Category: Lifestyle

Feeling inspired, literally.

I don’t post nearly enough on here nowadays. My excuse is still Theia; it’s not that she doesn’t like me typing on this computer, it’s more she wants to join in, and that is very tricky. She has already managed to remove the Ctrl key from my laptop keyboard, in exactly the same manner as Big Sister did at around the same age. Groan.

I am on a personal mission to take my writing a bit more seriously at the moment. I have always written things, be it these blogs, a decade of Nanowrimo novels, slam poetry or even academic papers, and for the most part I really enjoy it. I don’t think I am a terrible writer, but as with anything, it always needs practice.

The hopeless, degrading and depressing job hunt continues and I loathe it. So far I have applied for 22 jobs, which has resulted in just 3 interviews and zero job offers. One did say I was overqualified, which is a double-edged compliment I suppose. But I am running out of job vacancies that I actually want to apply for now, meaning I am reduced to applying out of desperation. And that is counter-productive as well as depressing. I went for a rather-obscure publisher’s job at a magazine, interviewed and “came second”… and then I applied for an admin position at the Writers’ Guild that sounded really positive and hopeful at the interview, but I didn’t get that either. They didn’t say why and I was too disappointed to ask. Both would have involved some Professional Writing though, which would have been wonderful.

I have a friend here “pre-reading” the book I wrote, and another friend of mine is currently editing it from the safe distance of the UK. It’s an entrepreneurial memoir, about my ten years of misadventures in the world of coffee and starting my businesses. (check it out here) I wrote the first draft during Nanowrimo in 2015 and I don’t hate it. Therefore I’ve been (very slowly) typing it all up ever since and have even sent off queries and book proposals to a few publishers. The sort of publishers that say “wait 6-8 months for a response.” So, right now, no news is good new: no one has rejected it yet.

I am trying the traditional publishing route mainly because I value what I’ve written enough to actually want to see it edited by a professional – and there’s no way I could pay to have to done properly otherwise, sadly. I also don’t have the time, the resources nor the skills necessary to self-publish and promote the book myself. In my (limited) experience so far with my coffee books, marketing the things is harder work than writing them, If you self-publish, you can get the book on Amazon quite easily. But from there, it is very, very rare to find paperback editions on the shelves in traditional book stores. And I much, much prefer Actual Book Browsing for Actual Tangible Books in an Actual Physical book shop. I don’t think I am alone in that particular pleasure.

Of course, there aren’t many book shops in Regina. There’s a specialist, antiquarian book store which you really have to know is there. There’s apparently and independent place too, but its so far up in the north end that I have no hope of ever getting up there. And then of course, there’s Chapters. Which I like, but it has Starbucks in it, and so all is lost.

HMMMM…. anybody else thinking what I’m thinking?

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WATCH. THIS. SPACE.

Lost

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Feeling a bit hopeless right now. I haven’t posted about all the recent politics because I can’t think how to articulate my incredulity in any way that hasn’t been written a thousand times already. Brexit was bad enough… Trump is just unbelievable. Carl and I sat up watching the US election (alternating between BBC, CBC and Twitter, for ‘balance’) until it was clear that Hillary was not going to win; it was about 1am when we finally gave up and went to bed despairing of the world.  At the time I was angry and raging sarcastically online, but the next day I seemed to get a sort of political hangover. I didn’t want to do anything, couldn’t face going online in case there were still Trumpanzees on my Twitter feed, but couldn’t summon the motivation to go out and do anything else. I met up with friends and took the kids to the park and it seemed like we all felt the same, just numbed by the whole thing.

I can’t blame this entire malaise on Trump though. I am in a low spot for lots of reasons right now – maybe it’s the weather? (For the record, no snow yet..). It’s all about Uncertainty and not being in control of various aspects of my life at the moment, and I am never very good at handling that.

My ‘maternity leave’ (not that I actually took any) officially finished 6 months ago, and since then, I have had some actual leave in that I haven’t been doing any work that warrants a salary. Strangely enough, this isn’t sustainable for very much longer, as we are living paycheque-to-paycheque and struggling.  Theia will be 18 months old at the end of January, which means she can go to daycare then, IF we can afford it, and IF I have a job that requires childcare. That is extremely difficult to engineer though, because I not only have to find a job, I have to find a job at a time that coincides with when the daycare has space for her, AND that job has to pay me enough to make it worth me paying the daycare fees for. This isn’t as hopeless as it was in the UK when I found myself in the same position with Miranda – even a full-time minimum wage job here would net enough to cover daycare costs and spare me about $500 a month – which would certainly help right now. (As opposed to the UK where full time daycare would have cost me more than my entire month’s salary after tax)  But, I like to believe I am an adult now, I shouldn’t really be looking at minimum wage positions, and I don’t want to go to work just to have half to two-thirds of my earnings go towards paying someone else to raise my child.

To this end, I have applied for ten other “grown up” jobs, most of which I think I would actually enjoy doing too, and all of which, on paper at least, I had the qualifications for. I haven’t heard back from a single one of them. I can blame the economy or the time of year, but I think a large part of it is my resume. It  must be fairly obvious that I don’t know what I want to do with myself, and I honestly don’t right now, but that is not the same thing as saying ‘I DON’T want to work’, I just don’t know what work I want to do! Also, I am back to the overqualified problem. Turns out, the only thing worse than putting “obscure Arts PhD” on your resume, is putting “nearly a decade of self-employment” (NB: I am paraphrasing here). Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur… but one who still has to pay the bills.

Through the cafe in its various forms, and Wheelie Good Coffee on the market, I have basically put myself through an MBA only without the certificate at the end. At risk of immodesty, building a business from scratch with no money in a country you’ve only lived in for 2 years really takes some doing: it’s all problem-solving, multi-tasking, design, research, fundraising, communications, networking, social media, marketing, leadership skills, HR, business development, even financial wizardry (YOU GUYS I DID A BUSINESS TAX RETURN ALL BY MYSELF!!!) I guess the trick is to make it look like I can apply all these skills to things other than coffee. I know I’m capable, but there’s a fair chance prospective employers will just give preference to someone with more direct experience.

In the absence of any employment offers, my other hopes are that I/we can continue with the cafe in some form – that is, I work out a way I can return to work on/in it and pay myself enough to live off. Owning and running a coffee shop has always been my dream – and I achieved it. What I didn’t manage/haven’t managed yet is living my dream and making a living from my dream. ‘Ay, there’s the rub.’

In an ideal world I’d pick it up and move the whole endeavor to a better and cheaper location. And I would love to try and incorporate a bookshop. But I need the funds to do that, and I don’t have them. Even if I can raise some investment somehow, I lack the confidence now to know if I should even be considering this as an option. Is it too much of a financial risk, and should I concentrate on finding an actual employer instead? Somehow, all of this is so stressful that I haven’t got the mental energy to make that decision, let alone get on with doing something about it. I am exhausted.

Also, I wrote a book. An actual, 70,000 word, non-silly, zombie-free memoir sort of thing about coffee and about the whole entrepreneurial experience. For once, I’ve taken my writing seriously enough to have planned out a structure and storyline, and I don’t hate what I wrote! I have spent this year’s Nanowrimo trying to edit it properly. I even approached a couple of publishers and wrote a proper book proposal. Unfortunately, the publishers’ websites say things like “Please allow six months for a response”. So I don’t know whether its worth prioritising the editing over fruitless job-hunting when I get fed up, in the event that it gets rejected over and over and over after months of waiting.

So. The end of the year is looming, and the future is highly uncertain. I am lost, and in need of inspiration, something to boost me in the right direction again.

Something will turn up. It always does.

A new season.

I sound so clichéd saying this is my favourite time of year…

If you say “pumpkin spice latte” into a mirror 3 times, a white girl in yoga pants appears and tells you all the things she loves about fall.

Regina is looking stunningly beautiful with the sun out and the leaves falling – Instagram-worthy, I’m sure. The mosquitos have returned to whatever realm of evil from whence they came, I don’t have to argue with Theia about the wearing of the dreaded sun hat, and Miranda has started full time school!

I had the summer “off” – that is, the cafe is now safe in the hands of Sheri and whereas I am still involved, it no longer takes up every waking moment. However, with no school and no routine, the past few months were actually busier than ‘normal’! I had to find something that would amuse both the small beastlings every day, and that proved difficult given that everything had to be organised around Theia’s nap times, and Miri’s tendancy to turn the TV on every second she’s in the house. Nevertheless, we packed a lot in to the school holiday; it felt like we managed a million different playdates but we still didn’t actually contact half of her classmates despite promises of meeting up over the summer. Carl and I took the kids camping for the first time in our enormous tent down to Buffalo Pound – Miranda had a fantastic time and enjoyed even the most uncomfortable parts (it was me having the tantrum when we parked in the middle of a swarm of mosquitos, she was fine!)

She also mastered her bicycle which was a Momentous Achievement (especially since it meant that I didn’t have to try and pedal with both of them!). We had library trips and park trips and swimming and museum outings and so on. I started (finally!) doing the market with the Wheelie Good Coffee again and Miri has pedaled alongside me all the way to the plaza. I am so proud!

But the days are getting shorter and cooler, the trees are already gold, and during the day it is just Theia and I. A vague routine has been established (barring cafe-related emergencies) and I now manage to go for long walks or bike rides in the vain hope of getting her to sleep. It has been perfect Stomping weather recently! Crisp, clear and colourful.

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Last week was the official Grand Launch of the cafe in its new form, and it coincided with the Downtown Business Improvement District’s ‘Park(ing)’ day. Park(ing) days are now a nationwide thing, where we were encouraged to reclaim the parking space outside the cafe and turn it into some sort of Park. We actually reversed it, covered the step outside the cafe in flowers and bikes (and my Wheelie cart) and had that as a park, and then filled the parking space with armchairs and bookshelves and lamps and made a ‘reading room’ outside:


The day was a massive success for the cafe, and hopefully for the Downtown BID as well. I sat in an armchair in the middle of 11th Ave with my coffee, Theia snoozed in the sun, and I stared at the big shiny office block that I escaped 18 months ago. I am hopelessly broke right now and dreading the Job Hunt, but I have no regrets about quitting that job whatsoever!

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Returning to work after mat leave – easy, right?

I’m sure at least some of you are aware, the answer to that question is a resounding NOPE! As such, I could use some help from any local folk who happen to be reading this. I’ve recently decided to look for work again after a very long period of self-employment followed by some maternity leave. I am still involved with my coffee business but unfortunately I am no longer in a position to be able to work there full time. With the added financial pressures and responsibilities of looking after a toddler and a six-year-old, I am also looking for a degree of stability that I cannot get from entrepreneurship.

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As I dive into the job search in Regina again, I’d love it if you could keep your eyes open for people I could connect with and positions that might be a fit for me. Below is a bit about my background and what I’m looking for, and if anything related comes to you please keep me in mind!

My Background

  • As a serial entrepreneur, my self-employed experience spans the last decade; I have opened two coffee shops – one in the UK and one here in Regina, I also had a mobile coffee van in the UK and I currently run a coffee cart business using my bicycle on Regina Farmers’ Market.
  • With over 12 years experience in small business development, I’m looking to translate those skills into project management in the creative industries.
  • My biggest strengths are my creativity, and my research and communications skills that I developed during my social science PhD.

What I’m Looking For

  • A full time, (salaried) and challenging position in a creative environment where I am encouraged to use my initiative.
  • Project management, communications, marketing, and anything that involves writing.
  • Some flexibility with work hours would be wonderful!

My Humble Request:

  • Even if nothing comes to mind at the moment, I would be grateful if you could keep your eyes and ears open, and even forward this message to any companies you hear may be looking to hire, or who could benefit from my rather unique skill set.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for keeping me on your radar!

Home

Holy frijoles, three months since my last post? Oo eck, better get typing.

This is a bittersweet post because I have lots of things to be cheerful about and one big thing that is making me miserable. Let’s dwell on the positive for now!

Here is the positive:

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We bought a house!

I even mentioned it as a remote possibility in my last post – the permanent residency approval meant we were finally eligible for a mortgage. We had actually seen the house up for sale at Christmas when The Parents were here (for they are the sort who casually look up house prices “just to check”) but at the time we assumed it was all in the realm of fantasy. By the end of March, with residency approved, we discovered that not only was the house still on the market, it had also been reduced by $20,000. After consultations about help with the deposit with my wonderful and very generous parents, we put in an offer for another $10k less, and incredibly it was accepted the same day! The house was empty anyway and of course we had no property of our own to sell, so the sale went through very quickly and we actually completed and took possession within 3 weeks of putting the offer in! Naturally though, (and seemingly just because this involved me) there were quite a few last-minute bureaucratic tangles to deal with, and physically moving our stuff with two kids was an absolute nightmare. Theia has learned to crawl, and is close to walking now too. She got in Every Single Box as we packed. Ugh. Exhausting. But, we are in!

The house is blue and seemingly bigger on this inside, therefore, it is a Tardis house. There is more than enough room for The Parents to visit and stay long term, and we could even lock them comfortably in the attic if needs be. There are plenty of odd and unusual features like a full bathroom with claw-footed bath inexplicably plumbed into the unfinished basement to keep me amused. But best of all, it is only 3 blocks away from where we used to be, and so we are still in Cathedral (the bestest neighbourhood in town!)

It is my favourite time of year again, Cathedral Village Arts Festival time! This year Miranda did not go to bed before 9.30pm on any night of the week. We fitted in parading and picnicking and painting a cardboard version of our house on the Monday (the library took a very literal interpretation of this year’s theme, “paint the town”!), then saw some children’s theatre. Tuesday was a drunken poetry slam where I rhymed and ranted about daughters of feminists, we won sci-fi books at Wednesday’s Towel Day costume contest (I dressed as Slarty Bartfast, complete with beard), Thursday was a clown show and Miranda is now in love with all things Clown which is a little scary, and Friday was the 25th arts festival anniversary special show, featuring Taiko drumming and lifesized rapping Grandma puppets (and plenty more that we missed because of Bedtime). I dared to actually take a day off from the cafe on Saturday because I assumed all my regular customers would be at the Cathedral street fair. I think I was right. It was PACKED as usual, but actually more pleasant because it wasn’t so uncomfortably hot as last year. I had volunteered with Miri’s daycare helping out on their facepainting stall, and we had half-hour waits and line ups all day. Then it rained and I got utterly drenched. We saw some bands in the evening, had beers, much silliness ensued. Good times.

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We ran into my friend Barbara, this year’s chair of the festival several times during the week and she kept saying that it was nice to see us at so many events. Another friend commented that I seemed to know so many people there and always knew what was going on when. I don’t think of these things as unusual. I love having such a huge festival on my doorstep and it would be a shame not to make the most of it. And I know a lot of people here because they are a very friendly, welcoming lot and I do my best to get to know the neighbours – (not something I felt I’d ever want or be able to do in Darlington!). We have legitimized it by buying a piece of it, but this city and particularly this neighbourhood rapidly became our home and we are very, very happy to be here!

The significance of yellow boots

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

I don’t often give my dreams much thought, other than when helpful friends point out the screamingly obvious – teeth falling out dreams meaning insecurity and so on. (Thanks Andie!) However, I think recurring patterns and one very vivid recent dream have some poignancy. The other night I dreamt about riding a motorbike. I did used to ride, but never got my full license. In the dream, I knew it had been a long time but that I could ride if I tried hard. Except for some reason, I was chasing something down a hill on a huge yellow motorcycle, whilst wearing my yellow Doc Marten boots but I was sat on the bike the wrong way. My feet could just reach the pedal, but I couldn’t really see where I was going. Yet, I was swerving around successfully and just about navigating, but I did not feel at all safe. Someone else passed me on a bike also wearing yellow boots and I knew I could catch them up if only I could turn round and see the road, but I couldn’t. And I still didn’t know what it was I was supposed to be chasing.

An odd metaphor for my present situation, I believe. I know I can make this business work, I have done so before, but I am out of practice, and there are various factors outside of my control. I have to go on despite not being able to see where it is all headed, and I am also consciously aware of competition – the folks who are sat on the bike the right way round! A quick google reveals that yellow is the colour of intellectual design and of awareness and identity. Make of this what you will, dear reader.

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Cloak of Invisibility

It is December, and right up until last week, I was still cycling to the cafe. This is unheard of!
People are betting on the likelihood of a “brown” Christmas, which amuses me greatly since I remember how hard we used to wish each year for a white one in Darlington. The last no-snow Christnas that anyone in Regina can remember was 1998. So odds are we should be good…
The bunnies are all confused though. There are giant Jackrabbits (technically, hares, I think!) that live downtown, and a couple of them have taken up residence in the car park behind the cafe. We named them Wayne and Waynetta Wabbit and I even have a seasonal Christmas coffee on the menu called “confused jackrabbit” in their honour. They are confused because they have gone white already. Each year, they grow their winter coat, changing them from grubby grey-brown bunnies that match the general downtown concrete, into pristine white bunnies camouflaged against the snow. Except this year, they are white already but there is no snow hide in, and they look very, very out of place.

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I want to stick out like a snow bunny.
I mentioned I am still cycling: Theia can now sit up well enough that she can ride in the forward-facing kid seat on the front of the Taga bike, so after another conversion effort (20 seconds to convert it? My arse! More like 20 minutes. With swearing.) – we are happily pedalling about on what has to be one of the most eyecatching vehicles in Regina, avoiding the seasonal idiots who have forgotten how to drive in ice. The advantage of the Taga bike is that I can pretend it’s Mainly Stroller and ride on the sidewalks with it and thus not risk Death by Idiot-in-SUV quite so frequently.  Unfortunately in Regina most sidewalks are in worse condition than the roads, and having 3 wheels means hitting every slope, hole, chip of broken glass, lump or inexplicably unpaved patch City Hall wish to challenge me with. So, sometimes the road is a better option, but there,  I am small, and low and slow and vulnerable, and because I lack a petrol engine, I mysteriously become invisible. This is a car-obsessed land, and unless you have one, you are a nobody, despite freakish hybrid kid-transportation devices.

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I am having similar issues with the cafe. Not that people are running us over, but just that we seem to be equally invisible because no one gets out of their cars. We thought our spot on 11th would be pretty good because there is a lot of passing traffic headed downtown. We have a bright purple 26ft sign over the equally massive window, chalkboard outside and over the summer, even a little patio table out the front. Yet people drive straight past; I’d like to say they are concentrating on the road but often or not, it’s their phones… And then, 8 months after opening, we get the surprised, “oh, are you new?” questions along with “I didn’t know you were here!”. Yes, this is partially our lack of marketing budget, but also because so few traverse downtown on foot or by bike. Peoples! This winter is incredibly mild! Get out of your cars and take advantage of it!