TED Talk: Roxane Gay

The past week I went to Indigo a couple of times. I actually was forcing myself to finish a book that I actually own a hard copy of, but wasn’t reading at home. Being in a bookstore meant that I would take my reading a bit more seriously, so I grabbed a store copy, sat in a wicker chair and read several chapters.

As I did a quick browse, I caught sight of Roxane Gay’s Hunger. I knew very little about it, but had first learned about Gay from an interview on the Nerdette podcast. I ended up purchasing the audiobook, listening it over the past two days, as I drove between Waterloo and Toronto.

While I don’t want to share too much, this memoir is actually one of the most beautiful prose I’d read in a while (the last book I can recall which I felt the same was Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You). I fell in love with her writing and am considering getting a paper copy to share with family and friends. If you can get your hands on a copy, please read it.

For now, enjoy Roxane Gay’s TED Talk. It’s brilliantly funny, authentic and wonderful (and don’t read the YouTube comments … that was my mistake).


Weekend Update

Books: Re-reading an old James Herriot novel, All Creatures Great and Small. It’s probably been 18 years that I’ve read it. Just going back to some master story tellers. (Also, if you can’t tell, I’ve been obsessed with all things Brit lately.)

Car insurance: Been shopping around, as I am looking for a new insurance company for the start of July, when I move back to Ontario. I was paying far too much for Meloche Monnex, although I didn’t have much of a choice, since they were one of the few companies that would take me as a client (i.e. living in Quebec with Ontario plates). After talking to five companies, I believe my best bet is OTIP. It does pay to call around though; I got a $25 Amazon gift card from OTIP just for speaking with an agent and CAA also gave me $25 for chatting with them!

 Finally transferred about $22,000 of RSPs out of Tangerine Investment Funds and over to another roboadvisor. There’s a nice spread of iShares and Vanguard ETFs. Will need to sit down and look through my asset allocation when I’ve got more time in the summer. Got a $50 bonus when I started the account since mentioning the referral from Jessica Moorhouse.

School Boards: All registered with my new school board, and getting calls for substitution on my cellphone (it took me a week to figure out how to turn it off until September). However, I am disappointed I did not get an interview with Ottawa-Carleton (OCDSB). Out of four other friends, only one person I knew got an interview for the OT list. I suppose I just try again next year … should I apply for Thames Valley? Will work on an application later this week.

Media: Podcasting as usual and enjoying BBC’s The Documentary. Also learned about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) on the SickBoy podcast*. Taking a pause after finishing seasons 6 of Call the Midwives and switching over to AMC’s Humans. AHHHH!!! Great show to watch after HBO’s WestworldWatch the trailer:

*This is a Canadian podcast and it is tastefully done, not what you’d expect when the three hosts are three white dudes. What’s even cooler is that one of the hosts is my gym buddy’s brother-in-law!

Canadian Investors Conference

Back in February, I wasn’t able to participate in the Canadian Investors Conference, but I ended up buying a Premium Pass ($99) while it was still discounted, so I could watch the videos on my own time. Really impressed with the line-up as well, so many familiar names like Rob Carrick and John Robertson.

Just blown away at how a single person – Helena Liu – put together this entire show for free the first year; happy to support her as she’s helping Canadians be more financially responsible. While it’s been an online conference and that the presentations are done mainly through Skype, it’s still impressive that all the live sessions were completely free.

For starters, I listened to one with James Gauthier, who runs JustWealth. This is  a robo-advisor that currently have 63 different types of portfolios and also can give investment advice (not all robos can). I learned the difference between fiduciary standard and suitability standard. Robo-advisors are held to a fiduciary standard (they put their client’s interest above their own), while a salesperson at the bank pushing you mutual funds would only be held to a suitability standard.


I also listened to the interview with Robert R. Brown, who write the book, Wealthing Like RabbitsI really enjoyed the book when I read it over Christmas break, especially the introduction to mortgages. But having gotten lots of great notes from the book, I didn’t find the interview that much more insightful. Still glad I listened to it though!

Looking forward to going through the rest of the interviews!

15 Minutes of Fame

Just wanted to share some exciting news – the Ontario College of Teachers did a one-page article on my Grade 10 and 11 classroom in Waskaganish, Quebec. It was published in the March copy of the quarterly magazine; if you want to check it out, my ugly mug is on page 45

Thanks to Stefen Dubowski for the interview and letting me yabber on. It was also great fun hanging out with the photographer, Matt Liteplo, as we showed him around Waskagnish for the week. Also, big thanks to OCT for sharing the love. It means a great deal to get a little bit of recognition!

Most of all, my students, including one of my former graduates, S., who ended up in the photoshoot and making us laugh like crazy. I would not love my job if it weren’t for the kids, even if they drive me mad!


New Indian Recipes

On Sunday afternoon, I tried two recipes from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen cookbook, which I purchased from Indigo a few weeks ago.

First, I tried to make Spiced Roasted Tofu and Vegetables, which uses a tandoori-like yogurt marinade*. It is then oven-baked (or grilled) to get the flavour into the tofu and vegeables. I didn’t end up making the dipping sauce, but the yogurt marinade itself was amazingly delicious and I found myself dipping everything into it!

Secondly, I made the Easy Curried Green Beans, which was fairly simple and fast. Both recipes turned out well and I must admit that the flavouring was quite spot on.

For now, I don’t think I’ll repeat either of the recipes. They were alright but I wasn’t in love with it. I’m just happy to find more recipes that require black salt because I had only ever had it on hand to make tofu scramble!**

It was a pretty chill evening, since I finally finished my Additional Qualification course last night (around 2 a.m.). J. and I ate our dinner while watching the first episode of WestWorld.


*Ashamedly, I ended up unveganizing this because I didn’t have non-dairy yogurt on hand. 

**Black salt has a strong sulphurous smell. In Indian cooking, it can also be used to mimic an egg-like smell or create a sour taste in dishes.

Taking Steps Towards Budgeting

On Wednesday night, feeling restless and unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, I sat on the couch with my laptop and stumbled across Cait Flander’s Mindful Budgeting Planner ($40).

I recently heard about Cait through one of Jessica Moorhouse’s podcast and was also impressed with Cait’s articles, namely one on the privilege of financial advice; I’ve since admired her and have been following her on Twitter.

Even my personal definition of what minimalism means to me is a privilege. Being able to decide what adds value to your life and letting go of what doesn’t – how fortunate am I to be in the position to apply that to any area of my life!? If my diet is making me feel bad, I can walk into a grocery store and buy better food. If the work I do is leaving me unfulfilled, I can find other work. If I need/want to learn a new skill, I can take a class. The list goes on and on.

Since then, her blog has intrigued me.

And seeing her planner, I suddenly wanted it. At the moment, it felt a bit like a sleep-deprived impulse buy, but given the impeding changes coming up in 5 months, moving back south, I’m going to have to start budgeting … soon.

I’ve never really budgeted and hated doing so. I really just spend as much as I feel is necessary, occasionally buying a treat for myself (i.e. leggings, bath bombs). Even when I travel, I don’t budget.

Anyway, I ended up ordering the planner, which is printed on demand and then shipped in Canada. With the shipping charges, it was a bit steep at $58. I balked when I saw the price and nearly changed my mind, but the biggest draw for me is to have an online Facebook community where I can share thoughts and tips as I being using the planner.


Other the past month, I’ve really been enjoying participating in Jessica Moorhouse’s Facebook group, Money. Life. Balance. and also got included in a recent group chat with some old high school friends on investing (I got roped in due to the posts I’ve been sharing on social media). It’s the social support that I need the most. I also occasionally bounce ideas with family and friends, but love the diversity of information that comes to me when I can connect with people of different backgrounds, situations and privileges.

Really looking forward to the planner. It should, hopefully, arrive here by next Friday. Fingers crossed!

Exciting News

Some exciting news, which a few of my friends know about, but I haven’t shared with too many people yet …

The Ontario College of Teachers is doing a small article on my classroom in the “Tech Class” column! They flew a photographer up north a few days ago and we spent yesterday doing the shoot with three students. It was super fun, although a bit tedious.

The way this all came about is funny; I offered to be interviewed by phone with a journalist who was looking to speak with teachers. I had no idea that he represented my licensing board. I didn’t hear anything for several months and was contacted in December by the media company that OCT contracts. We set up the appointment and now it’s done!

I’m really hoping that this will help me with my networking and job-hunting in the future.  The article won’t be posted until March 2017, but I’ll post more info then!


Considerations for Leaving the North

Lately, I’d been considering whether I should leave the north or not. I’ve had a few students ask me if I am staying on for next year and have told them that it wouldn’t be likely.

While I know I am seeking new challenges and know that one will never truly be ready for change, there are many aspects of the north that I know I will miss.

  • Cheap rent: I pay about $1000 a year as my housing is mainly subsidized.
  • Minimal commute time: It takes me less than 5 minutes to drive to work and only about 12 minutes to walk. It’s easy for me to pop in on the weekends or the evenings if I’ve forgotten something or would like to catch up.
  • Lots of free time: Related to having a minimal commute time. If J. is running late, I could still walk home or just head to the gym by myself.
  • Accessible and affordable gym: The gym is literally the building next to my school. For my membership, I pay approximately $120 for the entire year. And mind you, I drop a lot more dollars on Cody app fitness plans, but those have always been an investment in my health and knowledge. The other thing is that I’ll never have again is a fairly unused squat rack where there are no line-ups.
  • Being able to sleep in: Again, related to the short commute, I can sleep in pretty late.
  • Having time with J.: Since we currently work in the same building and have the same start times, we travel to and back together. We are able to have lunch together and eat dinner at the same time.
  • Being able to save money: There is no place to spend it. If you spend money online and order items, you have to put some thought into it. There is no place to buy alcohol, so going out for a cinq-à-sept after work instead of the gym isn’t something that happens.
  • Having a big, fat classroom budget: I am currently able to spend $2200 a year for my classroom. That’ll never happen again in a public school “down south”… sigh.

Ultimately, I have to finalize a decision by the end of February. I have to sign a piece of paper and give it to my principal to declare whether I am staying or not. I’m trying to screw up the courage to do it, but at the same time, map out my future with J. It’s tricky and am just trying to figure out how we are going about things.

So just to support myself emotionally and mentally, I’m reminding myself that people quit their jobs and do new stuff all the time. Even awesome and inpsiring ladies like Jessica Moorhouse is able to take the leap and quit her job to try something new and that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there.

I’ve also been re-listening to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’d read it a few years ago, but since my friend V. got me listening to the Dear Sugar podcast, I decided to revisit her book. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a woman who decides, during a very difficult period of her life, to do a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Reading about all the hardships of hiking in the wilderness alone – not stepping on rattlesnakes, running out of water, losing a hiking book off the edge of a cliff – helps me put into perspective my own hardships (which there are very few of).

Anyway, it’s still Thursday. I have a spare first period, so it was nice to find this time to blog, but I need to keep my feet on the ground and head out for work soon!


The Questioner

I’ve been podcasting a lot the past few months. One of my all-time favourite podcasts is Note to Self, from WYNC.


I can’t say I’ve listened to a bad episode. The newest episode, The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Habits, was pretty interesting, especially if you are either interested in goal-setting or making New Year’s resolutions. This episode is an interview with a writer, Gretchen Rubin, who has a theory that there are four personality types when it comes to how we perceive internal and external expectations.

I took the online quiz and discovered that I was a Questioner, which I would say, is pretty accurate:


Typically, this is the way I like to think:

Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

Of course, according to Rubin, a Questioner can still have aspects of a Rebel or an Upholder. Obviously, I tend to lean towards the latter. As a public school teacher, I feel very strongly that I need to be a positive role-model.

But on a personal level, how is this information useful to me if I want to set new habits?

  • My drive is based on my inner expectations, so when I build a habit, I must make it specifically towards my needs.
  • I like justification. I need to know why and how I should take on a habit, so I will do research on the benefits and efficacy of the aforementioned habit.
  • I only take suggestions from people I respect, so I will look for sources of information that are reliable (i.e. published books, scientific evidence).
  • I will sometimes spend too much time on research, creating “analysis paralysis”. This has happened when I was deciding on a fitness goal. I would overthink, rather than simply taking action.

In teaching, we called this self-analysis metacognition. This could potentially be a fun exercise to do with my older, mature students. I’ll save this resource as a future project at work!

Do you know which of the four personalities you are? What goals are you setting for yourself for the new year?


Year-End Pocket Stats

One of my favourite free apps I use is called Pocket. I use it to save text from news articles, blogs or websites so I can read it later offline. It’s quite convenient as I can use it as a browser extension as well.

Every week, they email recommendations or trending articles. I’ve come across quite a lot of good stuff that way.

Since it’s year-end, Pocket sent me an email with my stats. I was actually quite surprised to see that I was ranked within the top 5% of the readers!

Download Pocket for Android devices

Download Pocket for iOS devices

Download Pocket as a Chrome browser extension