Gardening update!

I have created life!

My plants are actually growing – OK, not all of them, but most of them. Enough that I think I may be a successful gardener. Not a great gardener, by any means, but adequate.

Most of my tomatoes, sweet peppers, and paprika peppers have gone from seeds to little green-leaved wonders. Which made the next step all the harder. I had planted a few seeds per pot, and in many pots I had two or three little wonders bloom. Which would be fine, BUT the book said to trim (ie kill) all but the strongest plant in the pot, so that it would get the most sun/water/soil. I had to destroy some of my little darlings.

I get that it sounds like I’ve become some weird plant lady (like a cat lady, but with plants instead of cats). And I basically have. Whenever I’m given the opportunity, I tell stories of how my plants are doing and what I want to do with my community garden plot. I don’t really care that you’re not interested – you’re hearing about my basil!

These plants are my children. (But they require far less work to keep them alive. I think.)

Week 22: Taxes!

Full disclosure… I got really behind on these and they are slightly out of order. BUT, I did my taxes early, so I’m sure I’ll be forgiven.

While I usually like to do my taxes at the very last minute and scramble to finish them on time, I actually did them early this year. I think I know why – I was procrastinating from doing other stuff. I actually decided I’d rather do my taxes than say, write a blog post. That’s never happened to me before, but at least I found my incentive.

It still wasn’t easy. I did procrastinate, but I was also motivated by the idea of a tax return. I really wasn’t sure I’d be getting one this year – I had a bunch of T4s, and a multitude of independent jobs that I hadn’t been paying tax on, so it was anyone’s guess as to whether I’d be getting money back or paying it.

But somehow, everything worked out for me! Thank goodness for TurboTax. I’ve used them in the past and they are so straightforward and helpful. I absolutely hate filling out paperwork (like filing taxes), so their system of answering questions and copying my pay stubs etc. over is not bad at all. It’s still not fun, but it’s not the worst way to go about earning money.

The program also reminds me of potential deductions… like for the transit passes I forgot I had purchased in January and February of last year! What really helped me was that I shut down my tax free savings account (TFSA) and put all that money in my RSP. While I love the idea of a TFSA, the American government doesn’t quite understand it, and when I eventually decide to file US taxes (as a US citizen I’m technically supposed to, even though my income isn’t high enough that I would owe anything), a TFSA would be a non-compute. Apparently, when you invest in your RSP, there’s a bunch of money coming your way come tax season.

I briefly toyed with the idea of filing US taxes, but I quickly became baffled by the process. I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s complicated. And if you do something wrong, the IRS is all over you for years. I’m unwilling to put myself through this.

Now, because I am awesome and filed my taxes not only on time, but really early, I have a sweet tax return, which will pay for my trip to Yellowknife in June! I’m really excited for the trip, and now super relieved that I have a way of paying for it.

Week 9: Financial Planning

Well, they can’t all be lipstick and tattoos. Occasionally, I force myself to do something responsible and adult-y. So this week, I went to the bank, and actually sat down and had someone explain to me (for the 3rd time) what an RSP is.

Years ago, an article was published saying that someone who starts an RSP in their early 20’s is better off than someone who starts an RSP in their 30’s, regardless of how much the person in their 30’s actually puts into the account. So obviously both of my parents sent me this article every day for 2 weeks. I finally just set up an RSP to make them stop. (The same thing happened when an article came out recommending to wash the outside of cantaloupes before cutting into them, because salmonella had been found on the outside of some melons.)

So I set up an RSP, started automatic monthly deposits, and didn’t look at it again for 4 years.

Smart, right? Turns out, could have been smarter about that.

But this isn’t a post about whether I invested in GIC’s or mutual funds (ha, as if I know what either of those are), it’s a post about growing up and actually paying attention to what the big bank is doing with my money (or lack thereof).

I got to the bank and met my advisor, Brad. Apparently Brad thought it would be a good idea to participate in Movember. He’s a financial advisor. With a patchy moustache. It did not inspire confidence.

Although Brad was definitely better than the people I’ve had before. I don’t know if it’s because I’m young or don’t have a lot of money, but banks seem to set me up with their freshest advisors. The last guy I had had so much gel in his hair that I initially thought he was wearing a helmet. He did tell me about a pretty cool party he’d gone to though, which was awesome. I’m super interested in where the guy who is handling my money goes to get drunk.

When you are setting up an RSP with TD bank, they make you fill out a questionnaire. My two favourite questions were as follows (paraphrased):

  • How long do you intend on living once you’ve retired? (The options were pretty grim, with the max being 10+ years.)
  • Do you plan on needing to withdraw a large sum of money in the next few years for a house, wedding, or child? (Because I love planning out the next few years of my personal life in a bank.)

But I’m glad that I went. I now have a pretty decent idea of how much money I have (clue: not much), how much interest it’s getting, and how much cat food I’ll be able to afford when I retire and die almost immediately after.

bored-woman.jpeg

How I feel about financial planning.

Week 7: I call your (Scarborough) Bluff…

I was really excited to go to the Scarborough Bluffs! And then I was very disappointed when I got there.

I had come close to getting to the Bluffs before, but only because I took a wrong turn on my bike. Like most of my adventures. I had seen photos of the Bluffs as well, and was very excited to see this beautiful natural wonder in my very own backyard!

So, my boyfriend and I set out on the subway, all the way to Victoria Park (which is super far), and then caught a bus. Over an hour after we set out on the transit system, we arrived! Or so I thought.

We got off the bus in front of what appeared to be an extremely expensive private school, and started walking south toward the lake. You know what’s surprisingly hard to find? The Scarborough Bluffs! There’s a bunch of small residential streets with big signs that say “No Access to the Bluffs.” Which seems elitist and exclusive, but I can also understand how in peak season those signs would be completely necessary.

Eventually we found the park on one side of the Bluffs. The view was pretty nice, but not was I had imagined. Then we walked some more over to the other side of the park, and got an OK view there too. Much of the Bluffs is closed off for safety: there has been a lot of erosion in the area, and visitors are not allowed to walk in dangerous areas. I can understand why the City would need to close this off (can we say lawsuit) but it also took away a lot of the view from the Bluffs.

Some of the locals just sort of ignored the “do not enter” signs, but I was unwilling. I’ve heard too many news stories of people falling from the bluffs and injuring themselves. I am also nervous about heights, so this was a no-go zone for me.

The area was quite beautiful because the leaves were all changing, and the weather was gorgeous. But overall, I was underwhelmed. On the bright side, we did get to walk around the neighbourhood, and see all of the amazing houses down there. As it turns out, that’s a real nice area.

The sort-of-view of the Scarborough Bluffs.

The sort-of-view of the Scarborough Bluffs.

Week 4: Head Shots

I know it seems like a long time since I posted a weekly challenge – it’s just because I did my tattoo last Monday, and then head shots the next Friday. So while it seems like I cheated, I didn’t!

Last year, my friend’s boyfriend, Sam, wanted to learn to swim. So we came up with an exchange: I taught him how to not drown in 3 feet of water, and he would do head shots for me (he’s an amazing photographer). We met a couple of times and he made a lot of progress in the water, but I never took him up on the head shots. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t a priority.

When I mentioned my challenges challenge on Facebook, Sam and Liz (his girlfriend) suggested I actually get the head shots done. So we arranged a time.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous for this. OK, a lot nervous. I don’t like being the visual centre of attention; while I don’t mind being on stage or speaking in front of a large audience, the idea of walking down a catwalk with all eyes on me makes me nervous. And don’t think that I don’t realize how ridiculous this sounds. No one has ever asked me to be in a fashion show (obviously), and these head shots would be me in a room with a friend whom I feel comfortable with. But I still felt a lot of pressure.

People would be looking at these photos. Really looking at my face, and all my features, and my ability to pose for a picture, and my ability to look pretty. Yep, there it is. Would I look pretty enough in these pictures? I wasn’t so worried about what other people would think, but about what I would think of myself.

I think we all probably feel this way at some time. “I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I dress. I don’t like myself.” Pictures have a way of forcing us to look at ourselves in what can be a harsh light, and we don’t always like what we see.

Whoa. OK, I realize how deep that just got, so I promise the rest of the blog post will be a lot lighter.

Because it was a great experience! I showed up to Sam’s apartment/studio on Friday afternoon, and mentioned my nervousness to him. I was also feeling a little under the weather, at the very beginning stages of a cold, so I wasn’t feeling particularly beautiful. He said not to worry, and so I didn’t.

He sat me down and asked me what I would be using these head shots for. Ummm… to have? That’s probably not a great answer. In retrospect this may have been another influencer for why I waited so long to get the head shots. I don’t know what I want to use them for. Do I want to act? Do I want them for a business profile? Or do I want to have them just to have a nice photo of myself? Deep thoughts, my friends.

Sam helped me pick out the right shirt to wear (I had spent the morning frantically selecting and ironing a few shirts), and we began.

Sam had me sit on a stool in front of a white back drop, and started chatting with me. We talked about my unemployment, my challenges challenge, his new employment, and other things. He was snapping photos the whole time. Occasionally he would ask me to move a little this way, or tilt my head a little that way, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. We laughed quite a bit and it was a very relaxed atmosphere.

An hour and several poses later, we were done. That was it. Completely pain free.

I am now very excited to see the end results.

A "sneak peak" of my head shots! Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala

A “sneak peak” of my head shots!
Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala

Experts

I was recently contacted by a guy interested in doing a similar bike ride in the summer of 2014. He was looking for advice on eating, packing, gear, routes, and general advice. The result was a 500 word email of pure ramblings about everything from practising setting up your tent and stove before you leave, to which route to take through northern Ontario. 
This makes the idea of publishing a book all the more palatable.
I was approached by another two cross-Canada cyclists about self-publishing a book-sized document about riding a bicycle across the country (or, really, any long distance). We want to gear the book specifically toward women, because many times along the trip, we three women (who all rode independently) were approached by people wondering why we would be so crazy as to embark on a trip on our own when it’s so dangerous!
We will tackle what to do to prepare for such a trip, what to expect at the beginning, middle, and end of the trip, and some fun stories from the road. Our trips were all slightly different, so I think the book will offer some nice insights and options, and some ideas for how to really make the trip your own. 
That’s the plan, anyway. I’ve realized that in order to do this I must actually start writing on a fairly consistent basis. Really, I have to form better habits. This is why I am writing this here – now that’s it’s public knowledge, I want people to shame me into writing more often. “What? You haven’t done anything all week? Were you doing something more important? Oh, just watching movies and reading a book, I see. Well, stop being a lazy person and get to work!” Folks, that’s what I’m looking for here. But for now, I’ve written a full blog post today! That’s got to earn me at least an hour of relaxation, right?

Conversations

I have some pretty awesome tanlines. Still.

It’s not helping that I work at a pool. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about these tan lines… a lot. I can’t really blame people. Sometimes I catch sight of my legs in a mirror and I wonder, “when did I put white shorts on?” So yeah, they’re that obvious.

Since it’s winter, most people assume I’ve taken a vacation to somewhere warm. Alas, that is not the case. When I inform them (ever so politely) that the tan lines are from the summer, most people are taken aback. The amount of information I give people about the origins of my tan lines directly correlates with how much time I am willing to invest in that particular conversation. The more I know and/or like a person, the more I will tell them. The less I know a person (or the more frustrated/rushed I am), the less I will tell them. Most of the time, strangers get told that I did a lot of bike riding this summer, while acquaintances get the full story, usually. 

It’s not that I don’t want to answer the same questions again and again and again… OK that’s exactly it. I don’t want to answer the same questions – life’s just too short. I just want these tan lines to fade.

Maybe one day, when I live in a nursing home, and someone asks me about my tan lines (which at this rate will still be there), I will be happy to regale them with the story of that time I biked across Canada. But until then, less you have something more creative than, “those are some crazy tan lines!”, mind your own business.