Last Day at PEER Group

This Friday will mark my last day at a wonderful company — PEER Group. I’ve been at PEER Group for four wonderful years; it has been an incredible journey. Looking back, I have grown so much personally and professionally. I am a nicer person. A caring person. A patient person. All because that is the kind of co-workers, managers, leaders, and even customers that I have been exposed to.

I am moving to Shopify, to chase my dream of eCommerce. I have no idea if Shopify will be just as awesome; it’s a bigger company. The interviews and interviewers have been great, but one never knows.

I’ve been nervous about my transition but my current co-workers have been incredibly supportive. “You can always come back!” or “Don’t worry, you will love it.” or “Don’t worry, they will love you.” That is how amazing my co-workers are. They see it as a wonderful move for me and are encouraging me to go after my dreams.

The celebration of baptism

I had promised that I would get baptized when my Dad would come to Canada. It has been nearly a year, and I am still not baptized. I have not even talked to our Pastor about it.

I really want to get baptized. My belief in God is undeniable. I believe in the way the Christ has shown us. I believe that God gave his only son to save us. There are a couple of theories that I disagree with, but for the most part, I am good.

What I now struggle with is baptism. The whole process of it is too beureaucratic. You got to meet the Pastor. A committee decides if you are fit to be baptized. You need to then announce/pick a date, and presumably invite people to it. You have to write some kind of testimony showing your conviction.

Can you imagine doing all of that in time of Christ? That you have to book a date and time to get baptized?

It would be neat if baptism was something you did unannounced. Where the pastor just went up, “Does anyone want to get baptized today?” or “We are going to be baptizing now. Please come up if you would like to get baptized.” Why does it have to be scheduled? Why do people have to approve? Why ask questions? It’s one thing to inform people on what baptism is, and entirely something else to confirm their understanding of what baptism. Why is there a need for a testimony? Why do I have to offer testimony to people, when baptism is something so personal…something between me and God. I suppose I don’t like the community affair it has become.

Let me be clear, I am not opposed to anyone witnessing my baptism. I just don’t want the ceremonial or celebratory parts of it. (This despite the fact that I like to plan things.) It feels unnatural. I don’t understand why baptisms are not offered openly. We are asked to walk with Christ openly, but when it comes to baptism…it’s turned into process where people have to “make sure”…ugh.

Financial Review – May 2015

We spent around $10,300 in the month of May. It was slightly higher because we had to put a deposit down for the kids’ school in the fall. Yep, we decided to send them both to a private Christian school, at least for the early years.

Breakdown of Expenses

  • Child care and education – 34%
  • Mortgage – 27%
  • Groceries – 13%
  • Home Maintenance – 10%
  • Utilities – 5%
  • Auto – 3%
  • Other, including clothing, toys, phone, charity, insurance, eating out and other discretionary spending – 8%

Reduced Eating Out
We have greatly improved how much we spend on eating out. Looking at last year, where we average $300+ a month, we are now down to $130. This is not even lunches at work, it’s usually now one single family outing where we are usually giving someone else a treat as well. We are well on our track to be under $3000/year for eating out.

Reduce Groceries
May last year we spent above $1800 on groceries for the month. Now we are down to $1300 — well on our way of our yearly goal of under $18,000. I am still learning to buy less since my brother in law has moved out. We are just not consuming as much.

Increased House Maintenance
We have spent a significant amount for the vegetable garden and yard work. House maintenance is over $1000 for us. We also purchased a weed eater…there are a lot of weeds in that backyard! I don’t anticipate house maintenance to go down, especially given that we still have to rip apart our deck to fix a foundation crack, and then re-do the deck.

Income

Tax Refund
We received our tax refund this month which added a substantial amount to our income, since we contributed a large amount to our RRSPs. We finally managed to catch up on RESPs and are on track to maxing out the benefit for the kids by the age of 15.

CPP, EI Maxing out
Payroll taxes are slowly going towards being maxed out, which means more take home income! The end of the year is so much more fun than the beginning!

Performance Reviews

There was a time I enjoyed doing performance reviews. It was a time to reflect on past and future goals, to measure progress, to give and receive feedback.

Not so anymore.

Our performance reviews are coming up and I have little motivation to do them. I specifically chose to work at a place with little office politics; everything is very systematic. Performance reviews seem to be for the specific scenarios of very exceptional cases when there are serious problems, which should be dealt with in other ways anyway.

Self-assessment is always a fun problem. It’s unlikely that your manager is going to mark you higher than what you have marked you. And marking yourself higher than what your manager would, well, that’s an interesting game. Self-assessment is more “assessing myself as if I was the manager.” Which is not a bad idea, however, the fact that you have to share your answers can lead to some awkward moments. Sharing the manager’s feedback is important, however, sharing a self-assessment seems so personal.

I once had a co-worker who went ahead and marked himself as “Exceptional” in every category (versus ‘On Target’ or ‘Above Average’). I was made privy to that performance review; my boss ultimately rated the guy ‘Needs Improvement’ in nearly every category. Imagine how that review must have gone in person.

CIC has been doing background checks on my dad’s file for two years.

I am one of them immigrants-turned-citizens who has sponsored her dad to come live in the country with me. My dad is a healthy, 54 year old man (when I sponsored him he was 49). My mother and sister are both already well-established in Canada; it’s just my dad who is waiting.

I applied as a single working permanent-resident in February 2009. I am now a citizen, married, working mother of two (a 5 year old and a 4 year old), and we’re planning on our third child (and possibly fourth!) through local adoption.

In January 2012, the Mississauga office finally approved my application to sponsor. At the Mississauga office they confirm the eligibility of the application, make sure you have enough funds to sponsor and sustain those who you sponsored.

In April 2012, we heard good news – they requested medicals and police certificates. That’s great progress! We sent them on our way, and by July 2012 we had sent all the police certificates.

In August 2012, we got ANOTHER request for police certificates. This was weird. We asked for GCMS notes which are basically intake notes of everything they are doing with the application. The GCMS notes clearly indicated that they received the police certificates. What the heck was going on?

So I contacted our MP asking her what’s going on. After faxing some consent forms, etc. she got on the phone with the local CIC office (which we tax payers have no access to) and they claimed that they don’t have the police certificates. So I pointed out the section in THEIR notes which clearly indicate that they received the certificates; we sent them tracking numbers of the documents that were mailed to them; we also sent them photocopies of everything that we had sent originals of.

A week later, the MP updates me and said that CIC’s letter to us was misleading. They have all the police certificates except the one from UAE.

…Except that UAE doesn’t issue police certificates. We had sent in police certificates for Dubai, which is an Emirate (effectively a province/state) in UAE. CIC’s own website says that they accept a police certificate from just the Emirate and don’t need a federal one (as that is non-existant). So I asked to let them know that Dubai is part of UAE and their own procedure says to submit a clearance from just any of the Emirates.

Ugh.

In October 2012, the MP notified me that the application is actually going to be moved (the CIC officer didn’t like being informed about geography or their own rules, I guess?), since my dad is an Indian citizen (he resides in the US). It was going to be moved from the Ottawa office to the New Delhi office. This was slightly annoying given that they had just moved to the Ottawa office from the Buffalo office, after the Buffalo office was closed down.

In November 2012, we were notified that the file had reached the Delhi office. New Delhi office, unlike the North American offices, requires a proof of relationship. So now began the process of me sending my birth certificates which had my dad’s name, report cards from school which may have had my dad’s name…anything and everything that had my dad’s name and my name on it.

In March 2013, the medicals that we had sent the previous year expired. You can’t “pre-send” medicals until they request them again, so we just had to wait. The MP from our local office contacted the CIC office again and they said that everything is good and they are running background checks.

In May 2013, they finally requested proof of my relationship to my dad. We sent it.

In August 2014, they asked for medicals since the previous ones expired. We did new ones and sent them again.

In November 2014, we were asked for FBI clearances again. So we sent those. You see, police certificates are requested when you are close to being accepted. They make sure they have the most updated record of these to make sure you haven’t committed a crime recently or something. But by the time they actually get to review the application, they become too outdated…

Now it’s February 2015. Two years ago they began running background checks on my dad. And today, our MP called CIC for an update, and this is what the email said (from my MP to me):

With regard to your father’s PR application, I spoke to CIC. They said eligibility was pass on September 5, 2014, background checks are still in progress and medicals are valid until September 2015.

Yep, they began these background checks in March 2013. And they are still running them.

Just tell me who to bribe, seriously.

The importance of giving compliments freely

Last week, I indicated that a co-worker and I were on two different sides of the coin: I wanted Plan A and he wanted Plan B. We tried the “compromise” and it epic failed. Now it was time to pick one. Another co-worker suggested trying out each others shoes. Now it was time to make a decision.

I, and everyone in that room, was pleasantly surprised that no swords were pulled out during the discussion. We were apparently both professional, logical; we discussed needs versus preferences. We never went personal.

It went so well, that after the meeting an email was sent to our CEO, HR, VP, and Director complimenting us on our behaviour. It’s rare to see technical arguments that don’t end up heated or personal, apparently.

This is the first time I’ve been given a compliment on my professionalism. No one has ever said that. This comes at a time where I believe little in myself or my ability to control emotions. I was shocked.

For me, it was easy to not get personal: I already trust my co-worker (who I was in disagreement with) and have zero doubts about his priorities or competency. He is highly competent. I have a great deal of respect for him. Getting personal was never an option. The only option was to understand him and his position, and try and figure out why he couldn’t see my side 🙂 So it was always about that, about listening, understanding, and explaining. And it worked well.

Woohoo!

Trying out the shoes of another

We are developing a new product at work and have the pleasure of choosing the technologies we want to work with. Having worked with only legacy code before, these choices is quite an exciting endeavor. But of course, with choices come preferences, and with preferences come debates…

We are using MVC for server side and AngularJS for client side. Except I am finding that AngularJS and MVC conflict more than they work together. They compete rather than complement. The more and more I work with AngularJS, the more frustrating I find it to be — it’s way more of an application than it is a toolkit!

Suppose I want to present the user with a list of items, and I want them to be searchable client-side. AngularJS requires me to create a controller, retrieve the model via an API, and then all this functionality of filtering, etc. is free to me. However, suppose I wanted to use MVC because we’re using Display Templates extensively to keep consistent how we show a user on every page (with an icon and a link? who knows)…well, now its pretty hard to use AngularJS. You’ve got to use some sort of ng-init hacks. It’s kind of silly.

I am convinced that we are not using AngularJS the way it was designed to be used; AngularJS seems to be oriented for single-page-applications and we are not developing one and we’ve already decided that we don’t want to.  However, a co-worker disagrees….

The beautiful part from all of this is how civil our disagreements are. I know that the interactivity that AngularJS brings us leads to a much more beautiful UI and even better UX. Either there was a realization that it’s not AngularJS that brings us all those things but instead just plain ol’ Javascript; or they were just really civil. The discussions were just that: discussions. They weren’t an argument. They were very civil.

In the end when we couldn’t reach an agreement, a mediator suggested that we both try to implement a small subset of our code with the way other wants to do it to understand the benefits the other is trying to explain…

At a previous work place, it would’ve been a heated debate with probably some name calling hidden behind some awkward laughter. It’s great to be out of such a toxic environment and into a healthy one.

Are you grateful for Judas Iscariot?

Ah. I love my bible study group. I love meeting with them. They are such great people who are always ready to hear me out, to listen to my doubts, and share that they too, sometimes wonder. It’s good to know that we are all in this search together.

We are studying gratitude in our Bible study group, and this week the focus was on Jonah 3-4. I didn’t really know much of the story around Jonah; I had heard something about a whale. Jonah 3-4 shows, among other things, Jonah’s discontent at being God’s prophet, his lack of appreciation of life, and his anger at God for forgiving others.

Jonah is angry with God for being merciful and forgiving; he doesn’t want God to forgive others. He wants God to be fair.

I think the book of Jonah carries some undertones about judgement. Who is Jonah to pass judgement unto others and seek revenge? When someone hurts you, is it really you’ve they hurt or is it God, whose work you are, that they’ve hurt?

It reminded me of Judas Iscariot. As my Pastor put it, Judas is the punching bag of Christianity. It is so easy to dislike him; but it is so important to feel compassion for him. To pray for him. What a terrible burden it is to carry that your folly cost the life of the saviour! It’s saddening that we can forgive someone who denied Jesus not once, but three times; but not one who revealed his location…! It is saddening that he is forgotten as a disciple and remembered only as a betrayer.

Judas was hand-picked by Jesus himself, just as the other disciples. He was part of God’s plan. Jesus never showed him disdain, so why should we? If the death of Jesus is so important to our salvation, so is Judas’ betrayal. So the question begs, are you grateful for him? Are you grateful for his betrayal? Are you grateful that someone did the dirty work for you?

 

“I didn’t think you could ever be depressed.”

My friend shared an article about a Quebec mother who killed her kids and who now wants to starve to death. I haven’t actually read the article, the headline already gut-wrenching.

My friend felt anger towards the mother, anger that she gave her kids no chance. Three young kids. Dead. No chance.

I shared how I also felt sadness for the mother; who knows what kind of mental illness she has, who knows what she was going through. Depression is a very real, and scary thing. It scares me that prescriptions for it tend to have the side effect: depression (make it worse, yay!) and death (suicide). How can they ever prescribe this stuff?!

I’ve dealt with attempting suicide, talking to counselors, being hopeless, being overwhelmed. I get how that woman is feeling. I remember feeling at those moments how I am an awful person for bringing these little angels into the world. The only difference is while these people felt that it would be better for the kids if they were dead too…I am incapable of harming my kids and that because I want them to have a better life, I must live. The thought of my kids growing up with a mother who committed suicide…that’s rough. That’s teaching them from a young age that there are emotions that they absolutely won’t be able to deal with it…that that runs in their blood.

I can’t have them thinking that. I have to give them a chance at a better life, because I know they can have it. I know it’s possible to have it, and I will at least try to give them that.

My friend was shocked that I had been depressed, ever. He thought I would be incapable 🙂 Apparently I am an overly happy person (he thought I was always just high on sugar or something!).

2015 Financial Goals and Outlook

Goals

Reduce eating out to $3000 year
Last year we reduced this to $3800 – and this year I am hoping to trim it further to $3000 year. It may be a little harder now that are kids actually eat at restaurants, but we are hoping for less outings, and more time at home.

Actually reduce groceries to $18,000 year
I missed this goal by a small amount last year, but am hoping to reach it this year. My brother in law is probably going to move out this year, but we are planning to adopt this year (process finalized!), and are expecting an increase of 1 or 2 kids. I am anticipating costs of formula for a newborn, and diapers etc no matter what. So we’ll see!

Contribute $2500 to kids RESPs (per kid)
I hope to continue this from the previous year, until we max out the Canada Education Savings Grant – which works out to some 14.7 years or so of contributions.

Contribute $22,000 to RRSPs
Not expecting CPP or OAS to actually be around by the time we retire, I am hoping to create self-sufficient retirement accounts. I hope that we are able to continue contributing to our RRSPs despite the fact that neither of our companies offer RRSP matching.

Increase mortgage payments to $1350
This is a new perpetual goal I am adding — I’d like to be able to increase my mortgage payments on an annual basis. I really, really want to be able to pay off the mortgage in 10 years. Way better than 17. We are hoping with our lump-sump contributions and an increase in payments, this dream can be a reality.

Contribute $7,000 to mortgage pre-payment
This would be great and inline with the dream to pay off the mortgage before I am 40 🙂

Outlook

Addition to the family
I am expecting a financially challenging this year, especially if we do end up with an adoptive child. An adoptive child means 7 months of no work (and EI pay only) followed by nanny costs.

An adoptive child also means the baby costs of diaper, wipes, etc. are back. If it’s a girl there are no worries about clothes, but a boy would mean..well, either the baby boy is wearing a lot of pink or we are heading to the thrift store again.

Expected house repairs
House repairs could also be a big cost, especially if we decide to do the deck again. We also have to repair a water-damaged ceiling in our house, so plenty of renovation expenses. I am not expecting any surprising car expenses this year given that they have brand new tires on both and were maintained recently. Lower gas costs should also help the car budget.

Increased vacation costs
Vacation costs should see a dramatic increase as the family cottage that we used to go to will double or triple in costs. Now with a family of 17, we are splitting a rather luxurious cottage. However, I may skimp on camping this year given the extended cottage vacation….but at the same time, I am longing for family time with just the four of us, so that my creep up as a cost somewhere. I am also expecting to fly down to California to visit my nephew, so that will be a cost somewhere. Overall, I am expecting my vacation budget to more than double from $1700 to near $3500.

We may have to dip in some savings this year, but it’s difficult to say until we know whether or not we are getting a child — a lot of decisions hinge on that one!