Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Research Assistant for Bizarre Questions

I think I mentioned that I'm doing a personal challenge within a group, that challenges each of us to post every day for 30 days.  I've completely "failed" at this challenge, but I'm ok with that.  I posted for the first nine days. I then missed the next ten days due to a crazy work schedule, family visiting, and then getting sick as a result of trying to combine work and family at the same time.  I am going to try to post until the end of the month though!

The organizer of this group is Julie, who's blog is entitled 3 Chickens and a Boat.

Today she wrote the following at the end of her blog.
"So, my simple question to you today… what is it you are good at?  What do you do BEST? If you could spend your day DOING anything, what would it be and how can you build THAT one nugget into a business that you love?"
Here's what I am really good at. I know how to find info, and where to look for it.  If I am given a question that somebody can't find the answer to, I can find the answer.  Even if I know very little about the topic in the first place.

I love looking up information so much that if I were to ever go back to school, I think I would pursue a Masters of Library and Information Science.

I do use this skill quite a bit while doing taxes.  There is always something new, whether it be a new policy change, or a new client with circumstances that are just slightly different than the norm.  I am easily able to research and find the information that I need.

I love helping people by being able to find obscure information! I might never think to ask the questions that others do, but once they let me know they are stuck, I can find the answers!  I wonder how I can market this skill in and of itself though?  Obscure Information Finder For Hire? Research Assistant for Bizarre Questions? Is this even a marketable skill??

This is a picture of me while on holidays this summer. Exploring the books at a restaurant! 

On a side note, when I was pregnant with our second son, we met with the doctors from Sick Kids, Before our first meeting with the doctors, I had emailed a list of things to discuss including some groundbreaking new experimental treatment methods, The doctors (who were great) were not aware of these new methods.  It was only because of my research that the team looked into it for us and the potential of being part of this new treatment became part of our plan. It included flying us to the States for treatment, and our doctor worked out all the details for us, including the funding for us to go to and stay in the States during the treatment.

As a kid, I used to read the vintage books with vigour learning random things. In high school, I remember both using micro-fiche, and also using the new Encyclopedia on CD that made research projects a breeze! And as an adult, I'm great at scouring government documents and StatsCanada tables for info.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Let's Get Blunt About Your Financial Affairs: Book Review

I recently won a copy of Let's Get Blunt About Your Financial Affairs, by Mark Goodfield, courtesy of a fairly new to me Canadian financial blog, Boomer and Echo.

The book itself is actually "A collection of the best blog posts from The Blunt Bean Counter". I now have another new to me Canadian financial blog to peruse!

The book has posts published in it for people in every stage of life or finances.

About half of the book talked about some really interesting-to-me topics, including dividing family assets, not just on a financial level, but including the psychology of how kids or other beneficiaries will feel about the equality or non equality of distribution of assets.

Although I don't want to think about when my parents pass away - I'm hoping not for another 25 years - he has some really good info about the duties of being an executor of an estate. Note: There are a lot of duties!! This is something that I've never done, and have not really thought about. Between my husband and I, we have 8 parents, due to our parents ask being divorced and remarried, and I'm sure we will be responsible for much of this when the time comes.

On that same line, one of the chapters in entitled "Memory Overload, Alzheimer's , and Death in the Digital World" reminds me to make sure to put together secure info that outlines all of our own assets, and all the account numbers and/or online passwords for important things to make sure that we both know all info, and can cancel accounts as needed. It's super creepy when Facebook notifies you of someone's birthday or that they are waiting for you to play your turn in a game when they have died!!

Topics on personal taxes, RRSP's,  RRIF's , tax implications of transferring property, and dealing with CRA, are some of the topics that I deal with regularly with my own clients as their tax preparer.
There were also some higher level topics that don't apply to most people, but if you need info on Estate Freezes, Family Trusts or Holding Companies, there are some great chapters with info on these topics.

This probably isn't a book I would have picked out on my own, but I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to read it. I will be keeping it as a reference book for the future, and I'll definitely be checking out more of Mark Goodfield's topics at his blog The Blunt Bean Counter.  If you are interested in any of the above topics, both the book and /or the blog might be a good read for you too.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Making a Leap: Reducing Employment Hours to Increase Self-Employment

Looking back to 2012, one of my goals was to increase my self-employment income to be more than 15% of my income for the year.  Three years later, I've surpassed this goal!  Although we aren't at the end of 2015 yet, I can estimate my numbers quite well.  There is a possibility that my self-employment income will be more than I have forecasted.

Primary job: (25 hours/week)
  • 2012: 79% of income
  •  2013: 75% of income
  •  2014: 80% of income
  •  2015: 70% of income 
Secondary job: (average of 5 hours/week)
  • 2012: 12% of income
  •  2013: 13% of income
  •  2014: 10% of income
  •  2015: 10% of income
Self -Employment:
  • 2012: 5% of income
  • 2013: 11% of income
  • 2014: 10% of income
  • 2015: 20% of income
Other Income:
  • 2012: 4% of income (Maternity Employment Insurance during January)

WOOT!! This year my NET self-employment income will be 20% of my total income.  I've grown business slowly, quite purposefully.  I havn't advertised due to fear of growing too fast, and not having time to allocate to new clients.  New clients currently come via word-of-mouth from current clients. 

I've been hesitant to reduce my hours at my primary job up until now, because it pays well, has employer paid RRSP contributions, and paid sick time. It also includes FULL medical benefits while working Part Time.  There are not many places where you can obtain medical benefits working part time!

I'm making a leap in 2016.  I've already discussed with my manager permanently reducing my hours at my primary job, probably starting in February.  I'm not reducing by much, but I will have an extra two days a month to have available for self-employment work, or a small amount of contract work elsewhere.  Maybe I'll even start blogging more or pursuing more within the social media world. I will probably even advertise my services a bit this year. In case you are wondering, I do Income Tax Preparation and E-Filing, Payroll, and some Bookkeeping.  I'm also open to new opportunities!

It's a big jump to do this, because reducing my hours means that I lose medical benefit coverage.  I'm earning enough in self-employment to both purchase medical benefits for my family, (medical benefits are EXPENSIVE), and to cover the wages for the number of hours that I'm decreasing by.

I'm excited to make these changes, and to leap into them in the New Year.

Ready to jump!  (Not really!) See my husband at the bottom? 1/2 way up Dorset Tower

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Beginnings Start With Deleting

I just joined a group where the goal is to blog every day in October. I havn't blogged in forever, and thought the challenge would be a good one for me.  I've never blogged daily.  Maybe it can be the beginnings of an awesome new habit.

I started this challenge not by writing, but by reading. I've been going through older posts and am deleting many that are no longer relevant to me or to readers. Actually, I've deleted MOST of the blog! With so few posts remaining, if I actually manage to blog daily for the month, by the end of the month it will end up being a large portion of the blog.

At the same time that I am deleting old posts, I am also "deleting" (getting rid of) many physical things in my house!

Last week, I purchased a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  I have finished reading the book, and have started by going through my clothes and linens.  I have donated 11 shopping bags worth of stuff, and had another shopping bag worth of paper recycling, and another of garbage. I've realized that I own a lot more clothing than I had thought that I did.

After getting rid of many things, I have now merged two dresser drawers worth of things into one.  I have moved my pants from the top of my closet into the now empty drawer. My linen closet looks organized and it doesn't explode with things trying to escape when it is opened.

Organized Drawer of Pants
My newly organized drawer of pants.

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Contest Winnings Totals

As a follow up to my post in July on my 2013 Contest Winnings at that point, I thought I should post the winnings for the rest of the year.

In July, I had won a total of $940 worth of prizes.

2013 Winnings (2nd Half of Year)

Google Nexus 7 Tablet x 2 (both my husband & I won one)  Kitkat Contest  Value $450
Google Play Codes from Kitkat Contest Value $30
$100 VISA Giftcard from Royal Bank Small Biz Twitter chat  Value $100
$100 Giftcard to Glamagirls from Tweenhood  Value $100
2 Books Muse & Secret Shared from @BookaliciousCA Value $30
$10 iTunes Giftcard from @PTPA  Value $10

2nd Half of Year Total: $710

Total for 2013: $1650

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trip to Washington, DC - Tips from a Canadian

Last week we travelled to the Washington DC area from Southern Ontario, Canada.  We crossed the border in Buffalo, NY.  Here are my tips and tricks:

1) Take the scenic highways.  We took scenic highways on the way down, and some of the interstate highways on the way home.  The scenic highways, particularly those in Pennsylvania were absolutely gorgeous.  Travelling through the mountains is a must!  However, I wouldn't advise this trip for winter, as the slopes on some of the roads were crazy steep, and very well could be treacherous for inexperienced drivers in the winter. 

2) Stay outside of DC.  Accomodation within DC is extremely expensive, and still not cheap on the outskirts.  We stayed in Silver Springs one night, and in Bethesda for three nights.  Both are on the metro (subway) line, which makes downtown DC easily accessible.  We used Hotwire to book our hotels.

3) Take the Metro (Subway).  Don't attempt driving to any of the tourist sites.  Traffic is ridiculous.  Take the metro instead!  Buy a Metro card for $2.00, (the website says $5, but it changed to $2 in October) and put some money on it.  If you don't buy a card, every time you use a paper pass it costs $1 more than the fare using the card. The subway system was easy to use, especially when using Google maps for directions.  There are day passes available for the Metro, but unless you are travelling to many places in one day, I don't think it would be cheaper.  They are $14.00/day.  We did have someone pass us a couple day passes they were done with when we were putting money on our Metro card, and when we were done with them for the day, passed them on to someone else who was putting money on their card.

4) Smithsonian Museums.  Go to a couple of the Smithsonian museums.  Although accommodation is expensive as mentioned above, once you are there, being a tourist is inexpensive.  All the Smithsonian museums/galleries/zoo are FREE admission. 

5) Panera is better than Starbucks.  If you are looking for a good coffee, a bite to eat, and free wifi, head to a Panera.  It is a chain, that we do not have anywhere near us here in Canada.  The food was delicious, and everyone goes to use their wifi.  Nearly everyone had a laptop or tablet out while there.  I had a bearclaw, which is apparently an American pastry that I was not aware of.  I will buy one again!

We'll be heading back down next month for a couple days for a medical appointment, and I look forward to taking in a couple more Smithsonian museums, and having some delicious DC food.  We've kept our Metro cards, so we're all set!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Participating in Research Study at NIH for Urea Cycle Disorders

Note: i will add in some pictures later. My phone hasn't done a Google back up of the pictures I've taken yet.

Friday, November 8th would be our son Kyles second birthday. While being aggressively treated for Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency (OTC Deficiency), a urea cycle disorder, with the hopes of having him obtaining a liver transplant, he acquired an E Coli infection at the hospital. The infection was not caught in time, and in doing the treatment for the OTC, dialysis was performed, which in turn spread the infection throughout the entire body.

Last year at this time, we had a follow up appointment at the
hospital. I'm hopeful that in my participating, new things will be learned that will help future generations.

This year, at this same time, I am at the National Institute of Health (NIH), in the United States, participating as a research subject in a study called MINI. It stands for Metabolism, Infection and Immunity in Inborn Errors of Metabolism. They had started the study with only urea cycle disorder patients, but have opened it up to all patients with inborn errors of metabolism.

Here is a link for more information on the study.

We arrived on campus on Monday night. We were booked in to stay at Safra Family Lodge while here. It is directly across the road from the clinic hospital. It acts as a Ronald McDonald House for families of adult patients. It is a very beautiful building, with 34 bedrooms, large sitting areas, a grand piano in one of them, and a large communal kitchen for the families to use. There is another building next door to this one for families of child patients.

On Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at the house. They have free muffins, bagels, toast, fruit, tea, coffee and hot chocolate available, as well as a section that is "house" food available to anyone that is donated by people who are staying and have made to much, or packaged food from residents who are leaving. Residents are able to stay for up to a month.

We then walked across the road to the clinic. There is transportation provided for those who may not be able to walk over.

Admission took about 1/2 hour, and then we went up to the room I was assigned to. Met with the coordinator, went through medical history, had a quick physical exam, had bloodwork done, met the primary doctor in charge of the study. Had a quick lunch. Had a liver ultrasound, which I've never had done before. Apparently my liver looks fine. Then went to the physio/rehab dept where they had me do a number of exercises and strength tests. They only recently added this into the study, as they were finding that most of the subjects were very physically weak. They said I was only the 5th person in the study to do this portion. I had to run up and down 4 stairs (they have railings you can hold onto if needed), and they times it. They had me walk and run 10 meters and timed. Timed the length of time it takes to get from lying down to standing without using any aids like tables or chairs to hold onto. Timed on length of time to do a sit up. Interestingly, they were surprised I could do one at all because other subjects couldn't. And then they had a number of exercises/positions that they timed how long I could hold the position for. I could do them all, but could feel the muscles starting to shake by the end.  Also did some balance tests (not so great at those! Once my eyes were closed I started to tip!) They started to do a number of strength tests, but the one piece of equipment had the battery die, and I was too strong for the tech. We are going to redo these strength tests tomorrow to get more accurate readings.

I then left and went back to Safra house with my husband Mike and daughter Natasha. We ordered in some pizza, and then I walked back across the road around 8pm. Interestingly, as I was walking, there were 6 deer that pranced across the road in front of me! Apparently there are about 35 deer that live on the NIH campus.

Slept for the night, fasting after midnight in order to prep for a 24 hour chamber study that measures exact metabolic rate. Most people opt out of this part of the study, but I think that this is one of the more interesting facets, and am interested in finding out the results. The chamber is sealed, and is basically a bedroom, with TV, computer, treadmill, chair, bed, and washroom facilities. There is a small window facing outside, and a window that faces the nursing desk. Food comes in through a window. They open on one side, seal their side, and then you can open your side to take out the food or vice versa.

Tomorrow I do a body composition in a bodpod machine, and a dexa scan to measure bone density. I will finish the strength testing, have more bloodwork, get a hepatitis A shot, and meet with the geneticist for final results. It looks like I will come back in a couple of months for a bit more testing, and I will have my family doctor give me the second hep A shot. I'm interested to see what the final results will say.

For now, I have 21 more hours in this room. :)