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Cathi's Comments Archives 2011-2016

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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 Genève 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 Genève Blue at the moment but I think Genève 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.

À 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 Genève 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,

À 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 Genève 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 Genève 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,

À 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 Gèneve 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. Gèneve 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.

À 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.

À 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.

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....

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

Oh my gosh I don’t know where to begin. I’ve 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! I’ve 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 it’s the day before you’re 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 appraiser’s 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 wasn’t good enough to photograph, the MLS listing accidentally went up by a miskeying so I told him that’s fine, please let’s 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 wasn’t 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 “good luck selling this place!” 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 “oh, I thought with the extra you’re getting in relocation you could afford it” when I said I couldn’t take the higher rate, it would come out of my pocket).

Still, I did get an offer, based on the gigantic garage I’m 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 wasn’t sure I’d 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 they’d 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 job….Uh, I won’t name them but if you are in the situation I was in and live in Ontario I’ll give it to you if you message me. Heed my warning though, you won’t 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 you’ve already been told you’re scum by the banks so yeah, I’ll 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 then…a bungalow on a street with Jim’s 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 can’t say enough good things about them. They actually came and picked up the animals (the vet said the cats weren’t fit to fly – 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 … 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, “What the hell? Prima donna packers? Have they never moved a family???” Freaking out thinking the movers wouldn’t 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 didn’t 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 that’s the way they behave. I told the moving company that too, because I went through paxorisms of angst I just didn’t need because of them. The fellow who stayed, bless his heart, just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’ve seen worse.” 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 we’d 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 Horton’s 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 we’d set up enough to be able to safely have them roam around.

Since then I’ve been getting going at work, we’ve been unpacking (we’re 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 (don’t get me started on what the Jeep needed – let’s just say if I have driven it here it wouldn’t 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 :)

 

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....

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

Oh my stars, I’ve been busy.

Let’s see: we took the old rusty trailer to Ed’s Salvage (where, remarkably, somebody bought it to use on their farm I think. We’ve 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 we’d 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 – certainly not suitable for a cottage. But that’s okay too because…

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 I’ve really lost it this time, no I haven’t. I know the Department I’ll be working for pretty well, and some people there as well, and I’ve never heard anything bad about it. Yes, it’s 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 I’ll be able to pay off all or most of everything I owe. You can’t 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 couldn’t get my mind untwisted with respect to how I’d figure out the selling and buying and stuff otherwise.

So – 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 (he’s 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.

I’ve 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 – pricey – “it’s not a driveway, it’s a parking lot” I was told (yes, it’s huge) so that will either have to be negotiated with the eventual buyer if it’s an issue, or the other option is to scrape, level and put gravel for half the price. No time for either now so yes, that’ll 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 (I’ll 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 (that’s 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! It’s a 10-12 hour drive.

So much to think about, but you know what? I’m having fun :)

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....

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

So I haven’t written much here though I did start an essay that I’m 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 won’t write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I won’t say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I won’t.

I will say: Happy Spring!

À 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 you’re into numerology at all it’s 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 – on a grand scale and personal – 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 miner’s 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 I’m still in here, I can see daylight.  And I’ve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol.  

Can you tell I’ve been writing lately?  That’s 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 don’t want to, I will say a few words about world events.  There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I won’t 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 don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t 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 there’s a will there’s a way applies.  My comment on this is simply: we can’t prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.  Much like we can’t 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 area…you 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 there’s something left when it’s 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, it’s my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000′s.  What wasn’t 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 you’re working on a project receiving project pay that it won’t 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 – saddest of all – nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.  Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe it’s 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 I’ve 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 there’s anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and it’s been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road.  

I couldn’t finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).  Now I’m 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.  That’s half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.  If there’s any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that it’s time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isn’t negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.  It’s time to say no to the powers that be (and that “be” could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an “us and them” atmosphere.  It’s 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, there’s so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we don’t 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 don’t work – that’s what we’re living right now.  

Ian Punnett, for those who don’t 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.  Here’s 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 we’re 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 heaven’s sake, don’t just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.  If it doesn’t ring true, it isn’t.

My passion is and always has been creativity:  writing, painting, music.  So if you want to know where I’ll be in this 2013, that’s where I’ll be.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s make this year a good one.

À 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.

 

À 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.

À 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.

À 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 and…well it’s in an old computer so I won’t 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 don’t 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 let’s jump to my microcosm. I’m still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if there’s 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 I’ve 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 shouldn’t 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 I’ve changed my mind on that. I’ll 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; I’m 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 (there’s 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesn’t look too hard it’s just the time and motivation that’s bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, I’m not sure if I’ll 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. We’ll see, I’d 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 Cathi’s Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and we’re no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; son’s big thing this year is music and I’m 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. She’ll be a great nurse when it’s 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 I’ve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignment’s pay has been; it’s become a necessity after a comedy of errors which I’m sure I’d be laughing at now if it weren’t 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 don’t 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 can’t take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the children’s father moved on to his mom’s 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 didn’t get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes they’d 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 Jim’s 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 we’ve 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 – that’s 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. That’s one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though we’ve 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 don’t think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends into…well…not friends. I feel bad about that because looking back I’d 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 weren’t told when it happened so I can only assume they didn’t 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 isn’t pretty. I honestly don’t know how the damage that has been done to the world’s 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 don’t think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasn’t 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. I’ll 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 – 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, it’s a loan not a credit card. The others aren’t 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 code’s maximum 60% interest rates – 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 won’t 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 we’ve 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 – the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far they’re young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, let’s 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 – no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that we’re already in WWIII but that’s another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, we’ve 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, there’s tension between Iran and Israel, and that’s 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 won’t be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and we’ve 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 what’s happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song I’ve 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 – entities or groups or persons – and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years I’ve helped others – much to my detriment I will admit, though not all I’ve helped are detrimental – 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 can’t 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 aren’t all bad here though. I’ve said it before and I’ll 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 shouldn’t and help people who need it knowing I’ll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who don’t 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)…the list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my life’s 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 you’ve 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.

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....

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

So I haven’t written much here though I did start an essay that I’m 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 won’t write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I won’t say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I won’t.

I will say: Happy Spring!

À 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 you’re into numerology at all it’s 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 – on a grand scale and personal – 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 miner’s 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 I’m still in here, I can see daylight.  And I’ve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol.  

Can you tell I’ve been writing lately?  That’s 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 don’t want to, I will say a few words about world events.  There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I won’t 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 don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t 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 there’s a will there’s a way applies.  My comment on this is simply: we can’t prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.  Much like we can’t 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 area…you 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 there’s something left when it’s 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, it’s my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000′s.  What wasn’t 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 you’re working on a project receiving project pay that it won’t 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 – saddest of all – nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.  Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe it’s 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 I’ve 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 there’s anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and it’s been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road.  

I couldn’t finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).  Now I’m 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.  That’s half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.  If there’s any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that it’s time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isn’t negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.  It’s time to say no to the powers that be (and that “be” could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an “us and them” atmosphere.  It’s 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, there’s so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we don’t 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 don’t work – that’s what we’re living right now.  

Ian Punnett, for those who don’t 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.  Here’s 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 we’re 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 heaven’s sake, don’t just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.  If it doesn’t ring true, it isn’t.

My passion is and always has been creativity:  writing, painting, music.  So if you want to know where I’ll be in this 2013, that’s where I’ll be.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s make this year a good one.

À 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.

 

À 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.

À 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.

À 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 and…well it’s in an old computer so I won’t 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 don’t 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 let’s jump to my microcosm. I’m still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if there’s 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 I’ve 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 shouldn’t 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 I’ve changed my mind on that. I’ll 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; I’m 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 (there’s 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesn’t look too hard it’s just the time and motivation that’s bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, I’m not sure if I’ll 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. We’ll see, I’d 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 Cathi’s Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and we’re no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; son’s big thing this year is music and I’m 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. She’ll be a great nurse when it’s 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 I’ve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignment’s pay has been; it’s become a necessity after a comedy of errors which I’m sure I’d be laughing at now if it weren’t 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 don’t 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 can’t take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the children’s father moved on to his mom’s 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 didn’t get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes they’d 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 Jim’s 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 we’ve 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 – that’s 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. That’s one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though we’ve 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 don’t think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends into…well…not friends. I feel bad about that because looking back I’d 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 weren’t told when it happened so I can only assume they didn’t 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 isn’t pretty. I honestly don’t know how the damage that has been done to the world’s 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 don’t think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasn’t 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. I’ll 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 – 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, it’s a loan not a credit card. The others aren’t 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 code’s maximum 60% interest rates – 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 won’t 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 we’ve 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 – the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far they’re young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, let’s 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 – no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that we’re already in WWIII but that’s another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, we’ve 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, there’s tension between Iran and Israel, and that’s 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 won’t be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and we’ve 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 what’s happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song I’ve 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 – entities or groups or persons – and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years I’ve helped others – much to my detriment I will admit, though not all I’ve helped are detrimental – 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 can’t 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 aren’t all bad here though. I’ve said it before and I’ll 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 shouldn’t and help people who need it knowing I’ll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who don’t 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)…the list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my life’s 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 you’ve 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.

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....

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

So I haven’t written much here though I did start an essay that I’m 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 won’t write about Boston, or any of the other fear inducing incidents that have been played endlessly on t.v. lately. And I won’t say how an entire city lock-down to find two men treads dangerously on personal liberty. Nope, I won’t.

I will say: Happy Spring!

À 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 you’re into numerology at all it’s 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 – on a grand scale and personal – 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 miner’s 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 I’m still in here, I can see daylight.  And I’ve fed the rats to the cats so life is good, lol.  

Can you tell I’ve been writing lately?  That’s 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 don’t want to, I will say a few words about world events.  There are life parallels in that this was a hugely destructive year.

I won’t 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 don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t 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 there’s a will there’s a way applies.  My comment on this is simply: we can’t prevent every possible crime, but we can make it just a bit more difficult to do.  Much like we can’t 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 area…you 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 there’s something left when it’s 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, it’s my fault for using the increased limits of credit cards that happened regularly in the 1990s and early 2000′s.  What wasn’t 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 you’re working on a project receiving project pay that it won’t 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 – saddest of all – nobody cared that their errors were destroying my life.  Who needs that?

In the end though, the bright spot was realizing that maybe it’s 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 I’ve 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 there’s anything that people should know about me is that I love possibilities and it’s been a great pleasure looking at all the possibilities down the road.  

I couldn’t finish the university course I was taking due to having no free time, but I did finish Nanowrimo (yay me!).  Now I’m 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.  That’s half the battle.

I am beyond glad this horrible year is over.  If there’s any lessons people have learned from it, I hope that it’s time to stop thinking in absolute terms and approaching disagreements with inflexibility; remember, negotiation isn’t negotiation if no one is willing to bend a little to come to a mutual agreement.  It’s time to say no to the powers that be (and that “be” could be anybody) who persist in dividing us into groups and creating an “us and them” atmosphere.  It’s 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, there’s so many difficult things people need to face that are real that we don’t 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 don’t work – that’s what we’re living right now.  

Ian Punnett, for those who don’t 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.  Here’s 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 we’re 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 heaven’s sake, don’t just act on the pap the so-called experts are feeding us.  If it doesn’t ring true, it isn’t.

My passion is and always has been creativity:  writing, painting, music.  So if you want to know where I’ll be in this 2013, that’s where I’ll be.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s make this year a good one.

À 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.

 

À 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.

À 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.

À 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 and…well it’s in an old computer so I won’t 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 don’t 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 let’s jump to my microcosm. I’m still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if there’s 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 I’ve 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 shouldn’t 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 I’ve changed my mind on that. I’ll 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; I’m 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 (there’s 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesn’t look too hard it’s just the time and motivation that’s bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, I’m not sure if I’ll 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. We’ll see, I’d 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 Cathi’s Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and we’re no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; son’s big thing this year is music and I’m 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. She’ll be a great nurse when it’s 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 I’ve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignment’s pay has been; it’s become a necessity after a comedy of errors which I’m sure I’d be laughing at now if it weren’t 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 don’t 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 can’t take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the children’s father moved on to his mom’s 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 didn’t get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes they’d 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 Jim’s 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 we’ve 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 – that’s 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. That’s one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though we’ve 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 don’t think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends into…well…not friends. I feel bad about that because looking back I’d 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 weren’t told when it happened so I can only assume they didn’t 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 isn’t pretty. I honestly don’t know how the damage that has been done to the world’s 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 don’t think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasn’t 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. I’ll 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 – 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, it’s a loan not a credit card. The others aren’t 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 code’s maximum 60% interest rates – 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 won’t 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 we’ve 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 – the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far they’re young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, let’s 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 – no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that we’re already in WWIII but that’s another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, we’ve 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, there’s tension between Iran and Israel, and that’s 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 won’t be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and we’ve 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 what’s happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song I’ve 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 – entities or groups or persons – and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years I’ve helped others – much to my detriment I will admit, though not all I’ve helped are detrimental – 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 can’t 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 aren’t all bad here though. I’ve said it before and I’ll 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 shouldn’t and help people who need it knowing I’ll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who don’t 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)…the list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my life’s 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 you’ve 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.

À la prochaine,

Cathi .....