Giving Thanks

Foreword for my American readers: I’ve known some Americans who were completely baffled to find out that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day from them, so this is just a little message to say, hey, feel free to ignore this Thanksgiving Day post. Don’t worry, I’ll still love you. 🙂

I have to be honestly: Thanksgiving is not one of the big holidays for me. For me it’s mostly all about the turkey and the stuffing that comes with it. Hey, I’m just being honest.

This is what it’s all about, baby! Image courtesy Lynn Kelly Author on Flickr

But in honor of this day that is supposed to remind us to be thankful for all we have, here’s a partial list of things that I should keep in mind whenever I’m feeling down:

– I’m thankful for my daughter, my little mini-me, who makes my heart swell and burst at least a dozen times a day.

– I’m thankful for my husband, who puts up with me (a difficult task) and makes me laugh constantly, even when I don’t feel like laughing.

– I’m thankful for the rest of my family (my parents, my grandmother, my aunts and uncles and cousins) whom I love and who helped make me who I am today.

– I’m thankful for my friends, even though most of them are far away from me, because I didn’t have that many of them growing up, so the ones I have are super-special.

– I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to get ahead in life, to get rid of debts early, and to make life a little better for my family.

– I’m thankful for every second I get to write, to do what I love to do the most.

– I’m thankful for all the time I’ve had, and whatever time I’ve got left, because goodness knows we don’t get a lot of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians! Hope you all have a great day!

You Know What Opinions are Like, Don’t You?

A fellow blogger, one I happen to follow, has started up an interesting project. This blogger is known as Opinionated Man, and on his blog HarsH ReaLiTy he has come up with the idea for “Project O“. Basically, throughout the month of September he is going to be researching and discussing the concept of “opinions”, what they are, where they come from, what factors in our lives affect the ones we have. He plans to do this by way of information gathered from us, the bloggers, the readers, the people around the world connected together by the internet.

opinionsI thought this sounded particularly interesting, so when I saw that he released a template of questions for use in the project, I decided to write a blog post answering them. As per his requests, I will also be emailing my answers to him for use in the project, and I urge you to do so as well, should you decide to take part on your own blogs.

So without further ado, here we go:

Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here.

I’m a wife and mother, and an only child, but I grew up positively surrounded by cousins. I was a book-nerd kind of kid growing up, as well as a bit of a geek (I liked Star Wars, anime, video games, etc). I never had a lot of friends, but I loved the few I did have. I’ve wanted to be a fiction writer since the third grade, but somehow or other I became an instrumentation technician by trade. It’s a very male-dominated field but I’ve had surprisingly few issues in my seven years in the trade. These days I write whenever I can and aspire to become published sooner rather than later.

Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin.

Country of origin and the country I’m currently living in are both Canada. I’m female and 29 years old.

Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?

The first time I can remember having a really strong opinion to the opposite of my elders was when I first started to realize that I thought religion was hooey. I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I believe, which is when Catholic kids complete their “Confirmation” ritual. It involves going to church every week for so many weeks and doing this and that and there’s a big ceremony at the end…and after a couple of weeks of church (I hadn’t really gone since I was little) I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous, I don’t believe a word of it, and so why am I trying to become a permanent member of this church?”

I did voice my opinion to my father, who more or less told me that I could believe whatever I wanted, but that it would probably be worth it to just complete the confirmation and be done with it since some of my family is very religious and it would likely have ended up in a huge fight. I took his advice and never went to church again after that ceremony.

Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child? Was there bowing involved, handshakes, “yes Sirs and yes Ma’ams,” or some  other equivalent respectfulness in your culture’s tongue? Is an honorific given to someone older than you and do you often respect and practice that? How might the culture you were brought up in have affected the growth of your own opinions?

There weren’t a lot of honorifics in my childhood. Mostly we were just expected to watch our mouths (no profanity) and our tones (no smart-mouthing). I don’t know if it was a product of my upbringing, or if it’s a general feeling that I absorbed from my environment, but I grew up believing that age has nothing to do with respect, and that it doesn’t matter if you’re 100 years old and I’m five, you do not automatically get my respect if you haven’t earned it. There are, in my opinion, too many older people out there who feel that they should be respected by the sheer fact that they’ve survived for a while longer.

Question 5: How traveled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news? You might also provide an educational background if you wish and if that education was gained from somewhere other than your current location. How available is the news and what goes on in the outside world to you in your country?

I’m not particularly traveled. I’ve only traveled within Canada, and not even all the way across (I’ve started in Nova Scotia and gone as far as Alberta). I obtained my education (Bachelor of Technology) in Nova Scotia. International news is available enough here (if not a little bit “tweeked” by the media), but I can honestly say that the degree to which I keep up with it is minimal at best. I glean my news stories from what others deem to be important (my husband might tell me about something, or my father might post a status update about it on Facebook). It’s not that I don’t care what’s happening in other areas of the world, but I’m the kind of person who can barely handle the events going on in her own life, never mind the lives of people I’ve never met.

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

As mentioned above, I don’t really keep up on the news or international incidents, but if there was one topic that I’d impress upon the world if I could, it would be the stigmas surrounding depression. These days it’s been proven that depression can stem from any number of factors, including physical (hormonal, for instance) ones that in no way reflect a person’s life or situation. I’ve seen people be berated for “pretending to be depressed” because the feeling is that someone can’t be depressed if they have what is considered to be a “good life”. Too many people think that depression is only allowed if the person has “real” reasons (got fired, wife left, someone close died) to be depressed, but there are scads of reasons for someone being depressed. I myself had a doctor check me out for chemical-imbalance depression because of a couple of other complaints I had brought to him, and the reaction I got from a few people close to me was very simply, “you’re not depressed”, as if it was an impossibility. I wasn’t, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to presume to know what’s going on in my mind and body, and true depression – whatever the cause – is a very dangerous thing to ignore and scoff away.

Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability? The world is on fire with people of passion, how passionate are you about things you value?

This is a tough one because while I believe everyone has a right to their opinion, there are plenty of cases in which someone’s opinion is clearly wrong or psychotic. For instance, a kid who shot up his school because he was being bullied had the opinion that his tormenters deserved to die.

I do believe that everyone has a right to their opinion, but how you act on that opinion is the real trick.

I’m passionate about a great many things (the depression issue above, acts that I consider to be extremely poor parenting, the current employment insurance scandal going on in Canada, and so on), and this kind of passion inevitably leads to a battling of opinions. It can be very difficult, in these situations, to grit your teeth and accept that other people have different opinions. How does one find a happy medium in this sense when your opinion is that another person’s opinion is wrong? It’s a bit of a catch-22, isn’t it?

Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?

In my opinion (haha, this is getting silly…) there are plenty of situations where I would deny someone their opinion. People are going to have an opinion whether you like it or not, because that’s the way that works, but I would deny someone their opinion if they had absolutely no knowledge or experience of the topic at hand. For instance, say I’m yelling at my daughter in the mall for doing something bad, and someone comes up to me and berates me for yelling at her because I’m “causing her psychological issues”. If that person has no kids of their own, has experienced no psychological issues as a result of the same kind of situation, and has never so much as opened a book on psychology, then what right do they have to impress their completely-pulled-out-of-my-ass opinion on me?

Question 9: The last question. upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?

Mostly I’m interested to see some of the outcomes of these questions. Opinions are a tricky concept because they can come from so many different places, including but not limited to plain old base emotion. I hope that reading other peoples’ responses to these questions will help people to understand each other a bit, and maybe even help them learn a bit of tolerance.

Dear lord, my head!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve been considering using CreateSpace to self-publish my zombie novel. I’ve been reconsidering that stance lately for a few reasons. One is that as it turns out you have to jump some hoops if you’re a Canadian because CreateSpace claims tax for the IRS. Another reason is that it just plain seems like a more impressive accomplishment to be published by an actual publishing company. It’s like being accepted to university…you feel somehow better about yourself than if you’d just decided to take one of those online “become _____ in only _____ weeks!” courses.

But here’s the thing…I’ve been looking into how you submit a manuscript. I’ve been looking into it in depth. And my head seriously feels like it may explode. It’s not that submitting a manuscript is, in theory, that complicated. The problem is that the publishers make it complicated by each having their own set of rules and regulations. Some want the manuscript emailed in a Word document format, others want it printed and mailed to them. Some want the full, completed manuscript while others just want a synopsis and an excerpt. Some don’t allow you to submit to anyone else while they’re looking at your manuscript (this is one I can’t stand) while others couldn’t care less. Some are only looking to do print books, some are only looking to do ebooks, some are looking to do both, and they all have their own rules about what you can do regarding the formats they don’t plan to use. And they all seem to have their own version of how the manuscript and your query letter should be formatted, and they have the right to basically throw your manuscript away if you haven’t formatted it properly.

For example, one publisher I’m looking at that deals in a lot of horror stories wants the manuscript emailed, in full, in a Word document, double spaced, justified format, with a particular type of title page and author info page. They don’t care if you submit to other publishers at the same time. They’re only looking to print in ebook format and don’t care if you want to use another venue to do print books. They estimate 30 days to get back to you on whether or not they’re interested.

Another publisher I’m looking at wants the manuscript printed and mailed to them. They have their own formatting rules that are different from the publisher above. They only allow you to submit to them, and if they find out you’ve submitted to someone else at the same time, your manuscript is automatically tossed out. They’re only looking to do print books, but they don’t allow you to do ebook format with another venue while you’re under contract with them. They estimate 90 days to get back to on whether or not they’re interested.

Now, looking at those two publishers, you’d think the first one is the more attractive-looking one. They get back to you quicker, allow you more freedoms, etc. But here’s the caveat….they pay a lot less. Their estimate for an advance and royalties is considerably less than the second publisher. So then you have to try and decide, would you rather have a better chance of getting published, or have a better chance of actually making some money when you get published?

It’s a surprisingly difficult decision. Yes, just getting published is more important to me, but it’s also hard to look at the differences in possible monetary compensation and feel good about choosing the lesser. It’s no different than any other job…you want to have some fun and freedom in your workplace, but a higher paycheck definitely makes it easier to deal with a little bull, if you know what I mean.

So now that I’ve done a bunch of research, read a ton of submission guidelines, and made my head thoroughly angry at me, I believe I’ve come to a very important conclusion about how to publish my book.

That is: “Stop worrying about the publishing details until you finish the damn thing already!

Good advice, me. Good advice.

If You’d Just THINK For a Moment…

The more I hear about the changes that are coming to the Canadian EI system, the more frustrated I get. And it’s not even the changes themselves that are making me the most angry (though there’s definitely some rage there); it’s the comments I keep hearing from people who support the changes, or think the changes should be even harsher. The most common comment I’ve heard is that Atlantic Canadians (and our seasonal workers in particular) are lazy bums sponging off the system several months a year, and that we should be forced to suck it up and either get a job flipping burgers or move out West for work.

Funny how sure of themselves are these people who have stable jobs and don’t have to deal with being regularly unemployed themselves. They’re so angry about people “abusing” the system that they pay for (uh, hello, the same people “abusing” the system pay EI premiums too, you know) that they don’t stop to think for a moment about some of the comments they’re making.

A few points, if you will:

– Yes, our seasonal workers (fishermen, tourism workers, agriculturists, etc) “sponge” off the system every year. That’s because their jobs, the jobs they’ve worked all their lives and are trained for, don’t enable them to work 12 months out of the year. I’ve heard so many comments about how those people should “look for other work then, if their jobs are so unsteady”. And that is one of the most ridiculously stupid things I’ve ever heard. If all the fishermen suddenly packed up and said, “You know what? We should go find a job that’s available all year through” who the hell would catch your fish?! Like it or not, seasonal work is required work. Those seasonal workers catch your fish, harvest your crops, cut your lumber, and a host of other things that need doing. Cut them out of the equation and you create a massive deficit in freakin’ society.

– “Okay, so don’t make them find new jobs, but force them to take other jobs during the off months!” Do you really think that’s so easy? First of all, most of these seasonal workers are only trained in the job they do. In order to find a secondary job that pays them at least closed to what they make normally, they would need to be trained in something. Who is going to pay to train them? Do you remember what college costs? Because it’s gone up. A lot. The EI changes that are coming will put no money into helping retrain the unemployed. So where is that money going to come from? Believe it or not, not everyone can afford to just say, “Hey, I think I’ll go back to college so I can work two jobs a year.”

– “Okay, screw a career, just make them work at McDonald’s in the off months!” Oh, you sad, sorry little person. There are currently tens of thousands of seasonal workers in Nova Scotia. Do you honestly believe that there are tens of thousands of unskilled jobs just sitting around waiting to be filled? Particularly in Nova Scotia? Because if you do, I’ll pray for your sanity if you ever lose your job. It hasn’t been very long since I was a college student looking for part-time work to help pay my tuition, so I know what it’s like. It’s not uncommon to hand out a hundred resumes before getting one interview (and that’s in the cities, not the super-rural areas many of us live in). And I’m going to explain something to you right now: minimum wage employers like fast food joints and department stores don’t want to hire you if they know you’re going to be leaving for another job in a few months. Why would McDonald’s want to hire a fisherman and spend a bunch of money training him, knowing that he’s going to leave to go back to fishing in a few short months? Minimum wage employers don’t want to deal with that nonsense anymore than any other employer would. Turnover at those places is bad enough without hiring people that they know for sure aren’t sticking around for very long. And as previously mentioned, even if some seasonal workers do manage to pick up these types of jobs, there aren’t enough available for everyone. To think that there are is complete and utter folly. If there were that many minimum wage jobs just sitting around, students wouldn’t have such a hard time finding part-time and summer jobs.
The entire thing, in my opinion (and many other people’s opinions) smacks of trying to force as many people out west as possible. If seasonal workers (and others who claim EI regularly for other reasons) are forced to take jobs outside their pay grade (and yes, 70% of what you’re used to is significantly reduced pay when you’re fixed into things like mortgages and vehicle loans), then they’re going to start looking at greener pastures, which seems to be exactly what the feds want. The West will continue to grow and prosper, while the East steadily collapses. The more people who head out to the oil sands for better-paying work, the less money that will be spent in Nova Scotia, the higher our taxes will rise, and so on and so forth. And to all you people who support the changes, you who have steady, well-paying jobs and never have to rely on EI yourselves…you can be damn sure that as the Nova Scotia economy rapidly declines, your jobs will end up in jeopardy as well.

Will you be ready and willing to take a minimum wage job or uproot your entire life to move out West?