(More) October Updates

Eating Vegan: Even though I’ve stopped buying a lot of animal products, I haven’t been doing that well with being vegan. I caved and ate pizza yesterday at the Katy Perry concert in Toronto (actually had dinner at Chipotle, without eating cheese there, but got really hungry a couple of hours later and ran out of choices at the Air Canada Centre). I hadn’t eaten pizza in many weeks prior!

Meditation: I restarted Headspace again! Two years ago, I actually was doing it every day for 6 months. I’m restarting it and realized that I actually miss Andy’s voice! I really enjoy guided meditation and not doing it by myself. Currently on a 10-day plan for “Acceptance”.

Salary assessment: I am starting out the salary assessment process in Ontario. I got an updated letter of experience from the Cree School Board and also sent in transcripts from the University of Toronto.

Reading: Sooooo excited to pick up a few holds at the Waterloo library tomorrow. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Little Book of Hygge

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

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October Updates

Side hustle: A few weeks ago, I got a message on Linked In. A tutoring company asked to interview me and since then I’ve got two clients. The hourly rate is only $25 – sorta alright but not great, compared with private tutoring, in which I could dictate what I charge – but at this point, I don’t have time to find clients on my own. This is fine for now and I like having someone to talk to and support me through the process.

Goodlife: Through Edvantage, I got a Goodlife memberhsip for $400 (plus taxes). We get a special corporate plan as a public school teacher. Includes towel service and squash court access. Still waiting for the paperwork to go through; it can sometimes take up to two weeks (grrrrr).

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Salary Assessment in Ontario: Currently I am working as an Occasional Teacher, which is the professional title for a substitute teacher. I currently am paid a daily rate, no matter how many years of experience I have, but if I end up in a Long Term Occasional (LTO)*, I will need to have a formal salary assessment done. For now, I am starting the processing and setting up my academic profile. This means I have to order all transcripts from universities that I’ve attended and forward it to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Ugh, I hate paying for transcripts but I like being on the right pay scale!

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Investments: It was depressing to look at them drop in the spring and summer. But trying to be a good Canadian Couch Potato investor, you’re not suppose to let your emotions dictate your subsequence actions! And hey, looks like markets are going back up, so yay!

Reading: Still reading a lot as I’m trying to rehab my poor brain. I have a few lifetime’s worth of books to get through so I can’t stop! Mostly graphic novels right now with another book on the side. The past few couple of week I have read Mike’s Place, the first and second volume of Bryan O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, as well as Seconds. In the middle of Lena Dunham’s book and also started Guy Delisle’s, Jerusalem Chronicles (he’s Canadian!). 

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Friends in Kitchener-Waterloo: I’m being invited to stuff! People are talking to me more regularly! This is nice and good and wonderful! However, I feel that I’m losing touch with other friends in Toronto, even though I’ve made the effort to ask them to meet up, hang out and not getting much of a response. Such is life. Appreciate what you have while it lasts.

*Any consistent job in a classroom that lasts more than 10 consecutive days. Under Regulation 274, I am not able to apply to take LTOs until 10 months of being an OT. If there is a shortage within the school board or a permanent teacher continues to extend their absence, you can still be “rolled into an LTO”. 

 

Getting Back into My Books

The past few years, while living up north, I made it a habit to read a lot. I was a voracious reader growing up, but, like most adults transitioning into working life, the habit fell by the wayside.

The north was a perfect place for reading. Lots of time, lots of silence, lots of solitude. And with my full time job as a high school teacher, it was helpful to have enough disposable income to afford an Audible.com membership. I found a lot of new books through this company and got into books by comedians (i.e. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jim Gaffigan, Mindy Kaling). I consistently surpassed my goal of 15 books a year, and marked it on GoodReads.com:

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And then 2017 rolled around.

I struggled with reading. I couldn’t sit and get through a single book within 2 weeks. I kept seeing more books and would start them without finishing the others. Soon I had a giant stack of half-finished books and a wave of anxiety that there was no time to read them all. Needless to say, I felt frustrated.

I attributed it to bad habits. I had trouble focusing. Well, it’s probably because I’ve got so much going on this year – new job, moving out of the north, moving to Waterloo, adjusting to a new city, etc. etc. The excuses went on and on.

Deep down, I knew I had time. I always had time for a book because they so beautifully fill in the cracks to our days, but I blamed my lack of focus and left it at that.

And then I read this page out of Manoush Zamorodi’s Bored and Brilliant* and it – figuratively speaking – scared the poop out of me:

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So it wasn’t just me.

Even famous journalists, writers, literary artists, scientists, politicians and neuroscientists were suffering the same fate. I wasn’t the only one who was having issues with deep reading. I was not alone in this.

And a couple of weeks ago I vowed to dive back into reading.

Deep reading. Everywhere reading. Reading on a daily basis. Reading for short bursts. Carrying my books to read when I was waiting in a line. Reading when I was waiting to be addressed at a service desk. Reading during a meal. Reading in the morning. Reading before bed.

And magically, I felt my focus come back.

It was alarmingly fast and yet noticeable. It was shocking the difference I felt. Not only that, but the wave of anxiety was not replaced by a wave of great relief. Relief that that part of me didn’t die or disappear altogether. Relief that I still love reading. Relief that I learn so much from these books and that I get joy from it.

Well, I better damn well get my act together if I am going to get through Lena Dunham’s Not That Kinda Girl, Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers before the end of November. 

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Gotta run, I have a book to read.

*The book is based off of a series of interviews from the WNYC podcast, Note to Self

Bedtime Care Package

Sometimes, I’m bad at putting myself to bed. Like a lot of people who take their cellphones to bed, I get distracted on social media or scrolling through a news feed. In order to break the bad habit, recently, I started putting together a “bedtime care package”.

This is similar to my teacher self-care package, which I used to stash in my drawers. After a long stressful day, I would close the door after the last bell and pull out a small box. I’d take a bit of time to put on hand lotion or use aromatherapy oil to destress. Occasionally, I’d pull out a piece of candy or chocolate.

Here’s what my bedtime care package consists of. The purpose is just to focus on getting ready for bed:

  1. Eyemask – Pretty self-explanatory. It often comes off in the middle of the night and I have to fumble for it in the morning.
  2. Wooden hair brush – One of my favourite brushes. I received it as a present when I lived in South Korea.
  3. e.l.f. lip exfoliator* – My lips can get pretty dry, so this is nice to have. It has a bit of oil to moisturize and a nice, light scent that is fairly neutral. The best part? This is only $5 on Well.ca! Plus it’s vegan.
  4. Clinique eye cream – A few years ago, I tried a variety of random eye creams and had a lovely time with skin rashes. Thus, I defaulted to Clinique, because it is hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, it’s also not vegan, so I may have to go back and look for a new brand. I like Dr. Gross products, but it’s so ridiculously expensive.
  5. Vanilla incense – Occasionally like to use incense. It sets the tone to relax and wind down. I got this off of a Bunz trade last month.
  6. Cocoa shea butter – My cousin A. gave me a jar of The Parkdale Butter Co. as a present a few years ago. I was hooked on this Toronto-based brand and bought a second jar. I used this on my calves. There are minimal ingredients, maybe just 2 or 3.
  7. Paperback copy of Meditations from the Mat – S. gave me this book a few years ago. I didn’t think much of it at first but it has been good bedtime reading. Rolf Gates brings to life the yamas and niyamas through his personal stories and reflections of his yoga practice. Very easy to read, but has depth if you’re feeling contemplative. It’s not a bad substitute for a Bible if you’re an atheist yogi seeking spiritualism.
  8. Bag of lavender – Grown by my mother and dried. She stitched a small bag for me. Lavender has been known to help relax the body. I crush the bag and take a few whiffs of it just before bed.
  9. Pacific hand cream – I don’t use this much except during the wintertime when my skin is fairly dry.
  10. Basket – A cute cloth basket I got for $2.50 at Dollarama.

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*Vegan products

New Tiffin from Ten Thousand Villages

I have been wishing for a tiffin for years!!

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought a metal tiffin ($30) at Ten Thousand Villages*. Iit was treat to myself. If I’m going to get into a habit of not buying lunches – this was initially happening in September, oops – then I want to feel excited about eating my lunch too!!

Yes, my family and I are still purging a lot of household goods through bartering on a site called, Bunz, but when I do purchase something now, I think a lot harder about it first.

You’ve no idea how patient I can be! Having lived in the north means that I often wait for many, many months before I buy something. So this tiffin was no different and was not an impulse buy; I’d actually first saw it back in July and waited until I had moved to Waterloo, unpacked, reassessed what was in my possessions and started working before I picked it up. I love it!!!

The only downside is that I can’t microwave it of course, but now, I just dump the food on a plate if I do need to heat anything up. All the school staff rooms have microwaves. Plus it’s also super easy to clean and I only deal with one lid!

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*This shop focuses on selling fair-trade items at sustainable and fair wages.

First Meetup in a Loooong Time

Knowing very few people in Kitchener-Waterloo can feel lonely. I finally attended a Meetup, with a vegan potluck group.

After substitute teaching at a school all week*, I went to the local Indian grocery store**. Made a batch of chana masala using a recipe from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. To save money, I used canned tomatoes that I had purchased on sale a few weeks ago. Half the chickpeas are pureed and the other half are left whole. It was a pretty big batch, so I used half for the vegan potluck and the other half in small containers. The Dollarama lunch containers are about 300 mL each and I just tossed them into the freezer so I can eat 1 or 2 a week.

The party was great and pretty chill. I chatted with a few people and even met someone who recognized my name when I used to organize events around Toronto. The hosts actually lead a Bhakti yoga group and have meditations together every week. Bhakti yogi isn’t much of my thing, but I’d be curious to drop in for a Kirtan meditation just to experience it for the first time. Altogether, it was pretty welcoming. There was lots of good food and some blueberry pie and Soylicious ice cream to finish it all off. I was also pretty happy that the chana masala was eaten!

Hmmm, what to make next? Bhindi masala?

I’ll have to run back to Dollarama for more containers. It would be nice to have at least 4-5 curries to choose from, so that I’m not always cooking over the stove.

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*Under Education Bill 274, I must work as a substitute teacher on a day-rate for the first year that I am employed by a public school board

**I can’t deny the fact that I’m over the moon that I live near two independent Indian grocery stores

Overdue Changes … 16 Years Later

The past weekend, I volunteered at the 33rd Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival, the oldest and largest food fair of its type in North America! It was soooo crowded yet I was so happy to be there again, after having missed out on it for the past 4-5 years. I did two volunteer shifts and took Sunday off.

Hanging out with vegan friends again and remember that I am back in the city, where options and accessibility to cruelty-free products is not an issue anymore, it made me realized that I am due for a change. I’ve been meaning to work towards being vegan for many years now, but made (reasonable) excuses while I was living up north. I was the only vegetarian in town. I did not have access to alternatives. I had very little social or moral support. I was often the only one in my position.

Now, having been vegetarian for 16 years, I feel as if I need to stop participating in exploitive products. I’ve watched Earthlings, I know the physiological changes that are involved in feeding baby cows designated for veal (and we have tons of them in Ontario), I have read Peter Singer. I have own rats, which are commonly used as lab animals, and could never imagine myself giving them up for animal testing. I know all these things in my head and my heart, and yet my lifestyle currently doesn’t follow through with my moral stance.

And finally watching What the Health two days ago, as well as listening to the American podcast The Bearded Vegans, reminded me of what I need to do. It may be a slow process and might take a few months, but immediately finishing the film, I chucked out a few things from the fridge and decided that I was not going to buy anymore yogurt.

Last night, I went to Sobey’s and replaced my yogurt with Soyurt. I threw out my brie (for real) and got some vegan provolone by Earth Island. The Daiya cream cheese – so yummy! – was on sale, so I grabbed a small tub, since it will last until November. Small changes for now. I’m not going to punish myself over honey or butter on a Tim Horton’s bagel, but I am transitioning and having conversations with friends who are supporting me through it.

Those are my thoughts for now and I’ll post more later on as I process how I am going to approach some other changes.

*Both of these documentaries are available on Netflix.

Doing What You Know and Working on What You Don’t Know (Yet)

A few years ago, I purchased rockclimbing gear at Mountain Equipment Co-Op. I had a few friends who were climbing regularly at The Rock Oasis and I wanted to join them on a regular basis.

Last night, I tried my shoes on again. They were tighter than usual, partly because I’ve been barefoot walking a lot and my feet have increased in size. I hadn’t touched the equipment more than once every year or two, since I wasn’t living in Toronto and didn’t have access to a climbing wall.

A couple of days ago, I found someone from the Bunz community to go with me. E. and I met up this morning at The Rock Oasis and we had a grand time. I was initially nervous when belaying her, but as I sat into my harness, pull the slack through the grigri, the muscle memory started clicking in again.

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In the evening, I went to Ashbridges’ Bay. I had offered to sub in for a friend’s intermediate 6s. I hadn’t played much volleyball in years, but as I started warming up, I remembered how to volley, how to set, dig and even spike a little!

It’s amazing how much you really know. I mean, it’s in your head, it’s in your heart, it’s in your muscles. You can step away from something and, over time, lose confidence in your personal skills. Yet, often, it’s just like riding a bike. You don’t forget anything really. You might wobble and topple a few times, yet your body and your brain is just trying to remember how it did it so fluidly once.

So what else do we know, so long ago, that we think we’ve forgotten?

What else is buried within us, beneath unnecessary fears, regrets and doubts? How much misery do we bring upon ourselves when we question our own capabilities? Why do we stop ourselves?

This was a wonderful reminder of, not only my vibrant social life in Toronto that was merely put on hold, but the attitude that made me who I am – the fun of physical movement, laughing with others, having fun no matter what season and taking on new challenges. I could not have had such an open heart without the protection and love of my parents. And when I was up north, far away from my family and friends, I continued to challenge myself in new ways – trying out all the things that I hate!

So I am excited to think, after 34 years, what else does my future hold?

Mindset Around Grocery Shopping

Since living in the north for the past 5.5 years, I stopped paying attention to prices at the supermarket. I never spent a great deal of money, and already having a restrictive diet as a vegetarian, I wanted to make sure I purchased what I wanted and needed.

Running the credit card at the checkout without thinking about the total was pretty normal. Mind you, I did consider prices as I picked up items but I knew that if I wanted to make tacos for dinner, I was going to have to pay for peppers regardless of the price.

Yesterday, I grabbed a bunch of salad items and some veggie burgers for lunch at home. This $26 bill up north would probably be something like $40 or $45 up north. Occasionally, we’d buy online through IGA – it was delivered 7 hours away from Amos, Quebec – but even then, we rarely thought too much about the price.

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As I will be living in the city again this coming school year, I am going to be more aware of food prices and try to shop for better deals. It’s a habit I need to develop again. I downloaded Flipp to explore – an app that shows savings of major retailers – and try to make mental notes of items I purchase frequently*.

*Avocados, tomatoes and apples are staples of mine

Barefoot Walking

Officially one week of walking around in Vibram Five Fingers after 10 months of barefoot walking at work, in the classroom! My feet feel great and I don’t have any soreness at all.

Spent Monday morning reading the free Vibram guide on barefoot walking – which my colleague D. shared with me – as I continue to explore natural movement, or #movenat.

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It’s interesting to analyze my own feet; the past 3 years of yoga has helped my arch, but more than 30 years of shoe wearing has cause my pinkie toe to turn inwards. Your toes are meant to spread out, grip and push off the ground. You can see in the image below that the last toe isn’t in line with the edge of the foot or the pencil. It’s unfortunate that so many modern dayshoes are tapered towards the toes, which creates a change on our anatomy and have a detrimental effect in the long run.

Go check out your feet right now! What do you see?