Finding Your Network

Life has been pretty good. Work is good. Health is good. Diet is good. Family is good. The car is good. The turtle is good. The internet is annoyingly slow, but still good. The first season of Narcos has been good too. My crocheting skills aren’t good yet, but I can live with that.

While I have been doing well, I am coming up to some hard questions in my life – where do I go next? What’s in store for me? Will this be my last year in the north? If so, what will I face next year? And if so, what do I want? And what will get me there?

Needless to say, these questions and the discussion around these questions bring up a myriad of emotions. Some good, some bad. So while life has been good, I am bracing myself for some emotions that don’t necessarily feel so good.

This morning I felt like I was in a slump. It threw me for a loop and I headed into work a little later than usual to emotionally readjust. And I kept thinking, what is it that I so badly miss right now?

I miss my network.

However invisible they are in the day-to-day life, I miss my network IRL*. The people I WhatsApp when I am bored, the people whom I can have a laugh over internet memes with, the people that I chat with every week on Cody or Facebook (oddly, some I have never met in person). They are there and they hold me when I am in pieces. They lift me when I am sad. The affirm that I am of value and I mean something to them, to others, to the world. Their attention, in a gentle and caring way, give me strength. Their friendship and support give me love. Being far away means that sometimes I see them once every few months, or a couple of times a year or every three years. Yet invisible, they are still there.

And I can claim no success or be who I am right now without them. Likely, if you have been reading my blog for a while, you are one of them. And whether you know it or not, you keep me going and driven forward. As much as we all like to say, “I don’t care what others think of me,” we all need affirmation from others. We are social creatures and don’t do well alone. So while a lot of people are always in awe of the fact that I have been in the north, in a very isolated place, for the last 5 years, I could not have done it without my network. I could not have thrived and grown and matured and lived and loved without them.

I don’t really know how to end this post. I guess, on a morning where I am feeling alone, I just want to remind myself that I never really am.

*”In real life”

Getting into Meal Prep

The benefits of living close to your work is that you don’t have to do a lot of meal prep. I can go home at lunch and actually cook something from scratch for both J. and I.

However, I know that this can negatively impact our portion size. Doing things on a whim means that we might be eating more than normal* as we finish everything in the pan / bowl / plate / pot. It also means that I am not using my time quite as effectively if I’m always coming up with a plan on the fly. Right now, that doesn’t affect me very much, but when I move back south, I won’t have as much time to mull over the recipe book.

So I decided to try something new with the reusable food containers in the house. I can’t remember where I initially saw this idea, but I cut out small pieces of blackboard stickers and labelled my food containers. In this way, I can decide how large each serving is. It also becomes less work and stress when I come back home for dinner.

It will be interesting to see how these stickers hold up to dishwashing. Right now, I don’t think they’ll do that well, but this is an experiment and I will adjust based on what happens. 

Both the chalkboard sticker and the dustless chalk were purchased off Amazon three years ago, so I didn’t spend any money doing this.

I will probably need to buy more reusable containers though! I can’t believe how many I used today already. The cupboard feels bare!

What do you do for meal prep? Do you meal prep?
*J. has complained about this. He says I make him fat. I complain that he eats too much and then blames it on me.

Getting the Green Light: OAME 2017

I’ve been going to the annual conference run by Ontario Association for Math Education (OAME) for several years now, even while working in the north. In 2014 and 2015, I participated in the eConference but managed to get myself to the one in Toronto last year in-person.

Two weeks ago, I received an email calling out for speaker proposals. OAME 2017 will be held in Kingston, Ontario and will feature the (usual) big names like Dan Meyer and Marion Small. I thought nothing of the email and forgot about it.

Then last week, a second call for speaker proposals was sent out. The email stated:

We are particularly interested to hear from people with expertise in the education of FNMI students both in remote communities or in urban/suburban venues.

I’ve done a couple of workshops now, one on #BYOD tools and one on growth mindset. Both were well-received and fun to create. I had hands-on activities and a high rate of participation. Lots of people left happy.

So I ran the possibility through my head; what if I did a presentation at a big conference in Ontario? I mulled it over, but what got me was the phrase “people with expertise in the education of FNMI students”.

I’m not an expert. I have never taken a course on Aboriginal studies. I’ve read a few papers, but I can’t say I’ve immerse myself in native culture. As a vegetarian, I don’t hunt nor am I interested in smoking Canada goose in a meeshwap. Friends and family have applauded me for working in the north for the past 5 years, but I say, “I’m just teaching kids and treating them the same way I’d treat anyone else.” I’m not up here to be a heroine. I’m up here because I enjoy my job as an educator and I like the financial perks of being in an isolated place.

Anyway, I let the idea go.

A few days after, I received an email from a friend and a colleague. He suggested that I put in a proposal and that I’d do quite well.

It’s funny. We live with doubt so much in our lives. Even when we say yes, we feel like imposters.

Fact of the matter is, it isn’t the first time someone suggested I put in a proposal. T., a professor whom I befriended in the past year, had also mentioned it. Having two people make that suggestion now, the excuses still ran through my head. Yet despite the negative thoughts, I wrote to the executive directors:

Hi ****,

I am an OCT-certified teacher originally from Toronto. I have been teaching on the East James Bay for the past 5 years and am starting my 4th year as a full-time high school teacher with the ******* Board.
I have attended OAME for the past few years but never worked as a speaker before.
I know that you are looking for speaker proposals. I have no background research and do not consider myself an expert educator in working with FNMI students. My
experience with native students has only been tied to this area. Would an anecdotal approach of my experiences still be fitting for a one-hour presentation? I have specifically been using growth mindset, BYOD and interactive notebooks in this community.
Anyway, I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I wanted to inquire for more information, as I consider future possibilities. If you could give me some better ideas, perhaps I could find other math teachers who might be able to put out a good speaker proposal to enhance the upcoming conference.*

On Sunday morning, I got a very exciting email:

Good morning,

Short answer: YES!

Longer answer: We would love to see a proposal from you. Your first-hand experience carries a lot of weight in my books. Considering, too, it is with the Cree nation, whose geographical expanse covers half of Ontario, and that others who have come forward would be speaking with the experience of working with Ojibwe and Mohawk, we would have a good geographic balance.

Some of the audience will be other First Nations communities such as the one in which you work; however, some of the audience will be teachers in urban and other “southern” settings where First Nations students are mixed in with other cultures – hearing from you about cultural accommodations and learning styles will help them as well to better address their First Nations’ students’ needs.

OAME 2017

Guess I have to figure out a way to overcome the Imposter Syndrome. And guess I’ve got some writing to do.

*You see how imposter syndrome kicks in so easily? I devalue myself in this last paragraph.

Not So Vegan Make-up

While I was researching vegan make-up products on the internet, I found lots of blogs promoting the brand Physician`s Formula. This is an affordable drugstore brand of make-up that is available at Shopper`s Drug Mart, Rexall or Walmart. The vegan blogs I`ve read warned that some of their products have beeswax and carmine.

However, a lot of the information seems rather unclear. I inquired about my blush, which, when I purchased it, I had checked the ingredient list and didn`t remember seeing anything unusual. I`ve been using it for nearly two years now.

Last week, I decided to do a quick check. I sent an email and got this response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact Physicians Formula.  We appreciate you taking the time to contact us with your question.  Although we do not claim “vegan” we do not use animal bi-products in any  of our cosmetics. You will be happy to know that Physicians Formula does not conduct any tests, or commissions any outside facility to conduct tests that involve the use of animals

The safety of our products is established using such alternate methods as “in-vitro” testing, human clinical evaluations and human use-trials under the supervision of a Board Certified Dermatologist.

We hope this information was helpful.  We appreciate your interest in our products and hope to have the opportunity to be of service to you in the future.  For any  further inquiries please contact us at 1-800-227-0333 and one of our Consumer Relations associates will be happy to assist you.

I was pretty miffed that they would waste my time by copying and pasting a passage I had already read on the website! I wrote a complaint about the first email and got a second response.

The product is not consider vegan due to containing carmine.

Ok, great. So my blush is not even close to vegan. It’s made with carmine, which is basically squished bugs. I can’t say I’m a finicky person and having ingested gelatin accidentally, I wouldn’t pretend that I want to throw up just from finding that out. However, I just have no interest in using this anymore. I am annoyed with Physician’s Formula and the fact that they mark their products on their website as cruelty-free when they actually aren’t.


I also found another make-up blog that complained Physician’s Formula simply stopped responding to the blogger’s email. So I appreciate companies like Tarte and Urban Decay that are transparent and clearly mark their items as vegan. But this just reaffirms the headache of having to do all the research and figuring out what products are cruelty-free and which are not. Sighhhhh.

Maybe I should just buy from vegan companies, like 100% Pure**. It would make life soooo much easier.

New Summer Tires

J. is currently still in Montreal on his vacation. I gave him my Honda CRV and asked him to get it detailed, get a service check and put on the winter tires. He gave me an update last night and I was surprised to hear that my summer tires were quite bald, after 3 years of use. He ended up getting replacements for me.

As a first time car-owner*, I am still learning a lot about vehicles. I can’t say I have learned too much in the past year; it’s a goal for me to study a bit more about cars but I have been slacking on this goal. J. explained that you can use a tire gauge (he bought one for me) or I could also use a coin to estimate tire depth.

Found this great 1-minute video from CAA that explains how to do just that.

*Well, I still have 2 years of financing before it is fully mine.

Testing Out Vegan Make-up Products

Update: Found out that the blush is not vegan and is made with carmine. ARGH.

Since I dropped some big money on Sephora recently and am home alone for another weekend, I played around with my make-up this morning. I’ve got a good record at being TERRIBLE at make-up, so I need lots of practice. Here’s what I used this morning:

For application:

All the products I used today were completely vegan except my mascara from Lancome, whose parent company L’Oréal still tests on animals. I don’t know if the product is vegan itself, but I’ve never given a cent to Lancôme. This was my friend’s unused free samples which I nabbed a while ago. Eventually, I’ll buy a vegan mascara but I try hard not to create waste and just use up old products first, even if they weren’t cruelty-free.

As a vegetarian trying to be vegan, this is a reminder that many of us are trying to move in the right direction, so don’t be judgmental and rude if not everything we use isn’t vegan! This is progress for me in a lot of ways, so support others who are doing the same.

It’s gonna take a few years, but eventually I’d like to phase out the products from non-vegan companies (except Urban Decay, because they’re really moving in the right direction!). Like I said, it’d be wasteful to throw out products that I have. It’s too bad it’s such a headache to do all this research!!


Net Worth – August 2016

Not much of a change from July 2016. It is back to work, so going out less to eat (since our options are limited). However, I did do some shopping in the past little while:

  • David’s Tea ($71) – I order at this time of year because Pumpkin Chai has become part of my regular winter routine, and this flavour is only sold seasonally around fall. Shit. Did I just say that it’s fall?!
  • Sephora ($170) – Brush set, angled brush, primer … didn’t expect to spend this much but when I buy make-up, it’s for a good few years. I expect pretty much never to buy
  • Birthday present for Gramma ($34) – It’s a secret right now …
  • Books from Indigo ($97) – Bought some coffee table books (Humans of New York, Postsecret) for my students to read in my classroom. Also got a book on teaching and one that was recommended on my yoga course (The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter)

But in good news, I got my OAME conference ($330) covered by the school board! The finance department was slow on the follow-up, but I finally got the transfer a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t cover my gas or lodging, but that’s alright.

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The Idea of Home

Last night, I went out to play board games with the Cree Health Board crew, right after dinner with the Adult Education staff. This afternoon, I played badminton at the high school, then left at 3 pm to help a teacher with some science lesson planning and then went for more board games in the evening. I even left my board game* with my buddies, since J. left for vacation with the car and I didn’t want to lug it around.

I have to say, my first year up here as a full-time teacher was lonely. I had worked for Elephant Thoughts and been used to living with 2 or 3 roommates at a time. I always had someone to speak with and do things together. When I moved in with J., I wasn’t used to how lonely it was. It didn’t help that the only 20-somethings at work wouldn’t invite me out much either.

Three years later, I can say I have no shortage of friends or socials to go to. In fact, I find that it’s a nice balance now. We’re not very busy that we feel exhausted at the end of the weekend and going home early or when you’re not feeling well is easy when the town is so darn small.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned but I am considering this to be my last year up north. I haven’t decided if I will put a sabbatical in yet. There are lots of benefits to living up here; the amount of free time, the disposable income for car payments, the short commute and not having to wait very long to get a check-up at the clinic … these are definitely things I will miss when I do leave the north.

Having said that now, I am more appreciative of what I’ve got. I have a fairly decent job, financial security, reasonable access to food even as a vegetarian and extremely affordable rent (~$1000/year per person). I know when I move back to Ontario, I will have to go back to struggling for a bit. But that’s okay. I’ve taken the time to practice better physical health routines, as well as mental health care.*

Will I miss the lifestyle up here? Of course.

Will I come back to the north? Who knows.

As much as I complain about being isolated and far away from family and friends, city lights, shopping and bookstores, the north has grown on me. I can honestly say that I am starting to feel at home here. But I guess I’m funny that way; that’s often when I feel like it’s time to leave.

*We played Agricola tonight, one of my favourite board games, but also one of the HEAVIEST of boxes!
**Now if only I could afford weekly massages!


Monthly Goals – August

  • Gold Medal Bodies (0/5): Was intending on starting the “shoulder opening sequence”, but I’ve not been working out or going to the gym. Mostly I’ve been focused on getting back into work. Will push this to September.
  • Go kayaking (0/5):  The weather has been terrible. Super cold for this time of year … I managed to get on the water only because my sister was out and I popped in for 10 minutes. Hopefully it’ll warm up in September.
  • Walk instead of driving everywhere (5/5):  Since reading Katy Bowman’s book, I’ve decided I really need to be a more mindful mover. It doesn’t makes sense that I do glute workouts without walking to work. I mean, your butt is what allows you to walk! Been doing pretty well with this goal since it’s been warm. We drove about twice a week in August. This might change as the weather gets colder.
  • Pillowless sleeping (5/5): I’m pretty comfortable sleeping without a pillow now. The only issue was that I was squirreling towards my boyfriend’s pillow in the middle of the night, but once I put a thin fleece blanket under my head, I stopped doing it. Ha!
Teaching / Job-Hunting
  • Get equipment for a teen yoga club (5/5): I’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now, but I finally did it! Purchased some reasonably priced yoga mats from Treadmill Factory in at the flagship store in Markham, Ontario. So far, I’ve only run one session, but hopefully, I can get the club going once a week. There’s definitely some interest in the younger high school students. I also did some meditation with my students earlier this week!
  • Purchase new vegan make-up products (5/5): It took me 3.5 hours of research one day to figure out what was vegan and what was not. But now that I have a general sense of what’s out there, it’ll be much easier to buy products in the future. I gotta step up my make-up game if I’m going to be leaving the north, networking and going job-hunting. Applying make-up is generally slow and stressful for me, so the only way to overcome that will be practice, practice, practice. Been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately and trying to learn. It’s definitely intimidating in the beginning when you don’t know too much yet. Here’s a picture of my haul.


Media / Books
  • Podcasting (4/5): Yup, I’m back on podcasting. I’ve binged through about 8 or 9 episodes of Katy Bowman’s Katy Says  series. Really glad I got the app PocketCasts. It’s much better than the default podcasting app on iOS.
  • Learn a new stitch (5/5): I learned how to double crochet! But I stayed up for 5 hours straight and got knots in my shoulders from doing so …
  • Read regularly (/5): Finish Katy Bowman’s Move Your DNA* and also Sarah Silverman’s book. Been reading a few kids’ books too, as well as some graphic novels.



  • Cancel YogaGlo (5/5): Really enjoyed a bit of change doing so many Kathryn Budig classes, but ahhhh it’s back to using the classes I’ve purchased off of Cody.
  • Stop buying Cody plans (0/5): Yeah, I suck at this. I caved and bought two nutrition plans because there was a 30% coupon code. Hey, at least I use my plans!
  • Balance out expenses (3/5): The Honda CRV is my vehicle. It’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made. I’ve not asked the boyfriend to put much money in, but since he’s off on vacation with the car, I’ve asked him this time to swap the winters on, get a tune-up and pay for a full detailing.

*I really fell in love with this book. Natural movement and biomechanics is so interesting! Might have to buy a few copies as Christmas presents.

Make-Over on the Make-Up

If you know me, I often wear a bare face. I’m pretty bad at putting make-up on and sometimes I won’t want to wear it simply because it’s a pain in the ass to take it off at the end of the day.

My day-to-day facial regime is quite simple; most mornings, I use a wet cloth to wash my face. Sometimes I put on facial cream and under eye cream, but usually there are zero products on my face.

Granted, I know I need to work on my make-up application skills. I do actually enjoy it on the rare occasion, but realize that if I am going to be networking and doing interviews, I should get more practice with my make-up. My good friend, B., bought me gel eyeliner last Christmas, but I draw on wings with the dexterity of a 3-year-old. Then I just get very self-conscious when I’m wearing it …. sigh.

I had intended to go into Sephora during the summer and do a make-over, plus pick up some new products. But things got busy and I just wanted to go out and have fun …. needless to say, it fell on my list of priorities. The biggest issue is actually just finding vegan and cruelty-free products*. Usually, I use ignorance as the main excuse, and decided it was time to do some serious research.

I knew it would be a pain in the butt, but this morning, I finally did it!

It took about 2 hours to make sure every thing I purchased was entirely vegan, including make-up brushes**. Honestly, I’m glad it’s done. I’d been putting it off for quite a while and just need to cross it off the list.

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*I currently use blush and bronzer from Physician’s Formula, but not every single of their products are vegan. Same for Urban Decay. This makes things a huge headache in general because fully vegan brands tend to have a very small selection of products.
**I once accidentally bought a generic Sephora-brand brush, only to realize it was made with boar’s hair. Went and got a refund.