2016 In a Glance

Normally, I post my “year in a glance” in December, but I realized I had forgotten, since I was so busy traveling. Here it is, finally!

January

  • Participated in the #Commit2Fit challenge and got my first crossfit Cody plan
  • Marked provincial Grade 11 exams and got paid for it
  • Went on the picket line at work, for the first time

February

  • Participated in my first “stitch and bitch”
  • Learned to crochet

March

  • Attended a teaching workshop on Geogebra

April

  • Submitted my taxes myself … for the first time
  • Estimated a retirement next egg
  • Visited DisneyWorld for the 4th time

May

  • Tried a crossfit gym and dry-heaved for 5 minutes … never again
  • Attended OAME conference for the 4th time

June

  • Completed my 3rd year of teaching full-time

July

  • Played real golf for the first time
  • Marched in the Toronto Pride Parade
  • Visited my cousins in New York City

August

  • Learned to double-crochet
  • Participated in my first escape room with my cousin

September

  • Learned to circle crochet
  • Attended a workshop by Solution Tree
  • Participated in the Smokey Hill Festival

October

  • Hosted my first webinar through OAME (NOMA chapter)
  • Ran a teaching workshop on Quizlet for elementary teachers
  • Attended an OAME AGM digitally

November

  • Applied to speak at annual OAME conference in May 2017
  • Started Pilates for the first time
  • Worked as a chaperone on the Grade 11 orientation trip

December

  • Traveled to Jordan, Palestinian Territories and Israel

New Annual Goal: Media Expenses

Two things I really like to spend money on are Cody App fitness plans and books. I know that while I don’t go crazy, I will have to cut back if I move down south.

For this year’s set of annual goals, I thought I would try to track how much I spend on these two things. I thought I would put a personal budget of $750 and added this to the financial trackers on the side of my page.

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I didn’t plan on spending money right away, but on the weekend, I did a bit of shopping on Indigo and bought these books:

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I’m hoping that my friend will give me her old Kobo and that I can figure out a cheaper way to access books (without stealing them from authors, still paying them so that they make money). I might also have to cut back on buying audiobooks, as I have a stash right now that I need to work at.

If you have any tips on how to purchase, please let me know!

Annual Goals – 2016 in Review

The funny thing, is that my annual goals are often not my biggest focus. They are often the most poorly thought out and poorly executed of my goals. Often, it’s hard to plan ahead in the year and your ideas my change based on what is happening (or not happening) in your life. And so, to be honest, some of these goals weren’t even determined until the middle of the year!
Anyway, I might as well do the review, since I’ll be in Tel Aviv, Israel in a mere week and I won’t be blogging much from there!
Health 
  • Increase flexibility (2/5): Using the Focused Flexibility plan from Gold Medal Bodies. I only ever ended up completed the Tight Hips program (2 weeks) when I had an issue with my hip in January. The past month, I started Tight Shoulders program, but decided to put it on pause since I’m going on vacation soon. Could have done a lot better. I hate doing repetitive exercises over and over again.
  • Strength training(4/5): I was pretty happy with this goal. Actively did this for 6 months of the year and got through Krissy Cagney’s Beginner Strength and Strength Builder I program. My discipline came from having K. and H. as my workout buddies. Unfortunately, they both moved away and although I had wanted to try Strength Builder II after the summer, it never happened. I still made it farther than I ever expected.
  • Deepen yoga training (5/5): Participate in yoga intensive with Kathryn Bruni-Young, first yoga workshop ever! This was very insightful and well worth the money I spent for that one week in July. I’ve written a few notes here, but mostly, the notes are on my Cody logs.
  • Eat foods that are good for gut flora (1/5): J. and I watched part of an episode of Nature of Things that talked about gut flora. I start taking probiotics (again). But of course, paying for expensive doesn’t guarantee anything. I started eating more pickled foods and sliced ginger but honestly, I just forgot about this halfway through the year.
  • No more new Cody plans for the rest of 2016 (0/5): I’m just hooked on getting Cody plans. I’m forgiving myself on this goal on account that I like learning and being inspired to learn more. I don’t mindlessly choose my plans and when I don’t like them, I always get a refund within the 30-day time frame (I’ve likely refunded half a dozen plans by now). In total, to date, I have probably spent about $813 USD. Still cheaper than a year at any gym in Toronto. And remember, this is lifetime access!screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-11-25-18-pm
Teaching and Professional Development
  • Start exploring future options (3/5): Begin researching other job opportunities. In January, I had initially asked about job opportunities in Alberta and the process that is involved, but decided that I want to be closer to my family, not farther away. Struggled with getting reference letters … ugh. Facebook has been a valuable  source of information when it comes to what boards are looking for, when people are getting calls and tips on how to answer and what to expect in interviews. Made a notebook that breaks down information on most of the boards around Southern Ontario.
  • Continue teacher blog for networking (4/5): Tried to post a couple of times a month to keep up professional reputation and to stay in touch with contacts. It was also shared with the school and administration, so bonus points! Did this off and but not so much towards the latter half of 2016. The blog did help me stay in touch with a Nipissing professor,T. who got me to try out a webinar on OAME and has been an invaluable mentor for me the past year.
  • Make use of Teacher Improvement plan (5/5): Currently taking an Additional Qualification with Queen’s University, so I can get the school board to pay for it. Yeeees! Shoot, tomorrow is the deadline of Module 3.
  • Practice selling myself (4/5): Did a OAME webinar back in the fall and also ran a Quizlet workshop for elementary teachers. New goal is to practice interviewing as that needs a lot of work.
Finance
  • Develop better money habits as a couple (5/5): I’ve been meaning to write about this, but haven’t had a chance to yet. We have regular “money dates” and things are going very well!
  • Sell off mutual funds (5/5): In the process of doing this as a reallocate towards index investments. 
Auto
  • Find cheaper options for car maintenance (0/5): Or if going to Honda, use coupons, get Aeroplan miles and also use CAA discount (I kept forgetting to). This didn’t really happen, but J. is willing to share some of the expenses with me. He bought new summer tires when Honda found out my 3-year-old ones were going dangerously bald.
 
Home
  • Reorganize home using the KonMarie way (4/5): Having read the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I was inspired to declutter my own place. 
  • Get artwork framed (5/5): Seems kind of a weird goal, but I’ve been meaning to do framing for a long time. When I travel, I will pick up pieces of art here and there. I decided to do a custom frame for a fragile parchment piece I picked up in Jodphur, Rajasthan, India. It was pretty expensive. $182, ouch. The frugal part of me feels guilty for it no matter what, but in a way, this is more about paying myself for something I had been meaning to for years. I love art and have spent so much time admiring it, but just want to spend money on a few pieces that forever touch me.
Other
  • Read at least 15 books (5/5): I read 25 books this year!
  • Read children’s books (2/5): Stay in touch with children’s literature, which I did when I thought I’d likely be teaching elementary svhool in the future. As my goals shifted, so did my goals. I did read the Amulet series and some comic books. Not something I will continue to focus on.screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-11-38-18-pm
  • Learn how to crochet or knit (3/5): I was looking more for offline hobbies, when I started this goal. Partly it was inspired by the tech challenge on the Note To Self podcast. I ended up learning how to crochet a scarf, using double crochet, as well as a circular cozy. Didn’t get as far as I’d like though.

So there you are, a quick review of my goals. Kind of a mish-mash and somewhat all over the place … !

What were your goals in 2016? How did you do on your goals?

The Downside of Being Offline: Using a Bullet Journal

I had a scare today; I thought I had lost my bullet journal, which is my personal organizer. I used it during a school meeting last night, but had no recollection of tossing it into my backpack. Thankfully, it had made its way home. I found it accidentally tucked under a vintage copy of A Clockwork Orange, which I had rescued from a pile of discarded books.

Since September, I’ve been using a #bujo planner*. I mainly use it to keep track of personal goals – weekly, monthly and annual. It’s become popular, partly because it’s therapeutic to doodle and draw, but also because it’s nice to just be offline. Yes, I still use my paid Toodledo account as digital notepad when I don’t have a pen, but pretty much everything** is in my bullet journal.

While I’ve used a variety of tools, including apps like Coach.me (formally Lift.do), to track my habits, I just felt that I needed a change when it came to writing monthly goals. I’d found that I would start fudging and editing the goals I had initially written down and delete ones I’d ignored, just to make myself feel better. It’s been working well so far and I can say that my bullet journal isn’t just a fad I’m picking up; it’s likely a tool I will be using for at least a couple of years. I enjoy drawing and laying out my new “weeklies” while listening to podcasting.

Some things will always remain online though, including net worth tracking via NetWorthIQ and fitness tracking on CodyApp.

Yet the ultimate issue with the bullet planner is that I have no back-up system. To be clear, I don’t intend logging everything on Toodledo so that I can check it off later. In my panicked state earlier this morning, I did consider how much I would be losing if I really could not find my planner.

My life wouldn’t be over. I’d likely be able to rewrite 50-70% of the active task lists that I had going on. Once monthly goals are complete, I published them on my blog. As for weekly habits, I really couldn’t care less.

And is there anything that would be so important that I’d actually forget entirely I’d have to do it?

Likely not.

So even as I did hug my planner with a sigh of relief when I uncovered it, I realized that I still don’t intend on backing it up. And that’s okay. It’d be like a piece of lost art. I would have enjoyed all the time that I’d put up with it, but I’d be willing to let it go.

*If you’re unfamiliar with bullet journals, check out this article from the Toronto Star, Bullet Journaling Will Get You Organized.

**For work, I keep a separate teacher’s lesson planner which I’d purchased (and expensed to the school board) from Staples. Keeping my work and personal life separate definitely gave me less stress; I found that I could appropriately put my energy to focus on work when I need to and have some space from it when I just want to enjoy my down time.

Reorganizing Paperwork

I recently started listening to Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, through Audible. I’d been curious about it since I had seen the book on the best-sellers lists at Chapters and Indigo.

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It’s actually been an enjoyable and easy read. The book is a self-help guide on how to organize and declutter your home. I decided to apply some of the techniques today, since I needed to sort my important paperwork anyway, and spent several hours going through my file folders.

This is probably only about a third of what I tossed into the fireplace!

Some of the things I tossed:

  • Old paystubs from 2005 when I worked at Friends of the Rouge
  • Greeting cards and thank you letters
  • A Sears receipt for an eco-friendly frying pan
  • Expired Apple Care warranty papers for my Macbook Air
  • Receipt and registration papers for a Nikkon D40X purchased in 2007

I was actually surprised and shocked I had this stuff. I didn’t even think it was organized within my file folder!! I’m usually fairly organized, but I suppose I kept them thinking that it would be important sometime in the future or that I would like to reminisce about my past.

Marie Kondo, however, explains very well why papers should be tossed. For example, thank you cards* fulfill their very purpose the moment the received has read them. Even if you asked the sender about them, they may very well have forgotten about its existence.

In the end, it felt extremely cathartic to purge myself of unnecessary papers that were simply taking up space. Now my file folder is much lighter to pick up!!

*There were a few thank you letters that were quite touching, so I digitized them by taking pictures before putting them in the recycling bin.

 

Less Sitting, More Standing

I recently started listening to the Geek Fit podcast from Brainiak.fm. It is run by Justin Seeley and every episode has been amazing so far. But the biggest game changer for me was episode 5: “Sit, Stand, Be Healthy.”

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I won’t go too much into the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods of time, but it ain’t pretty. In a nutshell, your overall metabolic rate goes down, and your risk for cardiovascular disease increases. The scariest part? Even exercise doesn’t make a difference if you still sit for a long time.

And after listening to the podcast, I thought about my own habits. In the last two months, I have definitely been sitting far more often than I should be. I also haven’t been doing as much yoga in the evenings. I still drive to work daily, rather than walking, but the combination of prolonged sitting and reduced physical activity are markable changes; these two factors are likely contributing to some minor weight gain that I’ve been experiencing. Needless to say, when you realize that a bad habit is actually having a substantial impact on your life, it’s time to do something about it.

I was really thankful to have listened to Justin’s podcast. It was definitely a great intro into the world of sit-stand desks. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to buy any furniture while living in up north* – my home is properly furnished – but I decided that this was going to be an investment that would affect my health dramatically.

While many of the brands that were mentioned where pretty pricey, I am happy to announced that I ended up picking up a SKARSTA desk from Ikea; no electronics, just a handcrank that is reasonable price at $230.

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So for now, it’s sitting in the back of my car. We’re still on the road at the moment, from Montreal to Waskaganish and are overnighting in Val D’Or. It’ll probably be a pretty busy week, so I don’t even know if I’ll have time to put this together until next weekend!

In the meantime, I’ll start looking for an anti-fatigue mat online!

*Realistically speaking, one day I will be moving somewhere else and I’ll probably need to buy a desk anyway.

Annual Goals 2015

When I look back at my annual goals, I laugh. It’s funny how easily they can change within a couple of months. A year ago, you can have no clue what you’d like to work on. Since my written goals were rather off, I’ll write a description rather than hitting point by point as I usually do.
  • Health: Initially, I wanted to make some gains in my splits and handstands. Instead, I ended up working on weightlifting and barre instead. I’m happy I made the switch; I didn’t have any strong interest in either of these training methods, but my overall strength has increased and I see the benefits of having a structured program as well as a gym buddy to keep me on track. I also intended to kayak and ski more often, but I ended up only kayaking once this fall, sadly. I also only skiied once!
  • Financial: I generally stuck to the goal of not spending too much workout gear as I had already dropped a lot of money last year on yoga leggings. I didn`t end up doing any active stock trading, nor did I write a will yet.
  • Vehicle: I didn’t learn how to change oil. Erghhhh. I occasionally listen to NPR’s Car Talk, but in general still have no idea what they’re ever talking about.
  • Professional Development: Learning languages, especially Mandarin is still on my list of goals. I started learning languages more intensively two years ago, through Pimsleur Digital courses. While I`ve only been intermittently working on Mandarin, I`m glad I`m still keeping it up. Being up north, I`ve found it easier to squeeze in more time for reading at least 15 books a year.
  • Teaching: In terms of educational technology, I got to try out Classcraft, Class Messenger, Tellagami, Sesame Snap and Geogebra this year. I didn`t document as many of my classroom progress through Pinterest, but I did start a teaching blog.

Not particularly the strongest defined goals, but I will work on 2016 a bit better.

Year in a Glance: 2015

I enjoy writing my “Year in a Glance” because it makes me appreciate progress that I’ve made that year. Nothing in particular stands out this year – other than finally being certified to teach high school in Ontario – but it was definitely a good year!

January

  • Completed a beginner`s course in Smartboard training

February

  • Taught my first fitness class
  • Tried weightlifting

March

April

  • Visited Chicago for my sister’s bachlorette

May

  • Participated in the OAME eConference

June

  • Hiked around the Dundas Valley Conservation Area
  • Connected with a Nipissing professor in the mathematics department

July

  • Completed my Senior Math ABQ
  • Officially have accreditation to teach secondary school in Ontario
  • Bought a Passport to Prana
  • Made friends with the webmasters of OAME

August

  • Took my first Ashtanga yoga class at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto
  • Saw the fireworks festival Osisko en Lumière
  • Used Air B&B for the first time
  • Started barre classes

September

October

  • Ran my second workshop with my school board, Fixed Mindset versus Growth Mindset

November

  • Took my first field trip with high school students
  • Began regularly weightlifting with a partner
  • Purchased a work laptop to separate work and personal

December

Progressing Through Lifting

Lifting has been going well.

Having a reliable workout buddy has probably made the single difference; K. and I now meet regularly twice a week. She’s committed to lifting and despite my suggestions to deviate, has kept me on track and focused to practicing “The Big Four*”. The support that we give each other means a lot; she does her research and it helps that we can have a conversation with each other about where we’re going. I know I would not have progressed as far if it weren’t for her!

As I’m finishing up the Krissy Cagney’s Beginner Strength plan, I purchased an add-on bundle ($40) for the reminder of her plans, Strength Builder I, Strength Builder II and Strength Builder III. While I haven’t looked at them all in depth, my overall goal is to get through all three plans in the next 12 months.

Honestly, I never thought I would be lifting.

A few months ago, it wasn’t a goal of mine. I had seen videos of #girlswholift and thought that this was a world away. It fascinated me but it didn’t particularly interest me at all … until I started participating myself. It is now becoming obvious how these workouts support and connect with flexibility, mobility and strength in other aspects of my personal fitness.

Considering that I have no background in lifting, I feel that things are progressing well. While the two of us have been fumbling with weights and how much to plate, in the last week, both K. and I are starting to figure out our baselines. We also finished our workout on Friday night in a record 55 minutes!**

 

Here’s a video of my first overhead press just a couple of weeks ago:

It wasn’t easy the first time and I remember struggling with it initially. I did this on my own one day because K. was not feeling well. I felt slightly embarrassed that I was only using a barbell and could not put any plates on it.

After I posted it on social media, several friends – to my surprise – applauded me. One friend, J., who is a personal trainer, reminded me that it isn’t “just” a barbell; an Olympic-style barbell is 20 kg, or 45 pounds! Not everyone can use it as their starting point. To reinforce this point, an old high school classmate, H., told me he actually started with a 25 pound bar his first time. Our local fitness instructor also said that I am doing well; the only criticism he had was that I needed to draw my head back for the barbell to clear straight up and down.

Alright, so I’m not doing so badly!

Just four more workouts before moving on!

*Back squat, bench press, deadlifts and overhead press.

**Normally, we putter around for a bit over an hour. Becoming more efficient means that we are better habituated to both setting up and executing the movements. 

Reimbursement for AQ

Woohoo!

I got a cheque for $735 last week for the Senior Math Additional Qualification (AQ) that I took over the summer. This is the fifth course I’ve taken, but it’s the first one that I’ve gotten reimbursed*. You can see all the other ones I’ve taken on my Ontario College of Teachers profile. Definitely it’s nice to finally get it covered (although it does help with the taxes).

Of course, I’m not around any banks up north, but thank goodness I can deposit it digitally!

*At approximately $750 a pop, that means I’ve paid $3000 out of my own pocket already.