December 31, 2010

Cathi’s Comments for December 31, 2010

Welcome to my end of year message, written on New Year’s Eve, on time this year!

I have been terrible about updating my website this year, and for that I am sorry. When I went to write this I was shocked to see that the last entry was March – I really thought I had done something in August but obviously, I didn’t. So to catch up on the highlights, for me it was participating in The Prince and The Prior in July; it was a wonderful experience and one that reminded me how much fun it is to act. I got to be a upper class lady from the 1860’s in Arnprior’s reenactment of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Arnprior. It was quite the production and I took part both in front of the camera and behind it for TV Cogeco. I am going to be doing a “making of” show for Cogeco early in the new year when I’m done my Unix course – this year has been so wild I am now on my 3rd extension and desperately trying to finish up my labs and get studying for the exam before the end of February so it’ll be a while before I can get going on that but it’d be fun to have that show produced in time for the one year anniversary of the event. I’m also on the board of directors for the newly formed Friends of the Arnprior Museum so we do hope to have more reenactments in the coming years, though not on the same scale as the Prince and The Prior. Check out this page http://www.princeandtheprior.ca/ for details on The Prince and The Prior, including stuff with me in it in the media section!

So this year has been a bit of a rollercoaster in many ways. On the good side, my assignment at work turned full time for a while (latest is mid-May) but at the point it’s hard to say if it will continue beyond May; if it does I’ll likely stick with it. If not, I think I really need to find a job at at least the same level I’m at for the assignment. Pay-wise there isn’t much difference at the moment since the end of one level isn’t much more than the start of the next, but to go back to my previous level would be a drop and being in the next level means that there are annual increases at least until the end like I am with my regular job. Money is an issue for me, a big one. And that has been a major theme of this year where I’ve been hit with huge bills out of nowhere, mainly for utilities. I’m not alone in this, but it has been exacerbated by having a houseguest for a good part of the year. So to make a long story short with respect to work, I’m enjoying working on the systems end of things and hope to continue in some way in that; if not then I need to look for a position that pays well doing what I’ve always been doing.

Daughter had a good year, finishing her first year of university, spending the summer in the same city as her special guy and landing a part time job that was just great for her, then managing to switch universities so she and boyfriend could be in the same place which is also very close to many of her dear friends. It’s much farther away than being here of course but she’s on such a good life path with everything just falling into place, how can anyone not be happy for her? We all are, and we wish her all the best, as always.

Son in doing well after graduating middle school and is now a big high schooler, enjoying it more than the middle school so that’s great. I think that having a little more choice in what classes he takes and having opportunities to get involved in things that interest him like band is great; add to that the school trips are good too are certainly a bonus. This year he’ll be off to Quebec City.

Jim’s year was a bit sadder, with the shocking loss of a brother-in-law in September and in December the sudden passing of his long time friend Larry. In times like this Canada feels like a world away, and I know this year has been hard on him in other ways as well. If there’s anything I can say in all this – I thank you Jim for your love and your patience, and whatever the future brings these past nine years have been special indeed. May this coming year bring you happier days, you deserve it.

So. The big issues. Well I live in Ontario which means that we are taxed and utility-billed beyond belief. Add to that the local water bills here in my small town are frightening due to a new system and I am truly worried. My last electric bill was just over $700. Why? I have no idea, my summer one was just over $400 which I expected because of the air conditioning. What scares me is that if my electricity bills, and the scary water bills (now standing at $800 – $500+ for their “catch up” bill and $244 for the most recent) continue I may have to sell my house and move. But that presents a problem because where would I go if I did sell and move? And who would buy looking at the ridiculous utility bills? I have a fairly decent job but it isn’t enough like it had been five years ago. I find it very hard to believe that the electric and water resources got that much more expensive for reasons that are truly real; it all strikes me as very political and I sincerely worry about people who make less than we do – how will they afford heat this winter? And if they make it through this winter what about the next? They also don’t make it easy to pay the bills with anything other than cash – a very chilling response of “That is not an option” from Hydro One when I asked about Amex meant a very lean Christmas here. So we now have a Jeep that has needed a major brake job for the last 3 months parked in my driveway waiting for these huge bills to stop, and two people who need a vehicle for work. Can we move to the city? No, because the house we have, small as it is, is what we can afford and to buy in the city just isn’t possible for the same amount. Very frustrating indeed, but if it’s anything I do know we’re not the only ones in this bind and so at the very least we have company in this.

This leads to my world view point. The economy is not rosy, and what improvements we’ve seen are largely due to massive influxes of cash from our taxes to make work projects. These projects have an end, and those jobs too will end. We have credit card companies charging horrendous rates at a time when the real interest rates are very low, and though people are encouraged to get off them for their financial health, the huge jumps in utility and gasoline costs mean that people are using their cards as soon as they pay them just to get by. I know very qualified people who have been unemployed for over a year, even longer (house guest is now 3 and half years out of a job). 2011 quite frankly worries me a lot. Unless something is done to stop milking the middle class for everything they have, more companies will go under as people curtail their spending out of necessity and stop buying goods. That means more job losses. The divide between rich and poor is widening with more and more middle class people barely able to afford the essentials. If the world economic mavens really wanted to see an improvement they would make sure that necessities like heat, water, electricity, gasoline were affordable, and they would force credit card companies and other lending institutions to keep their rates in line with the interest rates, which they should keep low. That’s when you’ll see true improvement. And that’s also why you can see my fears for 2011 and beyond could very well be real, because these solutions are pipe dreams.

Now that I’ve said the scary bits I think there is hope. There is hope in people getting fed up and fighting back by what ever legal means they have. That means voting for politicians who are willing to make a change, it means starting class action suits against companies who are clearly treating their customers unfairly, it means ensuring laws that work for us instead of against us are passed, it means speaking your mind and supporting the truth. Can we do it? Well, if enough people are pushed to the brink, yes it can happen. For me, I’d like to see companies offer things like solar power panels at little or no cost to homeowners so we can get off the grid, alternate fuel vehicles be made affordable and easily available to consumers. These are the things that would make a real difference and it would show me that big companies are serious about how drastically we need to change. Right now – and forgive me for being cynical – companies are jumping on the green bandwagon to charge more for things they say will save the planet, at the same time making sure that legislation is passed forcing us to pay more for what exists and most of us can’t afford to change from.

Alrighty, that’s enough soap box talk for now. Regardless of this long missive of complaints I do have hope for the new year, I always do. Communication in all forms is changing and the world is becoming more open, smaller; that means people are sharing knowledge and experience with one another. Some say technology is killing our social skills but I don’t think so – I think it is widening our world and we are befriending people from various cultures and countries and ages. The silos are crumbling – is this a bad thing? Society is changing because of this and so far I like what I see. It’s hard to stay locked in a mindset when your mind is opened to so much else that exists. From Facebook to flash mobs singing in shopping malls, more and more we are connecting and as the flood gates open, the harder it is to hide the truth from people. As the saying goes, the truth will set us free. At least I hope so.

And in my microcosm, I have hope when I look at our children – that wonderful group in high school and university are shining lights to me. To them I say, keep your honesty and your openness and your curiosity and creativity. Please don’t give into our cynical and selfish baby-boomer/generation X ways; your caring and your collective society will some day do us all proud.

So what do I want for this year? Aside from winning the lottery so I could get all those close to me out of the deepening chasms we’re in, I do plan – not hope, plan – to publish Off Air this year and to make I Ching Jukebox available in paperback on Amazon. I plan to get the Making Of The Prince And The Prior out and on the air, and I’ll pass my Unix course and start my advanced web design course. It would take a lottery win for me get my certificate in Computer Science in the coming year (I’d need to study full time to do it) but every course I take is one step closer to my degree, and one more thing I can do. I need to start another novel – it’s haunting me – and more than that, I have to be able to do what I love most which are my creative things: writing, painting, music, photography/film. Can I do it? Well, just watch me. A new year is a new page and yes, I’m up for it.

A very Happy New Year to every one and may your dreams come true in 2011!

À la prochaine,

Cathi …..

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