologically emotionally and even physically.

Fortunately, I found that there is a cure for Work Sickness and it doesn’t require any heavy-duty therapies, renunciation of wealth or metaphysical incantations.  The way to overcome this disorder is to plug into the highest performing asset in your personal portfolio – your own creative ability.  The antidote to Work Sickness is to employ a combination of tapping your inner wisdom, implementing efficient work practices and having the courage to take bold actions.  These principles used together in a conscious and consistent manner provide a foundation for a healthier, happier and more inspired career.  And, needless-to-say, healthy, happy and inspired people are not afraid to use and express their full creative abilities and develop an immunity to Work Sickness.

Cliff T.:  The book is called THANK GOD IT’S WEDNESDAY!, Love the title. Can you describe what it is that you are attempting to impart to your reader, audience?

Mark L.:  TGIW is about you and how you can gain more clarity, confidence and control in your life and career.  The book helps you figure out what your purpose is, how to align your entire life around it and how to use more of your talents and abilities to bring your unique gifts into the world. TGIW teaches that your Professional Purpose (graphically represented below) is the intersection of:

  • What you love to do
  • What you do well and,
  • What the world needs, and 
  • What you can get paid for  

The book also shows how your “outer game” – or what your environment and what you are experiencing – is simply a reflection of your “inner game” – or your dominant thoughts and beliefs and what you “tune into.”  It offers strategies on how to connect with your inner genius using creative insights, innovative ways to evoke your creative “Source Energy.”  It also offers hands-on exercises and samples of success that illuminate the path to personal and professional success.

Cliff T.:  You mention that the idea is to plug into creative “Source Energy,” can you describe what this means?

Mark L.:  OK, but I’m going to get a little metaphysical.  I use the term Source Energy to describe the vibrational, self-aware energy that gives rise to everything that exists in the Universe.  Everything originates and ends in Source Energy and it is the very definition of “life.”

Perhaps the most salient aspect of the Universe (the medium though which Source Energy is able to express itself) is the way it enables human thought to manifest physical reality.  Like a computer system, the Universe (framework) along with the Natural Laws (operating system) provides the means in which we can conceive (input) and create (output).  Consider for a moment that absolutely everything man-made finds its genesis in creative thought. We can literally “will” things into and out of material existence.  Starting from thought, we form plans and concepts.  We can then choose to transform our thoughts into things by taking action on them.  The sequence that transmutes thoughts into things is called the “Creative Process,” and it is a gift given to us by Source Energy and supported by the Universe and Natural Laws.

Like composers, we provide the creative direction for any type of music we wish to compose —be it melodic, dissonant, soothing, agitating, cheerful, sorrowful, inspiring or even horrific. The Creative Process is available to every one of us 24 hours per day, 7 days per week throughout our entire lives and allows us to manifest whatever we can conjure up and believe in.

Stated simply, you and I have the power to create whatever we desire.  Energy makes up everything in the Universe - from the sun and stars to the lint in your pocket.  In Physics, there is a principle called the Law of Conservation of Energy.  This Law stipulates that energy can only change form and can never be created or destroyed.  This transmutation of energy from one state into another is the very secret to conscious manifestation.  A creative thought backed by action is behind every invention, discovery and development that ever came to fruition.  The real power of manifestation comes when you learn to use it intentionally to choose whatever it is you wish to experience.

Cliff T.:  Also noticeable is a focus on the spiritual. That leads to a question, how can a career driven person gain wisdom and spiritual insight, while still staying the course of a corporate path? The two worlds seem to collide. How does one make them mesh together and does the book act as a guide to doing that?

Mark L.:  Teilhard de Chardin, the famous French philosopher and Jesuit priest, once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  I love this quote because it is often forgotten that humans are three part beings:  mind, body and soul.  If you believe this, you come to realize that you are never not a spiritual being – even at work.  “Spirituality in the workplace” sounds almost oxymoronic. However, spirit is the self-aware energy that gives life and order to the universe and everything therein.  We are inherently spiritual beings and there is no switch we can flip to stop the flow of spirit from running through us.  We can, however, disconnect from (forget) our spiritual source through denial or ceasing to be self-aware.  Re-connecting to spirit merely requires becoming “conscious” of it and allowing it to guide our thoughts, words and deeds instead of ceding that control to the mind-based ego.

Work environments today are rife with individuals disconnected from their spiritual source. This separation allows Work Sickness to set in and causes people to operate from the ego (scarcity and lack) rather than the spirit (love and unity).  In a spiritually disconnected state, people tend to make decisions based solely on data provided by their physical senses.  Such head-based decision-making places focus on the finite world and often manifests itself in the form of self-interest and short-term solutions.  By contrast, conscious decision-making uses both the head and the heart.

So the question becomes, “how does one achieve decision-making that is more heart-centric and conscious?”  Deepak Chopra, noted physician and holistic health guru advises people to “make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge.”  He says that, “those are the three things the ego is doing all the time.”

TGIW teaches how to stay conscious and connected to Source Energy at work by becoming a Spiritual Professional – or a being who make heart-centric decisions.  Spiritual Professionals are conscious business leaders who exhibit the following characteristics:

• Go “within” themselves for answers 

• Believe in themselves and act authentically 
• Know their personal values and act upon them
• Integrate “making a difference” into their business
• Display willingness to be vulnerable
• Understand that there is no scarcity or lack
• Lead by example and are role models
• Express themselves through love

Unfortunately, the business world equates “spirituality” to “religion” and it does readily nurture and support the spiritual aspect of our human “beingness.”  As a result, the professional work world has yet to embrace the notion Spiritual Professionals -- but the expanding global consciousness and books like TGIW are starting to change that.

Cliff T:  The book seems to be geared towards the busy business person. Would, or could anyone get something from reading this book?

Mark L.:  It is.  I wrote Thank God It’s Wednesday! for those who aren’t happy with what they’re doing and who feel a tickle deep down in their souls to do or be something bigger.  I wanted to provide a guide on how to identify what that tickle is (your soul whispering that you have untapped gifts to bring into this world), and what to do about it (create time and space to explore, define and realize your purpose).  Basically the intent of this book is to those who feel stuck, and/or who have Work Sickness, to break through and to create a better version of themselves – kind of like a software upgrade.

Cliff T.:  How has writing the book helped you?  Have you been able to continue on your career path while still expressing the creative and spiritual side that you tapped into?

Mark L.:  The book truly originated from Source Energy.  Thoughts and ideas emerged in my head and I simply captured, organized, and committed them to paper.  Writing it helped focus my thoughts and ideas and having it published enabled all the tools and techniques it contains to be shared with a wide audience who feel stuck or inflicted with Work Sickness.

I walked the talk in TGIW by transitioning out of the corporate world and becoming an author, motivational speaker and professional career coach.  I believe that I am becoming a Spiritual Professional who lives and works from the heart instead of the head – well, at least most of the time.  I have to admit that I still “fall asleep” from time-to-time and forget who I am - a spiritual being having a human experience.  When I realize that I have nodded off (from my higher consciousness), I use the techniques detailed in TGIW to reconnect to Source Energy. One of them, for example, is simply to ask, “what am I thinking?”  When you ask this question, you realize that you are not your thoughts and that there is an “observer” of your thoughts. When you ask this question, you jump right into your Higher Consciousness, and it is from this place that you can direct and guide your lower conscious thoughts, behaviors and actions much like a director of a movie or a play who is watching everything transpire.

Cliff T.:  Well it sounds like you really have come into your own with this book. THANK GOD IT’S WEDNESDAY sounds like a great read for anyone, but especially for career minded looking to tap their true purpose and potential. Thanks for sharing your insights with me and the readers of Candid Conversations.

Mark L.:  Thanks for all the great questions, Cliff.  I enjoyed talking with you and I invite your readers to reach out to me if they want to learn more about how to get unstuck or to move past Work Sickness.

Mark Langford is the author of the book THANK GOD IT’S WEDNESDAY! The Business Professional’s Guide to Realizing Purpose, Passion and Work/Life Balance.

Mark wrote to us from Los Angeles in the U.S., For more about TGIW and Mark visit,