May Update

Experience spring in the south: It’s refreshing to experience spring in Ontario!* We had some unusual winter weather last month and even a terrible ice storm in the middle of April. The past two weeks, the leaves are finally coming out. It’s so nice to drive down the street and notice how green everything has become!

Updating teaching blog: I have not been focused on classroom teaching this year, which has been a nice break. I recently updated my teaching blog name from “A Sine of Madness” to “Math with Ms. Tong.” I was afraid that ‘madness’ might be a pejorative term. Oddly, in all the time that I’ve used that name, no one has suggested that to me, even when I asked on Twitter.

Not being vegan: I was eating fairly consistently eating as a vegan at the end of 2017, but when I started dating back in January, it all went out the window. I still don’t know have too many adult friends in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and ultimately want to fit in. Well, to be honest, I’m probably just being selfish. Groceries are still vegan but when I go out, I’m putting butter on my Tim Horton’s bagels (just not cream cheese).

Travel: I have a plane ticket to go to Portland, Oregon – which I first visited a few years ago – for four days! Will be there to see my cousin from Hong Kong. My sister will be meeting there too.

Substitute teaching and kids’ yoga: Going well. I’m still taking Wednesdays off to teach yoga at an elementary school. Two more session of yoga!

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*It was 6 year sago since I first moved up north

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Net Worth – April 2018

Net worth: Well, the nice fat tax return from 2017 was over $5000. This is the last year it . I’m really still spending more than saving, but I’m okay with that. Hence the uptick on the money I haven’t spent yet lol


ROE:
Finally! Three months after handing in my resignation, Human Resources finally submitted an Record of Employment to Service Canada. I had noticed that it still hadn’t been sent at the beginning of April and I had to bother HR about it  … sigh. Last week, I got an update which confirmed that I am not eligible for Employment Insurance for the summer of 2017, which is what I expected. It stated “regular benefits not payable” since this was a “voluntary leave”. At least now, I can start to get my EI applications properly approved based on my current employment status.

Pension transfer: Now that my ROE has been submitted. I have to reapply again.

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GICs: Two years ago, I bought a 2-year GIC on Tangerine. The rate was higher than other major banks, but still low (as GICs have been for quite a while). I bought it because as I was reading Bruce Sellery’s book, The Moolala Guide to Rockin’ Your RRSPs and considering where to have some fixed investments based on “your age approximately equal to the percentage of your investments”. It felt like a good decision at the time, since Tangerine had an easy-to-use interface and made it easy to set it up.

Looking back, it was a nice baby step. I could have thrown it somewhere else. Honestly, I know I should not feel regret; I made a positive step based on what I learned and also beat the rate of inflation, putting money into a credit union that had a lot of stability. All in all, it’s better than letting it sit in cash. Reflecting back on all this allows me to consider what my next steps should be.

Personal training at Goodlife: Going well. Have had 6 sessions so far and feeling good. I like that I don’t have to design the workout and am just told what to do. It’s nice to be challenged too and be pushed past my limits. I’m also slowly making a habit of enjoying the dry sauna after my post-workout shower.

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Increasing My Step Count

Two months ago, I started checking my daily step count.

Embarrassingly, I was hitting well below 5000 a day. I drive a lot for work and am at different schools every day. Essentially, I am traveling from one parking lot to another, since I don’t live near the gym or the yoga studio. I decided that I should try to improve this aspect of my life.

Along with half a dozen other friends, I am using the Carrot Rewards app.  While I currently do not have a pedometer, the Google Fit app on my smartphone counts my steps and uploads the information to Carrot Rewards. If I hit my daily goal, I get anywhere between 2 to 6 Scene points*. I also collect points for completing surveys (~40 points) and inviting friends to join (100 points). Other friends are currently using it for Aeroplan points.

I’ve actually been doing much better the past month, being able to see how my friends are faring. Social pressure is great and works well for me (when it’s people I care about)! You can pair up with friends, complete 10 step goals together within a week and get more points of your choice.

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A few of them who work downtown hit well over 10,000 each day. My daily step goal has increased to 5200 – it is determined for you and you cannot change it manually – from 3600 last month. Some nights, I have to do an extra walk to the local convenience store or a loop around the park to hit my goals**, but the fact that it’s changed my behaviour immensely is a great thing. I’m well aware that I need a lifestyle change and I’ve been working on it!

The only issue is finding a balance with carrying my phone around. I do try to set it down at home, while I’m cooking or running chores, so those steps aren’t counted. My workouts at the gym and yoga aren’t included either. I’m still trying to get my hands on a FitBit through Bunz, so this will help a lot!!

Do you use a pedometer or have a daily step goal?

*A thousand points gets you one free movie at Cineplex Odeon theatres.
**Tonight, I spent 20 minutes milling about the supermarket after dark. I didn’t want to walk through the park by myself when it’s late.

(More) April Updates

Library Course: I previously had mentioned that I completed my course in the first week of January. Got my OCT certification upgraded. This means that I can receive calls for this subject area!

YTT Weekend: Just finished a wonderful weekend We had a lovely day with Carly Stong, from Kingston, Ontario. She is a fat activist and yogi who has been teaching us about body positivity and explained why the word fat is not an insult. If you’d like to hear more about Carly, check out this podcast interview with her from Kathryn Bruni-Young. Here’s a shot of my lovely studio while it’s empty on the lunch break:

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Kids’ Yoga: I’m now volunteering to teach an hour of kids’ yoga at a local elementary school. I’ve blocked off my Wednesdays for work. Good to add to my resume if I do decide to apply for yoga teaching jobs in the future. So far, I’ve completed two sessions.

Walking: I’m pretty much afraid to show people my pedometer; it is an embarrassing mess and I’m nowhere near 10,000 steps a day.* Thankfully, I can be motivated by friends and am in an online step challenge with high school friends on the Canadian-funded Carrot Rewards app. Yup, sometimes shaming works! It has helped a lot since I check the app everyday and if my steps are low, I’ll take a walk at the end of the day to hit my goal.

Here’s a shot of the beautiful Victoria Park in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Health: Earlier last month, I got a local family doctor, which is hard to come by in Kitchener-Waterloo. I got a general blood test and it appears I have healthy levels of vitamin B12 but low levels of iron storage. Currently trying to find a brand of iron supplements.

Also, I recently discovered this amazing chia seed pudding at Freshii, which is a Canadian fast food restaurant chain. OMG – sprinkled with mango, strawberries and coconut, this healthy dessert is soooo delicious!

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*I do try to set down my cellphone, which is what is tracking my steps, when I’m at home. This likely reduces my step count. I’m waiting to get a FitBit off of Bunz. The trade has been negotiated but the original swap got canceled due to the great ice storm last weekend.

April Update

Claiming EI: Got a letter from Service Canada stating that I am not eligible for Employment Insurance over March Break, since I do not have 700 hours. This is actually because of another issues …

No ROE: In January, I resigned and contacted Human Resources of my last employer, asking them to close my file. I got a response that the process would be initiated and they’d send off a Record Of Employment. Whoever was suppose to hasn’t done it yet – three months later – and now Service Canada thinks I don’t have enough hours to receive EI since they’re not counting my hours in the north! And on top of that …

Pension transfer to Ontario: Since no ROE has been initiated, Retraite Quebec still believes I am working for the Quebec school board. Therefore, I’ve not been able to transfer my pension over to my home province of Ontario. Argh! If someone would just start the paperwork …

Teacher Librarian AQ: I’m doooooooone!!! I was a lazy butt though, as I handed in my last assignment two days late. No provincial subsidy for this course, but I may choose my next course based on the subsidies available.

Volleyball: Have been asked by high school friends if I want to join their Wednesday night volleyball league. I played for 4 seasons many years ago and am happy to be part of Ashbridge’s Bay again! It will mean driving back and forth between Waterloo and Toronto, but that’s okay. I won’t play all the games, but I’m looking forward to some beach volleyball and hanging with friends. Plus sand between my toes!

In other exciting news, I got to watch my first hockey game – Kitchener Rangers versus Sarnia Stingers. I’m not much of a hockey fan, but I have to admit it was really cool!

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Monthly Goals – March

Health and Fitness
  • Catch up on YTT class hours (3/5): I need to attend 30 more classes before end of June, as part of my homework. That means I need about 10 classes each month, before July In March, so far I’ve had 7 classes. Need to keep attending more!
  • Try a new studio (4/5): Did this on the last day of March! Part of my yoga teacher training homework. Now have to fill out my participation worksheet.
  • Start a spreadsheet to start claiming medical expenses (4/5): While doing taxes, we realized I will need this for 2018 taxes. Got this started but need to revisit the exact dollar mounts through my receipts. Carry this over to next month
  • Go climbing (3/5): Went climbing twice – once at GRR and once at The Core
  • Order a Squatty Potty (5/5): This has been a goal I totally forgot about for at least a year. Just did it last week. It should come in by April. As Bowman says, #stackyourlife!
Teaching
  • Start using Twitter again (3/5): Share math resources and get active again.
  • Be amazing at practice teaching (3/5): Didn’t do as much full yoga class practice teaching with friends and family. Practiced with P., N., J. and Liz. Also did the glute/hip/quad work with two people, including my sister.
  • Get feedback for YTT classes (2/5): Developed a Google Form to received feedback. Only used it once as I didn’t do many full yoga classes.
Finance / Professional Development
  • File taxes (5/5): Mom helped me do most of the work and even got my return back! Last year that I get to enjoy the benefits of Northern Residents Deduction. Sigh.
  • Apply for EI (3/5): Applied a bit late but yeaaaahhhh, not eligible because my last school board has not officially sent off my paperwork to the government. GRRRRRR.
  • Send in certification rating to Human Resources (5/5): Oops. Forgot to do this earlier and only completed it in the last week. This took a few months as I had to send off all the transcripts to OSSTF. I’m currently ranked in Group 3.

End of March Update

It’s been a great few three days in Toronto, but it’s also a huge relief that, as I was cruising up Highway 85 on Saturday afternoon, I am headed back to my home.

Toronto can feel like home in some ways and it always will, but honestly I find it stressful to be there for more than 3 days at a time. Traffic definitely contributes to it! Kitchener-Waterloo is where I live now, year-round and these days, I don’t “go home” for the summer. I finally have a place where I’ve got my own social life and independence as an adult and it’s not in the middle nowhere (sorry, Waskaganish)! My introverted self is very happy to have my own space where I can enjoy my solitude.

Here are a few end of March updates:

Financial literacy: Zipped back to North York on Wednesday night to see Dan Bortolotti, of Canadian Couch Potato fame, speak at the Fairview Library. It was pretty cool and I’m glad I was able to catch the talk as I missed it last year while living in the far north. I need to go over some of his podcasts and look at my portfolio again. Thinking of shutting down Questrade as I want to consolidate what I’ve got to just two brokerages or roboadvisors. Speaking of money …

Transferring my pension to Ontario: Trying to transfer my Quebec pension over to Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. Argh, I got a rejection as my last school board has still not filed that I resigned. Super annoying. Will have to reapply in July.

Bartering and clothing ban: Still going strong 3 months into my clothing ban. I’m actually doing quite well as I’m managing to get new pieces every few weeks or so. Yes, it’s bit more effort to set up the trades, coordinate and run around for them, but I feel much better knowing that my carbon footprint is smaller. It’s also cool to meet other Torontonians that I might not normally cross paths with!

On Friday, I picked up an Old Navy plaid shirt that I’m head over heels with. My only complaint is that shoes are harder to find, but I’ve got a pair of boots waiting for me next month. I’ve made about half a dozen trades in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, but still mainly bartering, mainly in Toronto. Got myself a beautiful metal teapot and a lidded bucket to handwash some laundry (now I can stop using my salad bowl to wash my bras). Picked up a pair of Sailor Moon leggings for a friend.

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Shopping:
Bartering has become the equivalent of shopping. I don’t buy much these days but I love locally-produced sticker art. They’re affordable for a few dollars and this is a great way to support local artists. I picked up two stickers from Cry Wolf Clothing on Ossington, between Dundas and Queen West. One is a racoon, a.k.a, “trash panda”, sitting in a garbage can that says “City of Toronto”; I adhered it to my very banged-up Macbook Air. The second is “Turonno” in Blue Jays font, which I happily stuck to my bullet journal. You can take the girl out of Toronto, but you can’t take the Toronto out of the girl!

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Practice teaching: Still need to practice teaching a full yoga class. Hard for people to commit the time … sigh. Mainly been doing short lessons on hips, glutes and quads with friends and family. Last night, I even did a Skype session with my friend. It was a little awkward but hey, I wanna pass on what I can as I care about my friends’ health!

Not needing my therapist: If you followed me on Instagram earlier in the fall, you’ll know that I took on a counsellor/therapist. I was seeing her about once a month and we had a lot to discuss and sort out, especially how I approach my relationships. At this time, I’ve decided not to return to her. Our last session was good, but it made me realize how much more mentally strong I am since October. I don’t really have many stressors these days. I haven’t “broken up” with her or anything, but I haven’t booked any future appointments.

Family time: I made sure to spend some time with each of my family members. On Friday, my mom had lunch together. We do this about once a month. Took her to Golden Turtle off Ossington. I enjoyed some vegan bánh xèo, which is a Vietnamese crepe served as an appetizer. Looks like egg, but it’s not!

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First Yoga Class and Teacher Training Feedback

Taught my first yoga class last night at Queen Street Yoga, Kitchener, Ontario!

I had a 60-minute scripted class that I split with another colleague, L. She and I had met up twice over the past week and discussed our approaches. On Wednesday, we brought three friends together to practice our entire sequence in the studio and it helped us immensely. Our $5 Intro to Yoga class was a hit last night.

Normally, we could pack 12 people in the room but we were busting at the seems with 15 enthusiastic yogis. There were also 4 classmates, who wanted to come and support us. It was so nice to be embraced by the community. So much love!

Also, I’ve been working on a Google Form for teaching feedback. I asked a friend to fill it out when I went over my lesson on Wednesday. I had been planning on doing this early, but oh well …better late than never. Here’s a chunk of the form:

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If you’re interested in trying a (free) lesson with me, please let me know. I do need practice and I appreciate anyone who is willing to give me the energy and the time.

March Madness

Just enjoyed my first week of March Break in Ontario! It was nice to take a work break and spend a little time in Toronto. Here are some of the highlights:

Fitness: Subbed in for high school friends’ indoor beach volleyball league on Monday. I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to spike this year! Went bouldering on Sunday with some of my yoga teacher training crew. It was nice to have fun off the mat.

Reconnecting with people: Went to check out the pussy hut last weekend with B., whom I have not had a chance to hang out with for a few weeks. Got to see J., whom I haven’t been able to chat with for nearly two years. Normally, I see his wife a few times a year, but sometimes you gotta squeezep in the other half! Went to a baby shower for K. this weekend. Oof, having friends all over the place is tough because I’m constantly driving everywhere. However, I’m not complaining. After living north for 4 years, I’m thankful to be able to visit friends so easily. And on St. Patricks’ Day, we had a small high school reunion on the Danforth and enjoyed Greek food.
Family: Celebrated my mom’s birthday with my sister at our favourite Italian restaurant, Il Fornello. It was a belated birthday celebration because I wasn’t able to see her on her actual birthday; I had another YTT 3-day weekend and was mostly in the studio. Had a nice Thai lunch with my Gramma too.
Taxes: I have a super Mom! She helped me get all my papers in order and we filed my income tax. This time in Ontario. Goodbye, Quebec … I ain’t ever coming back. Also in the process of moving my pension back to Ontario with OTPP.

Books: Finished Caitlin Flander‘s The Year of Less, after purchasing it on Kindle for $1.99. Still struggling to finish Tiny Little Things. It’s such a heavy book that screws up so many emotions it’s not easy to read. I’m soooo close though! Will start on The Lonely Hearts Hotel soon.


Getting organized: In between, I managed to vacuum my room and wash all my bedding. I need to do this more often, ugh. I do not have a schedule! Also managed to clear our a couple of Bunz trades that had been pending since December. I picked up a blackboard/whiteboard, some eyeliner, a pair of turquoise Uniqlo jeggings, a well-loved Kate Spade wallet, a Somersby cider and a couple of Gap t-shirts. Super happy with my recent acquisitions! It always feels lighter when you clean out items you no longer use and get what you need and want.

Food: Check out this amazing vegetable pie I had at BarHop! I haven’t been taking as many photos these days. Trying hard to be present and always thinking about the Note to Self challenge, because it’s important to experience where you are and not just document. I had to snap this gorgeous looking pie though!

Great week over all! Working in Cambridge tomorrow.

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.