Friday, August 31, 2007

Don't You....Forget About Me! Don't Don't Don't Don't...


I do appreciate your patience as my blog goes through periods of silence and non-posting for a little while. It has been a busy season, one involving a new job, sleep deprivation, neglected chores, and lots of prep work.

I haven't forgotten about you; don't you forget about me either! :) I will, as time permits, swing in to wax eloquent on my thoughts and observations about my profession, my "kids," and life in general. However, the next two-three weeks will be mighty insane, and my first priority is Hubbs, and then my job.


It's interesting to note that I have almost always been in school. After my initial K-12 education, I spent another 8 years in post-secondary, interspersed with a few years of actual teaching in the classroom. Out of the 3 decades of my life thus far, 2.5 decades have been spent in school in some way.

Astounding, isn't it? I anticipate several more years (until the babies come) in the classroom, and many more years following my baby-hiatus. There must be something that just draws me into academia; like a drug, the intoxicating sights and sounds of people learning and growing and developing must give me a buzz.

I love school. I even love school supplies (so much so that I spend entirely too much money on it). I'm so glad I have been blessed with the opportunity to always be involved in school in some form or another. I couldn't imagine my life any other way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Down about Discounts

To prepare for the garage sale we had over the weekend, I had to price everything that I wanted to sell. These included several sets of stoneware dishes (nothing fancy), many mismatched pieces of cutlery, a few cutting boards, an iron, a coffee maker, some vases, a GameCube console, mugs, some swag office bags, and knives.

For some reason, I had a hard time pricing my wares. I was entirely content to give everything away for free to some worthy charity, but when it came to my having to sell these things, I found myself wanting to mark up the prices to what I felt the items were worth... to me. In the case of the bags, many of them I wanted to mark up to $5 because they were brand new. It was hard for me to list things for $0.25 or even $3. Whoever heard of a $3 coffee maker?! An operable one, no less.

As people trickled in that morning, I was initially very very excited to see some of my stuff getting purchased for their marked prices, even if these were lower than my natural instinct would have priced them at. I was even willing to give an additional discount or two on items when people bought in large quantities. It never ceased to amaze me what people chose to buy; who would want a silly stuffed cushion, or wrought-iron pillar candle holders with wax stuck to the base of it? It was an interesting real-world example of the old adage, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." It also annoyed me to witness people attempting to haggle on an already-marked-down item; this wasn't the Ladies Market in Hong Kong, this was our garage sale!

Then the real sting of the sale hit. When the rain poured down and the clock struck 4:00, my savvy sis and bro-in-law knew that we had limited chances to rid ourselves of what remained in the garage. Their solution? Make them a deal. They marked a bunch of stuff down (my coffee maker ended up going for a measly $1), shoved all the $0.25 items onto the "free" table, and sold items in "sets" for lump sums.

It pained me to witness my valuable goods, all in working order and good condition, going for next to nothing. It would have been easier to give them away, I think, than watch them get so devalued at an end-of-day super sale.

And yet, as the sale wrapped up, I was informed that my stuff had brought in an extra $57. Not bad, considering how cheap we unloaded everything for. The remaining few items (there really weren't many) were loaded into the van and carted to Goodwill.

I learned a few lessons during this, my first, garage sale. I learned that a) the value of an item to me is not always the value of the item to someone else, b) people will always want to bargain down the price so it isn't wrong to price things according to how I value them, since that will always give me more room to haggle, and c) don't throw anything out that can be sold; one would be surprised at the sort of things that people are willing to buy!

I am now excited about our next garage sale (presumably to be held next summer). From here on, I am going to kick my packratitis into high gear and store up everything that we no longer need, for the future sale. Maybe, given my newfound insight into how to be a good seller, I'll be able to make $75 next year. Certainly, I know my prices are going to be a bit higher ;)

**** Incidentally, we found and adopted an abandoned filing cabinet this morning. Guess someone else's trash became my treasure =)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Never an Easy Road...

3 comments wealth. So many people, in desperate bids to get financially independent, or filthy stinkin' rich, fall prey to scams and pyramid schemes. So what, really, is at the heart of these gimmicks that would cause otherwise-rational and intelligent people to become suckered in?

I believe it is false hope; it is selling the dream, and the "promise of the good life," as Dateline's expose on one pyramid scheme puts it. It is the desire for something better in life, that you have to do "virtually nothing" to get. The idea is that if you invest "a little" now, you will reap bountiful returns in the future without having to work so hard. The only caveat is this: you will have to work very very hard right now, and/or invest hard-earned money up front.

So why do people leap at these "opportunities?" Personally, I think it is rooted in the deep-set dissatisfaction that some people have with their lives. Some hate their jobs, others hate their social status, and all of them want more free time in their day to spend with loved ones, and more money in their pockets to spend. These scams play on that dissatisfaction and on human nature's greedy desire to get something for virtually nothing. They then create false expectations that those who get involved will one day get their dreams realized. These normally-intelligent, rational people then willfully suspend their critical thinking skills and, in blind faith, follow after the gurus espousing these claims, investing both time and money in an organization where only the rich guys behind the business will actually get rich.

Recently, we were approached about a financial opportunity that would create for us passive income (up to $30,000/month, plus year-end bonuses!). We only had to sign up to become IBO's (independent business owners), buy Costco-esque quantities of household products and wares from "ourselves" (supplied by Amway affiliates), and get others we know to join our "team." We declined this "amazing opportunity."

So what made us refuse, when so many quite eagerly leap at such offers? Heck, we
'd love more income, and we certainly would not balk at having more free time.

The answer is this: we are satisfied with our lives. Hubbs and I don't hate our jobs; we could honestly work in our respective professions until retirement and still be passionately happy with what we do. We make decent coin doing it, too.

We also like our friends; we don't believe in "friendly solicitation" for the purposes of "building our business" and generating income off the backs of those we care about. We value others for who they are as people, not as potential moneymakers for us. As a result, anything remotely pyramidal holds no appeal to us.

We are also critical (and cynical) thinkers; we research everything, and we consider multiple
perspectives on the same thing before forming our own opinions. The schemes we have been approached with (two big ones to date) have always advised us against looking them up online, with the rationalization that there are people who are paid to slander these "opportunities" who will post anything on the Web just to ruin the companies involved. To us, that is a red flag in and of itself. Any self-imposed ignorance to the "other side" and alternate opinions and perspectives suggests that there is something to hide, and also that the people involved in these operations are too biased to fairly speak to the reputability of their schemes.

Finally, we have lived long enough to know that there is no easy way to "think and grow rich" a la "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" (books oft quoted by these pyramidal schemes). There is only hard work, wise investing, and informed spending. No money tree is suddenly going to sprout in our backyard, and no $30K/month will be coming our way from simply buying toilet paper from ourselves and signing up (and potentially alienating) all of our friends into this false hope scheme.

To all of you out there who have whole-heartedly bought into these schemes, good luck. You will need it.

To those of you whose eyes are opened to these scams for what they are, keep thinking and keep asking questions and never lose your ability to be a critical consumer. This ability to use your brain will ultimately protect you, and your hard-earned savings, from monetary poachers like those involved in these scams.

Incidentally, if you are currently involved in a pyramid or MLM scheme, and you know me personally, please do not approach Hubbs or I with your "amazing opportunities." We will most certainly decline.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jason Bourne's Ultimatum - A Review


I remember when the first two Bourne movies came out. I remember watching them, and enjoying them. However, I remembered not what they were about. ;)

When I was asked to see the movie with Hubbs, then, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew the movie would be good, and I would like it, but I had zero recollection of what the trilogy was about. Thankfully, Hubbs had never watched the Bourne movies before, so we needed to watch them for his benefit anyway. Turns out, it was for my benefit too.

Re-watching the first two Bourne flicks helped me remember what the premise of the story was, and the ending of the second film definitely helped me to figure out the context of the opening scenes of the third movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

This third (and final) flick in the trilogy follows Bourne (picking up from the end of the second movie) as he returns to American soil to find out what had happened to him. In the process, there are lots of car chases and shoot-outs and casualties, a direct consequence of certain members of the CIA not wanting deep dark ugly secrets to be revealed. The ending is a little surprising, and the story is completed in a way that allows most of the questions raised in the first two movies, to be answered.

I really enjoyed that the movie was suspenseful, exciting, action-packed, and also quite tightly written. There were no obvious gaping plot holes, and the actors were all very convincing in their roles. My only beef with the movie is that it was obviously shot quite some time after the second film, since both Matt Damon and Joan Allen looked a significant bit older than what they should have looked like if the time lapse had been only a few weeks. That took me out of the story a little bit; I kept looking at them and thinking, "Wow! They look so old now!"

That said, I highly recommend watching this movie, especially after you've re-watched Bourne Supremacy. The writers obviously planned ahead and wrote a storyline that is intricately woven, and well thought-out. I usually find that third movies aren't that great, but this last episode of the trilogy is probably almost as good (if not equally so) as the first movie. Go watch it with an expectation to be thrilled (and nauseated from the camera work) and entertained: you won't be disappointed.

I Feel Like Templeton - Packratitis Part Deux

I'm sure you remember him - he was the pack rat in Charlotte's Web with the greedy disposition. Well, I have been reminded of my own greed recently, the result of cleaning out my storage room (and now my home) in search of things to sell off at our multi-family garage sale this weekend.

Who knew I could have accumulated so much stuff, and stuff I don't even need?!? In my cleaning endeavors I discovered a brand new set of knives I forgot existed, and I learned that I have about 7 coffee mugs too many. I also realized that our gorgeous set of cutlery (a wedding gift from off our registry) was starting to collect dust because I had been greedily holding on to my old cutlery, refusing to be rid of it since it was still functional (at what point do forks and spoons become non-functional? Quarter to never.). Add to that an old iron (still functional) and an old coffee maker (also in good working order), plus several plastic cutting boards and nearly a dozen plastic meal containers. What was I storing these things up for? A war?!?

In going through our multitude of boxes and suitcases, I also found many "treasures" in the form of gifts from former students, stuffed animals I forgot I owned, way too many books I no longer read (or knew I had), and several sets of dishes that I had packed away, intending to give away, but never got around to doing. My thorough cleaning also yielded an abundance of cardboard boxes (ones that formerly housed Hubbs' Transformer guys, or small kitchen appliances, or laptop computers) and many unsellable items, like expired vitamins and protein powder and old Easter candies (from at least a year ago).

Highly embarrassed, I find myself wondering how I could have accumulated such an abundance of junk, especially when I returned to Canada no more than 3 years ago, with only 4 suitcases' worth of stuff. I have also been regularly purging our home of unused clothing items and (so I thought) other broken and/or unwanted items, like old humidifiers and vacuum cleaners and blenders. How did all these other things escape notice?

I need to lead a simpler life, I've concluded. Actually, both Hubbs and I have realized this. We have excesses that we do not really need or want, and these things clutter up our homes and our lives. We need to get rid of the things that weigh us down, that have little or no value to us, and that do not enrich us as people.

This garage sale is a first step, but I think the process of simplification, of undoing the greed, will be a far longer journey. It will require Hubbs and I to re-evaluate what is important to us, and what is disposable. It will force us to scrutinize our spending habits and our lifestyle, and to eliminate things that are a waste of our space and time and money. It will require sacrifice - the giving up of our "wants" and our frivolous desires borne out of human nature's inclination to possess.

Most importantly, it will require that we change our thinking. We need to stop equating needs with wants, stop comparing our "stash" with those of others, and stop believing that happiness and self-worth are derived from what one has, rather than who one is.

It's going to be a hard journey, and a long one at that, but let's see if we can't succeed in making our lives a little less cluttered and greed-ridden and materialistic, shall we?

Friday, August 10, 2007

My Yummy Sandwich


My meals are pretty predictable. I tend to eat what I like, and if I like something I will eat it exclusively for a while, until I am sick of it or something new and yummy comes along to take its place.

My new breakfast obsession has been the toasted tomato bocconcini sandwich. I am having a half-sandwich for breakfast every morning. I know, it's vegetarian, and it sounds flavourless and untasty, but trust me when I say it is delicious! The texture of moist sliced tomato, crispy toasted whole-grain bread, and soft creamy young mozza together is a perfect combination, and it is healthy, too!

Just like it sounds, the ingredients are toasted multigrain/whole-grain bread, sliced bocconcini, and sliced tomato, with a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil if you must, but I don't bother with that. Layer the ingredients between the bread, and enjoy! Easy peasy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Not Feeling It

At this present moment, I am unemployed. The unfortunate nature of the profession dictates that most new (or temporary contract) teachers get hired and assigned last, sometimes even into the school year (like mid-September, or mid-October). I currently have the unenviable position of being a "new" teacher, in spite of my previous years of experience in the classroom overseas.

Bottom line is, I have no job, and no particular indication as to when I might actually secure a job in my field. I think I should be worried, or anxious, or something. I get a lot of reassuring comments from people around me who presume that I am sick with anxiety over my unemployed status, and they offer up comforting words like, "You're a good teacher, I know you will get something good.
Don't worry, you'll find something soon."

The problem is, I'm not worried at all. AT ALL. Should I be?

guess I don't operate on the same levels of anxiety and concern that most people in the world do. Part of this comes from the fact that I am not a starving, debt-ridden person; my Hubbs works hard to make sure that he can support both of us on his income. The other, greater part comes from my faith. I guess I am not fearful because I believe whole-heartedly that I was called into the teaching profession (think Jonah, after the big fish event). If this is what I am supposed to do, and a divine Creator has called me to the task, I have no doubt that He will provide the opportunity for me to do what I am intended to do. So why should I be afraid? Why should I be concerned?

Sure, there are the normal stresses that cross my mind: "What if I don't have enough time to plan my units and lessons and set up my room before the first day of class? What if I have to establish routines with my students two months into the school year? Will that be too late?" However, even these thoughts do not raise my blood pressure or speed up my pulse, because that same faith tells me that I will not be doing anything by my own strength and wisdom alone, but the One who has put me in a place to teach will equip me with whatever I need to do the best job that I can.

Some lyrics from an older praise-and-worship song that has been running in my head have been the following:

Fear not, for I am with you
Fear not, for I am with you
Fear not, for I am with you

Says the Lord.

I have redeemed you, I have called you by name
Child, you are Mine.

When you walk through the waters, I will be there.

And through the flame,

You'll not be drowned,

You'll not be burned,

For I am with you.

So I'm not feeling it - the fear, the worry. But I will keep you posted for when the good news comes, which it surely will. :)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

So Right.

I am referring to Apple's new aluminum iMac desktop. Sure, I don't NEED a new comp; my little Toshiba laptop is running fine. That said, how much sexier would my desk look (and my whole place, for that matter) if I owned this:

Seriously, this thing oozes sexy and sleek and modern and chic. And we all know that these days, Macs are a bazillion times cooler than the rest of the lot.

I think my next purchase will be an iMac, and it will be soon. ;)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I'm SpongeBob Square Pants, apparently.

In lieu of the Tuesday meme, I'm posting this Tuesday quiz (which I received by email) so that you, too, can figure out which cartoon character you most resemble, supposedly. I'm apparently most like SpongeBob...really? I had no idea. Frankly, I'm still not totally sold on my results.

Everyone has a personality of a cartoon character. Have you ever asked yourself what cartoon character do you most resemble?

A group of investigators got together and analyzed the personalities of well known and modern cartoon characters. The information that was gathered was made into this test.

Answer all the questions (only 10) with what describes you best, add up all your points (which are next to the answer that you choose) at the end and look for your results.

Do not cheat by looking at the end of the post before you are done.

1. Which one of the following describes the perfect date?

.a) Candlelight dinner (4 pts.)

.b) Fun/Theme Park (2 pts.)

.c) Painting in the park (5 pts)

.d) Rock concert (1 pt.)

.e) Going to the movies (3 pts.)

2. What is your favorite type of music?

.a) Rock and Roll (2 pts.)

.b) Alternative (1 pt.)

.c) Soft Rock (4 pts.)

.d) Country (5 pts.)

.e) Pop (3 pts.)

3. What type of movies do you prefer?

.a) Comedy (2 pts.)

.b) Horror (1 pt.)

.c) Musical (3 pts.)

.d) Romance (4 pts.)

.e) Documentary (5 pts.)

4. Which one of these occupations would you choose if you only could choose one of these?

.a) Waiter (4 pts.)

.b) Professional Sports Player (5 pts.)

.c) Teacher (3 pts.)

d) Police (2 pts.)

.e) Cashier (1 pt)

5. What do you do with your spare time?

.a) Exercise (5 pts.)

.b) Read (4 pts.)

.c) Watch television (2 pts.)

.d) Listen to music (1 pt.)

.e) Sleep (3 pts.)

6. Which one of the following colors do you like best?

.a) Yellow (1 pt.)

.b) White (5 pts.)

.c) Sky Blue (3 pts.)

.d) Dark Blue (2 pts.)

.e) Red (4 pts.)

7. What do you prefer to eat?

.a) Snow (3 pts.)

.b) Pizza (2 pts.)

.c) Sushi (1 pt.)

.d) Pasta (4 pts.)

.e) Salad (5 pts.)

8 What is your favorite holiday?

.a) Halloween (1 pt.)

.b) Christmas (3 pts.)

.c) New Year (2 pts.)

.d) Valentine's Day (4 pts.)

.e) Thanksgiving (5 pts.)

9. If you could go to one of these places which one would it be?

.a) Paris (4 pts)

.b) Spain (5 pts)

.c) Las Vegas (1 pt)

.d) Hawaii (4 pts)

.e) Hollywood (3 pts)

10. With which of the following would you prefer to spend time with?

.a) Someone Smart (5 pts.)

.b) Someone attractive (2 pts.)

.c) Someone who likes to Party (1 pt.)

.d) Someone who always has fun (3 pts.)

.e) Someone very sentimental (4 pts.)

Now add up your points and find out the answer you have been waiting for!

(10-16 points) You are Garfield :

You are very comfortable, easy going, and you definitely know how to have fun but sometimes you take it to an extreme. You always know what you are doing and you are always in control of your life. Others may not see things as you do, but that doesn't mean that you always have to do what is right. Try to remember, your happy spirit may hurt you or others.

(17-23 points) You are Snoopy:

You are fun, you are very cool and popular. You always know what's in and you are never are out of style You are good at knowing how to satisfy everyone else. You have probably disappeared for a few days more than once but you always come home with the family values that you learned Being married and having children are important to you, but only after you have had your share of fun times

(24-28 points) You are Elmo:

You have lots of friends and you are also popular, always willing to give advice and help out a person in need. You are very optimistic and you always see the bright side of things. Some good advice: try not to be too much of a dreamer. Dreaming too big could cause many conflicts in your life.

(29-35 points) You are Sponge Bob Square Pants:

You are the classic person that everyone loves. You are the best friend that anyone could ever have and never wants to lose. You never cause harm to anyone and they would never not understand your feelings. Life is a journey, it's funny and calm for the most part. Stay away from traitors and jealous people, and you will be stress free.

(36-43 points) You are Charlie Brown:

You are tender, you fall in love quickly but you are also very serious about all relationships. You are a family person. You call your Mom every Sunday. You have many friends and may occasionally forget a few Birthdays. Don't let your passion confuse you with reality.

(44-50 points) You are Dexter:

You are smart and definitely a thinker... Every situation is fronted with a plan. You have a brilliant mind. You demonstrate very strong family principles. You maintain a stable routine but never ignore a bad situation when it comes. Try to do less over thinking every once in a while to spice things up a bit with spontaneity!