Putting Gramma First

As I’d mentioned earlier last week, I am currently on Goose Break. In the past 5 years that I’ve been teaching up north, my holidays were used often for overseas traveling and catching up with friends around my home province, Ontario.

This time, I’ve primarily focused on getting paperwork lined up for my new teaching job, as well as taking care of my maternal grandmother. My aunt and my mother are currently traveling around New Zealand with their friends. Since I’m not around Toronto very much, it’s only fair that I put the hours in to spend time with Gramma and help her with chores. I recognize that everyone around me has quite a regular workload driving her around, feeding her and getting her to her check-ups regularly; I’ve missed out on this responsability for many years now. I feel lucky that, despite my prolonged absence from Toronto, she – at the age of 98 – is still exceptionally strong and able to walk for 10 minutes without needing to sit and rest. She’s a great conversationalist, has a warm sense of humour and is a loving figure to everyone in our family.

My mom is having a grand time, as my sister and I get photos and updates from her through social media. I’m also happy that my mother is healthy, strong and exuberant about life in her retirement years; I could only hope to be like her, although we know that the idea of retirement will be radically different for our generation.

As for myself, it’s been a week where I’ve not been great at self-care. In the north, I go to the gym regularly, after school many times a week, but the past week I’ve made sure that Gramma comes first. I’ve only been downtown once to go to the allergist, otherwise staying close to home, inviting our cousin over for dinner one night and only visiting friends in the area for no more than 2 or 3 hours at a time.

While everything had been going smoothly, late Thursday night, or Friday morning, rather, Gramma and I were alarmed at a pungent smell in the house. It smelled like melted plastic but we could not figure out where it was coming from. It was becoming unbearable; Gramma felt nauseous and I began breathing through my mouth. We could find no smoke; no alarms were going off and the carbon monoxide detector was still properly plugged in. We packed up a few things and left the house around 3:30 am, driving over to my aunt’s vacant townhouse, just 2-3 minutes away.

I made sure Gramma was comfortable first and then quietly found a room to call 911 without alarming her. I scooted back over to greet four firetrucks (really don’t think that was necessary, given our situation) and some *ahem* attractive firemen. Altogether, one fire warden, four firemen and I went all around the house, trying to find the cause.

Confused, we stood in the kitchen, scratching our heads. We concluded that the smell was the strongest on the main floor, absent in the basement, and not coming in through the ventilation system when we put our faces to the vents. I realized that the smell seemed strongest around the fridge as we stood around it; one firemen pulled the machine back and caught sight of a wisp of smoke, plus a few sparks! The most likely conclusion was an overheated compressor, melting the casing and/or wiring; the plugs were promptly pulled and everyone sighed in relief. There was actually no fire, but the thought of what could have happened was definitely very frightening.

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The next 2-3 days were quite tiring, as we ran around, back and forth, looking for a new fridge, moving some of our food out of the current one and making sure Gramma had her 3 meals. We had help from family and friends, of course, but the whole of Friday, after a total of 2 hours of sleep – one before the incident and one after the incident – I had to make sure all my energy and every decision that I made, in my deteriorated mental and physical state, was for the well-being of my charge. I laugh when my sister asked me about minutiae that day, whether some of the fridges I perused had a nice interior on the lower rack; I was more worried that I was driving safely and fully alert while on the road! Thankfully, I did manage to get 12 hours on the following night, and my sister and brother-in-law were present to help the two of us out look for a new refrigerator.

Currently we have an old ice chest for a few items in the kitchen; however, because it doesn’t seal well, the ice seems to be melting faster than usual. No need to bore anyone with the fine details, but it’s been a pretty hectic past few days and we are only settling now. A new fridge has been purchased and will be delivered from Home Depot on Friday.

Knowing that things were lining up, I decided that I need to pin some time for myself. I’m not stressed, really, but I just have not given my body any love of late. Last night, I paid for a yoga class up front and will be headed out later this morning. Then I’ll stop downtown to continue working on a job application for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)* and then meet up with a few friends at Planta, a high-end vegan restaurant**. I’ll see a few more friends this week too before I leave, but I’m looking forward to some time by myself.

*Not to get confused with the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB)
**My sister will pop over after work to hang out with Gramma.

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Consolidating Apps: Switching from Coach.me

One of my favourite goal-tracking apps is Coach.me, formally known as Lift.do.  I’ve used this app for a couple of years now; the simplicity of the app and supportive online community are two features which have kept me on as a client. I’ve mainly used it to track – on a weekly and monthly basis – how often I’ve been lifting,doing barre work, taking my probiotics, calling my family* or reading a book.

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However, in an effort to minimize the number of productivity apps I’m using, I decided to switch over to Habits on Toodledo instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love Coach.me and I’ve tried to encourage friends to use it, but it’s easy to get distracted when you are constantly switching from one app to the next. And since becoming a paying Toodledo customer last year**, why not simply consolidate my task list and weekly habit checklist?

Habits hasn’t been around for very long, it was only unveiled just over a year ago. It functions similarly to the Coach.me interface, but you must assign which days of the week you complete your habit. The other motivator is to build “chains”***, long periods in which you successfully complete each habit. Unlike Coach.me, there is a strong visual reminder when you’ve missed a day or have been slacking off on a particular behaviour.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.38.43 AMHere is a screenshot of the app interface. As you can see, it’s been a busy week and I didn’t manage to call my family during the weekdays:

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You can access your habits by logging in through a browser as well. It’s simple and easy to read. I like that you can see it in a monthly calendar. There is also the option to mark if you have failed your task and it is highlighted conspicuously in bright red.

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While I’ve only been using Habits for 2 weeks, I’m happy that I’ve transition over. I like seeing the “chains” and also seeing what I need to work on. While I’ve been doing yoga fairly regularly – I took a break for about 3 months – I didn’t manage to get on my mat because I was helping out with some night shifts at the local book fair.

Looking forward to going back to the gym through the whole week. As well, I’ll be getting back into barre work and using my standing desk more often!

Do you use any goal-tracking apps? Have you ever used Coach.me or Toodledo?

*As you can see, I’m not always good at calling my family. Of course, there’s no need to in the summer when I’m with them, or in December, when I’m home for the winter holidays.

**A Silver membership costs $15 USD/year.

***The only issue with this system is the inability to switch days. I normally go to the weight room Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, if I switch over to another day, I can’t mark it on that specific calendar day without changing the settings and breaking my chain. The workaround is to just check off the habit on your last assigned day.

Long Weekend in Abitibi-Temiscamingue

Friday was a local Cree holiday, the James Bay Agreement Day. I took the day to drive down to Val D’Or, get my winter tires on and meet my family in Rouyn. We went sightseeing on Saturday.

Here’s a silly shot of my sister and I just outside the historic site of the Dumulon General Store. It is one of my favourite tourist stops in the area – the building is about 90 years old – and you can flip through copies of old Eaton’s catalogues, as well as see old products and artifacts inside:

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We were only able to spend two nights and one full day together. They took off this morning after breakfast. Not a lot of time to spend together, but precious nonetheless!

Happenings

I’ve only been back south for the past 6 days, and it’s been a whirlwind of activity. A few happenings:

  • Met two babies for the first time
  • Picked up a new card game, Gloom Fairytales
  • Been to the airport three times (separately)
  • Helped a friend with her headstand
  • Saw old high school buddies while nomming on dumplings
  • Hiked for three hours in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area in Ancaster, Ontario
  • Drove on the 407 (twice)
  • Listened to the new CBC program on Aboriginal youth, “New Fire”
  • Hanging out with friends – happy to have seen so many people in a few days!
  • Eating a variety of foods, including Italian pizza, Indian dahl makhani, Turkish imam biyaldi, Chinese dumplings, vegan BLT and Thai pad see mow

Things that have NOT been happening:

  • Getting consistent sleep
  • Getting enough “introvert recharging time”
  • Eating breakfast regularly
  • TV-watching
  • Reading books
  • Doing myofascial release

Just three more days until my sister’s wedding

Chicago

My sister’s bachlorette party in Chicago was a blast!

Mind you, I didn’t intend on leaving my passport at home … in Waskaganish. In the end, it cost me a side trip and several phone calls for me to get a hold of it, meeting it halfway in Montreal as it flew in on an Air Creebec flight. Yes, an embarrassing and costly mistake.

However, I did get to have a date night with J. (hard enough when we live in the isolated north) and see his family. And I’ve realized that I am thankful to have money to burn for emergency situations.

I haven’t been blogging too much and as I am trying to focus on my real-time with family and friends, you can check out my photos on Instagram instead.

Three Day Road Trip with Mom

I just arrived in Toronto last night. I’ve posted a few photos and wrote a little recap of our trip:

Day 1 – Waskaganish to Val D’Or (Route on Google Maps)

With my bags and bins packed, we hit the road early in the morning. This was Mom’s first time on the famous James Bay Highway, or Route de la Baie James. First, I took her to see the beautiful rapids of the Rupert River at KM 257 before turning southbound. We also found a beautiful little boat launch by KM 43. There was a lone fisherman standing around. I will have to bring J. back here with our kayaks in the fall.

IMG_20140628_124528938I wanted to show Mom the beauty of the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region. Our first stop was Amos, where mom had a delicious almond croissant. We also came across some parking meters that had been “yarn bombed“.

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That night, I made a booking at Auberge Orpailleur, which is one of the buildings in the historic mining village of Bourlamaque. It is also located just a few hundred meters from the old mine, which is now converted into an interactive museum and historic site called La Cité de l’Or. Below is a picture of some of the homes of miners. Many are private homes now.

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Day 2 – Val D’Or to Rouyn (Route on Google Maps)

After breakfast at the B&B, we went to the museum at La Cité de l’Or. The museum was designed very well. We learned about the lives and the work of gold miners in the last century. I tried to lift up a 25 kg drill. It wasn’t easy! You had to be a big strong man – women were banned from this sort of work at the time – or else you would be fired. There were also a lot of east European immigrants workers, as well as Ontarians.

IMG_20140629_093602479There were many well-designed interactive displays at the museum. This was an interesting game. The ‘hoist man’ was in charge of sending down the elevator, otherwise known as ‘the cage’ when mine workers needed to move between the subterranean levels or return to the surface. This was communicated through a series of clicks – each set of clicks represented a certain floor or level, similar to a Morse code – and if you get it wrong, there’d be nobody there! I managed to get three out of four tries correct.

IMG_20140629_100014496We also learned about how gold was identified. It is often found when there are large bands or veins in quartz.

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After the museum, we drove to the next town, Malartic. It was featured on the TV show, Monster Moves. The whole town was moved when a pocket of gold was discovered just 500 m underneath the local church. It cost $6 million dollars to move the entire town.

Here, we took a tour ($7.50/person) with the Osisko Mine. We got to see the largest open-pit gold mine in Canada, including the building that housed the largest rock crusher in the world!

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Although the guides spoke mainly in French, they did make a big effort to tell us some cool facts in English. The neatest part was going into the garage. On site, there are approximately two dozen 793F Caterpillar trucks! They can carry up to 244 tonnes of materials. They are manufactured in Illinois, USA and then sent up to Canada, where it takes a week to assemble it. I had to take a selfie with this thing!

DCIM100GOPRODay 3 – Rouyn to Toronto (Route on Google Maps)

Before we left Rouyn, I wanted to show Mom Lac Edourd, which has beautiful manicured gardens. We walked around and had the park to ourselves at 8:30 am in the morning.

The best part?

No mosquitos or horseflies! Not like in the boreal forests!

IMG_20140630_082354330_HDRMade a quick stop at the Fossilarium ($7/person) at Notre-Dame-du-Nord. We learned about crinoids. Who knew that this was a prehistoric marine animal, not a plant!

IMG_20140630_100708722Notre-Dame-du-Nord is where I normally cross the border into Ontario. This time, we stuck to the Quebec side and headed to Ville-Marie, which is one of the oldest towns in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

We sat down and ate at La Gaufrière, which translates loosely as “The Waffle House”. Of course, we had to stop for a geocache at some point during this 1400 km road trip! We climbed 91 steps to the top of the local mountain, to see the Notre Dame de Lourdes grotto. It is named and set up similarly to the one, by the same name, in France.

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I got this geocache in less than 2 minutes. And yes, we are morons. We’re holding the Stanley Cup upside down (we are awful Torontonians).

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There are many petite towns along the way as we passed through the countryside of western Quebec. Laniel, for example, has a population of 80 people. We stopped off the main road to see this beautiful mural of what life looked like, decades ago, in the rural north.

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It’s funny, I’ve driven so many times through these towns and it’s amazing what you can see if you stop for a few minutes.

The rest of our trip was just zipping through Ontario!

Start with a Good Morning

After reading this HuffPost article on 10 Steps To Becoming a Morning Person and looking at a bazillion yoga pictures on Instagram*, I decided to get up early this morning.**

I did about 25 minutes of yoga and I had a great day afterward.

I ran my first workshop at school, where there were five attendees. My mom, who just arrived yesterday morning by plane, even helped me out and worked with some of the teachers. In the afternoon, two others teachers helped me clean out the chemical prep room – the bane of my existence – and throw out tons of junk. We also found a lot of new equipment that was still in the original packaging and donated a few items to the elementary sector.

It was awesome! We got soooo much done.

Just two more days of work and then road trip with Mom!

*Ironically, on my phone, in the dark, while lying in bed.

**I was still the last person in the house to get up. J was on his 10 k run and Mom was eating breakfast at 6:30 am.

Tax Return and (Upcoming) Travel Expenses

I got my tax late last week, at a total of $3420.23! I was able to get the tax credit for medical expenses because I had purchased glasses, contact lens and also paid for a health plan with the school board. In total, it was over 3% of my income, which meant that I was eligible for it.

With the tax return, I put $3000 towards (finally) topping up my TSFAs. My mom, who filed my taxes for me, told me that my contribution room for my RSPs this year is $9493 $10926; now that I’ve maxed out my TSFAs, I can start putting money back in again.

Also, I readjusted my goal of my travel fund for Turkey because my friend, B., had actually won two tickets. That means I can save the money for other expenses. It’ll be nice to travel together, as we’d known each other for 16 years and we’d been saying it for a looooong time.

Hmmm, that reminds me that I should probably start booking some hotels and inter-city flights …

Only 28 more days!

Weekend with My Sister

Had a fantastic weekend with my sister. We had lunch with J. on Saturday, but as J. was still recovering from his eye surgery, it was mostly a weekend for the two of us. I was sad when she left, but I know she is always just a phone call away.

Here are a few photos from our trip in Montreal.

IMG_3582ABOVE: Les harfangs des neiges at the EcoMuseum near Montreal, Quebec

IMG_3598ABOVE: Un ours noir
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ABOVE: This was the first year there were food trucks at the Juste Pour Rire festival.
We bought les beignets avec le miel, noix et Nutella ($5)

IMG_3686ABOVE: A sculpture of Gaia at Mosiacultures Internationales at the Jardin Botanique

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ABOVE: One of my favourites, ‘The Bird Tree’
IMG_3704ABOVE: Lunch after seeing the flower sculptures. Chili, vegeteables and brown rice.

IMG_3731 ABOVE: Geocaching across from Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67

Back from Portland

Got back on Tuesday from our family trip in Portland. Although we were traveling for two of the seven days, we made the most of every day we had and had tons of fun. My mom, sister and I hiked up a 620-foot waterfall, ate a fancy vegan meal, saw lots of wildlife on the Pacific coast and picked up 9 geocaches.

Good times!

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ABOVE: A truck stand at a farmer’s market.

IMG_8021ABOVE: Squash soup and yuca croquettes stuffed
with cotija cheese, at Andina Restaurant

IMG_7981ABOVE: My mom and I going up the tram ($4/person)

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Above: Four-person drinking fountains scattered around Portland

IMG_7973ABOVE: Vegan Korean-Mexican fusion tacos ($3/each) from Koi Fusion

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ABOVE: My sister holding a plate of vegan ‘bacon-wrapped scallops’ at Portobello

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ABOVE:
View of the Columbia River Gorge

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ABOVE: A geocache that my mom found after climbing
a 620-foot waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge

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ABOVE: Weisendanger Falls near Multnomah Falls, near the geocache

IMG_7949ABOVE: One of the most bicycle-friendly cities I’ve ever been to!

IMG_8470ABOVE: Beans and rice bowl, with chips ($6).
Hands down, the best Mexican meal I’ve had … ever.
At Por Que No? Taqueria

*Why Portland? It also has a reputation for being crazy and weird (in a good way).