Net Worth – December 2017

Late posting my net worth, but here it is.

A few points of note over the past 2 months –  I got some cash gifts from my family (~$600) for my 35th birthday. Big expenses included paying for dental cleaning out of pocket ($100) as I currently do not have health insurance, my license plate renewal ($240) and a cancellation fee from Sirius XM ($40)*. Also, I bought a booster for the car ($155). The largest expense was the Additional Qualification course that I will be starting at the end of January ($685).

In general, over the holidays, I have been generous with my spending as I want to enjoy the time I have with friends and family. This is something I’ve made peace with on a personal level, knowing that being away for 5 years in Quebec has made me feel a bit more disconnected with loved ones.

My Honda CR-V is paid off, as is my Motorala phone, so I am debt-free! That is a good feeling and of course, I never have a balance on my credit cards. I have also decided not to make any clothing purchases this year and in a way, that feels quite freeing.

Having said all that, I’m still waiting for the second half of my December pay to come in. Overall, I’m down about $3000 from October 2017, but at least I’m glad that I have maxed out my RSP contributions. I knew that I would not be saving at all, but my goal is to break even while reestablishing myself coming back to city life and enjoying the process.

Even without health insurance/coverage, I have still decided to pay out of pocket to take care of myself in ways that I could not previously (due to isolation, not lack of funds). I am basically spending the money now instead of over the past few years, which would have been the intention. Tomorrow I have an initial assessment with a physiotherapist for my right leg/knee (~$100), on Tuesday I will have my 3rd appointment for massage ($85) and Thursday, my counsellor ($60). Please note that I do generally space these appointments out but I ended up accidentally pushing them off into the second week of January.

I’m going to try to monitor my groceries by paying in cash for the next month and see how this feels. I do buy some expensive items (i.e. vegan meat replacement, vegan junk food) and want to make sure that I’m not just blowing it all.

To continue to minimize my spending, I’ll continue going to my yoga studio ($3800/10 months) and use my Goodlife gym membership ($400+tax/year). I have paid for two months of Cody app subscription ($10 USD/month) but will be cancelling it by January 17th. Gas is a big expense, and while I have not been tracking that, I should and will try to only go to Shell using my American Express credit card.

I’ve also applied for EI for the two week seasonal layoff (i.e. Christmas holidays where substitute teachers are not offered work), but likely won’t see any of that until later down the road. I still need to get a Record of Employment and am waiting as I’ve officially resigned from my former school board as of January 1st, 2018.

It really felt cathartic to write all this out and take a look. It’s important to do this work for myself. I know I get a lot of help from family**, who pay for groceries, take me out and take care of me in ways that is not measured monetarily. I am going to make better efforts to show gratitude to others through time and still be mindful of spending.

Here’s to an exciting 2018!

*Pissed at myself for this as I didn’t note the subscription roll over. Normally, I note these things in my calendar and set an alarm.
**My brother-in-law and sister let me hop on their TV account.

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December Goals

Really didn’t focus too much on goals in December, and only really worked on a few. I ended up migrating some of the others to January instead:

Health and Fitness

  • Go rockclimbing 3 times (5/5): Twice in Kitchener and once with friends in Toronto. On all occasions, I just bouldered.
Finance and Auto
  • Use the parking brake (2/5): I tried as much as I could to always have the parking brake on but I didn’t always remember …
Other
  • Find a good lipstick colour (5/5): Over the past two years, I’d been working on building a basic make-up set. Originally thinking of buying a Pacifica brand, but my wonderful sister actually ended up gifting me a large box set from Tarte* for Christmas/Winter Solstice. There are 8 sticks in total, but I threw one out as it had mould on it. I didn’t want to return it, get a new box and make unnecessary waste. I’m okay with having 7; it’s probably more than I can use anyway!

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*Has beeswax, not vegan but I was okay with this. I buy a lot of Tarte products

November Update

Lots of life updates. Here we go ….

Yoga Teacher Training: I won’t write so much here. I tend to microblog important notes on Cody, since that’s where other people discuss anatomy and yoga with me. Otherwise, this is the third weekend and it’s going well. The studio director, L., spoke with me privately yesterday. She knows that I have been feeling going through an emotional rough patch (still dealing with my break-up), but at the end of the night, she told me that she’s very glad to have me in the program and in Waterloo. It was really sweet and it meant a lot to me.

Also, can you spot which one I am?

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Accepting compliments: I used to struggle with accepting compliments and brush them off / deny / deflect. Over the years, as I spotted this behaviour, I worked on it. I am better at receiving them, which includes simply looking at the person who said it, smiling and saying thank you.

As I’d mentioned above, the director gave me a HUGE compliment last night. Today, I also got several compliments. 1) The (same) yoga director said that she liked my pineapple tank top, which was nice on a cloudy and dreary day, 2) a classmate that I ate lunch with said that I was smart, attractive and charming and lastly, 3) another peer said that my teaching instructions were spot on and that I was a natural at it! Internally, I can still have difficulty accepting these as truths, but I want to embrace that this means I am valued and worthy, which isn’t a feeling that’s consistent when you are living in a new place and still trying to make new friends.

Occasional Teaching: Hard to believe but I’ve already hit the minimum 20 days I need to apply for the LTO list next year. So far, I’ve worked about 30 days. I took this week off as a much needed mental health break. I only worked a 0.5 on Thursday. And that’s fine. No need to shame myself for taking a break.

Career options: On Friday, I went to EdTalent, which is an annual job conference held in Toronto by Apply to Education. I got a chance to say hello to the Cree School Board and chat with my friend, E., who is now a vice-principal. We gabbed for 15 minutes and it was really nice just to say hi to a friend. But I still have wanderlust that will never ever die, and after sticking around Canada for 5 years – yes, I did travel during the holidays – I still want to go somewhere. I spoke with a few UK agencies. They will do anything as short as one month but I was considering a 2-month term.

Reading: One of the optional books to read for Yoga Teacher Training, is The Gifts of ImperfectionBe compassionate with yourself, according to Brene Brown. As I’d mention above, shaming myself for taking a mental health break is not productive. I used to do it but I don’t anymore. Over the past 4 years while working in the north, I took days if I wasn’t physically sick but was emotionally overwhelmed and needed a recharge.

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Employment Insurance: I need to apply for EI for Christmas! My classmate, N., tipped me off as she also works for the same school board. She said you can often get more money from EI than a summer job.

Financing my car: I paid off my car in 52 months, instead of 5 years! This is 8 months ahead of schedule as I threw several years of tax returns at the balance. I am feeling very proud about this! It helps too as I’m not making very much money right now.

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(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!

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.