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.

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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 …..

This is the First Week of The Rest of My Life (or, Welcome to the World of the Damned)

Wow. Monday’s done and I’m happily listening to Coast To Coast (and the guest is Brian Weiss, a very interesting person whose book “Many Lives, Many Masters” I do recommend, I’ve read it). Not something I usually do unless I’m on holiday or sick. But here I am!

I’ve had 3 days for the reality of my very early retirement to sink in, and I will admit it still hasn’t quite. It’s going to feel like a holiday for a while at least, unless bills come in before money I’m expecting does. But then my credit is toast anyway so at this point as long as I have heat and electricity I’m fine with it.

There’s a huge back story to my retiring when I did, and it is mainly about money, but that was the impetus and not the final reason. The final reason was the unreasonableness of it all. I had lost all of my free time in recent months and that had a huge effect on me. It meant I couldn’t look after my son the way I need to; it meant having to withdraw from a ridiculously easy university course (and I chose it because it was that) and in the process losing $1000 and the time I had put into it up to that point. It meant waking up daily wondering what the point of ever waking up again was. When I get to that point it’s time to step back before I’m so far in I can’t see my way out.

I didn’t do that though. I refused to let my work situation or my creditors take my soul. I wasn’t put on this earth to be a cog in a rusty wheel and it was time, I realized to get the hell off, consequences be damned. So here we are, and welcome to the world of the damned. So far I’m appreciating raking leaves in the yard and sleep, glorious sleep.

I have my voice again. Now that may sound simple, but in my circumstances it wasn’t really. There’s a million things I’ve wanted to say, some things I did say and hoped I didn’t get caught, and others I’ve said under a pseudonym. There are reasons for all of these, but since I’m talking about work I’ll use this post to talk about that.

The rusty cog I got off of was the Federal Government. I have a long and checkered history with the Federal Government, one that goes back a few generations. My grandfather was an ADM, my great-uncle an editor for Hansard. Growing up in Ottawa I swore I would not work for the Federal Government. However, one failed attempt at working at a full time job after I’d had it with school led me in that direction when the business went bankrupt, my paycheques bounced, I sued, won and then didn’t when it was discovered I had sued as a 17 year old.

At the time nobody had thought to ask me if I was 18 and I didn’t know you had to be in order to file a lawsuit. This was after I had to get the Minister of Justice to reopen the file when my former boss refused to respond to the small claims court and I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was to drop the case because the person being sued didn’t want to be sued? Stupid, and I told him so. The story made the paper – it was in the Ottawa Journal in a column called Square Deal. I have the clipping somewhere, maybe I’ll post it sometime. Anyway, my mother, who was a Chief Librarian for a government Department at the time recommended I go to a temporary help agency after a couple of months of sending out a book I’d written and getting a bunch of “wow that’s good, but do you have anything else?” letters. I did and the rest is my aforementioned checkered history.

One of the things that bothered me a lot lately is not being able have a public opinion on matters that, well, matter. I’m a tax-payer, but you don’t hear that from the assorted powers-that-be. And as a public servant not only can you not have an opinion, you can’t wear a button supporting a candidate, you can’t put a sign on your lawn in election time. You can’t defend the work you do or speak about proposed policies that you may well have an interest in complaining against as a human being because to a certain degree you can’t be that. To quote the Elephant Man, “I am a human being!”

Hee hee. So yes, you will be hearing from me, REALLY hearing from me, because you can now.

And on that happy note, I’ll leave you with a fun clip that kind of embodies my mood that comes from the movie Network: http://youtu.be/WINDtlPXmmE (the I’m Mad As Hell speech).