Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's about choices

Sung Hyun is ticked that I'm not helping around the house. He's cooked and cleaned (including doing laundry) for the past couple of weeks. I understand his frustration. We are working on balancing out the responsibilities of owning a home. As you know, I'm NOT good at balance.

I feel like I'm in final exam mode with school. I've got one 20-page paper due on Monday and then I'm done grad classes for another 3 weeks. "Hold out till Monday and I promise to pick up the slack", I told Sung Hyun. Last week I was preparing for a research presentation.

Monday can't come soon enough for Sung Hyun.

I'm slowly realizing how much I like having balance in my life. I'm an all-or-nothing gal at heart. If I can't give it my 100% attention then I might as not give it any attention. School is probably the ONLY thing that I commit to 100% of the time.

But now I'm starting to realize (yah, I know I'm slow) that adult things need to get done even if I'm devoting 100% of my attention to school (or work). Bills need to be paid, students need to be attended to, and my carpet really needs to be vacuumed. I also NEED to go on a date with my lover!

Procrastination and Perfectionism are my two worst enemies right now. I'll call them the 2 P's. I'm slowly learning that A) perfectionism doesn't exist and B) procrastination is hurting more than helping.

I have a 20 page paper due on Monday. I started it last Sunday. I have worked on it everyday since then. I'm done 10 pages. This is probably a new record for me; usually it's the weekend before that I buckle down and pull an all-niter.

To tackle these 2 P's I have to make a conscious effort to make a choice. I have the power. I can decide. Like instead of spending 10 minutes on Facebook, I can be doing the dishes. These little moments here and there, even if they are only 10 minutes, add up to something big at the end of the day, or week.

So here is to small, little choices making a big difference!

I'm starting TODAY ;)

Baby talk, Salad speak...

"Sweetheart, how many babies do you want? 3 or 4 okay?", I said while washing the spinach for my salad.

"Doesn't matter, it's your choice", he replied.

"Really? You don't care?"

"No, it's not my lunch!"


These conversations happen daily, to a lesser degree, but usually we don't find out till days later that there was a complete misunderstanding. Today he assumed I was asking how many leaves of spinach I should put in my salad.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Research Presentation

Group projects in school are hard. This semester I was so close to dropping my class but figured it'd give it a go. We have 2 major research papers and a comprehensive (1.5 hour) research presentation. It's a group presentation.

Our team of three prepared early, thoroughly researched our program planning design (including contacting the professor whose model we chose to use) and practiced, practiced, practiced! We met often. Completed our power point weeks in advance and perfected our presentation to a T.

It went well. Hopefully our mark will reflect how we feel about it. The professor asked us if we would like to present it to a group of undergraduate students in the program planning class he's teaching next semester.

Of course we said YES!

Now off to write 20 pages by next Monday...eek.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Jolene, a local foodie blogger, mentioned that my owl is a bookend. Ah, that's why it's so heavy. So I set out to Chapters to find the the missing half. And had I gone there first I could have got 2 owls for the price I paid for 1 owl. Stupid other expensive store!

That's alright, I still like my owl, even if it was ridiculously priced!

But I couldn't leave the store without THESE bookends and cool summer cards:

Yummy leftovers!

Friday, March 23, 2012

On teaching

I really do love teaching. I love standing in front of a crowd. I love giving speeches and presentations. You name it!

But too often I focus on the negative. The difficult thing about teaching adults is that they make their own decisions about their learning. You can guide them and provide them with functional skills that you think will make their lives easier but ultimately they make the final choice.

Okay here's an example: This month we are doing a unit on employment. Most of my students at some point or another in their future will be getting a job. I prepared a resume writing guide book. I gave them a list of action verbs to use on their resume highlighting different skills (leadership, managerial etc...). I gave them a copy of my simplified resume. I had them write a rough draft in class, to which some complained and said they'd do it for homework.

I asked the students to write a final copy of their resume and hand it to me this Friday. I told them if at any point down the road when they are actually looking for a job and needed someone to check their resume I'd gladly help, even if I wasn't their present teacher.

So this week a student told me she applied for 2 jobs. She's been looking for work for awhile now. She hasn't been successful thus far. I asked why she didn't have me look at her resume to check it over. She told me her husband looked at it for her.

She had an extra copy in her backpack that day so I asked to see it. There were issues with formatting, abbreviations, spacing, grammar, punctuation, you name it. I gave it back to her filled in red pen.

If she's serious about getting a professional job in Canada she must have a professional looking resume.

After this, I talked with the whole class about the importance of making sure your resume looks good. I have an eye for detail when it comes to things like that (although it's not really reflected in this blog!). I pretended that I was the boss at a company looking through a stack of resumes. I went through a stack of paper sorting them into possible candidates. Of course these were not the actual students resumes but I wanted to demonstrate what would happen if they didn't have a polished resume.

I took the paper and one-by-one I examined them. "This one looks good!" I said. "Oh, spelling mistakes, poor grammar, this one goes in the garbage". The students were shocked that something like that would happen in Canada.

This led into a conversation about first impressions.

Okay to get to the point!

I spend way too much time worrying about these students. I know they can do better so I get caught up in thinking I'm a bad teacher. If one student doesn't do well then all of them must not be doing well. That my all or nothing attitude, my friends!

Sung Hyun says I'm 'too much'. I think he's right. I need to back off. Maybe next week we'll sign Kumbaya or something (not!).

I'm going to make a point of focusing on the positive from now on. And in doing so I'm sharing this letter that I received from another student in the same class:

Hi Jenifer :
I have received my resume, I am very grateful for your guidance.
Do you know ? I am most looking forward to getting up every day to go to of Jeniffer the English class, it is interesting and effective learning, which for me is very helpful. I say is true, this is not my kind words for you . In short, thank you!

And to that I say, YOU'RE WELCOME!

Dinner tonight!

Bean salad, baked spaghetti, and homemade wheat bread. YUM!

Now off to work on my grad research presentation. Yay!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On meaning and purpose

Last night I went for coffee with an old uni. mate. We haven't seen each other in over 5 years. Talk of university, work, pension plans, injuries, happiness, regrets and relationships were laid out on the table.
* * *

It's no secret I'm struggling right now. With my work. With my school. My relationship. But today was a good day. Today was my first session with my counsellor (thanks commenter's, that advice was priceless). I left her office with a feeling of passion. That passion that I buried away for so long. The one that hid between the long work hours and mindless internet surfing. That passion that got stomped out by negative voices and self-doubt.

* * *

"Are you finished with all that travelling stuff?" he (my coffee friend) asked when discussing possible career paths. His words intended no harm. I know. But they transported me back years earlier when I remember someone close to me saying (loosely translated) "yah, those travellers, who can't live in the real world and have to go gallivanting to other places".

You see the thing with travelling (and perhaps also vacationing) is that you've got to be prepared for the unintended consequences. And once you get to that point, there is no rewinding. You've changed and you cannot press undo. Doesn't that sound cliche?

Korea changed me. I feel it in the way I live my life in Canada. The school, the condo, the responsibility, the full-time job. The REAL life. I'm living it!

The pension, the job benefits. This should be making me happy. It's not.

The counsellor asked me why I was taking my Masters of Education and I didn't have an answer for her. I haven't really thought that much about it. It's what I figure I should be doing. She wanted to know what I want to do. I didn't have an answer. "You can go out there and get a job with a nice salary and play that game. A bigger house a newer car. Or you can find out what makes you excited".

In one sense, playing that game is what I've pre-programmed myself to do. So I'm torn between what (I think) everyone else is doing and what I think I want. And they don't match up very nicely. And the second one is not safe like the first.

The pension, the security, the house doesn't fill my heart. I'd give it all away in a heart beat if I found something that actually made my heart beat.

So I'm struggling. I'll be struggling for a bit as I sway between choices and options and decisions. But that's enough for now. It won't be solved over night.

The quote that inspired this post:

Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad of new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This girl I know

See this lady:

She's an incredibly talented and smart individual. She's a great listener. A wonderful person with the biggest of hearts.

Upon completion of her Masters degree in (gasp) 2 months, she'll be moving to join her husband as they start their careers in counselling. This new job is 4 hours away.


I kind of hope she takes the next year to complete her thesis so that she stays here in the city. But, shhhhhhh don't tell ;)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A peak into our place part 2

I'm starting to feel better, even though I'm still coughing. This sickness has lasted way too long. My body is actually craving exercise. The weather is nice that I can actually get out and go for a walk. I'll have to hang tight for a week at least. In the mean time, I know some of you have been asking for house photos. So here is sneak peak part II:

Our kitchen table finally arrived. 8 weeks later! Geesh!

Look at this little gem I found yesterday:

Our front entrance/T.V, it's 3D!
Open concept: The view from the living room to the kitchen
I'll never keep this clean!

What I didn't anticipate when living alone was how much pride I'd get from taking care of something that belongs to me. We love our new place!

Sung Hyun getting fat

The other day when Sung Hyun bumped into a Korean friend at the grocery store she commented on how chubby he looked. He said, "Yes, now that I live by myself, I'm eating a lot of Korean food". True story!

Chubby indeed:

Untrue photo

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Easy Money

About 4 weeks ago I brought my Oxford reader to work. We were doing a unit on crime so I figured I would read a chapter of the book to the students each day. The story was called The President's Murderer. At the end of each chapter there are a set of questions for the students to answer. These books are designed for ESL learners.

We finished the book after about a week and a half. The students got so involved in the story that they were disappointed with how it ended. Most of them were sad that they 'shot the innocent man'. I had them write an alternative ending for homework. They enjoyed this activity. I read a few of the endings out in class.

About a week later one of the students said aloud "teacher we miss when you read to us". I had no idea that they enjoyed the story so much. They asked me to continue this activity. That day during my lunch hour I walked to the downtown library and I was surprised to see a shelf of about 40 readers from various publishers, most notably Penguin and Oxford, for ESL students.
I picked up a few books for my class. Hidden on the shelf was a book titled Easy Money.

Recognize that face?

Authored by the popular television host Gail Vaz-Oxlade, this book talks about basic principles of saving and budgeting. How suiting given my most recent post! I picked up this book so I can start reading to Sung Hyun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

30 minutes

Set aside 30 minutes to change the world:

Monday, March 05, 2012

A stay-at-home what?

After coming home from boot camp (I was in the Naval Reserve) for the summer with a wad of cash in my pocket I did what any 17-year old would do with 3-4 grand.

I invested it!

Okay so probably other teenagers would have just spend it. And maybe I would have too if it wasn't for the guest presenter we had come to our high school and speak about the power of investing young. The presentation that we were forced to attend in the gymnasium probably influenced me more than I realized at the time.

The man, who was in his late 50s, said that his biggest regret was not investing sooner -- at the age we were presently. I felt I was given a great gift. With this great piece of advice I could do what he wished he had done.

So I did.
I opened my first account with a family friend. With a large (to a 17-year old) lump sum start of 4-5 thousand dollars, I can't remember, I made my first deposit.

But the key to investing isn't to put your money into an account one time and watch it grow over time. For me, the key was to continue to put money in my account, monthly. So I started with small amounts like $50 automatic withdrawals a month. Eventually I increased this amount when I was in university but not to the point where I noticed the money disappearing from my account.

Now I was very fortunate to continue to do this for 2 reasons:

1) In grade 12 I won the UR scholar. This allowed me to attend university for free, with the exception of textbooks which my parents paid for.

2) I lived at home for free while I went to university while still working part-time (full-time in summer) during most of my studies. In my 3rd year I moved out with a boyfriend for 1 year. Then when he moved to another city for school I moved back home temporarily only to discover I'd rather pay a little more money each month to have my own space. But my parents door was always open if needed.

During this time the monthly withdrawals from my checking account into my investments still happened. But I didn't notice because that was money that I could not touch. To me, it didn't exist.

When I started dating Sung Hyun (at this point it would have been about 4 months into our 'this is not a serious relationship') relationship, Sung Hyun asked me for some money (around $500) to pay off his credit card. We were sitting at VIPS Steak House talking about my return to Canada and then my eventual return to Korea. I never gave him the money.

But I did later on into our relationship when he needed it to pay off his bills. He was supporting 2 people (his mother and himself) on 1/2 of what I was making in Korea. I was happy to help out. Sung Hyun had wild spending habits. Well, not wild but he certainly lived out of his means. His income was less than his expenses (his car payments with gas and insurance combined was over $700). He certainly didn't need a NEW car. But that's the way Koreans roll. You'd never tell anyone that you don't have enough money.

Now that we are in Canada Sung Hyun has become more cautious of his spending habits. But he still has that mentality that says "I'm making more money now than I ever have in my life so I can buy anything I want". I'm here to tug him down to reality to say "hey, I know you work hard, so instead of buying a $35,000 new car why don't we get a $15,000 new(ish) car."

And for the most part things have been going really well. We never really fight over money (well only when it involves being cheated out of money owed -- but I've buried that hatchet). I've disagreed with him spending ridiculous amounts of money on things that aren't needed but for the most part I can say this isn't a serious issue in our relationship. On the other hand, we've NEVER EVER been on a budget either.

Even though I save money I have never budgeted myself personally. I don't know how to work a budget. I'm so frickin' disorganized that I can't bother to keep receipts/ write stuff down. I'm a girl of many half finished projects. Budgeting to me is simple: I know I have a certain number of dollars and I shouldn't spend more than that. I don't need to write it down.

When we were shopping for our furniture for our new place Sung Hyun and I had 2 very different approaches. Money didn't matter to him. If you want it, just buy it! So we did just that. We got the best (read: most expensive) of most things. This made Sung Hyun so happy but it made me uncomfortable.

Saving money all these years made me value the ability to save. The ability to not have to choose the best or most expensive thing. I got satisfaction knowing that I had money in the bank. But Sung Hyun finds value in having the top everything (including a $120 oil-change last month -- because he needs 'the best' oil).

So we decided together that since we are in a new position (new place, new jobs, new financial responsibility) we would make it fun. We agreed on how much we would like to spend a month on our variable expenses. We bought jars (hello Gail Vaz-Oxlade) and have decided to keep track of (and try to stick to) our budget.
This is going to be hard for me because I hate writing things down/ keeping track of stuff like this. To me it's a waste of time.

This is going to be hard for Sung Hyun because he has never restricted his spending before, even when he didn't have money.

But this is going to be great for us. We will need to communicate more about money. I suspect I will start spending more money and Sung Hyun will spend less. We are doing this project together and have allotted a certain amount of money for a vacation fund. This will get us excited about doing something fun together, even if it's only a small getaway to another city. But allowing money for these things gets me excited to do things with him. Also, what a great way to decide together what to do with our earnings.

It's never too late to start investing/saving. Sung Hyun made his first deposit into a personal account, with only his name on it, last week. If saving money is on your list of things to do then start now! Because you don't have to be rich to start saving....

We will be sure to keep everyone posted with how it goes with a budget update next month.

Monday Eats

Another day at home sick.
Getting in some vitamins for breakfast.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Slowly realizing....

I’m stubborn

My body tells me so

I hit the ground running

But my body screams ‘no’

My mind says go

I push just a little more

My body speaks back

“boy she’ll be sore”

The tickle in my throat

cannot be washed away

I’m sure I’ll be fine

go on just one more day

By then it’s too late

I cannot undo the past

I should have listened closer

been less concerned with going fast

My mind says ‘yes’

my body says ‘no’

this time I heard it

STOP JEN! and go slow

I'm very sick. My body is telling me to slow down. I'm finally listening now. A lesson too late, I know. But this one got to my very core. It left me vulnerable, crying at work. I don't want to be sick but I didn't listen after the first time or the second. So it's back to smack me across the face. It said "sick 3 times in 2 months, you idiot, haven't you learned anything yet?" I spent 2 hours in the doctors office Wednesday evening. On Thursday afternoon curled up on my living room floor in so much pain that I really thought I might die. That night I slept for 17 hours straight.

It's Sunday night and I'm not well enough to go to work. I've used 6 sick days in the past 2 months. I just started this new job 2 months ago. I feel terrible for letting my boss down. But I'm sick. And I've learned my lesson.

The hard way.

I don't want to be stubborn anymore.

I surrender.....