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Cathi's Comments Archives 2011-2023


March 5, 2023 - I Didn't Want to Say Goodbye

January 14th, April 5th and 9th, June 29th, October 16th, November 17th.These are dates that give me pause; one of them is also the June 29th personís birthday.I donít hate them, they are only calendar days after all, itís what those dates represent. I didnít want to have to say goodbye to those people.These are now negative days, ones that I will inevitably find myself just thinking about how much I miss the person or people who died on that day, and right now none more so than January 14th.

That date was this year, 2023.When I went to bed in the early morning hours of a Friday night, I had no way of knowing that 100 kilometers away two large pieces of my soul had just died.I would find out later that day: Saturday January 14th we learned that the house those souls lived in burned down overnight.Two bodies were found.It was in the news.

There was the horrible task of calling me after confirming with the police that this indeed was our family that had died, telling me what happened and letting me know that police were on their way to talk to me. They arrived not too long after, but long enough for me to start wondering why, how did this possibly happen?How come they didnít get out?Iím still wondering that because at the time the fire probably started, they would both likely have still been awake.The policemen were kind and explained as much they could and left me a card with a number to call if I need victim services.The reality of it all hadnít sunk in yet so I did speak to them clearly.

Then I thought about work Ė Iíd have to be off, how long is a question but definitely for the allowed week.I notified my boss and the person who would have to fill in for me and I put my out of office on.By this time reality was starting to hit, so the phone number I gave them was gibberish but at least the information in the email wasnít.

Nobody wants to receive an email like that and my boss called me to let me know they got the message.It isnít easy getting news like this and it is difficult certainly for anybody who knows you well but isnít in your personal sphere; how much do you ask and how much should a person tell?Anyway, that was work and one thing I knew for sure was that there would be no one week off and trying hard to muddle through after that. This time these losses would blow up my world in ways that would go on forever. One of the two bodies was my former husband who I had been close to for 40 years and who was the father of my two children, the other was my youngest child, my baby. My son.

When something like this happens, time passes in unusual ways and at first youíre sort of lucid as the shock keeps the hurt from sinking in too deeply.Itís that initial period when between the tears you phone or meet with people to make arrangements and the like. My daughter, son-in-law, spouse and I spent the next week dealing with the various people we needed to immediately, such as the funeral director and notifying whatever we could figure out since we didnít have the usual paperwork to go on with the fire destroying everything. We divided the tasks of father and son between us; they were living a simple life with little to speak of and so it was figuring out what to do exactly and then doing that which is what we were doing (and still are, two months later).

Thatís the administrative end of things.By far the harder part is the mental and emotional toll that a sudden passing causes.I wonít speak for my daughter as she has her own story to tell if she wants to.Mine though, is my own and it is very complicated indeed.

There are two things that I do want to share:one is that while my husband and I didnít work as a couple, we started off as, and always were, friends.

My son and I had been very close until he became upset with me about some things he heard. He didnít like my explanation and decided to stop talking to me a few short years ago. I kept the door to communication open and was waiting for the day when we could clear the air. All I ever did Ė as his mother - was with his best interests in mind, even if on the surface it might not have seemed that way. Itís the underlying reasons why I did things the way I did was what he was missing.

However, because I was dealing with adult decisions that as my child he didnít need to worry about, that bothers me. Probably we would have worked it out in time. The thing is, Iíll never know. That hurts me so much right now, this unfinished business. If there is karma, I hope whoever told that stuff to him is held in some way accountable for the harm those words caused us, and that they learn the power of forgiveness.

Relationships are messy.They can be glorious, wonderful exaltations of joy, comfortable spaces of love and quiet understanding, whirlwinds of activity, times of despair and even loneliness, compassionate acceptance, places for growth and sometimes, darkness and resignation.The main element underlying all of that is love.Whatever else and regardless of how things were in whatever moment there was that.I will always be grateful that for all of my life, there have always been people who cared and for whom I could care even if that circle of caring was small as it is now, or big as it has been.

Death is unfortunately something I am well acquainted with.My mother was in her 40s when she had me so from a very young age I was going to funerals for great-aunts and other people, sometimes friends of my motherís, sometimes relatives I didnít know I had.I grew up with tales of people long gone.I thought I had no grandparents until my paternal grandfather was dying and I was introduced to him.

I learned then of what I think of as our family curse, people getting cut out of the circle.Iíll never know what the issue was between my dad and his father since they are both gone now. Iím left with one memory of my granddad: he and I sitting at his kitchen table talking.I donít remember what we talked about but I do remember that he looked like a smaller version of my dad with a larger nose.I donít think thatís how he would have liked to be remembered by his granddaughter.

The sad thing is the same thing happened with my father and my immediate family.There were good reasons for my parents to separate Ė this was a regular event in my life, his moving in and out.When I was 15 it was the final event, and he was effectively cut off from one side of the family. I listened to him, set some boundaries and told him to treat me like a friend because laying down the law on a 15-year-old me just wasnít going to cut it.He agreed and we were very close for the next two decades, with me acting as a kind of middle person between the warring sides. I didnít like it but it meant something to me that people werenít told that he was dead when he wasnít.Some went so far as to only refer to him as ďhim,Ē said in a venom-dripping tone Ė something I really disliked.

My mother was a kind soul who never spoke about him like that, thankfully. She was always sad that it finally ended because she was faithful and truly believed her High Anglican teachings that marriage was for life. It was other people who did that. At the time it felt mean to me and the people doing that lost 20 years of his life. There were family members he only met when he was dying and the swords were laid down.A very familiar modus operandi for us it seems.

I will accept a lot of things. Being mean, rude or disrespectful arenít included in that acceptance. Thatís where I draw the line.

I do believe in looking at as many sides of an issue as you can, in seeing how a difficult person can fit in my life and if itís too disruptive, how to comfortably deal with that and not cause harm to my immediate family.I will never avoid someone because of their marital status, legal sexual proclivities (itís none of my business), sexual orientation, their opinion about abortion access, contraception use and when it allowed, beliefs about sex before marriage, race, politics, religion, age, mental state, physical state, drug usage, their fondness for alcohol, gambling habits, spending habits, the list goes on.

I may not like what someone is doing, it may not be anything I would do myself, but I will never hold it against them unless they are harming people.But if they ask, and I can help with getting help, I will. It hurts me to think there are people who just canít be in my life because they are nasty to me or mine.It also makes me sad that people can be mean to those they should be compassionate to but thereís nothing I can do to change peoplesí opinions of me or any one else.It has to be them opening their hearts to learn to accept differences in others. If thereís anything that bothers me the most in this life, itís that.

Iíd rather be alone than tolerate verbal abuse and meanness.Iíve left jobs and relationships because of that crossed line but all things considered, thatís a pretty low bar.If I have a wish itís that people remove societal, religious or personal glasses and look at people for who they are. I like to think theyíd be surprised and maybe learn to love someone they didnít think they could before.

For me itís these differences that makes relationships so interesting and broadens my perspective.Thatís a good thing I believe.Being open to questioning rules and convention is how growth happens.Rules and convention are meant to fit a certain time and place and it is only right that as changes happen those rules be revised or even tossed out if they are no longer necessary.Itís for this reason that while I am spiritual, I walked away from organized religion.Until it shows the compassion that is preached and the followers have empathy for everyone, I consider it to be too hypocritical for my taste.But thatís me.Feel free to follow whatever religion (or none) if you choose to, even if itís the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.Just donít force me to follow your rules.My missing two lived every inch of their lives being themselves no matter what.I am proud of them for that.

My son and his father didnít have a religious bone in their bodies.And thatís fine.We respect that and we will arrange a celebration of life when the snow has melted and the summer sun has warmed the earth, flowers and trees in full bloom, when life is present. The earth and water wonít take their ashes right now so we heal ourselves and wait.

Thereís a lot of waiting right now.For documents sent to the no longer existing address thatís been forwarded to me or my daughter, depending who the mail is addressed to.For answers to questions we canít easily solve.Thereís a lot of cold fact stuff, applications, dealing with banks and various accounts, CRA.So far the bank has been the worst.Important information like what the email address associated with his account was so that Iíd know which of the several email accounts that I know of for my son was his main one werenít allowed to be given to me.I asked for a one-year statement.No dice.Privacy act.Even repeatedly saying, heís dead and everything went in the fire didnít phase them. CRA isnít much better, I wasnít able to answer the qualifying questions because again, the fire burned everything so I filled in a form, made myself a representative (but canít link his account yet) and I have no idea what is in his My Account.So yeah.

How do you explain to people that this name or number was my son, the child I gave birth to and held in my arms and helped him grow up?That there is no way possible way to say how it feels to lose a child, when he was just starting his adult life, still discovering who he is? You canít.But this unknowable feeling is what I am going through right now and it is my life sentence.

For now though my main thing has been processing all of the memories Ė both good and bad Ė that suddenly rise up in my mind.Lovely mommy things, sweet moments of a friendship and a marriage when things were still good, and the flip side, when things didnít go so well with both them.Maddening things.Things that can never be resolved.

When I go to sleep and if I wake in the middle of the night, I think about the fire, the two of them, what might have happened, how could it be they didnít just open that big window in my sonís room and jump outÖ.circular thoughts that lead to remembering more moments that were buried and some of the more unpleasant things in our relationships.I have 9 hour sleeping times when itís particularly bad, 7 if Iím able to brush it aside and go back to sleep.Yes, thereís nightmares too.I have PTSD, have had from before this and here it is, showing itself in all itís glory. Someday soon I will talk to a professional again to help me deal with it. But for now, I have been spending my time doing whatever it takes to be functional in the world again, to hold conversations without crying, to laugh and make jokes more often.Slowly the sharpness of the pain is fading and this past week I felt almost normal.

More normal means facing the world again, going back to work, dealing with difficult people, not taking sharp words as daggers but more like annoying pin pricks.Nothing personal, just business. Soon.

While I will always have unfinished business with my son, my own I will try to continue.Paintings, five books, two or three illustrated videos of my work that Iíve been planning, the rest of my life.One moment at a time, one breath at a time, stretching I hope into happy years.Hope.

Hope for myself, hope for my family still here, hope that light will eventually break through the darkness.My quiet days of coming to grips with the loss and turning into acceptance.I will never forget, as much as I have never forgotten those gone before.You never do ďget overĒ such a loss.It just gets less difficult, and that happens more quickly when the stress isnít too much.For me, thatís usually people. I canít ask people to change, but I can try to be understanding.I wish the same for you, and -

That if you canít be loving, at least be kind.

" Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances.Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.Love never comes to an end." 1st Corinthians 13: 4-8

© Catherine M. Harris, March 5, 2023

December 31, 2022

I almost didnít write this, but then thought, why break a thing thatís been going on for ages?The main reason I didnít want to is that this year has been a mixture of pretty good, tiresome, very long hours, looking forward and trying hard to not look back.Confusing right?

†Iíve just been very busy with work and trying hard to fit my own life in between.The good news is the dust is settling a little bit that way and I am back in the physical office one day a week; thatís going to be changing and thatís something to work my life around more going forward I guess.

†I did some repairs on the house, fixing a leaking washer drain pipe and the hose as well, and we worked on a small French drain system around a part of the house that leaks into the basement from the slope of the road to the house.That took most of the summer but itís done and while I still have some work to do on the inside with patching up between cinder blocks in a couple of areas, the main concern seems to be dry.

The van, 13 years old this year proved to be a little too finicky to my taste so that became a pretty decent trade in for a Nissan.I can safely say that car technology has changed a lot in the last 14 years and weíre still learning all the features but so far itís a pretty good vehicle, and I find it much easier to park since itís an SUV instead of a large van.I am so grateful that this year I could actually replace that van.It wasnít long ago that I couldnít afford to fix the van and rent a car to drive for the two weeks it was being repaired.So I am appreciative for this little interlude of being able to fix things, replace things and pay off things because I know these periods of stability tend to be fleeting.I hope the next reason will be because I can finally feel comfortable retiring for good but Iím also a realist, life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches when you feel at ease so Iím enjoying each good day while they last.

†I didnít do nearly the amount of writing and painting I had planned at this time last year, but on the up side, Iíve managed to read more books than last year and I am working on two more paintings.One is an oil painting, the other (still in sketch on canvas stage) will be acrylic and they will indeed get finished in 2023.That I promise.

My books sadly havenít progressed much, I need to be in the right mind space, however I did write some poetry so thatís okay.I will get going on these soon, I just donít want to pressure myself into finishing because creative works need to come freely otherwise they seem forced.

†A highlight this year was showing Jim PEI.I didnít get to swim in the ocean because it was raining but it was a pleasure visiting the island of some of my ancestors again and seeing the Van Gogh interactive exhibit which was good but also a little weird being in a room of people after 2 years of covid restrictions.Still, it was fun and we loved it.Next year maybe Nova Scotia coming back through PEI?Weíll see.

†2022 was such a volatile year in the world view that I donít want to focus on that and at the same time Iíd be remiss not saying anything.So let me just say this:to the people of Ukraine, my heart goes out to you.I truly wish that 2023 is the year that you realize your dreams of regaining peace and sovereignty.The death of Queen Elizabeth, while not a total surprize was very much the end of an era and for me brought back a lot of memories of my mom who was of the same age range as the Queen.Where the royal family goes from here is hard to say but Iím thinking they have got to be more in touch with how people are today if they want to remain relevant going forward.

†In world affairs thereís just too much division and the back pedalling of human rights is especially worrisome.Speak up.Loudly.Please donít let the gradual erosion of human rights and the politicization of practically everything spread any more.Itís dangerous and we will see more war breaking out if this continues.So letís dial back the mean and find a bit of heart of you can, and I know you can.We all can.We need to.Iím serious about this.The middle ground is very wide and it doesnít take much for people on the edges to just step sideways a little and listen to something other than their own beliefs.When politics or religion come to a point that they are pushing away the people closest to you, maybe take a beat and consider that there might not be one ďrightĒ way of being.How about we make 2023 the year we celebrate each otherís differences, coming together in common ground because somewhere in that is where the truth that suits most of us lies.And thatís where we should be, not trying to shoe horn people into what just may not be the answer for them.

†Equally worrisome for me is going backwards where progress has been made at a societal level, regardless of the reason why changes were made, temporary or not, it doesnít matter.If something works now that didnít before why not keep it and move on in that direction?Itís called growth.I am concerned that at a time of labour shortages and high costs of everything, removing flexibility in living our lives will force people to make decisions about their lives Ė from having to move back from affordable places to high cost places to be on the job, to (mostly) women having to choose between their career or staying home because childcare isnít as available as it once was and adds a huge cost to people who may just be making it with mom working from home Ė this same scenario goes for people caring for disabled or elderly family members.What worked before covid just might not fly now and I do hope that businesses see that.Empty office buildings can be turned into affordable downtown housing, remote work expands the work force for many occupations, people not crammed into public transportation twice a day five days a week are likely going to be healthierÖthe list goes on.Letís not lose sight of what could be by trying to erase the past of couple of years, time goes forward not back.Please letís remember that.

†I want to end this message on a happy note so let me say this:I have faith in the goodness of people, of the resilience and the kindness of people.Letís make 2023 the year we stop giving oxygen to people who are trying to drag us down.The majority (and we are) deserve better.Letís make this the year we turn the darkness of 2022 around and show what light we can bring to each other.It starts with compassion, that starts with you and with me.

†Happy New Year, ŗ la prochaine,


Cathi .....

December 31, 2021

Iíve been trying to find a word that would best describe 2021 for me and I think equilibrium just about covers it. Itís been a time of finishing off or starting to finish off things that have dogged me for years. Thereís been some form of resolution Ė whether actual or my acceptance of what is. Iím in a much better place mentally and emotionally than I have been in what? 5 years? So itís been healing. Thereís a lot of areas I was trying to heal, and itís kind of ironic that in year two of a pandemic my own personal healing has accelerated.

You see for me, coming into this pandemic my life was a shambles and I was trying to pick up the shards of irretrievably lost (or so it seems) things: relationships, status, my heart Ė I lost so many people and pets over those 5 years leading up to 2021.

My career had been on a downhill slide for quite a while and at times it felt like I was subtly being nudged towards a retirement I couldnít afford. Doors start closing when you hit 50, I have learned. Hasnít stopped me from trying and applying for jobs though.

My life situation was confusing and strange with people who chose to make up their own minds about how my life is without asking me (hint: theyíre wrong). But unread letters wonít provide answers and me railing about being called my former no-longer-legal married name from 20 years ago doesnít help anything. I will defend the provenance of my legal name, my relationship status, and my history if need be, but Iím not worrying about this anymore. Life is for the here and now, not old angry memories.

If youíre wondering, Iím not concerned that writing comments like this could deepen the rifts because Iím not naming names and they wonít read this anyway. If they did maybe it would open a respectful dialogue; reality is, they arenít interested. And Iím okay with that. This is just me echoing off a canyon in my soul.

One revelation I came to this year and I feel good about is that in the end, this is my life. Mine. So I get to tell it the way that Iíve lived it, other peoplesí opinions be damned. I think Iíve spent way too much time trying to please other people, which is fine unless it becomes you trying to live your life that way. Itís inauthentic: you canít please everyone and in doing so you can lose who you really are.

Iím a writer, painter, singer/songwriter (though sadly quite rusty in this department right now). Thatís who I am. Everything else I do is purpose driven or emotion driven.

There are two creative things in my life that for emotional reasons I just couldnít finish. One is a painting of a photograph I took of a little boy in a raincoat splashing in puddles after a heavy rainfall. I loved that photo Ė it spoke of a special time in my life. I had started painting it thinking maybe it was one I could sell or maybe I should keep. But a life event made continuing with it too painful. I put it away out of sight for a couple of years because it hurt just to see it.

This year though I felt it was holding me back Ė there are several other paintings and illustrations I want to do and this unfinished business was crippling my ability to do that. No more, I decided. Come hell or high water, I was going to finish it. And you know what? I did. It hangs on my wall because I have a right to enjoy the memory of that moment in my life. Iím happy itís there. I am also planning other paintings now, time permitting.

The other thing that is kind of holding me back is a book I started before my mother was diagnosed with dementia but it took on a whole new aspect when she was. The book is about a man who visits his mother for Thanksgiving one year and realizes she has dementia and shouldnít be on her own Ė how to cope with that, which for him was a couple of weeks that turns into years and what it does to his life and his view of himself. I had to stop writing it Ė it was too painful, and after my mom passed I couldnít read any of it, it hit too close to home.

Last year I tried, got a little further in writing, then got to a point that had me in tears. This year though, I tackled it differently. I decided I should edit what Iíve already written which made me question the format of the timing and noticing several detail mistakes in characters that need fixing so thereís that. But in reading it now I think I can finish this once Iím comfortable with the major edits that need doing first.

But before I came to these conclusions about my in-progress work, I had a crisis this year where I felt there was no way I could continue with any of my creative endeavors. I didnít have time to finish or start anything and here it was, my entire life going nowhere with these things even though Iíve been published and won awards. Awards donít mean anything though, not really. Selling and eyeballs on your work, that does. I was thinking that if nobody gives a damn about it, why should I?

I started to rewrite my website to be a one-page farewell. I took all my paintings off the walls, stopped short of throwing them and my supplies out (I almost did Ė they went in bags), instead choosing to put them out of sight. I decided that if nobody cared then neither did I, but maybe I could give them to someone.

The blank walls felt empty. I thought, why take down my history which is what my website is, why not just leave it? If nobody is interested, well, I am. Slowly I reminded myself Ė I donít do these things for other people. I do them for the love of doing them and shutting that door, however softly, hurt a lot. I came to an understanding that this is another area in my life I have to say: who cares? I do, and thatís what matters.

That was the nudge I needed to finish the painting that now hangs on my wall with the rest of them, restored to their places. My website? It still needs a major revamp but itís not been taken down, not yet anyway. Like so many things web programming is something I havenít had time to do. Someday.

The downward slide in my career stopped this year with an appointment from a pool I was in that ended my many years of assignments between 3 different employers at that level and giving some stability in my finances, which was a huge relief. Having fewer expenses with working from home also has helped with my tackling bills that went back years; I even paid off two major ones that had haunted me. Doing that also means the others are disappearing. I still need a new vehicle (ours runs but is 12 years old and is on borrowed time I think). I also still have one major thing to pay off. But the end is sight and the relief of that is enormous. Jim got his US pension finally and as a thank you, he bought me the heat pump Iíd been dreaming of installing. So, yay on these fantastic developments too.

I end this year on these high notes, fully vaccinated and boosted, going with the flow of the waves of the pandemic and regardless of whatís happening outside, moving forward here. With writing I finally got the I Ching Jukebox paperback out, and now have to see why Off-Air isnít showing on Amazon (it should be Ė it is available on Lulu). I didnít submit much this year because I did so much last year however, I do want to finish the novel Iíve nearly done, finish my book of essays, and my short story book. Thatís my challenge for 2022.

I also want to do at least one or two paintings and make headway with my childrenís book The Troll of Barondale as an illustrated book and hopefully animated one if I can find the right inexpensive program to create it in. But thatís getting back to my computer programming which Iíve sadly let slide since moving to New Brunswick. Weíll see.

Other things I hope is to end is this now 9-month plateau of weight loss Ė I hate to think that 1200 calories a day has become my maintenance number, but I am exercising daily as much as I have time to do (1/2 hour to an hour a day). Not sure what else to try but at least I reached the weight I was before the 5 years when my life went to hell and I gained 20 pounds. Now Iím trying to get back to normal weight then the weight Iíve been most of my adult life. Fingers crossed I find that answer this year Ė if youíre wondering Iím following Noom which is a good, healthy program Ė Iím not a fan of omission or single element focused diets, itís not sustainable. The plateau is something Iím doing or not doing; I just havenít figured out what.

Looking at the bigger picture, there are lessons in the pandemic that I hope people will learn. While it is forcing society to look at some things that had lurked under the surface such as long-term care homes and how they are managed, the cost of working versus not, job stability, financial social safety nets, the supply chain and where our food and goods come from, itís also at a deeper level in that itís forcing us to re-evaluate our lives and the people in them, the jobs we do, what we truly want in life. Itís hard, but these are good things to look at and hopefully improve.

What has gotten worse though is division between people because of ideology and the politicization of things that really shouldnít be politicized. Skepticism of facts based on data versus ideology became dangerous on Jan 6th in the US and I donít know how we, the society of the world, can reign in this culture of non-acceptance of data in favour of belief that is happening everywhere. Science shouldnít be a belief, neither should numbers.

How do you convince people to listen when they donít trust the sources? Thereís a lot of clean up needed in media and reporting but I donít know how that can happen and still allow opinion Ė like this piece, for instance. Maybe by focusing on hate speech and removing that? The odd thing is that while one side of this bellows opinion being the right of everybody, real human rights are eroding dangerously. Take for instance Texas and the anti-abortion laws theyíve enacted. There are legitimate health reasons for allowing abortion regardless of the human rights angle but when those hard-won rights are taken away, they are so much harder to get back. We should be guarding those rights, no matter what our personal beliefs are. For those of us outside this area, keep a close eye. This could be the bellwether for whatís to come. Remember that.

Thatís the thing Ė you are free to believe whatever you want, but when it encroaches on and possibly endangers othersí rights, thatís where I draw the line. In the bigger picture, and in my own life.

So now weíve gone full circle. My final thoughts for this year are: as always, have compassion and show it. I donít mean by saying I love you to everything in your vicinity Ė thatís not compassion, thatís words. What I mean is by being a caring person, accepting peoplesí differences and their beliefs and life choices even if you donít like them. Listen. And maybe, just maybe take a few minutes to find out the facts on matters that have empirical evidence. Lastly, please donít turn personal opinions into hard core rules for everybody. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but nobody should have to live by someone elseís opinions. Take the time to form your own, and stand up for whatís right, even if it means going against the grain. Be authentic. The world needs a whole lot more honesty and empathy right now. Let it start with you.

ņ la prochaÓne, and hereís to a better 2022.

December 31, 2020

The end of a year like no other. While this has taken some getting used to, I have lived through far worse years personally. What's different about this one is that much of what I was going through so was everybody else. Being an introvert at heart I have taken this time in a positive way- it has been a year of healing emotionally and physically. The basics tenets that have shaped our life since March were things I needed: working from home, not going anywhere unnecessary, working with what we have on hand.

This gave me the space and the time to do more of what I needed to get back to things such as dealing with the weight I gained since moving to New Brunswick. I went from high end of normal to fat and since I have lived most of my life at the low end of normal being heavier was something that made me feel awful. So in honour of the fact that this isn?t me, my healing has taken to signing up for Noom. It?s a good program I think, it is sensible help and goes into psychology and nutrition instead of doing weird stuff like eliminating food groups or making you pay for prepackaged meals or memorizing systems. So far it?s working.

Also on the bill was exercise because staying in the house and puttering around the yard isn?t really healthy. I have an under desk cycle machine (think of a form of recombinant bike) that actually works without sliding across the floor in the set up I have it now - this comes in when I have a lot of reading or long meetings where my video and sound is off and I'm just listening. That plus using the elliptical has me doing around 5 km a day again. For my resolution I hope to hit 10 km a couple of times a week - that's a bit optimistic though because that is a little more time exercising than I really want to spend frequently (would be about 2 hours). Most of all though is having less stress which more than makes up for the talk therapy that stopped when they ended in person visits to offices.

I had the opportunity to be flexible in my schedule and I am happily working my night owl hours for clients on the west coast. This means I am sleeping a regular night sleep instead of 5 to 6 hours or so. Last year when I went to B.C. for three weeks it was clear to me that there I'm functioning on what is normal time for them; I would be asleep by 11 p.m. instead of the middle of the night like I am here. So being true to my internal clock is a good thing that I hope I get to continue doing if at all possible.

What I have realized in 2020 is that what's important to me is to be where my knowledge and experience is needed and I can be paid appropriately for it; it's just where and who that's the question. I've been looking, bearing in mind that telework and the west coast schedule is what suits me best. I also stood up for myself this year which was a good thing, even if it didn't change anything. With an eye on the future though, my focus has been paying everything I can off and it has been easier this year with fewer daily expenses. One 10 year headache is finally paid off; that was a huge relief and a cause for celebration.

At the start of the year I was on assignment traveling to deliver training and updating web pages, things I loved doing in a previous job and it was fun to do it again temporarily. I went to Burlington, Moncton and Yellowknife which was great to see, I have always wanted to go up north for a visit.

However, on March 12th we were told to go home and stay there. It was odd trying to navigate how to get what we needed and wondering about rescheduling appointments. I'm going to stay away from politics here but I have to say it was so insane in the US that I actually did learn a bit about the US political system in order to try understand what was happening.

Early on in the pandemic I followed the lead of many people and posted a creative thing once a day, whether it be writing or music or art for about two months until I figured I should actually put more time into creating new works. So that too was my focus: submitting my writing to various publications. I made the final version of the paperback edition of I Ching Jukebox and retired the hardcover version. Now if someone is adventurous enough to want to read it, it's less expensive. I did Nanowrimo again and while I didn't do 50k words I did get very close to the completion of a novel I've been working on for five years. I do want to finish that this year, edit it and have it published, likely through Tablo with the marketing option since a big problem with my work has been that I am useless at self-promotion where it counts, like my creative works.

There were losses this year though, more of people I used to be close to or were people I had met but were dear to people I know. The first death was really unexpected: the best friend and housemate of my childrens' grandmother and who lived with my son and his father; I did keep in touch with her and the suddenness of her passing was a bit shocking. Later in the year two people I knew well years ago passed, one of covid19. Then a couple of others who were close to people I know. My heart aches for people who have lost a close family member; you don't know how that feels until it happens to you and each time hearing that I hurt for the people left behind.

The last five years or so have been pretty rough for me in a few ways so what I have been trying to do is to keep my focus on the now and the future instead of looking back; it's better just to move on. A lot of what has been fueling depression has been the mourning of what I've lost. The realization that given there is no going back to change things, it's better to let it go is huge. A weight off my shoulders really. I promise to stop boring people with stuff that has hurt me and instead do what I used to do which is to look for the next step in my evolution.

Understanding that maybe, no matter how hard you try you'll never fit in is something that has been an echo in my life once in a while and it is a bit of what's been happening since we moved to New Brunswick, lovely as it is here. I'm now anxious to find what it will take to be in a situation that is kinder. Life's too short to be around those that aren't. I guess one thing that's struck me the last 7 years is that I just don't feel like I belong here and I don't know how to fix that. I'm sorry also that I've brought my partner into a place where there's not much but us two. It's been a little hard going from a town where we had things to do outside of work and our hobbies and meaning something to people to feeling unwanted. So hopefully 2021 is a year we can find some resolution to that. I'm not sure how, but I'm thinking about it.

So, to end out this year I do believe this has been a growth experience for all of us, whether we wanted it or not, and I hope that we've learned to see what is valuable and what isn't. I always end my new year's comments by saying to please show some compassion so at the risk of sounding like a broken record I'm going to say it again: please show compassion, we need it more than ever. Understand too that you can have different opinions or beliefs and still care about one another. This year that empathy has meant life and death. So let's be kind to one another shall we, even if we need to agree to disagree?

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

April 9, 2020

I'm writing this today from my locked down silent life that I and pretty much everyone else in the world is doing right now. It's the Easter long weekend starting tomorrow and I am fortunate enough to have a turkey breast roll in the freezer and all the food we need for the time being. I work from my kitchen table and while there are some limitations in the bandwidth on the VPN, so far my colleagues and I are getting by. I am one of the fortunate ones - I know this, though if things take a turn for the worse here in Canada I am also very much aware that I could just as easily join the many thousands no longer working. I'm needed for now but not essential.

I've resisted the temptation to post a tribute to my parents today. The first anniversary of my mom's passing was on the 5th and the twenty-fifth of my dad's is today. I have several essays on both of them here so I thought that I'll do quiet appreciation for them in my own way tonight.

It's been a while since I last posted anything and that's okay. I've been working in the shadows on an essay that I sent in for the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest, on myself and am trying to heal after what has been a brutal 2019. A huge part of me wished I could just go away for a while so that I could heal my broken heart and soul and find myself again. Fate has taken an ironic turn though, and I actually have gotten what I thought I needed all this last year: the time to reflect and to step back a bit from life to do that.

We are living in dangerous times and for many it is really hard to understand what the big deal is. What the point is. "Aren't we overreacting?" They say. It's going to be somebody else. It's not fair. It doesn't make sense. It's half a world away. It's just a cold. It's only the flu. It's ...[place your favourite saying here]... It can't happen to my family. The thing is, it can happen.

My mom was born in 1919. She came into the world on heels of the end of the Great War, the War to End All Wars that didn't. The Spanish flu had claimed thousands of young peoples' lives among others, this at a time when so many Canadians had died fighting for King and Country. She was born at a time of ice boxes and model Ts and crystal radio sets. She was a child in the roaring twenties and then the stock market crashed and the Great Depression set in. As a young woman she saw many friends and relatives go off to war in WWII and some never came back. She was around for the inventions of penicillin, insulin, vaccines, plastic, television, talking movies and technicolor, ball point pens, computers, cell phones, travel to outer space...the list goes on.

My mom always was concerned with the fragility of life. It seemed a little silly to me but as someone who has had relatives die and lie in state in her drawing room, who had a childhood friend die of blood poisoning from an infected cut ("never wear red!", she warned me - she thought the red dye in her friend's clothes had poisoned her), who lived through so much on a grand scale that I did listen to her. I was always quick to point out how much things had changed but the reality is people die in unexpected ways no matter how advanced the world is.

I thought for the longest time that the evolution of society had fixed so many things and she - rightly so it turns out - was always just a little skeptical. She appreciated these advances even if some of them like computers and VCRs scared her just a bit. To be honest I think what scared her most was the change in society's mores and our lifting of the veil on so many hush-hush topics. That subject is for another essay though.

Today I'm focused on how much we've taken for granted. This is a lesson that was hammered home to me in 2019 when I realized that you can't count on people to put aside their differences in hard times and that the senior officer position I tried so long and so hard for that I finally got in 2006 would get taken away with the stroke of a pen 13 years and 1000 kilometres later. I was faced with the certainty that nothing is forever and that there may not be that open door waiting for me when a door closes. I've always liked to think there was one. What I did learn is you can't hope that people will be kind or considerate when you think they will be and that makes me terribly sad. I've always liked to believe in that there is a better day coming, and deep down inside everyone has a heart. Maybe not.

With 2020 there is the knowing that sometimes you need to look at the past for lessons and use those lessons to look ahead. What's happening now in peoples' attitudes is a little like Y2K when there was the big "oh my God everything's going to fail" worry and the relief of the "I told you so"s when the world didn't end.

The thing is, I worked in assets in the late 90's and we spent a good couple of years identifying all the possible equipment big and small that had software that potentially could crash and either had the software upgraded or replaced them. It was an exercise carried out worldwide and of course the critical equipment was upgraded first. That's why the Y2K crisis wasn't: not that it didn't exist, just that you couldn't see it. Most of it was fixed before it became a problem. Which is what should have happened here but it's a bit trickier with viruses.

I was in the Toronto area in the SARs era and it was kind of scary. Driving by the hospital you could smell the hand sanitizer from the street. On the doors there was a sign saying "If you are sick don't enter" which I though was particularly funny given that this was a hospital. But I knew what it meant, which was sick visitors. Still it gave me a laugh every time. SARs didn't become the big deal that it could have but what we are dealing with now is a cousin and it is a big deal.

I grew up very much aware of the 1918 pandemic thanks to my mom and her family. They had stories of people who suffered and died. Their reality has shades of what could happen now. And that's the thing: it hasn't become that - YET - but it could if we don't take the lessons learned from that and other pandemics. Even the black death and the doctors who wore those crazy bird noses realized distance and a mask can help, even though that was caused by poor sanitation and rats. Keeping people inside isn't new, they knew even then that keeping people apart from one another helped. In the early part of the 20th century there was a typhoid epidemic that killed hundreds and it, like the recurring yellow fever epidemics from the previous centuries were eventually stopped by better sanitation and vaccines. And so it will be now if we make the effort not to spread it.

I'll stop proselytizing now. I'm beyond up to the eyeballs with corona virus information. I've taken to not watching television news much and just catching the headlines, watching when there's something important I want to see about.

Some things that I am appreciating is that like it or not, things are changing. Right now, the Earth is taking a deep breath. The skies are clearing, water is going from dirty to clean, people are having this time with their families and getting back to basics. We've proven that teleworking is a functional way to work and save time and money. Children are being home schooled, people are taking up or getting back to hobbies they may have put aside years ago, instead of shopping we're baking and cooking from scratch and contemplating victory gardens. Dogs are getting walked and for pets, this is the greatest time ever! Time alone means time to think. Time to read, to catch up on things you've put aside, to step out of the rat race for a while. I wonder whether we will be as anxious to be living non-stop lives again when the world reboots itself, and it's important to remember that it will. After the black death that killed half of Europe's population there came the Renaissance, a flourishing of art and culture and learning. I wonder what kind of renaissance - and I hope there is one - will we see? I just wish that people actually start to show compassion for one another, that's my dream.

What do you want to see at the end of this? How do you think we will grow?

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

2010-2019: A Look Back, and a Look Forward

2019 was a very difficult year for me but it certainly hasnít been the first bad year this decade. The previous one was 2012 which led to me think about two things: one, that 7 year cycles are a thing, and two, that it would be good for me to see just how far weíve come in the last ten years. Overall, things are looking up.

In 2010 we were living in Arnprior; son was busy with Air Cadets (somebody remind me to contact the Air Cadets here to return his boots and uniform if they want them) and band, daughter having moved to Ottawa with her dad at the end of 2008 was dating the fellow who would become her husband and started university at the Ottawa U nursing program in Pembroke at the Algonquin College campus and was in her very first apartment. Jim and I appeared as animators in The Prince and The Prior. That was a good year!

I was working on a long term assignment that I loved doing which was being the Procurement Module Team Lead for our Oracle Upgrade project. Jim was working for Cogeco where I was volunteering and we were both doing a second job as a night cleaner team. Think whatever you like about cleaners, I actually enjoyed doing that because first, it was exercise, and second, cleaners are some of the invisible people. It was nice spending a couple of hours a day walking and blending in with the wallpaper. I was also working on a university degree that sadly I wound up not continuing because of the money crisis that happened and my while my mom had helped a little, somebody told her that Athabasca University (an accredited university in Canada) was one of those correspondence schools that you see on the back of magazines so I was on my own with all university expenses after that.

I would stay on that project until 2012 and daughter would move to London to attend Western University with her sweetheart; her dad stayed in our house until 2011 when he moved back to New Brunswick to help with his mom who had developed a form of dementia following a heart attack. 2011 then was kind of a turning point year that led to the havoc that 2012 was, part of it being that management changed at my work and the project I was on was winding up in early 2012 so I took a change and volunteered to work at a new Department that was being created. I was accepted and was expected to start work in the Fall of 2012 working in assets again.

2012 was one big black hole of a year where I was left scrambling trying to cope with some serious situations; it wasnít just me either but in my case my choice to volunteer was a bad one because they didnít honour what they promised and then made me a pawn in a management spat between two Departments and clawed back pay to the point that I was on the verge of bankruptcy. I went from being an expert and appreciated to being a number and treated terribly.

It was also a year that son was offered a chance at a fresh start and stayed in New Brunswick that year. I had applied to two jobs in the Maritimes, one of which they had checked the references and then the axes fell. Job was cancelled; I contacted one place I had heard needed people of my category in Fredericton Ė they wouldnít consider a transfer so I had to apply when the job posters came out. Apply I did. I also went to financial help because a few months with only enough to pay the mortgage sent everything else spiralling into pay-up-or-else. I was told I had too much equity in my house, I had to sell that before considering any other options. I decided that if I had to sell the house, Iíd move to Fredericton. At the same time I realized I could do early retirement and amazingly there was an opportunity to alternate with someone who was being laid off. That would solve the money problem at least a little. Alternate I did. At the end of the year I was still waiting for payment but I did do a job interview for two jobs in Fredericton though I told them I had already left. Still, I could come back. So 2012 ended in relief and a whole lot of what to do next in front of me.

2013 I was offered one of the two jobs and the other I was put in the pool for language reasons; I told them I couldnít start because the offer came at the same time as my money finally and I would have had to pay back more than I was given (gross versus net). At the same time I was trying to figure out how to sell the house and get to Fredericton on my own Ė I spend the months thinking about that but never could figure it out, everything needed money upfront which I didnít really have, not in that amount. I eventually accepted the job offer after turning it down twice. So back to work I was in June, and we were on our way to Fredericton. The house sold, some of the bills got paid and we all got a fresh start. Or it was for a bit anyway. All told, accepting that job I wound up paying $47k, $11k of which I still donít know how Iím going to pay but Iím going to have to. Lesson learned Ė next time I leave (this was the second time) is the last. Jim retired in the sense that he couldnít find a job until a short term one in 2018. But that was okay.

2014 was a fun year Ė daughter and fiance lived in the same city as me that year and things all in all were pretty good. 2015 was a time of a couple of goodbyes, of discovering how it felt like to be blatantly discriminated against (it made me feel old); me painting a new painting that I donated to The Ville and I did a bit of work on my publishing.

2016 was a sad and happy year all at once. Jimís mother passed away, mine nearly did and remained in care after that, but daughter got married and that was a wonderful day indeed.

2017 was the year the clawing back had me living on 35% of my salary Ė this lasted until well into 2018. 2017 was also the year the childrensí paternal grandmother passed away suddenly. All in all there wasnít much going on in 2018 except that Jim worked for a little bit for the Museum here which was interesting. We also did a bit of night cleaning for the Museum which helped at a time I really needed it, and again, thereís something honest about being a cleaner Ė it just is what it is and no more. A little less stress than my regular job I must say. Anyway it was welcome extra money. With his job at the Museum we also got to attend a few functions and meet some new people Ė something that was nice to do. 2018, sadly was also the year we lost the last and most charismatic of our cats and our big-hearted big black lab.

Oh 2019. My mom passed away, I spent a couple of weeks out west, but mostly laid low wondering about life and what to do next. I donít know where Iím going but I do know something has to change. So thatís where Iím at.

Looking forward I donít know. I hope Iíll be able to retire comfortably but that will take paying off the remaining bills and that $11k and putting aside a couple of yearsí worth of money to live off of. At this point, Iím beginning to think I may still be working 10 years from now which makes me sad so I wonít think of that. I do plan to finish a painting I stopped when the depression hit me so hard I couldnít do what I love anymore and to paint the several I plan to; add to that the books I havenít finished and started but I plan to. I also want to make 2020 the year I find myself again. Maybe Iíll have enough to take another course in anything again? This coming decade will the beginning of the next phase of my life and I look forward to that. So you see, things are looking up.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

2019: One Long Dark Night of the Soul

I've been grappling with what to say for my year end message, even considered not publishing one.† It feels a lot like I'm both under the spotlight and totally ignored which is a little weird.† There's also a whole lot I'd like to say but really shouldn't.† Someday those things will show up in a novel or short story or two - I'm leaning towards horror stories for this year!† I have a conundrum because there really are things I have to leave out and I will eventually speak my truth, just not today.† If you know me you know I always do eventually let my truth be known.

Why is letting your truth be known important anyway?† Does anyone care?† Honestly I don't know.† But I do know there are some things that I have learned this year that deserve to be said.† That's all.

In general, it's been a year of loss, of coming to grips with peoples' perceptions of me, of really looking at my own perceptions of myself, of diminution and starting a long road of what I hope will eventually be a healing of mind and soul.† I can honestly say I never thought I'd be where I'm at right now and it's a little disturbing.† Perhaps when some time has passed maybe I'll feel better about this year but that remains to be seen.

When 2019 started, I was missing the companionship of my wonderful dog who died a little unexpectedly.† I say a little because he was old and somewhat infirm.† We knew he was going to go but it happened sooner than I thought was all.† I do wonder if had I been able to afford the ACL surgery if his health would have been better.† I don't know.

What I do know is that for now, I don't want anymore animals I can't afford to fix, and don't ever want to have to wonder whether I should take an animal to the vet when they may not make it or have enough for cremation like I did with our wonderful orange cat. He died before I had to make that a firm choice.† Still, it isn't right.† I know there's pet insurance but like a lot of insurance having to pay first and hope the claim is honoured won't help if you don't have it to begin with.† So no more menagerie for now, maybe ever.† I just can't face those kind of decisions again, at least not for the foreseeable future.

If this year were a tarot card it would be the six of swords - the dark night of the soul.† Not to be maudlin but it is how I feel. One good thing about this year is I got off the waiting list to see a therapist before my mother died.† Fortuitous timing.† Having a listening ear that you don't need to filter or weigh your words is a good thing, especially if people get offended easily by your thoughts.† I recommend it if you can afford such a thing - I'm lucky that I have insurance that pays quickly and I'm in a place now that once or twice a month I can put aside the amount needed to pay up front.† The year before I wasn't able to say that, so that's another good thing.

In February I was told my mom was in hospital and back out but the next time would be the last.† Being far away (I assume is the reason since I was her daughter who she loved), I wasn't on the list of family so it meant getting news second hand most of the time.† Not sure what to do and not having enough money yet to travel on my own accord I stayed put though it would have been nice to see her one last time and say what was in my heart. I didn't feel a burning need to though because we were always on good terms so I really didn't have much more to say.

In April I got an email saying she was in the hospital and wouldn't be leaving.† The next day I got an email saying she had died that morning.† She had been in the hospital for three days at that point, but I didn't know.† I missed being there when she passed. I wasn't invited.† If I knew what hospital she was in I suppose I could have gone but I didn't.† So there we have it.† I felt like I was somewhat less of a daughter and I don't know if leaving me out was intentional or not.† Doesn't matter though because there is no going back.† What has bothered me about that is that for my dad he wanted me to go see him the weekend he died, I said sure and then I was to told to call him back and tell him we'd come the next weekend so I wasn't there when he died - not my choice.† This time I had no choice.† Me, the daughter not deserving.† That's how it feels anyway.

The nearly two months between the death and funeral could have gone one of two ways - coming together in love as family putting aside differences, or magnifying differences.† It was the latter.† Just before the funeral I got an email telling me to sell my GICs (I've never had one) and the piano because my children were grown now (I play the piano - badly, but I do) and be there.† My ex and my son were also expected but not welcome was my common-law spouse of 17 years.† I wrote a long letter back that got filtered through people and was never read by its intended recipient.† I think I can safely say they will never read it.† All I was doing was clearing my name from misconceptions about me.† The truth is not welcome. The bright shining light in all this was my daughter and her husband, who went above and beyond and then some in all of this.† I will always be grateful for the help at this time because I know my daughter was hurting too - she lost her grandmother.

The obituary came out and I was in it with my former married name - something I haven't used in 18 years and I legally can't anymore. No one who knew me in my home town knew my mother was dead because the obituary had the name I went with when I lived in the GTA and that isn't where it was posted.† They also didn't allow public posts on the obituary. I don't know if there were any kind words posted at all.

I am not entitled to my own name.† My identity is not my own apparently.† My ex wasn't impressed either being put beside me as my husband.† I've been together with my current spouse 4 years longer than with him but my current is vilified which means I'm also not allowed to decide who my spouse is.† †I felt like I was living in the dark ages with all of that, honestly.† When did I lose my right to decide what my name is and who my spouse is?† You see - there is a horror story in here somewhere.† Someday I'll write it but for now I'm just trying to figure out how this can be considered acceptable.

Shortly after that I wound up on an interesting assignment that lead me to spending a little more than two weeks in Vancouver and Lillooet.† A welcome break from my life with my work, at a time where I got to swim in the ocean and just have some quiet time by myself.† I attended the Vancouver Pride Parade that went outside my hotel.† It was an experience for sure, that trip.† I also wound up swimming in both the Atlantic and the Pacific that summer.

In the Fall there was a work restructuring that kind of wound up being a demotion for me.† That's all I should say, but I will say I'm now in 5 different job pools and just recently applied for another.† It's one that has as a minimum my now lapsed language level but coincidentally I need to now prove that at my current place so what was going to be a quiet end of year is being spent refreshing my knowledge of French grammar.† It is what it is.

Going forward I need to stop looking back.† There's too much I can't change, and it is hard to realize that no matter how hard I try there are people who will never accept me.† I have to look forward now because there is no going back.† So in short, I don't know where I'll be this time next year.† I like Fredericton but I don't think Fredericton likes me.† Six years is a long time to feel like I'm "less than" and to lose so much:† my mother, all my animals, my jeep, a couple of friends, a couple of mothers-in-law, alive people who were close who aren't now, my seniority at work.† To that end those 6 job applications are not for here.† I don't think they are going to come to anything but if they do, it will be somewhere else in Canada. Chances are this time next year I'll be right where I'm at now, older and hopefully wiser.

My goal for this year is to bring light back into my life.† To lift the sadness and depression and start shining my light back into the world again with my words and my artwork.† I miss being me.† And that's enough of the navel gazing.

For the world all I can say is we must stop this trend of needing to be right at all costs, of wilful disregard of facts, of divisiveness and attacking people verbally when there's a disagreement.† Having an opinion doesn't mean you're right, it means you have an opinion.† There also needs to be an end to the resurgence of racism, of ignoring human rights in favour of dogma be it secular or crouched in religion, of putting political parties above all else including the law.

This year we need to see kindness.† We need to see a laying down of swords. We need to see the return of empathy, of understanding, of listening, of caring.† Most of all, like always, we need compassion.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Memorial for Mom (Cathi's Comments for May 24, 2019)
Freda B. Harris 13-May-1919 to 5-Apr-2019. Mom.

Mom, what a long and wonderful life she lived.† 99 years, nearly 100.† Can you imagine?† She was a fair bit older than her contemporaries when she got married and had children and while it was challenging she did the best she could and I am so grateful for that.† We were unconventional but I wouldnít trade that for anything because what I learned from this was priceless.† I had the great good fortune to be raised with two very strong and accomplished women in my life:† my mother and my aunt Lorna.† Both of them challenged what societyís determination of what a woman should be and did so with grace.†

My mother was born in 1919, just after World War I ended and during the time of the Great Flu pandemic Ė she was one of the few people alive who probably had immunity to that.† She told me stories of the time when telephones were party lines, the milk came by horse wagon in glass bottles with cream on the top, of ice boxes cooled by blocks of ice cut from the Ottawa River, of the Great Depression and the weird symbols that vagrants carved on their fence posts letting others know they had a pot of soup on the stove to share.† Listening to her gave me a fondness of the past and of learning about genealogy I carry to this day.† Life was precarious growing up in the time before penicillin and vaccinations and she came of age sandwiched between two world wars.† To grow up in that time was an era of loss and life and death was much more a reality for them than it is today.† She remembered family members lying in state in the living room of their house.†

When WWII started my uncle went to war and my aunt joined the WRENS while my mom stayed home and worked for the Bank of Canada while getting her BA.† She later got a Masterís in Library Science from the University of Toronto.†

When the war ended this was my momís time to see the world so she joined External Affairs and was posted to Dublin.† One of momís memories was watching Queen Elizabethís coronation on t.v. which was one of the first big events that was televised.† She was posted to Rome where she met my dad.†

My mom was a career woman.† She was the main breadwinner and she had a solid career which was remarkable for that time Ė I honestly can say she must have faced huge hurdles Ė itís still a difficult slog for a woman in the civil service and I canít imagine how it would have been for her when discrimination was allowed to be blatant as it was in the 60s and 70s.† Add to that that most women werenít career women with families and she had the challenge of child care in a much less friendly environment.†

When she was the Chief Librarian for the Department of the Solicitor General I would do my homework in the library; because she travelled a lot she would often take one of us with her.† She went to many conferences which is when we usually went but she also inspected libraries in the Federal Penitentiaries across Canada.† One of her favorite stories (and mine) was the time she got snowed in at Dorchester Penitentiary Ė a menís maximum security prison.†

For me, growing up with these trips and with all my parentsí friends visiting who were still in External Affairs made me think for the longest time that what you did when you grew up was get a job where you travel and live in exotic places.† I havenít had the pleasure of that but I am lucky enough to have had a couple of jobs where I got to see Canada.† I think this travel bug is genetic; my daughter so far is busy visiting amazing places with her husband, and who knows what my son decides to come up with.

So you see, my mom essentially packed two lives into one; a full career as a single woman then the married career mother.† She was inclusive and she would do things with my sister and I that suited each of us and for me that meant swimming and being in the choir which was the only way she could get me to go to church Ė we both loved music and singing so there we had it.

One of the reasons my mom was so determined to make us a part of what she did was because her own mother had died at age 60 and our other grandmother at age 50.† That she was 42 when she had me, she wasnít sure that she would live to see us grow up.† This weighed on her mind.† Every day beyond that accomplishment was icing on the cake for her and she was thrilled to become a grandmother Ė not just once but 6 times and to live long enough to see them grow up.†

My mom was a sweet, kind, considerate and thoughtful person who loved people unconditionally and who always tried to see people in their best light.† On the surface she portrayed herself as a gentle soul but inside she did have a band of steel to be able to live her life according to her truth which in many senses was very contrary to the way of life in her time.† She didnít kowtow to convention, she did what was right for her. She was understanding that people need to follow their own hearts even if it isnít what is expected of them.† I really appreciated that consideration.†

When I moved out on my own we would visit each other; she loved going to lunch with me when were both working downtown; we would spend evenings chatting and later when I moved to Mississauga we would spend hours on the phone chatting, something that we continued to do right up until 4 years ago.† I loved our long conversations Ė it was our safe space to talk about life.† When I learned that I could no longer call her, to me that was the first of the long heartbreaking goodbye.†

I will never forget the relationship we had and I am very grateful that I had a mother I knew loved me whether or not she agreed with my decisions.† She was the truest example of unconditional love and I am a stronger person because of that.

I learned a lot from my parents.† They were both good at relating to people and not being overly judgmental.† My mom was a wonderful force with the most beautiful light and I am so blessed to be able to say I am her daughter.† I couldnít have asked for a better mom.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Easter 2019 (Cathi's Comments for April 21, 2019)

Easter is a time of the ending of winter and the regrowth of spring. If you are Christian it is a time of rebirth, of triumph in the face of death. The long cold has succumbed to the warmth of the sun and the rain washes away all the dirt and detritus that has come before and to start fresh

We put away the somber colours, open the windows and let out the stale air - we clean the house from top to bottom and put away the heavy outerwear. Soon the air will smell of fresh grass and leaves and the heady brief scent of lilac, my favorite flower.

I think about my past at celebrations such as these. Easter was one of the fun church events - my favorite was Good Friday where the church was draped in purple and we had the candlelight service, incense being swung down the aisle.

I grew up in what my mom called a mixed marriage - she was high Anglican, my dad Catholic. We attended both churches but were mainly Anglican back then.

I left church many years ago and I'm not really religious in the traditional sense: I liked being in the choir and the music but even as a child I had trouble with being asked to suspend my free will to abide by rules that seemed remarkably unfair to women.

I live my spiritual life quietly and in my own way. I'm fortunate that my parents raised me in both their different styles but each one loved me enough to know that the right path for me was the one that I chose to live, the one they hoped would make me happy. There's been some pretty deep dips in my life for sure, however I am happy that I did have the strength of will and the resolve to live my life the way I thought best - not just for myself but for my own little circle such as it is.

I am grateful that my father and I were so close for so many years until he passed in 1995. So while times like Easter remind me of what I no longer have it also brings back flashes of when I was small wearing fancy Easter dresses with white gloves and wide brimmed hats that blew off in the wind; later, of he and I singing together after the dinner he'd cooked - usually ham and pineapple - and sipping a glass of wine.

My mom's relationship to me was more subtle because my path led me to be autonomous and that meant working full time while raising children, living 3 other places with demands of life that meant trips for work and staying at her place or going out for dinner, long telephone conversations and letters and cards sent by mail.

My long good bye for her came about four years ago when it was not possible to talk on the phone anymore and letters could no longer be written or read by her. So I treasure with all my heart a letter she wrote to me for Valentines Day 2014 where she told me how proud she was of me. I've photocopied it and scanned it and after 5 years in my purse, I put the original away for safekeeping.

My mom was always amazed how she could create such different daughters: one fair and one brunette, one traditional and one "mod" as my aunt used to call me, both of us mothers ourselves.

Time can steal our health, our eyesight, our hearing, our minds. But what time cannot steal is the love that parents have for their children.

As a child I knew comfort in their words and their arms; as an adult as a friend and confidante to both. I am so glad to be the progeny of these two remarkable people. So as the days pass by and I myself grow older, I remember that there is nothing that can ever take away the one thing that brought me here to begin with: my parent's love. I can no longer converse with either of them but I do, in quiet moments, in my heart.

And so my Easter message for 2019 is this: A parent's love is everlasting, no matter where your path will lead you. The love lives on in your children and your children's children and beyond. There is no one and nothing that can ever truly remove the love a parent has for their children and it is the passing forward of this to our own that is eternal. All that came before us lives in our cells. As such we are the embodiment of creation and light from the love our parents, and our parent's parents, through time immemorial to the future. Long past the days where we are remembered , the light lives on.

Happy Easter everyone.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

† ††††††† ††††††† ††††††† †††††††
Ghosts and Ancestors, a Farewell to 2018 (Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2018)

I started writing this on the eve of Christmas Eve, a little earlier than my usual New Years Eve missive and that's fine. I thought I'd take some time and really think through what I want to say because this past year and a half have been hard for me. Not long ago Jim and I were in the car and it was a sad day for us because we had just lost our old dog but as we drove the sun was shining and rays of light were beaming through the clouds and Jim says, "It feels like we've turned a corner today." I agreed, it was just a feeling but it did seem like we'd entered a new phase or something. I don't know why but I hope it's true. We're due for a bit of good I think.

More than anything I have really felt the fact that I'm over 50, though physically and mentally I don't. Still, the world doesn't operate on how you feel, it operates on what it sees and yes, I'm sorry to say I do look a bit like your basic middle aged lady. The days of doctors telling me I really should gain weight are long since over. There's an entire essay on being 50 begging to be written someday soon, so for now here's just a bit of what's been on my mind.

Being 50 is a lot like being a teenager. Seriously. The hormone changes that usher you into your next half century is similar to 13: you have mood swings, you feel weepy sometimes, angry other times, a little lost and awkward. You feel invisible. Powerless. Not always, but enough. I don't know when exactly I started feeling that way but taking an early retirement for a few months when I turned 50 was probably it. That and menopause. I remember my dad going through something similar and me doing my twenty-year-old best to reassure him that he wasn't worthless, that people did want him and there were still opportunities. My dad was fatalistic about things though so no matter what I said often he felt he was on the downhill slide to oblivion.

That he died at aged 63 isn't lost on me, and perhaps that weighs more on my mind than it should. What I also remember is that my paternal grandmother died at age 50 and my maternal grandmother at age 61. I look at those 3 people who lost their lives to cancer and I know that even though the two grandmothers died more than 50 years ago, only one would have possibly survived longer today. My mom's mom died of the same type of tumour that Gord Downey had - only she died a few weeks after VE day. I like to think that I take after my mom in this; at 99 she is still with us, though she is lost in dementia these past few years. She, like her sister who lived to 86 or her grandfather who lived into his 90s has the good genes. I cross my fingers and hope I do too because most of the time I feel like there just isn't enough of it to do everything I want to. And I don't know how time has sped by so fast. I don't want to admit it, but maybe I am getting older.

The other night I watched Bruce Springsteen on Broadway. Wonderful autobiographical piece from an artist I truly admire. He's an icon of my generation and I remember my friend Russell's wife Robin - a New Jersey girl herself - wore a black arm band for days after he married his first wife. Now Russell is another one who never made it beyond 50; it was such a shock to me when he died (I was in my early 20s) that I became ill for several weeks and still have the allergies that cropped up after I got over the walking pneumonia. Death was not a secret to me, my mother being so much older I was forever being taken to funerals with her mostly I think for the company and because I was brave enough to do it. But this one oh how it broke my heart. To this day I miss him. He had so many plans for the great day he could retire and write those funny stories he was so good at. I wish I'd kept a copy of the ones I'd typed up for him. Life was more complicated when we were dealing with IBM typewriter balls and white out and carbon paper. It really was that long ago. But it was also only yesterday.

Bruce Springsteen has a part in his show where he's describing sitting at a table with his father. He's expecting his first child and his father has come to him to set their relationship on a new footing. He said we have family who are ghosts - they're just names who have no lasting effect, and we have ancestors. These are the people whose influence is profound and lasts for generations - hopefully in a good way - and that's what we should aspire to be. I have made sure that my children know my father even though he died when my daughter was small and my son was born after. My dad was a complicated man, and it's too easy to focus on what was difficult. What I want them to know is how smart, charming, funny and handsome he was. He admitted he wasn't the world's best father but he was a best friend for 20 years. Some of my happiest memories are the two of us singing together. It's funny, singing in the choir with my mother is also one of my favorite memories.

I love researching my ancestry because for me, I grew up in a family divided and there was my mom's side of the family and my dad's side and I was placed firmly in the camp of my dad's side from birth because of how I look. I am not even remotely blonde so there we have it. Me, I like to think I come from both sides of the family and that both sides have merit. They're both mostly Irish though from different sides of the religious battle and I grew up both. I walked away from that a long time ago.

Faith should never be used a weapon. I've spent way too much mental effort trying to figure out how to be true to myself and please others when the reality is I can't. I want to be an ancestor but my creeping fear is that really I'm not. It's hard knowing that somewhere I crossed the Rubicon between belonging and not. So be it. A little bit of misunderstanding can go a long, long way and sadly, it morphs which is what has happened and since no one wants to hear the truth from the person who lived it, it is what it is. Still hurts a bit though. My mom and I always got along well; she understood why I've got the life I have and was accepting... so ... yeah.

My mom. Definitely an ancestor. A lot of who I am is because of how she raised me and by that I mean in a very good way. She had two degrees and was a career woman when my friends' moms were all at home; in fact she was the main breadwinner and married a man 13 years her junior. She started her family when her contemporaries were becoming grandparents. She lived in several places around the world and she traveled Canada. She made sure to take one of us with her on those trips. She was always compassionate and accepted people for who they are. I like to believe I learned that too.

One of the hardest things in the last 5 years has been the loss of the compassion and concern of my mother. I miss our hour long phone calls where we'd talk about everything. In me she knew she could tell me stuff when she worried how others would react and I appreciated her telling me those things. She didn't always like my decisions but she always understood me. I feel a little adrift without that to be honest, but here we are. I am fortunate indeed to have had her as long as I have even if I'm not in a position to visit right now since I'm not close by anymore.

In the last 5 years I feel like I've lost so much that things have to turn around. Really. We've seen the passing of all of our animals to various forms of old age (3 cats and a dog), Jim's mom and his cousin, 1 pre-teen best friend and a 20 year friend of mine, my former mother-in-law. For most of last year I had to exist on about 35% of my pay which was a whole special kind of fun. Selling my jeep that I couldn't afford to keep fixing. My children are grown which is a good thing but it also means there's a huge part of my life that's done now, and it's hard not to feel a little irrelevant. Family rifts have gotten deeper and wider. All of this is stuff that is outside of my control.

So going forward I need to concentrate on what makes me happy regardless. That means not worrying about the unchangeable, of missing things I can't get back, of feeling like I don't belong. I belong wherever I am, and if people don't always understand me, that's fine too. The people who truly know me are the ones who matter. The ones who know that I'm a writer first, a painter, a singer song-writer; the little girl who could be found up high in trees is still up high on ladders fixing things and under cabinets installing sinks or building pallet furniture.

Since I can't change the past or erase unhappy memories, for 2019 I'm going to start my year with gratitude. I am grateful for my little house, the big-boat van that stills runs, I have my children, I have a regular pay cheque, I have my partner of 16 years now, I have my health, I still have a mom on this Earth, I have my gifts and I have a little hope. That is most of all what matters.

Take care in this new year, and please people live your life with compassion. Now more than ever we need to put aside our differences and embrace our truths. The divisions we see are mainly manufactured for somebody elses' gains, not yours. So how about making this the year we listen and we treat each other with kindness and respect. You don't have to always understand why people behave the way they do, but you can't expect them to live it your way either just because what you do suits you. Remember that.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for May 13, 2018

It's Mother's Day today and it is also my own mother's 99th birthday. It is wonderful that she has lived such a long and full life, but at the same time the fact that I haven't had a conversation with her in four years hurts. She is still with us but her mind is elsewhere. She has dementia. She lives in a home in my old hometown, looked after by my sister and her family. My daughter visits when she can since she lives in the same province now but of course she has a busy life and I get to know how mom's doing when she updates me. It's all good but I do so much miss our long heartfelt conversations with her either by phone (which it usually was since I have spent more of my life away from the Ottawa area) or in person when we could. One of my happiest memories lately has been the weekend that she, my daughter and I spent in Pembroke enjoying each others' company while my daughter was attending school there.

It's so hard to see those you love and who have been a huge part of your life fade away. I saw that with her sister - my aunt - who suffered from a series of strokes. It was different with my dad who died of cancer, but again to see that force that was so present diminish is just so so painful. Any time you see a loved one pass in tiny steps it's the mourning you start when it is obvious there is no coming back from this that wears on your heart. So forgive me a little if on this Mother's Day I really just feel like crying.

I've been writing a novel for several years about a man who loses his mother to dementia. At the time I started writing it was more the reality of those I knew than as close to home as it is for me now though even then my mother wasn't quite herself. It's been a bit harder for me to continue on my novel (if you're curious it is "Late Night Cleaners Club" at Tablo.io - you can read what I've written so far on there by searching the title) as there are days I just feel sad and don't want to write about dementia and aging even if my novel is fiction. A little too close to home right now. I have been following Jann Arden's Facebook and Twitter and my wonderful daughter bought me her book "Feeding My Mother" which I am enjoying in small doses and again, there are times I absorb myself in the subject and other times I just want it all to go away and let me pick up the phone and talk to my mom for hours again.

You never stop being your mother's child, even if there are stormy waters under the bridge. I am fortunate that she may not have always liked what I did or the direction I was going but she was always there for me regardless. Not everyone is so fortunate and I hope my own children know that I am the same way. I may not always understand my childrens' paths but I will always be there for them in some way, shape or form even if it is a late night "Mom you up?" text.

Right now though, this piece isn't about me. It's about my mom and how very much she has shaped who I am, in her own quiet way. So that's the first point: you don't need to be loud to get your point across. Just be smart and think about what you say. Which leads to the second point which was to let unkind words be like water off a duck's back. Much easier said than done I'm afraid. I'm an Aries, I don't bite my tongue well so this is something she always kept reminding me of. However, I had always told her that sometimes you do need to stand up for yourself, to not be taken advantage of and let people know when they are stepping on your toes. You can't always let the water slide off the duck's back if the water is mainly acid. Ah well.

My mom was the middle child of 4 children. She was born just after the end of the First World War during the great Flu epidemic. She is actually one of the very few people still alive who has antibodies to it. Can you imagine? Her parents and their immediate family all moved from Charlottetown PEI to Ottawa to start their careers. One thing I've discovered is that people who worked for the Federal Government at the time were invited to work. So my grandfather and his brother both got positions and later there was a great-aunt who became a Translator for the UN. They did well for themselves and lived good lives. My mother told me tales of having milk and butter delivered by a horse-drawn carriage; of iceboxes and ice delivered in big blocks from a truck; of coal delivered down a chute; of model A cars and flags that stood in for eventual turn signals; of Depression era men who would make marks on their fence telling others their house was a good place to stop for a bowl of soup. She grew up in the Depression and when the Second World War came around her older sister took her application form for the WRENs and joined while her father insisted she stay home. She worked at the Bank of Canada and got a degree. Her older sister and brother having gone to war, when it was over she was determined to see the world too so she joined External Affairs.

My mother's travels to Ireland and Italy and Switzerland with External Affairs is a story in itself but it did lead to a later marriage to my father (she was in her early 40s when she had me). She got a Master's in Library Science and worked in government as a librarian for many years and it was a period of time I remember. I spent many an after school reading ancient Warden's Logs from the penitentiaries (I loved the ones from the 1880s and up to the turn of the century) as well as the magazines they had about policing. Later when I was working for the government myself we would go for lunch together, which was great. But while I was growing she travelled a lot in her job and I got to go with her many times. That was fantastic. So while there were times I wished we had a mom who stayed home like everybody else's mom, who else did I know got to leave school and go spend a week in Springhill that included going a mile down an old coal mine and standing in absolute darkness? Or how about the lobster boils we always seemed to go to when we went to the East Coast? I loved our trips to Vancouver - we did this by train and by air. I loved those journeys so much I tried for a bit to move to BC when I first left home to no avail. Now I'm on the East coast and I love it here by the ocean. I just wish she had stayed healthy enough to come visit me after I moved.

Well, I could go on and on about my mom and some day I will. But for now I have to get ready for my own work trip to BC this week, and yes, as always I will think of her when I walk those streets again.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2017

I'm a day late writing this, mainly because a big part of me wasn't sure I even wanted to post it. But then I thought, why shouldn't I? If I go back to my very first Cathi's Comments there's a whole lot of water under the bridge, so much soul searching not only in the time when I posted almost every day, but also I'm constantly doing that in my essays and poetry and in a more abstract way in my fiction. So yes of course I should post my thoughts on this god-forsaken year.

I've been depressed since late last summer and I'm doing my best to keep my head enough above water to keep functioning and on really good days, be laughing but it isn't easy. I try to look always at the possibilities of things but again its hard when the outcomes all seem kind of dark. When that silver lining is just aluminum foil, what do you do? For me I look at the causes then figure out what, if anything, I can do to make stuff better and if I can't, what to do to get out of the situation. I've got a lot situations right now.

In short they are: family, money, work, perception of self, future of my career. Kinda heavy stuff. So let's see: it's a long story but one year I made enough because of one-time payments (one of which I paid back at gross for over two years) put me in a higher tax bracket. I owed taxes but in a few years this would go down by itself because I always get tax back. This August I found out I was losing 30% of my net pay for almost a year. Add to that the acting position I'd been doing for over 2 years was ended and I went back down two levels at the end of October. Somewhere in all of this there are still bills to be paid and I really don't want to or even know how to get a part time job here. Jim tried for 3 years for a part time job before he gave up. I'm not sure what I'm going to do so I'm just putting my faith in the fact there's always something that saves me just before I go over the brink. I just have to find it.

Family: it's no secret there's people in my family who won't have anything to do with me. Why? Because I don't fit the mould, and they won't listen to my explanations of why my life has gone the way it has. I don't live up to their expectations, and they didn't listen to me so they've made up stuff that unfortunately is now being fed to other people which I find out about of course. If any of them read my essays or my comments they'd know what they think is wrong, but they don't. Unfortunately I find myself in another situation where I'm blamed again for things that are misinterpretations. Rather than listen to my explanations, it's discounted and erroneous stuff is believed. And it hurts to be in that situation. Nevertheless, I won't apologize for falsehoods and for decisions I made for reasons that people don't know the whole story of. I also am very good at keeping secrets. Where it's important I won't be telling the whole story even if it hurts me. So there we are. I can only be who I am, live my life the way I see fit, and if people really want to lay down the sword and actually come talk to me and then believe me when I tell my truth then maybe there'll be some hope. I'm not holding my breath. It's just that this year someone I didn't expect did the same thing to me and so yes, I'm at a loss because if they aren't willing to understand the truth as I lived it, well.... That one came out of left field because I honestly thought they knew me better than that. So I can only let the ache die down and carry on.

Work and perception of self are kind of tied in together though perception of self is also a part of my family issues. Here's the thing: I'm 55. I have officially 36 years service in my employment though it's actually a little longer. Now I could - and did if you remember 5 years ago - retire. Thing is, as much as I want to, I can't. I still have bills to pay that go back to when my ex and I split up 16 years ago if you can believe that. It's almost paid off but it's still there. I can't retire really until all my bills are paid off and I have enough to live on for at least a year, preferably a year and a half. That's how long it's taking to get pensions these days, not everyone but many and I have no doubt I'd be one of the ones waiting and living on nothing. For me to pay off stuff I need to get paid properly. I also need not to be paying back pay at gross or back taxes at insane percentages. I need to be in a job that pays consistently at the level I have been for the better part of the last 8 years but for some reason can't be it officially. A couple of years ago I was told "hey you came in third (for a promotion that had 2 positions) but you'll have lots of acting. It's all just pensionable time, you have 4 years to go don't you?" (this is paraphrasing but the words are the same). To me that was age discrimination but to nobody else I've complained to it is. I was recently put on a waiting list for a course I needed for my certification after someone told me they told the person organizing the course I didn't need it because I had 35 years service. It was one of the last ones I did need for the certification. I complained. At least that one got corrected and I took the course. Then came the news that the new way of hiring is based on pools, and the pools were "upping the bar" - you had to have a degree, a diploma or certification. Gone was the high school with x years of relevant experience. Last summer I was an expert. Now I'm nothing. So if I wanted to apply for my job at the moment, I couldn't. So much for 36 years of my life devoted to what I do. This hurts. A lot. I have some things to still do for certification but it's hard when my heart isn't in it, knowing they don't really want me. Maybe it's the depression talking but that's how it feels.

The thing is, 55 isn't old. Most places you can't retire before 65. Many people of my age range who would like to retire and even are allowed to at full pension simply can't because life got really expensive 30 years ago and it hasn't stopped. We're the people who were crazy enough to buy houses at 20% interest rates, who saw credit cards go up to ridiculous levels and wages get frozen so we used them, especially when our marriages went down the tubes. So yeah, freedom 55 is a pipe dream for an awful lot of people. And most of us reject the notion that 55 is old, especially when we're healthy. My mom is 98 years old. Don't put me out to pasture yet, in many ways I'm still just starting.

I am pleased with myself in that I did submit to the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest - I didn't win but it feels awfully good have submitted. This can be read at mrssauga.wordpress.com under Essays. I also submitted to the CBC Short Story contest for the first time in a few years. I don't expect to win but I will say the same disclaimer I do with all my fiction: it's fiction, if you want the truth read my essays; and, my mother is wonderful person who has been a strength in my life, the character in the story is not my mother :) You'll get to read it whenever it's rejected or if they accept it, when it's published.

I've also been painting (in the middle of a painting called Ben After The Rain), and playing my guitar again. I'm still working on other writing and yes, I keep saying this but I do intend to update this web site to something more relevant to me now.

Here's hoping that 2018 is the year I reverse all this nonsense and my money and career problems are solved. I can dream can't I? I wish every one the very best and I truly hope that you live your life with compassion, show empathy for others and maybe just try to put yourself in someone's footsteps before you react. Things are never as they seem. Remember that.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2016

This has been such a roller coaster year, with a wonderful high of my daughter's wedding to the deep low of the loss of Jim's mother. In between I very nearly lost my own mother and by some miracle she was able to be present at her granddaughter's wedding. We travelled this year for specific reasons: first an urgent trip to Ottawa to see my mother for what I thought would be the last time, and to come home and turn around and leave for a memorial for Jim's mother in Connecticut. Then in late August, back to Ottawa for a truly lovely wedding.

Being such a busy year with sudden changes not just at home but a work too, there just wasn't the time to do everything I had planned. I started sketching out the illustrations for my Troll of Barondale story but am nowhere near finished; I have the canvases for 3 paintings I've been planning to do and they still aren't sketched out; I got as far as the title of a chapter for Nanowrimo which of course meant that the book I was going to finish wasn't; the pallet garden swing didn't even have the pallets moved from the wall they are leaning against. I'll stop now before I get sad thinking about it.

I did start, and then stop for a bit doing the elliptical but I'll be back on it again in the new year. Our dog had a torn leg tendon and sore hips that had us worried we were going to lose him at age 9; instead we found a good new vet and began walking him 15 minutes a day. Between walks, fish oil and glucosamine he's almost his regular self.

So what did I learn this year? Well, that after 15 years I felt the need to once again defend the legal reasons for using my own name which quite frankly burns my butt that I have ever had to do that at all. I think I'm tired of fighting over stuff that shouldn't even be questioned. I still wonder whether it was wise going back to work, my soul sings when I write and paint and do my thing; I find myself spinning my wheels knowing I have things to offer but not quite fitting the bill so where am I more valuable? I wish I had the luxury of answering that honestly; I have bills to pay and food to put on the table. So for now I tread water holding my breath, waiting for who knows what.

The good news: daughter's wedding of course! Son's grade 12 diploma. Jim and I got a family doctor, and tests show that I am a low risk of heart disease. Good to know. Seeing my mom again after 3 years of no time and money to travel back to Ottawa and even though she lives in shadows mentally, brief minutes of lovely clarity brought her back to me.

Where do we go from here? For now, our little deer visited home in the outskirts of Fredericton is our place. I am basically thankful 2016 wasn't worse than it was for us, it's been such a bad year for so many people. I look forward to continuing things I put aside and I hope finally moving forward on new works.

What I have to say now to everyone is: believe in yourself, treat others with respect and kindness, do something that matters, show heart in what you do. We the human race need to face up to the fact that we cannot continue living our existence in division and hate. There has to be room in everyone's heart for acceptance and understanding even if you personally don't like someone's viewpoint or lifestyle please look past that to the person underneath. If we continue on the path of hatred that is being spewed our world in serious trouble. Most of all, please have compassion for others, it's what the world needs most.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for September 25, 2016

Oh dear, what a year so far. 'Tis the best of times, and the worst of times...I don't remember a year where there has been so many losses. Not just in the big wide world out there with the deaths of people we really don't know but we love their work, but in our own lives too. I can't explain it, it's just really sad. It's one of those years where things are breaking down and there's nothing we can to stop it we just have to hold on tight and hope we make it out relatively unscathed in the end.

In April Jim's mother passed away at the age of 92. It was sad and I wished we had had the money for at Jim to go see her after she fell ill a few months before but we never were able. At least she was still able to use Skype and Jim got to talk with her that way. Not quite the same as holding a hand and giving a hug, but I am glad he had a good long talk a few days before she passed. I wrote an essay in honour of my dad and Jim's mother when I heard the news she had passed: Some Days I Wish Heaven Weren't So Crowded.

Then a couple of weeks later I was told my mom was in hospital and may not be still be alive for much longer; at 96 I knew her health has been gradually getting worse as had her dementia - up until the last few months her mind was still pretty sharp but then it began to take a turn; her times of lucidity were getting farther and farther apart. My daughter and I went to Ottawa to visit for what we feared would likely be the last time and to wish her a happy 97th birthday. It was heartbreaking but we did get to talk and I am so glad we did.

Right after I came back from the visit to Ottawa we drove down to Connecticut for Jim's mother's celebration of life. I'm very glad we went.

Mom rallied and was put in a nursing home and is in good care; while my mom's moments of clarity are for brief periods, one thing she was consistently talking about was my daughter's wedding in September. We all hoped she would still be with us and well enough to go, knowing that the likelihood of that was slim. But you what? She did make the wedding and it meant so much to all of us that she was there for the wedding and photos, and even dinner. I joked that we just need to have more weddings of her grandchildren so she can get her 100 year certificate from the Queen; we still know that the best we can hope for is today but to see her so happy was wonderful.

The wedding itself was absolutely beautiful and I honestly can't think of a better wedding that I've been to. The weather was fantastic, the venue beautiful, and they are a couple that I really think will still be happily dancing at their own children's weddings. I haven't written an essay about that yet, but I did write an introspective piece about being the mother-of-the-bride. There's a lot of emotion that bubbles to the surface when you see your baby grown up and married and that's what I wrote about. My wedding speech I had to read over about 12 times so I could read the last two lines outloud without crying - I managed, but just barely. Here's my essay: I'm the Mother-of-the-Bride and This is My Story.

On the creativity front, I started working on the artwork for The Troll of Barondale, and have started putting together my short stories and my essays (as two different books)on Tablo. If you'd like to see my works in progress you can go to Tablo.io and search on Catherine M. Harris. Of course GenŤve Blue has work there too. Paperback and hard cover books can be found by searching on Lulu.com. I did have ebooks on Amazon through Tablo but unfortunately Amazon and Tablo got in a dispute and Amazon pulled all the Tablo ebooks. Nice eh? Tablo is trying to work that out or make an arrangement with Kobo. I don't like that my work isn't available in ebook format though so I may be doing that on Amazon through Lulu instead. We'll see.

Beyond that I'm thinking about the current CBC Short Story contest and the upcoming Nanowrimo. I'll think I'll dedicate this year's Nano to finishing the novel that I started last year, still with the tentative title "The Late Night Cleaner's Club"- this novel is departure from my usual fantasy/horror/humour fiction, it is a story about a man in his early 50's caring for his mother who has dementia. I kind of put that one aside these past few months just because reality is haunting me enough as it is, but then I know I can add more depth with it as well. It's under GenŤve Blue at the moment but I think GenŤve won't mind if I put my name on it ;) - we'll see.

This is all I have to say for now, so please stay safe and treat those around you with compassion, it's what the world so desperately needs right now.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2015

As 2015 winds to an end I find it's been quite a strange year all in all. Personally, the year started with saying goodbye to Erin and Alex who continue on with their life journey in Toronto. Then was the loss of my cat Domino, who passed away at age 14. We now are down to one dog and one cat.

It's been a year of decisions. My jeep that has been sitting waiting for money to get the brakes fixed since November 2014 now has a dead battery and at last look either a dead battery cable or dead starter or both. I put it up for sale in August but people either want it for almost free or they want it running and certified, which, sadly so do I. If it were I'd be driving it. I could have used the money if it sold but as the year ends it still sits there in my driveway.

It's been a year of discovering my own truth. †I discovered that there really is a bias that happens at 50 and you will get denied opportunity. I won't go into detail but it was said to my face so I have to believe it. It makes me sad that once again I'm forced to see that no matter how good you are or how much knowledge or experience you have it's all about agendas and where you fit into it. And I don't. So. That leads me back to decisions. I have no idea how long it's going to take me to pay off everything we owe and bank enough to pay the bills for a year but that's my plan. Whenever I do leave this next time it will definitely be my last. I will not go back to work where I'm not appreciated again. †Unfortunately it's going to take a long time because I'll never get a real promotion again I don't think. At least that's the way it looks to me right now.

I say that I need a year's worth of bill paying ability because as of this date we are still waiting for Jim's not so great Old Age Security, one year and three months after he turned 65. CPP by the way is pocket change, not a real retirement sum so if you do have any chance to have input on upping the CPP payout, please agree to it. Someday you'll thank yourself and the people already retired who are getting a pittance will thank you. †I also think that the Guaranteed Income Supplement should be based on individual income, not family income. It isn't fair to dual income families who suddenly wind up with one person making pocket change and waiting forever for marginally better OAS while the other has to carry the load. Not many middle income earners have planned for one year or more of nothing coming in.

Carleton Park at Dusk
But on the bright side, I finally started painting again. I have one painting that is now donated to The Ville, and I have the canvas for 3 more that I'll be starting shortly. It's been a good year for me creatively.

Off-Air is finally published in paperback and as a Kindle edition, I Ching Jukebox finally made it as a Kindle edition, my poetry book as well became a Kindle edition. I also posted my very first novel and am in process of posting my second novel that I wrote in my 20s. I am also in the middle of writing a novel that started with Nanowrimo 2014. I did try Nano again this year but ran out of time. †I've been very busy but I'm glad I did attempt it. So you see, me and GenŤve Blue have been working away. I also submitted an entry into the CBC short story contest for the first time in forever.

So - looking forward, 2016 should be an interesting year. There is a wedding to attend in September (yay!!) and aside from my paintings to do I plan to finish the two novels in progress. I will also take my Troll of Barondale children's story and create the drawings for it so I can publish that one too. I actually woke up on morning seeing it as an animated short but unfortunately, like the other ideas I have for animation I'm not sure how to do that without some pretty decent software. I need to take another animation course I think, but probably not this year. Time and lack of money forbids it.

Beyond that, who knows what 2016 has in store for me. So on that note I will say, please people follow your heart and treat others with compassion. Don't let the darkness steal your light away, the world needs it.

In love and light,

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for September 7, 2015

It's been a while since my last Cathi's Comment and oh, what can I say? We're in an election that is the 3rd longest in history (beaten by 1867 and 1872). We are hearing stories of an impending El Nino, which may or may not be a good thing. We are in a technical recession which is bafflegab for what was previously known as a recession and the sad image of a little boy face down on a beach is the shame of Canada and the world.

Canada used to be a haven for refugees, a bright light in a dark world. Instead, like the boatload of Jews from Europe that were turned away during WWII (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27373131), we have any number of reasons why these thousand of refugees around the world have to live in camps for years rather than be brought to our faraway shores. At the same time, we now have a temporary worker program that allowed companies to bring in temporarily workers from around the world because we don't have the number of (often) low-skilled workers to fill our need. But they can't stay here. And now, because of abuses, it's much less - approximately 25% of the number from Jul-Sep 2014 than there were in Jan-Mar 2014. These by the way are the latest numbers I could find published at time of writing this so I can't vouch for accuracy there and I have no idea what the 2015 figures are.

So. There we have it. I can't discuss politics or show favoritism for a particular party or denigrate any party, which is probably a good thing because from where I stand at the moment, I think politics ruins everything. I am forever ending my posts here saying something to the effect of please people, show compassion. This is what the world needs.

I find a lot of election campaigning to be a turnoff; and to have a really long campaign (although for some parties it seems non-stop campaigning) means endless opponent-bashing ads on t.v., and the eternal search in the media for the perfect sound bite, the perfect line or picture that can be skewed or stopped at just the right moment to make a candidate appear foolish. I don't care which parties do this, I hate those ads. I mean it. If the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Party was created and did that, I would it hate it just as much.

There are buzzwords that drive me crazy. War-chest is one of them. A war-chest, for the uninformed, is the money donated to politcal parties to fund their election campaigns. I find this expression particularly offensive because that means that I, as a voter, am the enemy. I am here to be swayed and conquered by these marvelous war-chests of theirs. The bigger chest the tighter the sweater...wait, that's another expression. But it makes as much sense. I, as a voter, do not want to be considered as something to be conquered or wooed or even slightly swayed. I want honesty. I want facts. And by facts I mean real facts. I want options. Not long lists of what political party experts have decided that they think I'd like to hear. I want humility, but more than that, I really want at least a glimmer of the truth.

On a grander scale, we live in a world of my way or the highway thinking, and that's something else I truly hate. I don't know exactly when it became fashionable to engage in black and white rhetoric though I'd personally blame it on the 1980s and the Thatcher years. I want all politicians and people in power, including those in big corporations to know that there is rarely if ever anything that can be answered with a black and white answer. Life is a myriad of greys, pick the appropriate shade for that particular situation. That's when fairness begins. But that is too complicated, too expensive. It all comes down to the almighty dollar, and if it means suspending any rational thought to save a dollar and believe an ideology so be it. It shouldn't be like this. I ask all those people thinking of entering politics right now to consider the human side first and go from there. Please. Somebody has to.

I won't presume to know what political menu would be best for you, the reader, but I will say this: please take the time to find out a little of what is being said, a little of what has happened recently that is affecting now (and please don't dig up memories of old bones of politicians whose actions and policies have no bearing on today's issues whether they are alive or not); think about how you'd like to see things change or stay the same and go from there. Most important of all, vote. Just vote. Follow your heart, follow your mind, whatever it takes, vote. What we don't need is a country run by the results of only 61% of votes actually being cast because that really isn't representational of who we are is it? Please don't say your vote doesn't matter. It does.

In other matters, though I'm not posting as many Comments as I used to, favoring instead other means of social media like my Wordpress blog (http://mrssauga.wordpress.com), Facebook and Twitter. I will at some point soon update this web site as perhaps a convergance of my other sites with links to my historical web pages. It's been a while since I've done any programming to speak of and I miss it so yeah, it'll happen. Right now though I'm concentrating on writing and artwork.

Off-Air and I Ching Jukebox by GenŤve Blue are now available both as paperbacks and on Amazon Kindle; my Polariods Get Yellow poetry book is also now available as a paperback and Amazon Kindle, and on Tablo (https://tablo.io/) there's a novel from when I was in my teens that is up and can be read there for free (I don't plan to do more with that one), as well, there is a book of my short stories in progress there that can be read. For GenŤve Blue, there are two other novels in progress: The Late Night Cleaner's Club, and the novel Cassandra which is a novel I wrote between 1988-1990 and I'm pleased to say is seeing the light of day. So far I like it and will most probably be publishing that on Amazon as a Kindle edition and possibly as a paperback.

I'm pleased to say that I've finally started painting again; my newest painting is a view of Carleton Park at dusk and I have donated it to a local Fredericton former school turned Community Centre (TheVille.ca). More paintings to come, I promise.

So that's it for now,

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2014

This year flew by so quickly, I can hardly believe that it's over! And what a year it has been. It began with the happy news that my daughter's boyfriend got a job in our town, and once daughter got her RN she moved here too. That was quickly followed by a new job for her, and university graduation which I was so happy to attend. The happy news of their getting engaged in February was also a bright light in this year.

On the home front, I put in a garden. And as seems to be my fate that where there's money there's a hand clawing it back, well that happened too. Still haven't figured out how I'm going to solve the current money issue which is exacerbated by Jim not being to find a job. After unemployment ran out we thought old age pension would kick in at 65 or the month after but how long it takes for the application to get done is ridiculous - here it is 4 months later and we're still waiting. I can't help but wonder what people with no one to look after them do on no money coming in for months at a time? Sigh. Anyway, the plans for things like fixing the brakes on the Jeep and putting in new windows are out the window for the foreseeable future. I refuse to let this hiccough get me down though, we still love where we are and are very glad we made the move.

There was sad too, with the loss of two people we'd never thought would leave the world so soon. I won't go into detail or name names out of respect for the families involved but I will say that please, if you're feeling like you just can't take it anymore, talk to someone. You never know what tomorrow will bring, there's always a chance that something good will come along just when you least expect it. For the people left behind, the pain of sudden loss and the eternal "why?" is so hard.

This is also the year we said goodbye to our oldest cat Max. He is missed.

One accomplishment is publishing the first edition of the GŤneve Blue novel Off-Air. There's some edits that need to happen before it goes on Amazon. I did do Nanowrimo this year, and once again I won which makes me happy. The new book which I'm using the working title of The Late Night Cleaners Club is now in progess on Tablo, an interesting site where writers can write and post their work in progress. GŤneve is still happily plugging away on this novel, which is a bit of a departure from the usual paranormal stuff - it's a novel about a middle aged man looking after his mother who has dementia.

Speaking of paranormal, here's my predictions for 2015: Predictions for 2015.

And on that note, I haven't much else to say. Here's to a happy and healthy 2015!

Go in peace, go in love, and let your light shine.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for August 6, 2014

It's been a busy few months since I last updated and I don't know where to begin when I think about the latest world events. I'm trying not to think we're teetering on the edge of WWIII, keeping positive thoughts in the hopes that if enough people put the mental energy that this is not going to happen, it won't. Well, I can dream. In the meantime I'm finding that it's important not to spend too much time watching the news and absorbing all that pain from far away.

So what's been happening? Well, on a happy note, daughter graduated, got her RN, got engaged and moved to be with her fiance who is now in our town. On that end, life is good and we are very happy for her and them. Son got accepted into university here as well but will go back for another year of high school, which is fine and a good idea I think.

For us it's been a few months of more working on getting the house fixed up to our liking which includes updating a little of the wiring, starting a little vegetable garden and generally tackling minor repairs and doing stuff like patching foundation spots that need it, that sort of thing. We added a window air conditioner which I think is all we need to keep the house reasonable on hot days.

So far this year the weather has been rather interesting. Aside from what was a brutal winter (and I was so so glad I got a wood stove put in), the summer has been interesting with hurricane Arthur leaving us without power for nearly three days. We were lucky, some people were out for more than a week. Lessons learned though is that you do need to have a couple of weeks worth of canned and dried (if you have a cooking source) food, especially in the summer when you can't put frozen and fridge stuff outside to keep cold. I didn't lose too much ($150 worth of stuff and some was still frozen solid so that was good - not opening the freezer door helped). I did miss not be able to cook even water so we now have a small charcoal barbecue and a bag of charcoal to use if necessary. I chose that over propane or gas because it occurred to me that we will always have wood around but getting replacement gas might not always be possible, and cooking on the wood stove in the summer is definitely out, it was way too hot to even contemplate that. As you can guess, I'm not big on barbecuing so it was a missing link in all of this. Other that the cooking end, we were pretty well prepared. It was actually kind of fun spending the evenings reading by candle light and playing the guitar for entertainment. Having a wind-up/battery powered radio was also a handy thing to have.

Creatively I haven't gotten into painting again yet but I will; writing has been my strongest muse though the guitar and piano call to me once in a while. Speaking of writing, Off-Air by Geneve Blue is now published on Lulu. It will eventually be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble and as an ebook. Off-Air has also been submitted to a indie book contest so fingers crossed it gets short-listed at least.

So what happens next with the writing? That's the question. There is still a Geneve Blue novel that is half-finished, and I am debating whether to finally put out that collection of essays and that collection of short stories I've been threatening to do for so long. Add to that, my children's book - The Troll of Barondale P.S. might be fun to illustrate and put out officially. I'll have to look into how children's illustrated books work with self-publishing first before I attempt that, but since I'm really not a children's story writer I do want to put out the one I did write for my daughter's class way back when, and maybe even the little one I did when I was in school that won an award (an now we're really talking waaaay back - it was called The Bird Who Wanted Out and it was read on cable t.v. in Ottawa somewhere around 1973?? I forget). Those are probably the only two children's stories I'll do since my imagination simply doesn't work that way.

Also - the CBC Short Story contest opens September 1st. I haven't submitted one in a couple of years but you never know, I may have something to submit this year. We'll see.

Go in peace, go in love, and let your light shine.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2013

Oh what a year this has been! If there were to be one image that symbolizes it, it would pheonix rising - the year where from the ashes of a very dark time, my whole world turned around. If you want to read the updates that didn't make it to this home page, I did put them on my Comments Archives page for the current year. I found it hard to update this site because the site manager program got changed and so I've been using my Wordpress blog to update. The link to my Wordpress blog is Cathi's Place Wordpress Blog and it's actually where I've posted everything from essays that didn't win contests to poems and Comments of course.

Getting back to my year, it started with being interviewed and offered a job in Fredericton - this was a job I applied for before I left the government and because I had done that and it was under a year since I left it was possible to go back with all of my status and everything. It took some negotiation and timing was everything for both the new office and me so at the beginning of June I started working again at the Ottawa location until I sold the house.

Now knowing my horror story of the last couple of years working that led me to taking early retirement in the first place, I guess the first thing most people would think is: have you lost your mind? Well, yeah, but to understand that when I retired I planned to sell the house and move to Fredericton, you could say that fit the plan. The reality was that until I sold the house, my financial problems were still looming heavily over my head. All of my equity was in the house, and how would I move without a place to go to? It would take money and a decent credit rating to do that on my own. I resolved that yes, to fulfill this dream I would go back, but this time keeping in mind that I really am just a number in the grand scheme of things so what is the upmost important thing is never to let my job steal my time and myself again. My plan now that I'm where I want to be is to finish paying off everything, retire on full retirement instead of partial, and do upgrades to the house I'd like to have done so that when I do retire, I won't have much to think about.

I won't go into the selling of the old house - that's in the archives if you want to know what happened - all I can say is I'm happy to be in a lovely bungelow that is the same age as I am and much more easy to take care of. Moving in we put up a fence on the side to keep a promise to the dog and cats; we go on frequent walks with the dog on our little street that ends in a forest and where we see deer wandering around. We also bought a snowblower and are very glad we did, since November we've had heaps of snow, twice the regular amount for this area for December.

Beyond the moving, I've let go of my dream of finishing my degree for the time being, the reason being that I am so close to the University of New Brunswick that I want to explore what part time courses I can take that is more in keeping with where my mind and heart are leading me. At the moment my creativity is calling strongly so the courses I take next will tie in computer programming and art and probably film. I kind of miss my camera work at Cogeco so the thought of learning script writing, film editing and filming for movies is now percolating in my mind, as is my long time love of animation. So you see, that dream isn't dead, it's just evolving.

As for my writing, I submitted one novel to a publisher at the beginning of the year and....crickets are chirping so I might publish that one myself this year. The humorous novel I started in Nanowrimo in 2012 is still being worked on; it may wait until I retire again before I try to publish that one simply because of the topic I'm making fun of :). Nanowrimo 2013 was started and I realized that to do that one takes some research so that was the end of Nano for me this year, and yes, I now have two unfinished books. I did also submit to the CBC essay contest and didn't win. Laundromat Girl is licking its wounds on my Wordpress site. I'll put a link to it on my essays page eventually. Needless to say, writing is still my number one creative love, one I haven't slowed down on at all.

If have anything to say about where I am now it's that I so love Fredericton, I really do. The people, the food, the two markets, the appreciation of the arts and music that exists here, the opportunities for learning and growth and also the fact we're close to Prince Edward Island and to Nova Scotia which means that there will be many fun day trips next summer.

I usually have something to say about world events but quite frankly the horror and freakshow that was 2013 pretty much leaves me speechless. The passing of Nelson Mandela leaves a hole in the world's conscience that I can only hope will be filled by someone someday soon. If I have any wish for 2014 it's that corporate greed and heartless politics see an end or at least the beginning of the end. We as societies must evolve in a way that brings back heart and soul (and by that I do mean soul, not religion) to everything we do. Dare I hope? Time will tell but I sense a trend heading that way.

So that's where I leave my 2013 end of year message. Go in peace, go in love, and let your light shine.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for November 8, 2013 - Hey, catching up here!

Oh my gosh I donít know where to begin. Iíve been so incredibly busy that the poem I wrote about selling the house in Arnprior in July stayed on Wordpress as a draft and is only now posted. But oh the saga of the selling the house! Iíve been mentally trying to put it behind me but in the interests of history, lol, I will say a bit about it.

I discovered that my old house, which I knew of cluttered and desperately in need of a serious clean and paint job (not to mention new carpets) was an absolute nightmare to dejunk. I had stuff of mine that dates back to my first apartment, stuff from the kids that goes back to baby-hood, stuff from my single days, stuff from my married days, stuff accumulated during Jim and my time together, bits from 4 cars now gone, two cars still with us; stored stuff from one friend and an entire carpentry business that was now abandoned. Pleas to our carpentry friend to please get rid of his stuff fell on deaf ears; the for sale sign on the lawn was not more much inspiration than word that he had a friend with a trailer who would help him cart stuff to the dump but that never materialized. Sadly, after asking and getting nowhere and running out of time, some of the stuff was given away, but a lot of it went to the dump. One box of photos wound up in the lobby of his building, after getting no answer at the door or the phone and leaving messages with people who knew him. We felt bad but when itís the day before youíre moving, what else could we do?

Yeegads, the dump. In a desperate bid to get the house presentable enough for viewing, we got a large dumpster and filled it, and in the end we still had something like 9 trailer loads of stuff to the dump, the last load literally being the closing date with money in hand for the pass and an apology to fellow we borrowed the trailer from.

So how did the house selling go? Uh, kind of badly but in the end it worked. First off, I discovered that the assessment value determined by the province was $41,000 higher than the appraiserís assessed value. There went the possibility of paying off all my bills. The realtor wanted to list the house at the low end of the assessment; I said no, that gives us no room to negotiate and insisted it be more mid-range to have it listed in keeping with others of similar lot size and age. After three weeks of insisting the place wasnít good enough to photograph, the MLS listing accidentally went up by a miskeying so I told him thatís fine, please letís start showing.

The showings were horrible to say the least, mainly because with 3 cats and dog the cats had to go in cages during the viewings and the dog, on the other hand was thrilled beyond belief to get all the impromptu walks. The cats were displeased and showed it by messing my carpets to the point that I had to clean the carpets daily with the carpet cleaner. It still wasnít good enough. People came, decided it was too smelly to walk in the door, including one couple who did that but still insisted on walking through the place and keeping us sitting in the parking lot of the church next door beyond their viewing hour only to completely diss the place afterwards. One realtor left a message saying ďgood luck selling this place!Ē to mine, which he so kindly shared with me. The house never did get listed in the local paper (after, I think, I insisted the commission rate be changed to reflect what was written into the relocation contract, to which I was told ďoh, I thought with the extra youíre getting in relocation you could afford itĒ when I said I couldnít take the higher rate, it would come out of my pocket).

Still, I did get an offer, based on the gigantic garage Iím sure, and after a little negotiating to get it within an allowable amount, I accepted. One month after listing, I was happily on my way to a house hunting trip.

Was the house hunting trip our little vacation to Fredericton together? Sadly, no. I had no one and no where to board the cats, so Jim stayed home while I went. I was given the name of a good realtor from someone who had just relocated and found the house of her dreams, and with an appointment set up with him I was good to go! Except that I wasnít sure Iíd be able to get a mortgage due to the mess the pay clawback had caused to my finances, so after being soundly refused to be allowed to port my mortgage or to get a new one from MCAP (I say the name because I will never deal with them again), I went to various brokers.

One suggested a rent-to-own builder. The idea sounded appealing until a story broke in the news about people in Ontario who had been totally ripped off by one of these builders, to the point where theyíd given all their savings, moved and found out they had to get out of their house in a matter of days. Not wanting to buy a house that was over what I had planned to spend anyway, I kept looking for brokers and actually did find one, and got a deal. This was a deal that meant 20% down, paying off a credit card I was planning to anyway, and going through negotiations that actually lasted until the closing date of the house I got but I got it.

Would I recommend this broker and this mortgage company? Hmm. The deal worked for me but not without a lot of agonizing and paying a financing fee that my previous broker actually had gotten paid by the financing company, and getting a dunning letter from the broker in my LinkedIn page when my purchase lawyer refused to pay the bill that demanded $500 from the proceeds of sale plus one snotty email regarding my letter of offer on my jobÖ.Uh, I wonít name them but if you are in the situation I was in and live in Ontario Iíll give it to you if you message me. Heed my warning though, you wonít be treated as professionally as you would if you went through a bank or a proper broker and you will feel like financial scum dealing with the 2nd tier brokers. You just will, and if you are going to these people youíve already been told youíre scum by the banks so yeah, Iíll let you know who I dealt with. But not here.

Solo I went to my house hunting trip and was very pleased that within the absolute limit I had for a house, I actually had that many to look at it, and several more I flatly turned down. One the first day I saw one that really was a contender, and one place half an hour outside of the city that was absolutely amazing but sadly, the rural roads looked like they would be nightmare in the winter and I was determined never to go through the commute I had been for the last 25 years. Nope, this was my chance to turn a page and I was going to do it! There were a number of places that clearly needed some major help, a couple that were just weird (including a hobbit sized door going to one bedroom, and a historical house that clearly looked like a former brothel to me), and thenÖa bungalow on a street with Jimís last name, that from the pictures looked like one step up from a mobile. Driving up the place I could immediately see the realtor had picked the wrong side to photograph, this was actually a very pretty house, recently renovated and all up to date. I fell in love the instant I walked in and at the end of the day, I made an offer. There was a counter offer and yay! I got the house. The rest of my week of house hunting was spent visiting lawyers and assessors and appraisers and in between, taking a free fiddling lesson, visiting the garrison museum, going on the Haunted Walk and generally walking around and enjoying what was an incredibly sunny and warm week to be off exploring.

I happily came home with less than a month to both finish clearing out the house and figuring out how to get the animals to Fredericton in one piece. The answer to that came in the form of an absolutely fantastic kennel that specializes in military moves. Lincoln Pet Motel is their name, and I canít say enough good things about them. They actually came and picked up the animals (the vet said the cats werenít fit to fly Ė two were too old, one too fat for kitty downers) and kept them for a week and a half. When we picked them up they were in great shape and no worse for wear.

The move itself was Ö interesting. The packers came, two of them turned around and walked out, the third left with them and I was told I had to clean the house because it smelled like cats. My comment was, ďWhat the hell? Prima donna packers? Have they never moved a family???Ē Freaking out thinking the movers wouldnít be able to move and they refused to let me pack myself, the fellow who had arrived came back the next day, alone, and did the packing himself. The third day the three came back but apparently one girl saw a hair ball and the two girls left again. Turns out the two didnít have to work so they had the luxury of turning their noses up at jobs, but hell, when people are on strict timelines those girls need to be in another profession if thatís the way they behave. I told the moving company that too, because I went through paxorisms of angst I just didnít need because of them. The fellow who stayed, bless his heart, just shrugged his shoulders and said, ďIíve seen worse.Ē He actually was an interesting guy. The movers were fantastic. They came, they loaded, and were out in good time. Then came the night of cleaning the house which we did until the wee hours of the morning. In all of this sleep and eating became a luxury, but in the end, we got it done. By noon on day of closing we were saying our good bye to Arnprior and hitting the road, with a hotel room booked in Edmunston, thinking weíd get there in about six hours. No dice. We got trapped in Montreal traffic, wild weather, and road work. We got in the hotel at 1 a.m. The next day was a nice visit with son in Woodstock and then we were in Fredericton! We stayed at the Ramada which was a surprize, we really liked the hotel.

I had a Sunday to show Jim around, which I did, and then came closing closing day. The movers were (wisely, as it turned out) coming the next morning, and that was good because the bank giving me the mortgage, being in Calgary, dragged its heels until it was too late to do anything here and it actually closed at 9 a.m. the next day, with Jim and I and the movers sitting in the laneway drinking Tim Hortonís and telling our life stories. Unloading went well and by 5 p.m. we were home. We got the animals a couple of days later, after weíd set up enough to be able to safely have them roam around.

Since then Iíve been getting going at work, weíve been unpacking (weíre still not done), and adding the little touches we need to live here. That included getting a fence around the side area for the animals to go out happily, getting snow tires for the cars and the licence change overs, getting cars certified (donít get me started on what the Jeep needed Ė letís just say if I have driven it here it wouldnít have made it), and this week, having a little wood stove installed.

So how do we like it here so far? We love it. Fredericton is a fantastic place to live. The people are friendly and nice, the cost of living is much better than Ontario, and the way of life just so much nicer. We plan to stay here a long, long time. Life is good :)

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for May 23, 2013 - Now onto the next phase of my life

Oh my stars, Iíve been busy.

Letís see: we took the old rusty trailer to Edís Salvage (where, remarkably, somebody bought it to use on their farm I think. Weíve gone up to the land in Quebec and discovered the travel trailer with the falling down roof had been broken into and completely stripped of everything of value, including the toilet (??) but they left the dishes and cutlery so we brought those back, sterilized them twice and now have more dishes, lol. The bullet hole through the windshield of the old dead van we had there was a nice touch. Nice enough that we had no regrets about agreeing to the people we were buying the land from that they could take them both for scrap metal and finish the payments. We also told them weíd be happy to sell the land if anyone is interested. While it was nice to have a woodland spot away I really was concerned being in a hunting area with no service of any kind so some hunter will be happy to have it for their hunting camp I guess Ė certainly not suitable for a cottage. But thatís okay too becauseÖ

The job I applied for last August, interviewed for in December and negotiated over since then is now a fait accomplis. Effective June 3rd I am back among the employed, and am moving to Fredericton, NB. Yay me!

Now in case any one is wondering whether once again Iíve really lost it this time, no I havenít. I know the Department Iíll be working for pretty well, and some people there as well, and Iíve never heard anything bad about it. Yes, itís the government, yes, there are good and bad things about working there, but it does get me to the maritimes and by selling my house Iíll be able to pay off all or most of everything I owe. You canít argue with that, working again is small price to pay for getting back on my feet completely again. The hand holding that comes with relocation is greatly appreciated as well because I honestly couldnít get my mind untwisted with respect to how Iíd figure out the selling and buying and stuff otherwise.

So Ė in the past few months we got new tires for both vehicles and some repairs (but they both need to be brought in again before we leave for minor things). We took our big orange cat Moe to the vet for a lion cut and his shots (heís now looking rather smaller, but seems much more perky, lol). Our dog goes for shots on Monday and then the other two cats need them too.

Iíve been stripping wallpaper in the bathroom, bought new plain wallpaper and will do that and paint it this weekend.

I got a quote for repaving the driveway Ė pricey Ė ďitís not a driveway, itís a parking lotĒ I was told (yes, itís huge) so that will either have to be negotiated with the eventual buyer if itís an issue, or the other option is to scrape, level and put gravel for half the price. No time for either now so yes, thatíll be a buyer concern (or arranged through the real estate agent? do they do that?).

Still up:
-getting the old stove, washer, dryer, snow blower and bicycles scrapped (Iíll get someone to do this)
-spray weedkiller on the driveway and patch up the spots that had weeds
-get a driveway junk bin and toss everything old and useless out (thatís going to be a big †job)
-figure out the best way to deal with the animals during the house hunting trip
-figure out how to deal with the animals when we actually move! Itís a 10-12 hour drive.

So much to think about, but you know what? Iím having fun :)

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for April 29, 2013 - Hello Spring

So I havenít written much here though I did start an essay that Iím wondering whether to rewrite and waiting for paperwork that will send me to a new city near the ocean (but not on it, lol). I wonít write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I wonít say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I wonít.

I will say: Happy Spring!

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2012

If I were to sum up this year in one word it would be:† Yeegads!!!† Triple exclamation points are necessary for this one.† The remarkable thing is how quickly the time passed, and if youíre into numerology at all itís because this was a 5 year.† Anyway, this was the year of dichotomy because while it went so incredibly fast, there was also a component that made certain moments and situations go so painfully slow.† This was a year of losses Ė on a grand scale and personal Ė and of picking up the pieces and somehow moving on looking for the bright side in what to me at times felt like I was one mile down a mineshaft with my minerís lamp gone out. †I am happy to say that I followed the pitter patter of running rat feet up to the surface and while I think Iím still in here, I can see daylight.† And Iíve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol. †

Can you tell Iíve been writing lately?† Thatís one of my highlights.† My lowlights?† The financial and personal implosion that caused the lights to go out in the first place.† But before I go on, as much as I donít want to, I will say a few words about world events.† There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I wonít go into a missive on the horrors that were faced in 2012.† There have been thousands of posts on each of these events and quite frankly I donít think that anything I have to say on them would add any particularly enlightening insight.† There have been a series of mass shootings that to me brings home the idea that rights of the individual shouldnít be so feverently clung to that it allows for people to have the right of access to weapons that are more properly used by military or police. What about the rights of people not to be gunned down en masse by a person with a desire to act out their violent fantasies?† The same day that the Newton CT shooting happened, a man in China did the same thing at a school with a knife.† The difference between the two is that though the numbers of victims were similar, the Chinese students were injured.† Injured.† Not dead.† Yes, people can do the same thing with a bomb, but you canít buy a bomb in a Walmart.† Bombs are illegal.† They can be homemade, yes, but with people who have lost their grip on reality the saying when thereís a will thereís a way applies.† My comment on this is simply: we canít prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.† Much like we canít stop weather; there will be tornadoes and avalanches and earthquakes and volcanoes.† What we can do is not build on fragile ground like homes on the shore of the ocean, or on a cliff in an earthquake prone areaÖyou get the idea.† And in freak storm times, like hurricane Sandy when it turned on the East Coast, you head to higher ground and hope thereís something left when itís all over.

So that brings me back to my life. I am sitting on higher ground now after the storm that wiped out my finances.† I realize I was living on the shore of the ocean that is banks and credit card companies. To a big degree yes, itís my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000?s.† What wasnít my fault was believing that pay is something earned and received in a reasonable amount of time, that when they say 10 days or 4 to 6 weeks to straighten out a problem will actually be that and not 3 months or 14 weeks.† That when youíre working on a project receiving project pay that it wonít be argued over which Department pays for it and then clawing it back from the person who did the work because no agreement could be made.† I learned in very stark ways that after 31 years I really was just a number, that my accomplishments meant nothing to anybody but me, and that Ė saddest of all Ė nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.† Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe itís time to be me.† As I watched the waves of destruction bigger than I could stop wipe away what was my life, I also saw it as clearing the slate for the next phase of my life. I looked at where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing.† From that perspective I saw that maybe this destruction was just what I needed to move forward to what I should be doing.

I left work Sept. 28, 2012 and since that time Iíve been writing and relaxing and clearing my mind from the anxiety that was my constant companion this year until then.† I still have things to worry about, but well rested and happier I can face them better.† And if thereís anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and itís been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road. †

I couldnít finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).† Now Iím about to write the essay that will be my entry for the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest, and then Geneve Blue will absolutely get Off-Air published, I Ching Jukebox into ebook and paperback forms, and the Nanowrimo novel will be finished, edited and hopefully published this year.† My house will be cleaned, painted, repaired as much as finances permit, and then sold.† Somehow or other I will get to New Brunswick.† These are my plans.† The moving part depends a lot on money of course, because I may have to get a part time job until the cleaning and selling is done, which of course will slow things down, but the intention is there.† Thatís half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.† If thereís any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that itís time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isnít negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.† Itís time to say no to the powers that be (and that ďbeĒ could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an ďus and themĒ atmosphere.† Itís become a universal cancer in society and it has to stop.† People of the world need to realize that until we all come together towards a common ground there will always be conflict.† You know, thereís so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we donít need to create more problems for each other. So how about it, how about we approach things from the middle this year?† Looking at issues from the extreme edges means you leave out the heart of the matter; while the temptation of hard and pat answers are quick and appealing they just donít work Ė thatís what weíre living right now. †

Ian Punnett, for those who donít listen to Coast to Coast or 107.1 Minneapolis is a radio host who is also a Deacon.† In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting he delivered a sermon that is worth a read.† Hereís the link: http://stclements.episcopalmn-sites.org/files/2012/02/Sermon.December.16.2012.pdf.† It highlights the ridiculousness of the absolute, in this case the lack of prayer in school.† We need to stop blaming and finger-pointing and get to the truth of whatever weíre facing.† As Ian says, listen to that still small voice.

This year the still small voice told me that when your world is at your feet in ashes, you pick up the embers to light a new fire.† Wherever anybody finds their fire is where there is passion, and what we need now is people to have passion and show that passion.† Care.† Speak up.† Act on your truths and for heavenís sake, donít just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.† If it doesnít ring true, it isnít.

My passion is and always has been creativity:† writing, painting, music.† So if you want to know where Iíll be in this 2013, thatís where Iíll be.

Happy New Year everyone, letís make this year a good one.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 17, 2012

I have been watching the various Presidential debates, and one thing struck me last night was how strange it is that women's issues are still an issue. Between Mitt Romney talking about his binder full of women, and even the fact there is a discussion about birth control in medical insurance funding, and in Canada the fact that once again abortion was brought into the spotlight by a private member's bill that actually went to a vote, and the Minister for Women (a woman) actually voted for the bill saddens me. And in Afghanistan, poor little Malalia, the 14 year old girl shot for wanting to speak out for allowing girls the right to an education....

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So a reminder to everybody: women are human beings, they are equal to men just built differently in certain areas. We do deserve all the same rights and nobody should have the right to dictate what we should do with our bodies.

That is all.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 13, 2012

I am writing this from a whole different frame of mind. The reason is I'm free. My last day working was Sept. 28, 2012. After 31 years of public service I took an early retirement (in fact, at the very earliest age you can retire) because after finding out what my pension would be now versus 5 years from now, the difference wasn't all that much. Add to that that I'm below the age threshold where they are starting to make it harder to retire, cost more and wind up with less I figured that I didn't have much to lose. This last year, I have to say was the absolute worst time in my career, which says a lot because I'm been through an awful lot, some of which will likely wind up in a fictional story (novel or series of short stories, haven't decided) about the weirdness that is the Federal Government.

Never did I ever think that accepting a long term assignment would wind up with me in dire financial straights because of 3 months of pay screw ups this time last year, then the indignity of having to pay back part of my salary over a two month period because I had volunteered to move to a new Department when they were ready to take me on and neither department wanted to pay my project pay beyond a certain date, even though I actually was doing the project - I continued to get paid until the pay people went, "eek we overpaid you, you have to pay us back". Anyway as I mentioned in an earlier update, that put me on the brink of bankruptcy. With advice from a financial advisor that the only answer was to sell the house, I saw my whole world fall at my feet until I realised: that's part of the answer; the other is using severance pay to pay the overdue bills, then sell the house, then pay the rest I owe. How I came to that decision was simply that if I had to move, then damn it, move I would! All the way to New Brunswick. So that's my plan.

The final few months at my last Department were horrible - a 4 to 5 hour commute each day, one month spent sharing (literally) a desk and a phone, reduced from a module lead to a glorified clerk, but the worst of it all was that between two Departments, neither one cared that they had destroyed my life. The lack of sleep and the stress of it all meant I was getting panic attacks, migraines and asthma attacks frequently, and I was terrified I'd drive off the road during my 75 km daily drive because I was so very tired. I never got more than 4 hours sleep, partly because I left at 6 in the morning and got home around 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening. What life I had I was rapidly losing to depression - I literally spent the month of July in tears, but during my vacation in August I worked out my escape and thankfully, after this year of hell this one thing worked.

These past two weeks have felt a lot like vacation, but in a more refreshing way. The last day of work I turned off my alarm clock and haven't turned it on since. For the first time in years, I am sleeping my natural rhythm and amount. Yesterday I started a short story that I hope will be good enough to submit to the CBC Short Story Contest. My mind is twirling with ideas for Nanowrimo. I've been singing and making jokes, working on house things as the mood arises (which hasn't been often but I will tackle the house clean up soon). I have raked leaves, mowed the lawn, walked the dog. For the first time in a long time, I'm starting to feel like myself again.

There may be people who will hit the roof when they find out I've taken early retirement, so I've been waiting until my mental state is back to normal before I deal with the reaction, however what others say has no bearing on my life because unless they can help me fix it, they're part of the problem and I literally couldn't continue working where I was, it was killing me emotionally and potentially physically, so there we have it.

It's a little scary this new phase I'm embarking on, but I do believe that my gifts were being wasted and this is my time. Whether I'd stayed or not, I'm still broke, lol. Well, until I publish that best selling novel, lol. At the end of the day I decided we need to live simpler, not caught in the wheel feeding the beast that is the credit card companies and the banks. So we're in the process of doing exactly that, and I am very happy to say that Jim is behind this all the way because he saw what all this was doing to me, and to us.

Today I was looking at the epublishing process, and yes, I Ching Jukebox will be a Kindle edition as well as a paperback. Off-Air will be published, I'm thinking as a paperback and ebook first then a hard cover. I'm still thinking of a book of short stories and beyond that I will be busy fixing up and dejunking the house, possibly working part time to tide us over until the house is sold. Where we'll be is likely in the Fredericton area, and the where depends on how much we have left after all the bills are paid (with moving costs factored in). So lots still up in the air, especially since we don't know how long it will take to get the house in decent shape for showing and how long it will take to sell. My guess is we're here until late spring or early summer. A lot can happen between now and then though, so it really is anyone's guess how the next few months will play out.

Whatever else, I can't possibly describe how good it feels to have my life back. I'd almost forgotten who I was after all this nonsense. So for my closing statement, it's simply: welcome back, Cathi.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for July 25, 2012

Oh dear, I don't know where to begin, but then I don't know how many people actually read this any more anyway, so I guess I should just blurt it out and see what sticks.

Things have gone from bad to worse to put it mildly. June was an absolutely horrendous month, icing on the cake so to speak, but the fallout will live on for years I'm afraid. What's more, I am totally at a loss on how to deal with it. My magic trick hat is empty except for credit counselling or bankruptcy I suppose.

My gamble at trying out a brand new department was successful and I was accepted to be transfered, and was told it would be the fall before a downtown building and position was there. Sounds good, right? That would be after the end of my project and an excellent time for turning a new leaf after 24 years at my then department. Yay me. So that took effect at the beginning of the year with me doing everything I was before on the project I was on, paid my higher project pay until the end which as it turns out was to be June 30th. So far so good. But my project pay expired in May and who was going to pay - my new department or the old one - was tossed back and forth. I continued to get paid. At the end of May I was asked if I was interested in something starting May 28th. I was reluctant because it was on the other side of the city and a month before the project, my "baby" would be finished so I said I'd rather not. I was told I would be reporting on May 28th and that was that. So I did. There's more to this transfering over but I won't go into it here, I don't want the backlash. Anyway, end of June I expected the higher pay to end, but not the notice that I'd have to pay back the project pay; the two departments never agreed on who to pay it and so nobody is. So there we have it. After the mess last fall from my pay turned two credit cards into loans and put one in a precarious position, this latest hit means I'm left with mortgage, car payments, insurance, food, gas for the car and bus fare. That's it. Now add to that a loan I thought was finished in August I found out isn't, I had just paid 5 years of payments only doing interest and because it's HSBC I have renew for at year with a balloon payment of over $20k due next year as they are pulling out of Canada. In the words of text speak: FML.

Now the new job is so far away I'm commuting 4 hours each day, take 2 busses and get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. This means that try as I might to finish my assignments for my latest university course, I simply couldn't, I'm too tired. I just can't concentrate at the end of the day. I am withdrawing from it tonight so I don't get an F on my transcript. I may never be able to afford or have the time to work on my courses again. It also means that where I need to be there for some issues my son has had this year I'm not as much as I should be and his bad year had a difficult end so he'll be spending longer with his dad. I'm trying very very hard not to feel like a failure when I've tried so hard but like my new job, at the end of the day I don't have a choice. I work too much apparently, and so that's that. Now if I were working at something that actually meant something in the grand scheme of things, say as a heart surgeon or something I could take that with grace. Right now, I've fallen from functional team leader to glorified clerk so yeah, my heart is breaking.

I don't know what hurts the most: that all those people I helped didn't bring the karma (or pay it back) I so dearly need right now, or that everything I worked so hard for and towards is collapsing at my feet and I don't know how to stop it.

I'm probably being very stupid for writing this but a very big part of me is bucking at the current culture of not talking and saying everything is perfect when it isn't. Financial institutions are forcing people into bankruptcy when previously they were a little more lenient on paying back things. HSBC is horror story that I hope makes the news, but not with my name on it. I'm still stinging from the two year fight with Rogers (I gave in and paid the buggers this March) and am still hoping there's a class action suit I can jump in on.

So what's my action plan now? Well, I'm still trying to get to Fredericton. I worry though that if I do have to go bankrupt or even credit restructuring will make it impossible to buy or rent a place again. If so, what do I do, live in a tent? But I'm not letting my mind wander in quite that drastic a spot yet even if it is a remote possibility. I don't know what to do about my job. I made a huge mistake with that one, but I also wouldn't try and attempt to go back to where I was even if it were offered because they were the ones that sent me into the financial spiral in the first place and they could care less what happened. Heck, after 24 years I didn't even get a good bye card, so yeah, I know what I'm really worth to them. I am applying for jobs in Fredericton still, and am wondering if taking an early retirement and selling everything and just moving would help? I don't know.

All I know is, I'm on the cusp of a huge change. What form that takes I don't know, but I will carry on scaled back and rather bruised. There will be a book in this I'm sure, and my now focus is dejunking the house and getting Off Air published. I need to get back to what soothes my soul, and what are my gifts and that is writing, painting and music. I will be finding myself again and in that find strength.

I do feel bad for Jim who is the recipient of the fallout of this. He has been so supportive and trying hard to help whatever way he can. He has been there for my son - much more so than people realize or know, but son and I do, and I hope at the end of the day my son never forgets this. I won't. Thanks Jim.

So to end this long gut spilling missive, I look to the moon and stars and ask the universe to look kindly on me. For what it's worth, much of what I've done is to help others and yeah, it came back to bite me in the end but it's not over yet. I'm taking all this as a sign that I have to pay attention to myself and my needs, however much too late that may be.

Wish me luck, and here's hoping my next Cathi's Comment will be just a little bit brighter. And to the few souls who do actually read this, may life bring you joy in these strange and dark days.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 29, 2011

Welcome to my end of year message, written with a bit of an apology because if you look at my Comments archives, my last one is from this time last year. I did actually work on updating this, alas the page never made it up andÖwell itís in an old computer so I wonít bother with digging it up.

This year has slipped past me in a blur of world events and life events, so much so I honestly donít know where to begin. Do I need to remind anybody about the horrendous earthquake in Japan? The Arab spring that is now into winter? The world economy that is on its last legs and tottering badly?

So letís jump to my microcosm. Iím still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if thereís to be any real hope of sales they need to be in ebook format. The formatting was put on hold until I had an ebook reader to be able to verify them on. I am very happy to say that Jim took advantage of an online black Friday sale to get me a Kindle, so armed with that now Iíve been playing with it a bit to see how it works and reading the Lulu ebook creator guide. Checking out the pdf of I Ching I can see that the fonts and images are okay so it shouldnít be too hard (fingers crossed) to get that one up. I was going to put out Off Air as a 6◊9 paperback instead of a hard cover at first, but Iíve changed my mind on that. Iíll do the ebook first, and then the 6◊9. I also found one of my very first books that I wrote when I was a teenager; Iím thinking that it would be great to do that one as an ebook as well mainly to see how good it actually was after its many rejections and to do the entire thing from scratch in ebook format. Beyond that, my soul is crying for creativity and I do intend to spend more time writing as my gift haunts me if I ignore it.

The university course I was taking was passed with flying colours. I enrolled in another, Web Programming to refresh my now rusty skills and I did a good start but alas it has now had to be extended due to a very strange summer and fall; I started my TMA 1 (thereís 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesnít look too hard itís just the time and motivation thatís bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, Iím not sure if Iíll be able to afford any more courses and I desperately hope I can at least finish this with a computer science certificate if not a degree. Weíll see, Iíd still need 3 more courses. The upshot of this course is that it is web design and part of it is to design your own site so I do expect to update my Cathiís Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and weíre no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; sonís big thing this year is music and Iím pleased to see that he is being encouraged in that. Daughter is knee deep in clinicals and is learning that being conscientious is a good thing even if it means losing out on sleep at times. Sheíll be a great nurse when itís all said and done, she just needs to build confidence and experience, which anybody does when starting out in a profession.

My year started strangely with the collapse of a project I was assigned to. We picked up the pieces and are carrying on and it will be done, though in a different form. What Iíve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignmentís pay has been; itís become a necessity after a comedy of errors which Iím sure Iíd be laughing at now if it werenít for the mess it caused me financially. But what else is new? Sigh. At least I fixed the Jeep, but in doing so I got caught up in a back pay scenario that has devastated my credit unfortunately. I donít know what to do about that, but things have a way of working themselves out so I am hoping dearly that it will indeed do so this time. Lesson learned here is that I canít take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the childrenís father moved on to his momís in New Brunswick so it would be closer for son to visit. The other was that it is less expensive to live there and Ontario has gotten way too expensive a place to be. Unfortunately the job I applied to in NB that looked so hopeful was cancelled, and the other in Nova Scotia that I thought I had a decent chance at I didnít get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes theyíd just give me a really early retirement and I could go on my merry way, pay off the credit stuff and finish my degree. Somehow I doubt that would happen but you never know, they are cutting a lot of jobs where I am now so who knows. What I do know is that this coming year is going to be one of great uncertainty for many, myself included.

Our two companies ground to a standstill, but there is some hope for Talerocker~Dreamcat in the form of Jimís game being on Hero Engine cloud. He was very fortunate to be offered a chance to build it for free on there following an approval process and he has been working on it; his nephew and I are also working on it and weíve been learning Maya 3D animation/CGI but the one hitch is that we only have the student versions which means that to go live one of us at least has to have a licensed version to put out the commercial version of the game when it is done Ė thatís a big concern in that the licence is very expensive. I was thinking we should create our objects in student and then have a 30 day coding spree recreating the objects in the 30 day full trial version, get the game going then buy the license when we have subscriptions. Thatís one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though weíve kept the website we were building up for now; after 3 years of paying for web hosting and the domain name when the other 2 partners never paid is kind of pointless I think. I donít think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends intoÖwellÖnot friends. I feel bad about that because looking back Iíd rather have kept the friends had I known one partner would have turned into a very angry and demanding person when it came to business. We have since learned that this partner died earlier this year and that knowledge threw us both for a loop. We werenít told when it happened so I can only assume they didnít want us to know, which is fine I guess, but we are mourning the loss of a friendship that can never be repaired.

What do I see for the coming year? It isnít pretty. I honestly donít know how the damage that has been done to the worldís economy and the famous 99% can be repaired. The Occupy Wall Street protests were a symptom, and while the cities have had their camps shut down in North America for the most part, they may be gone but I donít think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasnít really heard and I am sure the voices will get louder the more the banks and credit card companies and utility companies tighten the screws.

Lowering interest rates was a necessary thing, and in mortgages has helped hold off a tide of defaults at least here in Canada, but when this happened they just foisted the interest onto credit cards and got nasty to boot. Iíll give you an example: I have a credit card that goes back to the late-90s when they were offering these big limit, low rate ones. This card saved my life a few times with marriage breakdown and various other life events, and it was at the limit. I was always good about paying on time because it had a great rate (6%) so I could use most of what I paid. So Ė fast forward ten years and a misunderstanding about money owed to me that went from 10 days to 3 months. I got behind. I got the money, paid the card and learned that it is now 12% and no longer has any credit available. Every time I pay now, the limit goes down. In other words, itís a loan not a credit card. The others arenít quite that mean, they just doubled the interest and what was 10% is now 20% and virtually unusable. That is their tricks now, aside from over limit fees, administration fees, etc., that I am sure goes against the criminal codeís maximum 60% interest rates Ė and the banks have raked in record profit this year. All the while our finance gurus are decrying the horrendous consumer debt. Um, is there anybody out there that sees bilking people out of money with obscene interest rates might be a big part of the reason? There will be record personal bankruptcies in the coming year, I just hope I wonít be one of them.

Now, add criminal interest rates on top of the ridiculous gasoline, natural gas, electricity and water rates people are paying. Ontario Hydro had to pay to get surplus electricity taken off the grid, and we still pay on the $8 billion debt retirement charge that apparently has not only been paid but has had more than a billion over that paid by consumers. Toss in the massive layoffs that are just starting here in cost cutting measures and what do you get? You get the same thing the US, Greece, Italy, England, Portugal, Ireland, etc., are going through. In Canada weíve been protected I think largely because of our small population, but we are beginning to feel it. We are on the cusp of an economic meltdown that is far beyond our borders but will happen here in much bigger numbers over the coming year. If the powers that be are truly serious at saving us, they need to legislate a maximum credit interest rate of prime plus 8%, and they need to ensure that the rates charged for utilities are not speculative but actually based on cost, not stock market cost but production cost.

Getting back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Canada we should be calling it Occupy Bay Street, but anyway this is important on many accounts. First is that for the first time in decades, masses of people here joined together to protest and stuck with it Ė the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far theyíre young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, letís see some more layoffs, people going bankrupt because there is no other option, people too broke to go to university or college, the disenfranchised. Have enough people who have had their lives and dreams destroyed (or at least put on a very long hold) and see how loud the voices get. At a certain point they will be too loud to be ignored. Will that cause a complete restructuring of the financial system world wide (as should be done Ė no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that weíre already in WWIII but thatís another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, weíve pulled out of Afghanistan, Gaddafi is dead as is Osama bin Laden and Kim-Jung-Il. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast because Iran is sabre rattling, Somalia is a disaster, Pakistan is angry, thereís tension between Iran and Israel, and thatís just the obvious ones. Russia and China are lining up their allegiances, and the Euro zone is in serious turmoil. Find the right butterfly wing that flaps and coalesces all this tension and the results wonít be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and weíve got a huge mess on our hands that no one government, person or people can solve. We need to look beyond governments, religion, culture, our country to be our saviours, all of these have their failings and we need to accept that. What we need more than anything is to give a damn about people beyond our inner circle, give a damn about whatís happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song Iíve been singing on these year end posts all along: compassion. Now more than ever, we need to show compassion towards one another and it needs to be reflected in our corporate and government policies. We need to call out those who are destroyers Ė entities or groups or persons Ė and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years Iíve helped others Ė much to my detriment I will admit, though not all Iíve helped are detrimental Ė and my helping has come back to bite me. Okay. Will I stop? Well, on a personal level I think I have to, the well is dry and those I served lately canít pay me back, but maybe on a bigger stage I can. I can by writing things like this, by complaining to companies when complaints are warranted, by helping with words where I can.

Things arenít all bad here though. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: I have two wonderful children who, in spite of all the nonsense in their lives they are doing remarkably well and are truly nice people. I have Jim, who stands behind me no matter what ridiculous turn my life has taken, no matter how many nights I cry at my follies and get down on myself, no matter how long I take in boarders I probably shouldnít and help people who need it knowing Iíll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who donít see the many evenings of being a scout leader or the hours in doctors offices listening to specialists and picking up children from school when they are sent home sick, driving son to and from school when he was small (and not being able to get a full time job because of that)Öthe list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my lifeís ups and downs and who, at 92 is a huge part of our lives even though we rarely have the time to see her in person.

As you can probably guess if youíve read this far on, I have been fighting off the depression that is nibbling at my toes. It makes me tired and not quite as able to do everything I want or need to, but rest assured I will ride it out and do as I always do, take the darkness and turn it into something beautiful. Be it a song or a painting or book, this is what I do so stay tuned.

To everyone I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Dream, and dream big. In times like these this is what we all need.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for April 29, 2013 - Hello Spring

So I havenít written much here though I did start an essay that Iím wondering whether to rewrite and waiting for paperwork that will send me to a new city near the ocean (but not on it, lol). I wonít write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I wonít say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I wonít.

I will say: Happy Spring!

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2012

If I were to sum up this year in one word it would be:† Yeegads!!!† Triple exclamation points are necessary for this one.† The remarkable thing is how quickly the time passed, and if youíre into numerology at all itís because this was a 5 year.† Anyway, this was the year of dichotomy because while it went so incredibly fast, there was also a component that made certain moments and situations go so painfully slow.† This was a year of losses Ė on a grand scale and personal Ė and of picking up the pieces and somehow moving on looking for the bright side in what to me at times felt like I was one mile down a mineshaft with my minerís lamp gone out. †I am happy to say that I followed the pitter patter of running rat feet up to the surface and while I think Iím still in here, I can see daylight.† And Iíve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol. †

Can you tell Iíve been writing lately?† Thatís one of my highlights.† My lowlights?† The financial and personal implosion that caused the lights to go out in the first place.† But before I go on, as much as I donít want to, I will say a few words about world events.† There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I wonít go into a missive on the horrors that were faced in 2012.† There have been thousands of posts on each of these events and quite frankly I donít think that anything I have to say on them would add any particularly enlightening insight.† There have been a series of mass shootings that to me brings home the idea that rights of the individual shouldnít be so feverently clung to that it allows for people to have the right of access to weapons that are more properly used by military or police. What about the rights of people not to be gunned down en masse by a person with a desire to act out their violent fantasies?† The same day that the Newton CT shooting happened, a man in China did the same thing at a school with a knife.† The difference between the two is that though the numbers of victims were similar, the Chinese students were injured.† Injured.† Not dead.† Yes, people can do the same thing with a bomb, but you canít buy a bomb in a Walmart.† Bombs are illegal.† They can be homemade, yes, but with people who have lost their grip on reality the saying when thereís a will thereís a way applies.† My comment on this is simply: we canít prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.† Much like we canít stop weather; there will be tornadoes and avalanches and earthquakes and volcanoes.† What we can do is not build on fragile ground like homes on the shore of the ocean, or on a cliff in an earthquake prone areaÖyou get the idea.† And in freak storm times, like hurricane Sandy when it turned on the East Coast, you head to higher ground and hope thereís something left when itís all over.

So that brings me back to my life. I am sitting on higher ground now after the storm that wiped out my finances.† I realize I was living on the shore of the ocean that is banks and credit card companies. To a big degree yes, itís my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000?s.† What wasnít my fault was believing that pay is something earned and received in a reasonable amount of time, that when they say 10 days or 4 to 6 weeks to straighten out a problem will actually be that and not 3 months or 14 weeks.† That when youíre working on a project receiving project pay that it wonít be argued over which Department pays for it and then clawing it back from the person who did the work because no agreement could be made.† I learned in very stark ways that after 31 years I really was just a number, that my accomplishments meant nothing to anybody but me, and that Ė saddest of all Ė nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.† Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe itís time to be me.† As I watched the waves of destruction bigger than I could stop wipe away what was my life, I also saw it as clearing the slate for the next phase of my life. I looked at where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing.† From that perspective I saw that maybe this destruction was just what I needed to move forward to what I should be doing.

I left work Sept. 28, 2012 and since that time Iíve been writing and relaxing and clearing my mind from the anxiety that was my constant companion this year until then.† I still have things to worry about, but well rested and happier I can face them better.† And if thereís anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and itís been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road. †

I couldnít finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).† Now Iím about to write the essay that will be my entry for the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest, and then Geneve Blue will absolutely get Off-Air published, I Ching Jukebox into ebook and paperback forms, and the Nanowrimo novel will be finished, edited and hopefully published this year.† My house will be cleaned, painted, repaired as much as finances permit, and then sold.† Somehow or other I will get to New Brunswick.† These are my plans.† The moving part depends a lot on money of course, because I may have to get a part time job until the cleaning and selling is done, which of course will slow things down, but the intention is there.† Thatís half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.† If thereís any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that itís time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isnít negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.† Itís time to say no to the powers that be (and that ďbeĒ could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an ďus and themĒ atmosphere.† Itís become a universal cancer in society and it has to stop.† People of the world need to realize that until we all come together towards a common ground there will always be conflict.† You know, thereís so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we donít need to create more problems for each other. So how about it, how about we approach things from the middle this year?† Looking at issues from the extreme edges means you leave out the heart of the matter; while the temptation of hard and pat answers are quick and appealing they just donít work Ė thatís what weíre living right now. †

Ian Punnett, for those who donít listen to Coast to Coast or 107.1 Minneapolis is a radio host who is also a Deacon.† In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting he delivered a sermon that is worth a read.† Hereís the link: http://stclements.episcopalmn-sites.org/files/2012/02/Sermon.December.16.2012.pdf.† It highlights the ridiculousness of the absolute, in this case the lack of prayer in school.† We need to stop blaming and finger-pointing and get to the truth of whatever weíre facing.† As Ian says, listen to that still small voice.

This year the still small voice told me that when your world is at your feet in ashes, you pick up the embers to light a new fire.† Wherever anybody finds their fire is where there is passion, and what we need now is people to have passion and show that passion.† Care.† Speak up.† Act on your truths and for heavenís sake, donít just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.† If it doesnít ring true, it isnít.

My passion is and always has been creativity:† writing, painting, music.† So if you want to know where Iíll be in this 2013, thatís where Iíll be.

Happy New Year everyone, letís make this year a good one.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 17, 2012

I have been watching the various Presidential debates, and one thing struck me last night was how strange it is that women's issues are still an issue. Between Mitt Romney talking about his binder full of women, and even the fact there is a discussion about birth control in medical insurance funding, and in Canada the fact that once again abortion was brought into the spotlight by a private member's bill that actually went to a vote, and the Minister for Women (a woman) actually voted for the bill saddens me. And in Afghanistan, poor little Malalia, the 14 year old girl shot for wanting to speak out for allowing girls the right to an education....

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So a reminder to everybody: women are human beings, they are equal to men just built differently in certain areas. We do deserve all the same rights and nobody should have the right to dictate what we should do with our bodies.

That is all.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 13, 2012

I am writing this from a whole different frame of mind. The reason is I'm free. My last day working was Sept. 28, 2012. After 31 years of public service I took an early retirement (in fact, at the very earliest age you can retire) because after finding out what my pension would be now versus 5 years from now, the difference wasn't all that much. Add to that that I'm below the age threshold where they are starting to make it harder to retire, cost more and wind up with less I figured that I didn't have much to lose. This last year, I have to say was the absolute worst time in my career, which says a lot because I'm been through an awful lot, some of which will likely wind up in a fictional story (novel or series of short stories, haven't decided) about the weirdness that is the Federal Government.

Never did I ever think that accepting a long term assignment would wind up with me in dire financial straights because of 3 months of pay screw ups this time last year, then the indignity of having to pay back part of my salary over a two month period because I had volunteered to move to a new Department when they were ready to take me on and neither department wanted to pay my project pay beyond a certain date, even though I actually was doing the project - I continued to get paid until the pay people went, "eek we overpaid you, you have to pay us back". Anyway as I mentioned in an earlier update, that put me on the brink of bankruptcy. With advice from a financial advisor that the only answer was to sell the house, I saw my whole world fall at my feet until I realised: that's part of the answer; the other is using severance pay to pay the overdue bills, then sell the house, then pay the rest I owe. How I came to that decision was simply that if I had to move, then damn it, move I would! All the way to New Brunswick. So that's my plan.

The final few months at my last Department were horrible - a 4 to 5 hour commute each day, one month spent sharing (literally) a desk and a phone, reduced from a module lead to a glorified clerk, but the worst of it all was that between two Departments, neither one cared that they had destroyed my life. The lack of sleep and the stress of it all meant I was getting panic attacks, migraines and asthma attacks frequently, and I was terrified I'd drive off the road during my 75 km daily drive because I was so very tired. I never got more than 4 hours sleep, partly because I left at 6 in the morning and got home around 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening. What life I had I was rapidly losing to depression - I literally spent the month of July in tears, but during my vacation in August I worked out my escape and thankfully, after this year of hell this one thing worked.

These past two weeks have felt a lot like vacation, but in a more refreshing way. The last day of work I turned off my alarm clock and haven't turned it on since. For the first time in years, I am sleeping my natural rhythm and amount. Yesterday I started a short story that I hope will be good enough to submit to the CBC Short Story Contest. My mind is twirling with ideas for Nanowrimo. I've been singing and making jokes, working on house things as the mood arises (which hasn't been often but I will tackle the house clean up soon). I have raked leaves, mowed the lawn, walked the dog. For the first time in a long time, I'm starting to feel like myself again.

There may be people who will hit the roof when they find out I've taken early retirement, so I've been waiting until my mental state is back to normal before I deal with the reaction, however what others say has no bearing on my life because unless they can help me fix it, they're part of the problem and I literally couldn't continue working where I was, it was killing me emotionally and potentially physically, so there we have it.

It's a little scary this new phase I'm embarking on, but I do believe that my gifts were being wasted and this is my time. Whether I'd stayed or not, I'm still broke, lol. Well, until I publish that best selling novel, lol. At the end of the day I decided we need to live simpler, not caught in the wheel feeding the beast that is the credit card companies and the banks. So we're in the process of doing exactly that, and I am very happy to say that Jim is behind this all the way because he saw what all this was doing to me, and to us.

Today I was looking at the epublishing process, and yes, I Ching Jukebox will be a Kindle edition as well as a paperback. Off-Air will be published, I'm thinking as a paperback and ebook first then a hard cover. I'm still thinking of a book of short stories and beyond that I will be busy fixing up and dejunking the house, possibly working part time to tide us over until the house is sold. Where we'll be is likely in the Fredericton area, and the where depends on how much we have left after all the bills are paid (with moving costs factored in). So lots still up in the air, especially since we don't know how long it will take to get the house in decent shape for showing and how long it will take to sell. My guess is we're here until late spring or early summer. A lot can happen between now and then though, so it really is anyone's guess how the next few months will play out.

Whatever else, I can't possibly describe how good it feels to have my life back. I'd almost forgotten who I was after all this nonsense. So for my closing statement, it's simply: welcome back, Cathi.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for July 25, 2012

Oh dear, I don't know where to begin, but then I don't know how many people actually read this any more anyway, so I guess I should just blurt it out and see what sticks.

Things have gone from bad to worse to put it mildly. June was an absolutely horrendous month, icing on the cake so to speak, but the fallout will live on for years I'm afraid. What's more, I am totally at a loss on how to deal with it. My magic trick hat is empty except for credit counselling or bankruptcy I suppose.

My gamble at trying out a brand new department was successful and I was accepted to be transfered, and was told it would be the fall before a downtown building and position was there. Sounds good, right? That would be after the end of my project and an excellent time for turning a new leaf after 24 years at my then department. Yay me. So that took effect at the beginning of the year with me doing everything I was before on the project I was on, paid my higher project pay until the end which as it turns out was to be June 30th. So far so good. But my project pay expired in May and who was going to pay - my new department or the old one - was tossed back and forth. I continued to get paid. At the end of May I was asked if I was interested in something starting May 28th. I was reluctant because it was on the other side of the city and a month before the project, my "baby" would be finished so I said I'd rather not. I was told I would be reporting on May 28th and that was that. So I did. There's more to this transfering over but I won't go into it here, I don't want the backlash. Anyway, end of June I expected the higher pay to end, but not the notice that I'd have to pay back the project pay; the two departments never agreed on who to pay it and so nobody is. So there we have it. After the mess last fall from my pay turned two credit cards into loans and put one in a precarious position, this latest hit means I'm left with mortgage, car payments, insurance, food, gas for the car and bus fare. That's it. Now add to that a loan I thought was finished in August I found out isn't, I had just paid 5 years of payments only doing interest and because it's HSBC I have renew for at year with a balloon payment of over $20k due next year as they are pulling out of Canada. In the words of text speak: FML.

Now the new job is so far away I'm commuting 4 hours each day, take 2 busses and get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. This means that try as I might to finish my assignments for my latest university course, I simply couldn't, I'm too tired. I just can't concentrate at the end of the day. I am withdrawing from it tonight so I don't get an F on my transcript. I may never be able to afford or have the time to work on my courses again. It also means that where I need to be there for some issues my son has had this year I'm not as much as I should be and his bad year had a difficult end so he'll be spending longer with his dad. I'm trying very very hard not to feel like a failure when I've tried so hard but like my new job, at the end of the day I don't have a choice. I work too much apparently, and so that's that. Now if I were working at something that actually meant something in the grand scheme of things, say as a heart surgeon or something I could take that with grace. Right now, I've fallen from functional team leader to glorified clerk so yeah, my heart is breaking.

I don't know what hurts the most: that all those people I helped didn't bring the karma (or pay it back) I so dearly need right now, or that everything I worked so hard for and towards is collapsing at my feet and I don't know how to stop it.

I'm probably being very stupid for writing this but a very big part of me is bucking at the current culture of not talking and saying everything is perfect when it isn't. Financial institutions are forcing people into bankruptcy when previously they were a little more lenient on paying back things. HSBC is horror story that I hope makes the news, but not with my name on it. I'm still stinging from the two year fight with Rogers (I gave in and paid the buggers this March) and am still hoping there's a class action suit I can jump in on.

So what's my action plan now? Well, I'm still trying to get to Fredericton. I worry though that if I do have to go bankrupt or even credit restructuring will make it impossible to buy or rent a place again. If so, what do I do, live in a tent? But I'm not letting my mind wander in quite that drastic a spot yet even if it is a remote possibility. I don't know what to do about my job. I made a huge mistake with that one, but I also wouldn't try and attempt to go back to where I was even if it were offered because they were the ones that sent me into the financial spiral in the first place and they could care less what happened. Heck, after 24 years I didn't even get a good bye card, so yeah, I know what I'm really worth to them. I am applying for jobs in Fredericton still, and am wondering if taking an early retirement and selling everything and just moving would help? I don't know.

All I know is, I'm on the cusp of a huge change. What form that takes I don't know, but I will carry on scaled back and rather bruised. There will be a book in this I'm sure, and my now focus is dejunking the house and getting Off Air published. I need to get back to what soothes my soul, and what are my gifts and that is writing, painting and music. I will be finding myself again and in that find strength.

I do feel bad for Jim who is the recipient of the fallout of this. He has been so supportive and trying hard to help whatever way he can. He has been there for my son - much more so than people realize or know, but son and I do, and I hope at the end of the day my son never forgets this. I won't. Thanks Jim.

So to end this long gut spilling missive, I look to the moon and stars and ask the universe to look kindly on me. For what it's worth, much of what I've done is to help others and yeah, it came back to bite me in the end but it's not over yet. I'm taking all this as a sign that I have to pay attention to myself and my needs, however much too late that may be.

Wish me luck, and here's hoping my next Cathi's Comment will be just a little bit brighter. And to the few souls who do actually read this, may life bring you joy in these strange and dark days.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 29, 2011

Welcome to my end of year message, written with a bit of an apology because if you look at my Comments archives, my last one is from this time last year. I did actually work on updating this, alas the page never made it up andÖwell itís in an old computer so I wonít bother with digging it up.

This year has slipped past me in a blur of world events and life events, so much so I honestly donít know where to begin. Do I need to remind anybody about the horrendous earthquake in Japan? The Arab spring that is now into winter? The world economy that is on its last legs and tottering badly?

So letís jump to my microcosm. Iím still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if thereís to be any real hope of sales they need to be in ebook format. The formatting was put on hold until I had an ebook reader to be able to verify them on. I am very happy to say that Jim took advantage of an online black Friday sale to get me a Kindle, so armed with that now Iíve been playing with it a bit to see how it works and reading the Lulu ebook creator guide. Checking out the pdf of I Ching I can see that the fonts and images are okay so it shouldnít be too hard (fingers crossed) to get that one up. I was going to put out Off Air as a 6◊9 paperback instead of a hard cover at first, but Iíve changed my mind on that. Iíll do the ebook first, and then the 6◊9. I also found one of my very first books that I wrote when I was a teenager; Iím thinking that it would be great to do that one as an ebook as well mainly to see how good it actually was after its many rejections and to do the entire thing from scratch in ebook format. Beyond that, my soul is crying for creativity and I do intend to spend more time writing as my gift haunts me if I ignore it.

The university course I was taking was passed with flying colours. I enrolled in another, Web Programming to refresh my now rusty skills and I did a good start but alas it has now had to be extended due to a very strange summer and fall; I started my TMA 1 (thereís 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesnít look too hard itís just the time and motivation thatís bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, Iím not sure if Iíll be able to afford any more courses and I desperately hope I can at least finish this with a computer science certificate if not a degree. Weíll see, Iíd still need 3 more courses. The upshot of this course is that it is web design and part of it is to design your own site so I do expect to update my Cathiís Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and weíre no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; sonís big thing this year is music and Iím pleased to see that he is being encouraged in that. Daughter is knee deep in clinicals and is learning that being conscientious is a good thing even if it means losing out on sleep at times. Sheíll be a great nurse when itís all said and done, she just needs to build confidence and experience, which anybody does when starting out in a profession.

My year started strangely with the collapse of a project I was assigned to. We picked up the pieces and are carrying on and it will be done, though in a different form. What Iíve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignmentís pay has been; itís become a necessity after a comedy of errors which Iím sure Iíd be laughing at now if it werenít for the mess it caused me financially. But what else is new? Sigh. At least I fixed the Jeep, but in doing so I got caught up in a back pay scenario that has devastated my credit unfortunately. I donít know what to do about that, but things have a way of working themselves out so I am hoping dearly that it will indeed do so this time. Lesson learned here is that I canít take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the childrenís father moved on to his momís in New Brunswick so it would be closer for son to visit. The other was that it is less expensive to live there and Ontario has gotten way too expensive a place to be. Unfortunately the job I applied to in NB that looked so hopeful was cancelled, and the other in Nova Scotia that I thought I had a decent chance at I didnít get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes theyíd just give me a really early retirement and I could go on my merry way, pay off the credit stuff and finish my degree. Somehow I doubt that would happen but you never know, they are cutting a lot of jobs where I am now so who knows. What I do know is that this coming year is going to be one of great uncertainty for many, myself included.

Our two companies ground to a standstill, but there is some hope for Talerocker~Dreamcat in the form of Jimís game being on Hero Engine cloud. He was very fortunate to be offered a chance to build it for free on there following an approval process and he has been working on it; his nephew and I are also working on it and weíve been learning Maya 3D animation/CGI but the one hitch is that we only have the student versions which means that to go live one of us at least has to have a licensed version to put out the commercial version of the game when it is done Ė thatís a big concern in that the licence is very expensive. I was thinking we should create our objects in student and then have a 30 day coding spree recreating the objects in the 30 day full trial version, get the game going then buy the license when we have subscriptions. Thatís one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though weíve kept the website we were building up for now; after 3 years of paying for web hosting and the domain name when the other 2 partners never paid is kind of pointless I think. I donít think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends intoÖwellÖnot friends. I feel bad about that because looking back Iíd rather have kept the friends had I known one partner would have turned into a very angry and demanding person when it came to business. We have since learned that this partner died earlier this year and that knowledge threw us both for a loop. We werenít told when it happened so I can only assume they didnít want us to know, which is fine I guess, but we are mourning the loss of a friendship that can never be repaired.

What do I see for the coming year? It isnít pretty. I honestly donít know how the damage that has been done to the worldís economy and the famous 99% can be repaired. The Occupy Wall Street protests were a symptom, and while the cities have had their camps shut down in North America for the most part, they may be gone but I donít think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasnít really heard and I am sure the voices will get louder the more the banks and credit card companies and utility companies tighten the screws.

Lowering interest rates was a necessary thing, and in mortgages has helped hold off a tide of defaults at least here in Canada, but when this happened they just foisted the interest onto credit cards and got nasty to boot. Iíll give you an example: I have a credit card that goes back to the late-90s when they were offering these big limit, low rate ones. This card saved my life a few times with marriage breakdown and various other life events, and it was at the limit. I was always good about paying on time because it had a great rate (6%) so I could use most of what I paid. So Ė fast forward ten years and a misunderstanding about money owed to me that went from 10 days to 3 months. I got behind. I got the money, paid the card and learned that it is now 12% and no longer has any credit available. Every time I pay now, the limit goes down. In other words, itís a loan not a credit card. The others arenít quite that mean, they just doubled the interest and what was 10% is now 20% and virtually unusable. That is their tricks now, aside from over limit fees, administration fees, etc., that I am sure goes against the criminal codeís maximum 60% interest rates Ė and the banks have raked in record profit this year. All the while our finance gurus are decrying the horrendous consumer debt. Um, is there anybody out there that sees bilking people out of money with obscene interest rates might be a big part of the reason? There will be record personal bankruptcies in the coming year, I just hope I wonít be one of them.

Now, add criminal interest rates on top of the ridiculous gasoline, natural gas, electricity and water rates people are paying. Ontario Hydro had to pay to get surplus electricity taken off the grid, and we still pay on the $8 billion debt retirement charge that apparently has not only been paid but has had more than a billion over that paid by consumers. Toss in the massive layoffs that are just starting here in cost cutting measures and what do you get? You get the same thing the US, Greece, Italy, England, Portugal, Ireland, etc., are going through. In Canada weíve been protected I think largely because of our small population, but we are beginning to feel it. We are on the cusp of an economic meltdown that is far beyond our borders but will happen here in much bigger numbers over the coming year. If the powers that be are truly serious at saving us, they need to legislate a maximum credit interest rate of prime plus 8%, and they need to ensure that the rates charged for utilities are not speculative but actually based on cost, not stock market cost but production cost.

Getting back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Canada we should be calling it Occupy Bay Street, but anyway this is important on many accounts. First is that for the first time in decades, masses of people here joined together to protest and stuck with it Ė the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far theyíre young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, letís see some more layoffs, people going bankrupt because there is no other option, people too broke to go to university or college, the disenfranchised. Have enough people who have had their lives and dreams destroyed (or at least put on a very long hold) and see how loud the voices get. At a certain point they will be too loud to be ignored. Will that cause a complete restructuring of the financial system world wide (as should be done Ė no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that weíre already in WWIII but thatís another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, weíve pulled out of Afghanistan, Gaddafi is dead as is Osama bin Laden and Kim-Jung-Il. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast because Iran is sabre rattling, Somalia is a disaster, Pakistan is angry, thereís tension between Iran and Israel, and thatís just the obvious ones. Russia and China are lining up their allegiances, and the Euro zone is in serious turmoil. Find the right butterfly wing that flaps and coalesces all this tension and the results wonít be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and weíve got a huge mess on our hands that no one government, person or people can solve. We need to look beyond governments, religion, culture, our country to be our saviours, all of these have their failings and we need to accept that. What we need more than anything is to give a damn about people beyond our inner circle, give a damn about whatís happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song Iíve been singing on these year end posts all along: compassion. Now more than ever, we need to show compassion towards one another and it needs to be reflected in our corporate and government policies. We need to call out those who are destroyers Ė entities or groups or persons Ė and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years Iíve helped others Ė much to my detriment I will admit, though not all Iíve helped are detrimental Ė and my helping has come back to bite me. Okay. Will I stop? Well, on a personal level I think I have to, the well is dry and those I served lately canít pay me back, but maybe on a bigger stage I can. I can by writing things like this, by complaining to companies when complaints are warranted, by helping with words where I can.

Things arenít all bad here though. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: I have two wonderful children who, in spite of all the nonsense in their lives they are doing remarkably well and are truly nice people. I have Jim, who stands behind me no matter what ridiculous turn my life has taken, no matter how many nights I cry at my follies and get down on myself, no matter how long I take in boarders I probably shouldnít and help people who need it knowing Iíll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who donít see the many evenings of being a scout leader or the hours in doctors offices listening to specialists and picking up children from school when they are sent home sick, driving son to and from school when he was small (and not being able to get a full time job because of that)Öthe list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my lifeís ups and downs and who, at 92 is a huge part of our lives even though we rarely have the time to see her in person.

As you can probably guess if youíve read this far on, I have been fighting off the depression that is nibbling at my toes. It makes me tired and not quite as able to do everything I want or need to, but rest assured I will ride it out and do as I always do, take the darkness and turn it into something beautiful. Be it a song or a painting or book, this is what I do so stay tuned.

To everyone I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Dream, and dream big. In times like these this is what we all need.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for April 29, 2013 - Hello Spring

So I havenít written much here though I did start an essay that Iím wondering whether to rewrite and waiting for paperwork that will send me to a new city near the ocean (but not on it, lol). I wonít write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I wonít say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I wonít.

I will say: Happy Spring!

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 31, 2012

If I were to sum up this year in one word it would be:† Yeegads!!!† Triple exclamation points are necessary for this one.† The remarkable thing is how quickly the time passed, and if youíre into numerology at all itís because this was a 5 year.† Anyway, this was the year of dichotomy because while it went so incredibly fast, there was also a component that made certain moments and situations go so painfully slow.† This was a year of losses Ė on a grand scale and personal Ė and of picking up the pieces and somehow moving on looking for the bright side in what to me at times felt like I was one mile down a mineshaft with my minerís lamp gone out. †I am happy to say that I followed the pitter patter of running rat feet up to the surface and while I think Iím still in here, I can see daylight.† And Iíve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol. †

Can you tell Iíve been writing lately?† Thatís one of my highlights.† My lowlights?† The financial and personal implosion that caused the lights to go out in the first place.† But before I go on, as much as I donít want to, I will say a few words about world events.† There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I wonít go into a missive on the horrors that were faced in 2012.† There have been thousands of posts on each of these events and quite frankly I donít think that anything I have to say on them would add any particularly enlightening insight.† There have been a series of mass shootings that to me brings home the idea that rights of the individual shouldnít be so feverently clung to that it allows for people to have the right of access to weapons that are more properly used by military or police. What about the rights of people not to be gunned down en masse by a person with a desire to act out their violent fantasies?† The same day that the Newton CT shooting happened, a man in China did the same thing at a school with a knife.† The difference between the two is that though the numbers of victims were similar, the Chinese students were injured.† Injured.† Not dead.† Yes, people can do the same thing with a bomb, but you canít buy a bomb in a Walmart.† Bombs are illegal.† They can be homemade, yes, but with people who have lost their grip on reality the saying when thereís a will thereís a way applies.† My comment on this is simply: we canít prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.† Much like we canít stop weather; there will be tornadoes and avalanches and earthquakes and volcanoes.† What we can do is not build on fragile ground like homes on the shore of the ocean, or on a cliff in an earthquake prone areaÖyou get the idea.† And in freak storm times, like hurricane Sandy when it turned on the East Coast, you head to higher ground and hope thereís something left when itís all over.

So that brings me back to my life. I am sitting on higher ground now after the storm that wiped out my finances.† I realize I was living on the shore of the ocean that is banks and credit card companies. To a big degree yes, itís my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000?s.† What wasnít my fault was believing that pay is something earned and received in a reasonable amount of time, that when they say 10 days or 4 to 6 weeks to straighten out a problem will actually be that and not 3 months or 14 weeks.† That when youíre working on a project receiving project pay that it wonít be argued over which Department pays for it and then clawing it back from the person who did the work because no agreement could be made.† I learned in very stark ways that after 31 years I really was just a number, that my accomplishments meant nothing to anybody but me, and that Ė saddest of all Ė nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.† Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe itís time to be me.† As I watched the waves of destruction bigger than I could stop wipe away what was my life, I also saw it as clearing the slate for the next phase of my life. I looked at where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing.† From that perspective I saw that maybe this destruction was just what I needed to move forward to what I should be doing.

I left work Sept. 28, 2012 and since that time Iíve been writing and relaxing and clearing my mind from the anxiety that was my constant companion this year until then.† I still have things to worry about, but well rested and happier I can face them better.† And if thereís anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and itís been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road. †

I couldnít finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).† Now Iím about to write the essay that will be my entry for the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest, and then Geneve Blue will absolutely get Off-Air published, I Ching Jukebox into ebook and paperback forms, and the Nanowrimo novel will be finished, edited and hopefully published this year.† My house will be cleaned, painted, repaired as much as finances permit, and then sold.† Somehow or other I will get to New Brunswick.† These are my plans.† The moving part depends a lot on money of course, because I may have to get a part time job until the cleaning and selling is done, which of course will slow things down, but the intention is there.† Thatís half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.† If thereís any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that itís time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isnít negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.† Itís time to say no to the powers that be (and that ďbeĒ could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an ďus and themĒ atmosphere.† Itís become a universal cancer in society and it has to stop.† People of the world need to realize that until we all come together towards a common ground there will always be conflict.† You know, thereís so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we donít need to create more problems for each other. So how about it, how about we approach things from the middle this year?† Looking at issues from the extreme edges means you leave out the heart of the matter; while the temptation of hard and pat answers are quick and appealing they just donít work Ė thatís what weíre living right now. †

Ian Punnett, for those who donít listen to Coast to Coast or 107.1 Minneapolis is a radio host who is also a Deacon.† In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting he delivered a sermon that is worth a read.† Hereís the link: http://stclements.episcopalmn-sites.org/files/2012/02/Sermon.December.16.2012.pdf.† It highlights the ridiculousness of the absolute, in this case the lack of prayer in school.† We need to stop blaming and finger-pointing and get to the truth of whatever weíre facing.† As Ian says, listen to that still small voice.

This year the still small voice told me that when your world is at your feet in ashes, you pick up the embers to light a new fire.† Wherever anybody finds their fire is where there is passion, and what we need now is people to have passion and show that passion.† Care.† Speak up.† Act on your truths and for heavenís sake, donít just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.† If it doesnít ring true, it isnít.

My passion is and always has been creativity:† writing, painting, music.† So if you want to know where Iíll be in this 2013, thatís where Iíll be.

Happy New Year everyone, letís make this year a good one.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 17, 2012

I have been watching the various Presidential debates, and one thing struck me last night was how strange it is that women's issues are still an issue. Between Mitt Romney talking about his binder full of women, and even the fact there is a discussion about birth control in medical insurance funding, and in Canada the fact that once again abortion was brought into the spotlight by a private member's bill that actually went to a vote, and the Minister for Women (a woman) actually voted for the bill saddens me. And in Afghanistan, poor little Malalia, the 14 year old girl shot for wanting to speak out for allowing girls the right to an education....

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So a reminder to everybody: women are human beings, they are equal to men just built differently in certain areas. We do deserve all the same rights and nobody should have the right to dictate what we should do with our bodies.

That is all.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for October 13, 2012

I am writing this from a whole different frame of mind. The reason is I'm free. My last day working was Sept. 28, 2012. After 31 years of public service I took an early retirement (in fact, at the very earliest age you can retire) because after finding out what my pension would be now versus 5 years from now, the difference wasn't all that much. Add to that that I'm below the age threshold where they are starting to make it harder to retire, cost more and wind up with less I figured that I didn't have much to lose. This last year, I have to say was the absolute worst time in my career, which says a lot because I'm been through an awful lot, some of which will likely wind up in a fictional story (novel or series of short stories, haven't decided) about the weirdness that is the Federal Government.

Never did I ever think that accepting a long term assignment would wind up with me in dire financial straights because of 3 months of pay screw ups this time last year, then the indignity of having to pay back part of my salary over a two month period because I had volunteered to move to a new Department when they were ready to take me on and neither department wanted to pay my project pay beyond a certain date, even though I actually was doing the project - I continued to get paid until the pay people went, "eek we overpaid you, you have to pay us back". Anyway as I mentioned in an earlier update, that put me on the brink of bankruptcy. With advice from a financial advisor that the only answer was to sell the house, I saw my whole world fall at my feet until I realised: that's part of the answer; the other is using severance pay to pay the overdue bills, then sell the house, then pay the rest I owe. How I came to that decision was simply that if I had to move, then damn it, move I would! All the way to New Brunswick. So that's my plan.

The final few months at my last Department were horrible - a 4 to 5 hour commute each day, one month spent sharing (literally) a desk and a phone, reduced from a module lead to a glorified clerk, but the worst of it all was that between two Departments, neither one cared that they had destroyed my life. The lack of sleep and the stress of it all meant I was getting panic attacks, migraines and asthma attacks frequently, and I was terrified I'd drive off the road during my 75 km daily drive because I was so very tired. I never got more than 4 hours sleep, partly because I left at 6 in the morning and got home around 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening. What life I had I was rapidly losing to depression - I literally spent the month of July in tears, but during my vacation in August I worked out my escape and thankfully, after this year of hell this one thing worked.

These past two weeks have felt a lot like vacation, but in a more refreshing way. The last day of work I turned off my alarm clock and haven't turned it on since. For the first time in years, I am sleeping my natural rhythm and amount. Yesterday I started a short story that I hope will be good enough to submit to the CBC Short Story Contest. My mind is twirling with ideas for Nanowrimo. I've been singing and making jokes, working on house things as the mood arises (which hasn't been often but I will tackle the house clean up soon). I have raked leaves, mowed the lawn, walked the dog. For the first time in a long time, I'm starting to feel like myself again.

There may be people who will hit the roof when they find out I've taken early retirement, so I've been waiting until my mental state is back to normal before I deal with the reaction, however what others say has no bearing on my life because unless they can help me fix it, they're part of the problem and I literally couldn't continue working where I was, it was killing me emotionally and potentially physically, so there we have it.

It's a little scary this new phase I'm embarking on, but I do believe that my gifts were being wasted and this is my time. Whether I'd stayed or not, I'm still broke, lol. Well, until I publish that best selling novel, lol. At the end of the day I decided we need to live simpler, not caught in the wheel feeding the beast that is the credit card companies and the banks. So we're in the process of doing exactly that, and I am very happy to say that Jim is behind this all the way because he saw what all this was doing to me, and to us.

Today I was looking at the epublishing process, and yes, I Ching Jukebox will be a Kindle edition as well as a paperback. Off-Air will be published, I'm thinking as a paperback and ebook first then a hard cover. I'm still thinking of a book of short stories and beyond that I will be busy fixing up and dejunking the house, possibly working part time to tide us over until the house is sold. Where we'll be is likely in the Fredericton area, and the where depends on how much we have left after all the bills are paid (with moving costs factored in). So lots still up in the air, especially since we don't know how long it will take to get the house in decent shape for showing and how long it will take to sell. My guess is we're here until late spring or early summer. A lot can happen between now and then though, so it really is anyone's guess how the next few months will play out.

Whatever else, I can't possibly describe how good it feels to have my life back. I'd almost forgotten who I was after all this nonsense. So for my closing statement, it's simply: welcome back, Cathi.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for July 25, 2012

Oh dear, I don't know where to begin, but then I don't know how many people actually read this any more anyway, so I guess I should just blurt it out and see what sticks.

Things have gone from bad to worse to put it mildly. June was an absolutely horrendous month, icing on the cake so to speak, but the fallout will live on for years I'm afraid. What's more, I am totally at a loss on how to deal with it. My magic trick hat is empty except for credit counselling or bankruptcy I suppose.

My gamble at trying out a brand new department was successful and I was accepted to be transfered, and was told it would be the fall before a downtown building and position was there. Sounds good, right? That would be after the end of my project and an excellent time for turning a new leaf after 24 years at my then department. Yay me. So that took effect at the beginning of the year with me doing everything I was before on the project I was on, paid my higher project pay until the end which as it turns out was to be June 30th. So far so good. But my project pay expired in May and who was going to pay - my new department or the old one - was tossed back and forth. I continued to get paid. At the end of May I was asked if I was interested in something starting May 28th. I was reluctant because it was on the other side of the city and a month before the project, my "baby" would be finished so I said I'd rather not. I was told I would be reporting on May 28th and that was that. So I did. There's more to this transfering over but I won't go into it here, I don't want the backlash. Anyway, end of June I expected the higher pay to end, but not the notice that I'd have to pay back the project pay; the two departments never agreed on who to pay it and so nobody is. So there we have it. After the mess last fall from my pay turned two credit cards into loans and put one in a precarious position, this latest hit means I'm left with mortgage, car payments, insurance, food, gas for the car and bus fare. That's it. Now add to that a loan I thought was finished in August I found out isn't, I had just paid 5 years of payments only doing interest and because it's HSBC I have renew for at year with a balloon payment of over $20k due next year as they are pulling out of Canada. In the words of text speak: FML.

Now the new job is so far away I'm commuting 4 hours each day, take 2 busses and get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. This means that try as I might to finish my assignments for my latest university course, I simply couldn't, I'm too tired. I just can't concentrate at the end of the day. I am withdrawing from it tonight so I don't get an F on my transcript. I may never be able to afford or have the time to work on my courses again. It also means that where I need to be there for some issues my son has had this year I'm not as much as I should be and his bad year had a difficult end so he'll be spending longer with his dad. I'm trying very very hard not to feel like a failure when I've tried so hard but like my new job, at the end of the day I don't have a choice. I work too much apparently, and so that's that. Now if I were working at something that actually meant something in the grand scheme of things, say as a heart surgeon or something I could take that with grace. Right now, I've fallen from functional team leader to glorified clerk so yeah, my heart is breaking.

I don't know what hurts the most: that all those people I helped didn't bring the karma (or pay it back) I so dearly need right now, or that everything I worked so hard for and towards is collapsing at my feet and I don't know how to stop it.

I'm probably being very stupid for writing this but a very big part of me is bucking at the current culture of not talking and saying everything is perfect when it isn't. Financial institutions are forcing people into bankruptcy when previously they were a little more lenient on paying back things. HSBC is horror story that I hope makes the news, but not with my name on it. I'm still stinging from the two year fight with Rogers (I gave in and paid the buggers this March) and am still hoping there's a class action suit I can jump in on.

So what's my action plan now? Well, I'm still trying to get to Fredericton. I worry though that if I do have to go bankrupt or even credit restructuring will make it impossible to buy or rent a place again. If so, what do I do, live in a tent? But I'm not letting my mind wander in quite that drastic a spot yet even if it is a remote possibility. I don't know what to do about my job. I made a huge mistake with that one, but I also wouldn't try and attempt to go back to where I was even if it were offered because they were the ones that sent me into the financial spiral in the first place and they could care less what happened. Heck, after 24 years I didn't even get a good bye card, so yeah, I know what I'm really worth to them. I am applying for jobs in Fredericton still, and am wondering if taking an early retirement and selling everything and just moving would help? I don't know.

All I know is, I'm on the cusp of a huge change. What form that takes I don't know, but I will carry on scaled back and rather bruised. There will be a book in this I'm sure, and my now focus is dejunking the house and getting Off Air published. I need to get back to what soothes my soul, and what are my gifts and that is writing, painting and music. I will be finding myself again and in that find strength.

I do feel bad for Jim who is the recipient of the fallout of this. He has been so supportive and trying hard to help whatever way he can. He has been there for my son - much more so than people realize or know, but son and I do, and I hope at the end of the day my son never forgets this. I won't. Thanks Jim.

So to end this long gut spilling missive, I look to the moon and stars and ask the universe to look kindly on me. For what it's worth, much of what I've done is to help others and yeah, it came back to bite me in the end but it's not over yet. I'm taking all this as a sign that I have to pay attention to myself and my needs, however much too late that may be.

Wish me luck, and here's hoping my next Cathi's Comment will be just a little bit brighter. And to the few souls who do actually read this, may life bring you joy in these strange and dark days.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....

Cathi's Comments for December 29, 2011

Welcome to my end of year message, written with a bit of an apology because if you look at my Comments archives, my last one is from this time last year. I did actually work on updating this, alas the page never made it up andÖwell itís in an old computer so I wonít bother with digging it up.

This year has slipped past me in a blur of world events and life events, so much so I honestly donít know where to begin. Do I need to remind anybody about the horrendous earthquake in Japan? The Arab spring that is now into winter? The world economy that is on its last legs and tottering badly?

So letís jump to my microcosm. Iím still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if thereís to be any real hope of sales they need to be in ebook format. The formatting was put on hold until I had an ebook reader to be able to verify them on. I am very happy to say that Jim took advantage of an online black Friday sale to get me a Kindle, so armed with that now Iíve been playing with it a bit to see how it works and reading the Lulu ebook creator guide. Checking out the pdf of I Ching I can see that the fonts and images are okay so it shouldnít be too hard (fingers crossed) to get that one up. I was going to put out Off Air as a 6◊9 paperback instead of a hard cover at first, but Iíve changed my mind on that. Iíll do the ebook first, and then the 6◊9. I also found one of my very first books that I wrote when I was a teenager; Iím thinking that it would be great to do that one as an ebook as well mainly to see how good it actually was after its many rejections and to do the entire thing from scratch in ebook format. Beyond that, my soul is crying for creativity and I do intend to spend more time writing as my gift haunts me if I ignore it.

The university course I was taking was passed with flying colours. I enrolled in another, Web Programming to refresh my now rusty skills and I did a good start but alas it has now had to be extended due to a very strange summer and fall; I started my TMA 1 (thereís 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesnít look too hard itís just the time and motivation thatís bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, Iím not sure if Iíll be able to afford any more courses and I desperately hope I can at least finish this with a computer science certificate if not a degree. Weíll see, Iíd still need 3 more courses. The upshot of this course is that it is web design and part of it is to design your own site so I do expect to update my Cathiís Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and weíre no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; sonís big thing this year is music and Iím pleased to see that he is being encouraged in that. Daughter is knee deep in clinicals and is learning that being conscientious is a good thing even if it means losing out on sleep at times. Sheíll be a great nurse when itís all said and done, she just needs to build confidence and experience, which anybody does when starting out in a profession.

My year started strangely with the collapse of a project I was assigned to. We picked up the pieces and are carrying on and it will be done, though in a different form. What Iíve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignmentís pay has been; itís become a necessity after a comedy of errors which Iím sure Iíd be laughing at now if it werenít for the mess it caused me financially. But what else is new? Sigh. At least I fixed the Jeep, but in doing so I got caught up in a back pay scenario that has devastated my credit unfortunately. I donít know what to do about that, but things have a way of working themselves out so I am hoping dearly that it will indeed do so this time. Lesson learned here is that I canít take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the childrenís father moved on to his momís in New Brunswick so it would be closer for son to visit. The other was that it is less expensive to live there and Ontario has gotten way too expensive a place to be. Unfortunately the job I applied to in NB that looked so hopeful was cancelled, and the other in Nova Scotia that I thought I had a decent chance at I didnít get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes theyíd just give me a really early retirement and I could go on my merry way, pay off the credit stuff and finish my degree. Somehow I doubt that would happen but you never know, they are cutting a lot of jobs where I am now so who knows. What I do know is that this coming year is going to be one of great uncertainty for many, myself included.

Our two companies ground to a standstill, but there is some hope for Talerocker~Dreamcat in the form of Jimís game being on Hero Engine cloud. He was very fortunate to be offered a chance to build it for free on there following an approval process and he has been working on it; his nephew and I are also working on it and weíve been learning Maya 3D animation/CGI but the one hitch is that we only have the student versions which means that to go live one of us at least has to have a licensed version to put out the commercial version of the game when it is done Ė thatís a big concern in that the licence is very expensive. I was thinking we should create our objects in student and then have a 30 day coding spree recreating the objects in the 30 day full trial version, get the game going then buy the license when we have subscriptions. Thatís one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though weíve kept the website we were building up for now; after 3 years of paying for web hosting and the domain name when the other 2 partners never paid is kind of pointless I think. I donít think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends intoÖwellÖnot friends. I feel bad about that because looking back Iíd rather have kept the friends had I known one partner would have turned into a very angry and demanding person when it came to business. We have since learned that this partner died earlier this year and that knowledge threw us both for a loop. We werenít told when it happened so I can only assume they didnít want us to know, which is fine I guess, but we are mourning the loss of a friendship that can never be repaired.

What do I see for the coming year? It isnít pretty. I honestly donít know how the damage that has been done to the worldís economy and the famous 99% can be repaired. The Occupy Wall Street protests were a symptom, and while the cities have had their camps shut down in North America for the most part, they may be gone but I donít think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasnít really heard and I am sure the voices will get louder the more the banks and credit card companies and utility companies tighten the screws.

Lowering interest rates was a necessary thing, and in mortgages has helped hold off a tide of defaults at least here in Canada, but when this happened they just foisted the interest onto credit cards and got nasty to boot. Iíll give you an example: I have a credit card that goes back to the late-90s when they were offering these big limit, low rate ones. This card saved my life a few times with marriage breakdown and various other life events, and it was at the limit. I was always good about paying on time because it had a great rate (6%) so I could use most of what I paid. So Ė fast forward ten years and a misunderstanding about money owed to me that went from 10 days to 3 months. I got behind. I got the money, paid the card and learned that it is now 12% and no longer has any credit available. Every time I pay now, the limit goes down. In other words, itís a loan not a credit card. The others arenít quite that mean, they just doubled the interest and what was 10% is now 20% and virtually unusable. That is their tricks now, aside from over limit fees, administration fees, etc., that I am sure goes against the criminal codeís maximum 60% interest rates Ė and the banks have raked in record profit this year. All the while our finance gurus are decrying the horrendous consumer debt. Um, is there anybody out there that sees bilking people out of money with obscene interest rates might be a big part of the reason? There will be record personal bankruptcies in the coming year, I just hope I wonít be one of them.

Now, add criminal interest rates on top of the ridiculous gasoline, natural gas, electricity and water rates people are paying. Ontario Hydro had to pay to get surplus electricity taken off the grid, and we still pay on the $8 billion debt retirement charge that apparently has not only been paid but has had more than a billion over that paid by consumers. Toss in the massive layoffs that are just starting here in cost cutting measures and what do you get? You get the same thing the US, Greece, Italy, England, Portugal, Ireland, etc., are going through. In Canada weíve been protected I think largely because of our small population, but we are beginning to feel it. We are on the cusp of an economic meltdown that is far beyond our borders but will happen here in much bigger numbers over the coming year. If the powers that be are truly serious at saving us, they need to legislate a maximum credit interest rate of prime plus 8%, and they need to ensure that the rates charged for utilities are not speculative but actually based on cost, not stock market cost but production cost.

Getting back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Canada we should be calling it Occupy Bay Street, but anyway this is important on many accounts. First is that for the first time in decades, masses of people here joined together to protest and stuck with it Ė the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far theyíre young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, letís see some more layoffs, people going bankrupt because there is no other option, people too broke to go to university or college, the disenfranchised. Have enough people who have had their lives and dreams destroyed (or at least put on a very long hold) and see how loud the voices get. At a certain point they will be too loud to be ignored. Will that cause a complete restructuring of the financial system world wide (as should be done Ė no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that weíre already in WWIII but thatís another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, weíve pulled out of Afghanistan, Gaddafi is dead as is Osama bin Laden and Kim-Jung-Il. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast because Iran is sabre rattling, Somalia is a disaster, Pakistan is angry, thereís tension between Iran and Israel, and thatís just the obvious ones. Russia and China are lining up their allegiances, and the Euro zone is in serious turmoil. Find the right butterfly wing that flaps and coalesces all this tension and the results wonít be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and weíve got a huge mess on our hands that no one government, person or people can solve. We need to look beyond governments, religion, culture, our country to be our saviours, all of these have their failings and we need to accept that. What we need more than anything is to give a damn about people beyond our inner circle, give a damn about whatís happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song Iíve been singing on these year end posts all along: compassion. Now more than ever, we need to show compassion towards one another and it needs to be reflected in our corporate and government policies. We need to call out those who are destroyers Ė entities or groups or persons Ė and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years Iíve helped others Ė much to my detriment I will admit, though not all Iíve helped are detrimental Ė and my helping has come back to bite me. Okay. Will I stop? Well, on a personal level I think I have to, the well is dry and those I served lately canít pay me back, but maybe on a bigger stage I can. I can by writing things like this, by complaining to companies when complaints are warranted, by helping with words where I can.

Things arenít all bad here though. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: I have two wonderful children who, in spite of all the nonsense in their lives they are doing remarkably well and are truly nice people. I have Jim, who stands behind me no matter what ridiculous turn my life has taken, no matter how many nights I cry at my follies and get down on myself, no matter how long I take in boarders I probably shouldnít and help people who need it knowing Iíll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who donít see the many evenings of being a scout leader or the hours in doctors offices listening to specialists and picking up children from school when they are sent home sick, driving son to and from school when he was small (and not being able to get a full time job because of that)Öthe list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my lifeís ups and downs and who, at 92 is a huge part of our lives even though we rarely have the time to see her in person.

As you can probably guess if youíve read this far on, I have been fighting off the depression that is nibbling at my toes. It makes me tired and not quite as able to do everything I want or need to, but rest assured I will ride it out and do as I always do, take the darkness and turn it into something beautiful. Be it a song or a painting or book, this is what I do so stay tuned.

To everyone I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Dream, and dream big. In times like these this is what we all need.

ņ la prochaine,

Cathi .....