Cathi’s Comments 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 Newtown 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.

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2013 Predictions

I like to do predictions every year as a fun exercise.  I’m not a psychic or anything like that but sometimes they come true (my 2012 ones had several hits).  That being said please don’t take these as anything more than me having fun.

Here goes:

1.  In January I see a massive forest fire – I think it’s California, there’s also a serious weather event in Australia that may be something to do with a big flood.  There’s an earthquake on the West Coast of the US – no, not the big one but scary enough to have people thinking.

2.  Something about money – I’m thinking Europe, could be Spain or Portugal.  What’s important about this event is that it sets off a world-wide chain reaction that isn’t pretty.  Following that, prices for things including gas plunge, and for the most part people are happy about that.  However, like 2008 a lot of jobs will be lost when inventory can’t be sold for what companies paid to stock their shelves; again that’s world wide.  Prices don’t bounce back up though; they stay low for at least the rest of 2013 and going into 2014.  The price plunging actually starts in the May-June time frame as a result of the financial crisis.

3.  There’s something about banks and credit cards about to be revealed; its a systemic problem that will cause interest rates to be reduced greatly and people who have defaulted may be given a grace payment thing where black marks related to them are removed from peoples’ credit rating.  Has to do with an discovery that consumers are en masse defaulting and it’s not for lack of trying to pay.  Rules will change, as will the finance minister.  Not sure the time frame but I think it’s somewhere around July, after the big financial breakdown.

4.  Harper government is about to come to a rude awakening.  I see them being brought down by the end of the year, based on something very inexcusable coming to light around August or September.  It could spell the end of the Conservative party; certainly a number of MPs resign and do not run again.  I’ll think on what that could possibly be; at the moment I don’t see what or why.  Whatever, this is likely to be the one thing that they can’t get out of and proroguing will not be to their advantage.  What I do think is that whatever it is, it isn’t what we’ve already been dealing with (like robocalls) – this is something very new.  Collusion is a word that pops to mind.

5.  In general, 2013 is a year of rude awakenings.  I see the entire year like a huge spotlight shining; it is a universal energy type of force that is affecting every single person on Earth.  Secrets will come into the light, and to some degree those who need to be brought to account will be.  On the bright side, 2013 can also be the year that some amazing people are also brought into the light.  Those who shine in 2013 will be people who move the consciousness of the world forward, away from the darkness we have been sinking deeper into.

6.  As good as 2013 will be for many people, it will be equally difficult in many ways.  There is a huge turnaround coming and in many ways it won’t be pretty.  I see riots, more gun killing sprees, not just in the US but also in Europe in unexpected places (Switzerland?).  

7.  The federal civil service is about to have another shake up, most likely because of the scandal in the fall, however it is also related to antiquated policies and cumbersome procedures that simply can’t deal with the fallout of the mess that has come from higher up.  I see fewer departments and fewer employees, but also more use of current technology.  Teleworking will be more encouraged to save money.

8.  In medicine I see two things:  first, this will be the year of the Stem Cell.  Research will prove some amazing capabilities of stem cells and a new technique to easily extract a patients’ own cells will bring about cures for a number of things previously thought incurable.  Diabetes comes to mind.  Second, there is a virus or something like that coming out of Africa.  This will emerge in 2013 and it will have a unique property in that there is a genetic component; certain people will be completely immune, others not and some will have a milder version, but it will be based on a person’s genetic makeup, not their age or physical condition.  

9.  Venice – in the late summer early fall I get a feeling that something weather related will happen to cause major damage to Venice, Italy.

10.  A young celebrity will die in mysterious circumstances.  It’s a male and it will take some time to discover the reason.  Turns out it’s due to an unknown medical condition.

11.  A leader of a country will resign over family reasons, for instance to deal with a medical problem of a child.  Not sure which country, not even sure if the leader is male or female.  

I’ve been told I should make my Cathi’s Comments from my website available here – So here they are

Cathi’s Comments for December 31, 2008

As I spend the last few hours of the year 2008 having a quiet evening in – just us and the kids -I am appreciating the contrast between the end of this year and how incredibly busy and difficult it has been. Not just personally, but in our country and the world. I am sure there are many that are happy to see the back end of this long dark year.

As much as it was difficult, there were some major strides made here. I got my level B in French, finished another university course and got an A, worked on a book and got that out, Jim and I started a business, and I’m working on getting my Off Air book out as well as a hard cover version of my poetry book out on Lulu. I haven’t had the money to start my next university course but that did have the advantage of being able to work on my writing, something I’ve missed doing. One of the highlights certainly was the sale of the house in Mississauga and daughter and ex moving close by. They’ve been here a month and it has been a true pleasure knowing I can drop by if I need to and having the weekend trade off of kids again.

Much as the world saw the righting of excesses and the start of a recession, my own financial world suffered through getting stuck with expenses not my own. It is a very scary thing indeed to be a couple of days away from losing hydro, and to have people show up at the door serving papers for being a cosigner I didn’t think I still was. I’m still considering a class action suit on the cosigner thing (why do cosigners never find out there’s a problem until it’s too late and there’s a black mark on your credit rating? And why don’t banks honour letters from lawyers saying someone isn’t a cosigner anymore?). My other thought is the fact that if Hydro cuts off your power or you receive 2 disconnection notices, they will impose a 2 1/2 times your highest bill penalty to hold for how long? Until they say so. My first thought is hydro should be considered an essential service and should not be cut off except in dire circumstances (how about non payment for six months or more instead of late for 3 weeks). Second, following Peter De Wolf’s case against Bell Expressvu and their late payment administration fee that he won (but of course is under appeal at the moment), such horrendous fees should be illegal. The hydro by the way was as a result of me helping out a friend by letting them use our garage for carpentry. Who knew that a few tools and a heater could rack up over a $1000 on a bill? More than once? Um, I do now, and that was the end of my RRSP. Sigh. I’m still stuck paying for stuff I shouldn’t from somebody else (who isn’t Jim in case anybody is wondering) so Jim and I work 4 jobs. The last year I’ve been doing night time janitorial work which is shitty (pun intended), but on the upside, I’ve nearly lost all the weight I gained quitting smoking. Janitorial work isn’t the most pleasant of jobs but it is quiet, and the nice thing about that is janitors by and large are invisible which, after a long day doing full time work with often times cranky clients, invisible is a good feeling. I hate the amount of time it eats up in my evenings though so my aim this year is to make enough money elsewhere so I can stop doing that. I will be looking for more money in better ways, and with great hope that at least some of it will come from my creative endeavors.

Speaking of creative endeavors, it was great to have the opportunity to take glass blowing with Jim (his Christmas present to me) from Chris Van Zanten. He has a studio in a wonderful spot in Pakenham and I do hope that time and money will allow us to continue on with taking this very interesting skill. It is a lot harder than it looks but is a wonderful feeling to create something from molten glass and have it work out. He also gives stained glass lessons which I will definitely take whenever he starts giving them out of his studio. I started, but didn’t finish the Nanowrimo this year but then again I was busy with helping with the move from Mississauga that month. I helped them find their new place since ex was busy packing and stuff, and then spent the last week there helping them move and to sign the papers. The good news on that is I am no longer a co-owner of the house, but the bad news was that I didn’t get everything I was supposed to from it. So I still wait for my full portion, but it was a little help on my situation and a new start for ex and daughter.

One happy event with the world money market melt-down was the falling gas prices. I have very much appreciated that, let me tell you! To go from $1.40 a liter to around 60 cents makes a huge difference and I do hope that they will stay low for some time to come. Interest rates are another thing, and while my own financial crisis led to my mortgage renewal offer being a bit on the high side for a 5 year fixed rate, I settled for the variable interest one, risky yes, but I was happy that they renewed it all at after all the nonsense that has happened on my credit record. Anyway that’s turned out in my favour since the interest rates have plumetted. Now I hope that the government will see to it that interest rates being charged on the various credit cards are looked at because in this time there is absolutely no reason for any credit card to charge 25% but one of mine does (thankfully a small one) and that one of course I’ve stopped using. My plan this year is to keep the overdrafts empty and the line of credit as well, so that I am not bouncing cheques by accident or paying ridiculous bank fees. Barring any more emergencies I trust I can do that. A lot depends on whether ex gets a job so I won’t be paying for stuff that I have been, and I’m sure that’ll happen; the job situation here is much better than in the Toronto area for him.

This has been a year of corrections on many fronts, again both politically (in the US) and in terms of people’s relationships. It has been a sad year for some of my friends but it seems to me the universe is forcing things that aren’t working to end so that what should be will be. Thankfully for us, we’re still okay and I am happy to have good friends around me as well.

So what do I see in the year ahead? Well, I’m thinking that on the world stage things won’t be getting much more bright yet; the corrections will force everyone to look more closely at what is necessary and how we treat our fellow man and that to me would be a good thing. There is no room for “my way or the highway” thinking anymore. Greed and selfishness that has been prevelent since the early 1980s has to stop given what it has done to the world economy. The election of Barak Obama in the US is a sign that once great nation is fed up with the destructive policies of Bush and his cronies. The world cannot be run by religious zealots, and we must, all of us, be more accepting of the differences of peoples, and to be more compassionate. I know I sound like a broken record about compassion, but how I wish I could have my own people accept my situation and look at us as who we really are instead of who some think we are (and sadly, those opinions are wrong but I haven’t been able to stomach the insults to try to correct that). Oh well. I have my children, Jim, and some very good friends and that to me makes my world special.

Here’s to a much better new year, and for everyone I hope their wishes for a brighter future come true. For me, well, here’s to more learning, creating, and growth.

À la prochaine,

Cathi …..

Week 10 and counting and counting and counted…

Nano2012_Winner-100x100-2 Yes, I did it! I finished 50,000 words of my novel on Nanowrimo on time, in fact I was done a day early. It feels great to be writing again, and it struck me that this novel might actually be one that sells, at least in Canada anyway. It’s a funny and hopefully touching story of a long time civil servant on the chopping block and her friends, coworkers, family… It’s not an autobiography but it is a way to throw in a few of my sillier stories, some that happened to me, some I only heard of. And some are pure imagination. Wish I knew an Ottawa book agent because I’d hate to see this languish unpurchased and unread once I do finish it.

So I’m in week 10 of my early retirement, and it’s a week of annoyance and not a little bit of fear. I’m sitting in a weird conundrum that only happens to civil servants, in that while I await my pension and my severance, I have nothing. Well, nothing besides the ever increasing pile of scary bills and threatening phone calls. As of tomorrow I will have bounced the mortgage, car and loan payments twice and the irony is that I’m expecting money that will cover it but cannot get an answer when or how much so I can’t phone these people and say to them hold on, x dollars are coming in x days, sorry for the delay. Nope. The reason I can’t is it’s already past the generic time to process that is, and is now in whenever territory. I’ve heard scary stories of eight or ten months and still waiting, and by then I’ll be on the street. To add to the irony is they mail your first payments so what do you do if you don’t have a mailbox and your bank isn’t talking to you? Hmmm.

I’m not in quite same boat as people who are too young to take early retirement, because I’m not in a position to be trying for EI, however those people aren’t either because of a weird rule that says the code for resignation is what is put on their Employment Record so they can’t claim EI when they are laid off. The unions are trying to get that changed but so far, no dice. I really do feel sorry for these people, I do. If I were 30 with a young family and a big mortgage it would be a terrifying torture to know that you can’t even claim EI even though you’ve paid for it all these years.

As for me, well, I can’t fix up the house until I have money enough to buy paint and pay for trips to the dump and stuff like that. I’ve applied for a copywriter job but not holding my breath on that, and am up still for a job I applied for in August but if I take it I may wind up worse off than I am now so while I go through the motions it may not be the best choice for me if it’s offered now. Life is just a little scary at the moment.

Wish me luck with my book, and please send the universe thoughts that what is owed comes to me now. Merci beaucoup, and that’s it for now 🙂