Week 25: Therapy

Well it might not be as much fun as hula hooping (which is on my list), but this was a good week.

Over the last 18 months I’d been involved in more and more conversations that included someone speaking to a therapist and having really good results. Whether it was after a break up or a big transition in life, or just because, my friends and acquaintances were glad they had gone to therapy to talk through their lives.

I guess you could say that I’ve had some stresses this year – transitioning to a new (and unknown) career and being constantly nervous about income hasn’t created the soft and cushy environment I so crave. I also went through a really low period just before I left my full time position, and wanted to prevent that from happening again.

I found a therapist who is a 3 minute walk from home, and made an appointment (after confirming it would be covered by extended healthcare, because who just has that kind of money floating around? Not me, thus the need).  I was a little nervous going into the appointment, but only because it was something new. I don’t know if nervous is the right word: what’s a good word for less than nervous, but also mildly excited? Anticipatory!

Anyway, it was nice to go; it was good to talk with someone who listened and analyzed and gave good advice in a non-judgmental and unbiased setting. It was also pretty cool that it could all be about me – how often do you get to talk for an hour just about yourself?

She pointed out that an “ideal” job is not realistic for anyone: you’re never going to find a job where you love every single aspect of it and it fulfills every single one of your interests and skills. So she suggested making 3 lists – things that I must have in a job, things that I would like to have in a job, and things I would hate in a job. Stuff like location, co-workers, hours, flexibility, team environment, etc. If a job doesn’t involve one aspect of my interests/skills, I could always have a part-time job or volunteer role on the side.

So I’m making my list. It’s pretty challenging. There are a lot of things to think about when selecting a career, and a lot of things I hadn’t thought of before. It’s a lot of work to think about work! But at least it’s making me consider things I never had, like the fact that getting a career in a field that doesn’t check all the boxes, isn’t really settling.

When I quit my full time position I gave myself a deadline. I would do this part-time patchwork for one year (since modified to 13 months because I basically took October off), and then find a career path. That means I have six months left to sort out my life. Start the clock.




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 21: Boyz II Men

I know so little about this band, that I had to use google to double check that there’s a “II” and not “to” in their name. I also learned how to spell Boyz correctly.

For a friend’s birthday, he wanted to see a Boys II Men concert at Casino Rama, so this week I really had two challenges – the concert and dealing with the Casino Rama in Orillia, which is an interesting place.

We drove all the way up to Orillia, and I didn’t even fall asleep! (Spoiler alert, I fell asleep on the way back.) We entered the casino and took in all of the wonderful sounds, flashy lights, and extra oxygen it had to offer. As it was a Friday night, the place was pretty packed with locals and tourists alike (although to be honest, I’m not sure it would be that different on a Wednesday night). I didn’t even get ID’ed by security! Not sure that’s a compliment but I’m going with it.

We were some of the first to be seated for the concert, in the surprisingly large theatre. Apparently the concert was sold out, but I strongly suspect they had given away free or discounted tickets to fill the seats. I may not know that many Boys II Men songs, but at least I’m around the age that would have listened to their music. The other, slightly more geriatric attendees, on the other hand, probably weren’t 100% sure what they were getting into. “A free concert? This casino really cares about me!”

The concert itself was an absolute blast; the Boys put on an amazing show. All of their songs that they played were ones that I recognized, and there was choreographed dancing. Really, I would have been on board with anything, as long as it was accompanied by choreographed dancing. It’s just so much fun to watch!

Halfway through the concert they pulled out instruments and did some cover songs. My group didn’t even know that they played instruments, so that was a nice surprise. They were even funny doing that!

Towards the end of the show, most of the audience (all of us who were born after 1970) were singing along and happy to be there. But during the last song, the band asked the audience to stand up. Apparently, the theatre seating is basically chairs on bleachers – none too steady bleachers: the whole bleachers system was shaking under our feet as the audience danced. It was at this point we decided it would be a good time to get some dinner. The audience was completely fine in the end, but I couldn’t help but think about all of those stages that collapsed a few years ago due to high winds.

After dinner we did a bit of gambling. OK, I lost $10 on slot machines (which I still don’t understand fully), while the others played real games. Even with the extra oxygen and free coffee, I can’t imagine spending an extended period of time in a casino.

Even though I fell asleep on the car ride home, it was a really fun night.


Look how swanky they are! Just imagine that… but with choreographed dancing.

Week 19: Cleanse

Spoiler alert: I don’t like cleanses.

I knew this going in, but my boyfriend wanted to try it, and so to be a nice and supportive girlfriend, I participated. Don’t worry, it wasn’t some grapefruit diet, or maple syrup and cayenne pepper water, or cabbage soup kind of thing – it was basically just eat really healthy for a few days.

The “cleanse” consisted of a morning berry smoothie (with pea protein), a mid-morning vegetable smoothie, lunch (chicken or fish or tofu with vegetables and quinoa), a snack (almonds or something), dinner (same as lunch), and all the water you can drink. There was also the option of “snacking” on potassium broth, which is really just potato broth, which is one of the strangest tastes I’ve ever had.

Now here’s the challenge… I’ve been know to get hangry (so hungry that you become angry). And because I’m a fairly active person, I become hungry fairly often, and therefore become hangry on a daily basis. I knew this would not be easy. For either of us.

There was a lot of preparation and forethought involved in these three days. We had to prepare everything in advance, and make sure we would be available to eat at the assigned times. The biggest challenge for me was not snacking while I was waiting for things to be ready to eat.

The first day was fine. I was super hungry, but I survived.

The second day, I had to come home from work early because I was too hungry. I had very real fears that I would collapse and my stomach would begin consuming the rest of my body for nutrients. I was that hungry. So by day three I had incorporated real breakfast (an egg sandwich) into the equation.

With the exception of breakfast, I think the cleanse was pretty comprehensive – there were enough calories in there for a normal human being to survive for a few days. That human being wouldn’t be particularly happy (there was no chocolate in the cleanse), but they’d be alive. So I don’t know why I felt so hungry all of the time. Maybe it was knowing that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. All I did was think about food. Even writing this now, I’m getting hungry.

Long story short, cleanses aren’t for me. I’m going to eat a sandwich now.


Week 18: To Niagara!

Have you ever gone down to Niagara Falls for a night, in the middle of winter, mid-week? No? That’s so weird. Perhaps you are gainfully employed?

Well I’m not so I went! Actually my boyfriend had some vacation time he had to use, so we decided to go down and see the Falls, eat some nice food, and stay in a fancy (read: not fancy) hotel.

Groupon is great for a lot of things, and one of those things is travelling to Niagara. We got a hotel room with a king size bed, meal vouchers, and some other stuff we didn’t use (who would ever need a coupon to East Side Mario’s… no one wants to eat there! A slight discount won’t help), for about sixty bucks. And if the Canadian dollar weren’t in the toilet, it would have been even less.

We took a Via train down from Toronto bright and early Wednesday morning, and arrived at a desolate train/bus depot in Niagara. Even though the weather had been really nice the week before, it was snowy and windy and frigid that day. Perfect timing, Mother Nature, thanks for that.

A taxi was the only reasonable way to get from the train station to the hotel, so we taxied. We warmed up and relaxed in the room for a while before trekking outside to find nourishment. At 2pm on a Wednesday in winter, there’s not a whole lot going on in Niagara – who’d have thought? We coldly walked past chain restaurant after chain restaurant, and finally decided on a chain restaurant. Niagara is a bit of a tourist town (read: hard-core tourist trap).

But the Falls were beautiful. There was one bus of tourists to share the view with, and that was it. We were free to wander and take photos leisurely, without competing for space with the hordes. We walked the whole length of the boardwalk, read up on the history of the area (OK, I did this), and took some photos.

After a quick afternoon nap (because it’s vacation time and that’s what one does on vacation), we were off to dinner. We had made reservations at Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse, unnecessarily. There were two other people there when we arrived. But the reservation got us a gold booth, not just a red booth. They were the same booth, but with different colour fabric. Most of the booths, which made up 90% of the seating, had big walls between them, and privacy curtains. This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

We ordered some delicious (yet overpriced) steaks and sides, and shared a bottle of wine (and three bottles of water). The food was delicious – the steaks are seared in butter. I don’t like steak much, but I really liked this steak, and the butter.

You know how when a server puts a plate down and says “careful it’s hot.” And you’re like “but how hot is it?” And you touch it and it’s warm, but not too hot. This was a hot plate. I guess it goes in the oven beforehand to help keep the steak warm on the table. Fortunately our server told me this beforehand, because otherwise I would still be growing back my fingerprints.

While we ate the main course, the curtains were closed. It was very fun, strange, and oddly exciting. It felt like a mix between what I imagine a harem looks like, what I think the VIP area of a club looks like, and how I want the private room of a strip club to look like. But in a classy way.

After our delicious (but expensive) meal we went to the casino. This was a compromise on my part because casinos are pretty boring. But I learned how to play blackjack! Sort of. It seems like it would be a pretty easy game, but once you get into the theory behind it, apparently it gets a little more complicated. When I had a 15 I would look at the guy next to me, and he would either say “book says stay,” or “book says hit.” I lost $9.

We had a leisurely breakfast on Thursday and made our way back to the bus/train depot to return to Toronto. It was much colder on Thursday, so on the way over we were able to see white, frozen trees lining the edge of the Falls. While the Falls weren’t frozen, there were huge icicles hanging from the cliffs nearby. It looked like we’d gone beyond the Wall.

Next time I go to Niagara (which will be in another 5 years, because Google images exists), I will drive. The area is not designed for pedestrians. Most of the times the cross signal at an intersection doesn’t go, because they don’t expect people to actually use them past September. Or maybe I’ll just go in the summer.



Week 17: Fencing

Oh man, fencing is fun. It wasn’t originally on my list, but my friend, Liz, wanted to try it, and so I fenced.

There’s a place called My Fencing Club near St. Clair West and Bathurst that offers introductory adult fencing lessons on Saturday afternoons, which was super convenient for all parties.

The class had about 10 participants, and was led by Noah and Leesa (I’m not positive this is how she spelled her name, but she didn’t seem like a Lisa spelling). They seemed to be teenagers, but they also really knew their way around a sword. We learned about the three types of fencing swords/styles (foil, sabre, and épée), and got to hold the different styles of swords. The differences were negligible to my untrained eye.

After the history lesson, we were issued our weapons. After holding the real-deal swords, I was a little disappointed to receive a plastic foil sword to practice with. But I can also understand why we were given plastic – I definitely would have taken someone’s eye out with a metal sword, despite the dulled tip.

We learned how to stand, how to attack, how to defend, and the basics of how a fencing match works. As it turns out, it’s quite a bit harder than it looks (as most things are). There’s a lot of technique and stamina and skill in fencing – I mean, to win at fencing. Losing is significantly easier. It’s especially challenging when you’re trapped inside one of those fencing masks/helmets, which are super sweaty.

For example, to get a point you have to stab someone (obviously). But if you both stab each other at the same time, the point is awarded to whoever started their attack first (an attack is when you start straightening your sword arm). But if you attack first and your opponent parries (defends) and then attacks, they get the point. But this is negated if other things happen… full disclosure, this part got confusing. I will not be becoming a fencing judge in the near future. The point is, there’s a lot going on even though it looks like people are wildly stabbing each other for fun.

After practicing how to stab people (so much fun) by stabbing gloves and walls (so much fun), we did a few practice matches (so much fun). I wasn’t too bad. I found myself attacking quite a bit, and scoring a few (unofficial, but fun) points against my opponents. I can see this being a good activity for stress relief.

The one hour class was a surprisingly good workout and a good way to spend an hour on Saturday afternoon (especially because the walk home brought me past several delicious bakeries). I don’t know that I’ll be trying it again, but at least if someone challenges me to a duel, I’ll know how to handle myself.



Week 16: Meditation Take Two

After a wildly unsuccessful meditation attempt, I am getting back on the meditation horse. I am still interested in the idea of meditation – I think taking some time each day to relax and de-stress and not think about a to do list is probably a good idea for most of us.

This time, I tried meditating at home, alone, using an app called Headspace, which was recommended by a friend. I also decided to not do quite so much chanting this time, just for fun.

To get myself geared up for this 10 minute guided meditation, I went for a run and did some light stretchy-yoga, with the intention of slowing down and relaxing to prep myself for the good stuff. Of course, as soon as I turned the app on, I immediately had to pee. My scurry down the hall to the bathroom was not in the spirit of meditation, but did make me feel better.

I enjoyed this app and this 10 minutes. The guy who talks you through the meditation is perhaps the most relaxing voice in the world. They should use him to give directions in google maps instead of that lady they have now. I would listen to him. And probably get lost less.

Since it was the first meditation in a series, and they (correctly) assume we haven’t done this before, it was very simple and straightforward. Just sit, focus on your breathing, listen to what’s happening around you, and then let your mind wander.

Which sounds easy.

It’s actually quite challenging, though. I kept noticing my shoulders tightening up, or my mind thinking about something else that I needed to be doing. Of course, since this is only the first meditation, I knew I wouldn’t be good at it yet. But the very soothing voice said not to worry, so I’m OK with everything.

I think I will name the voice. Something distinguished and smart and classic.