Tag: family

Some very strange things to be thankful for.

It’s Thanksgiving, it’s beautiful and autumnal, and we finally all have a day off together! For this, I am thankful, because it has been a long time coming.

Carl being away in Prince Albert during the week is really taking its toll on me and the girls at the moment, and I am getting increasingly frustrated with the situation at times. I am effectively playing single-parent all week, and have to negotiate school and daycare drop offs and collection (at two different locations), coping with Judo and crochet club(?) and play dates and field trip permission slips, ferret-care, feeding them both, fighting them into bed (an ordeal in its own right, especially with Theia), making lunchboxes and then getting them up again and out the house by 8am. And working full time. And doing all this on my bike.

It is exhausting, and I keenly look forward to Carl’s return every weekend. But then, there is the added pressure of fitting in all the things that have to be done with him (or more importantly, the car-) here like food shopping, and laundry, and still making a point of Doing Something Fun while we’re all together. Most of the time I am exhausted and just want to spend my days off doing nothing, but that is not fair on the kids. And then we get cross with each other because I feel like I’m wasting the precious little time we do have. Gah!

However, there are many things that I love about this situation too, namely my job. Luckily, both kids thoroughly enjoy their respective daycares and after school clubs and activities, so I don’t feel too bad about relying on them so heavily. There’s also only been one horribly rainy day this season, so my bike commute around the lake is usually glorious and doing me a lot of good. Carl is doing well in Prince Albert, enjoying his work and our finances are now looking much more healthy as a result.

Without wishing to sound gushy, I really love my job. I’m working at the Science Centre, and the job is so varied that it is very difficult to define to a lot of people. Most recently, I’ve been heading up a big science festival there called Ignite! I inherited quite a lot of the set up for it from my predecessor, and the existing team of staff there are exceptional and very supportive, so I didn’t feel too overwhelmed with having to organise the whole four day event on my own. Even so, it was still more than a little daunting. I enjoy the job so much that I really want to do well at it.

I am also learning a whole load of things I never thought I’d come across – like how to dissect squid, for instance, how to build popsicle stick towers that withstand flooding, and all about different sections of the brain, all of which are covered in the workshops I am now trying to present to other people! For the festival, we had to organise a careers fair with the aiming of getting school kids interested in engineering and the sciences. Then, we ran adult workshops in the evening, which is where the squid came in. The next day was Family Maker Day, and we hosted an event for the Global Cardboard Challenge and encouraged kids to make Arcade games out of cardboard, and ran other workshops like Toy Take Apart (involving skinning an Elmo) and colour-changing putty, where I had to make playdough and explain the science of thermochromatic pigment to 40-odd kids for a couple of hours. The schools were closed for Thanksgiving that day, so Miranda had to come to work with me…

On Saturday, it was the culmination of the festival in an Expo, showcasing local innovation and plenty of weird and wonderful things that local people have created. It is did not happen without hiccups – for a start, I would have liked to get more participants than I was able to, so I was a bit disappointed. Then, one group dropped out at the last minute, and I roped Carl in to replace them! He dutifully brought his telescope and equipment and showed people all his eclipse photography – thank you husband!! (He also got a day out with the kids, a chance to geek out with fellow nerds, and the science centre’s snack supplies, to be fair.)  Actually on the day, one group arrived, introduced themselves, I showed there where to set up, and then they just vanished without saying a word! Weird. And irritating.

I still managed to get in “live blacksmithing” (which took a lot of wading through fire permit by-laws), a virtual reality game company, a solar-powered electric bike, robots built by high school students, a Vortex Cannon of Doom and a portrait of Princess Diana done in Lego, amongst other things.

I would like to think it all went off OK! The feedback I heard on the day was all very positive, anyway. I don’t yet know how the numbers of visitors compared to last year, but it certainly felt very busy, particularly on the Family Maker Day. It was also utterly exhausting!

Sunday and Monday were our weekend this week, and we did the annual OverEating Ritual with turkey and all the trimmings. The girls even admitted they liked the food for once as well! Life is not exactly easy right now, but I am enjoying its complicatedness.

 

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Staring at the Sun

There are some definite advantages of having a geek for a husband.

Last week, we managed to engineer a few days away from our brand new jobs to go down to Casper, Wyoming for the solar eclipse. Carl really did drive a 2000km round trip for the sake of 2 1/2 minutes. But it was well worth it! Casper was in the path of totality – as in, we got the full, eerie dark eclipse. The sun really did appear to go out for a few minutes.

 

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Totality Awesome

 

Two different telescopes accompanied us, one of which Carl fitted with a camera hooked up to his laptop with some nifty software that tracked the moon automatically and took around 4000 images without us having to do anything! Much better than my pathetic attempts with my normal camera.

The drive down there took over 10 hours in total, but we split the journey and stayed at a small town called Gillette (not where they make razor blades, much to my disappointment). We holed up in a cheapish hotel along with very many other people who had had the same idea as us. Unlike virtually everyone else convoying down through the US, we had to stop at the border, get our conspicuously red passports checked, get photographed and fingerprinted, pay $18 for a visa waiver, and sent on our way by Customs. In the customs office in Montana, they had a display case of contraband – things you can’t bring in to the US. Antlers, exotic animals (they had a very pretty but depressing tortoise shell in there), rum, cigars, and so on. Right on the top were Kinder Eggs with their killer plastic toys.

That night I walked to and bought some (very cheap) beer in a “drive-thru off sale” that had a sign outside saying Bikers Welcome! I wasn’t sure whether I should tip the woman who handed me beer through the window. I have never felt more British in my life! There was a “fun facts” section in the little blurb about Wyoming left in the hotel. Apparently, one archaic Wyoming state law still persists: it is illegal for a woman to stand within 5 feet of a bar. So we can go in, get table service, but we can’t actually order anything at the bar by ourselves. Good job I was at a drive-through I suppose!

We spent Sunday in Gillette, Carl recovering from the drive, and the kids recovering from their attempts to eat the utterly ENORMOUS breakfast portions included with our hotel booking.

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So. Much. Food.

We also found out that Gillette wasn’t that far from Devil’s Tower, a weird rock formation where they filmed Close Encounters. We even found the aliens. Ahem.

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In the gift shop, there was a giant display of wooden toy AK47s – perfect for saving the world from aliens of course. I hope.

But back to the Eclipse! Carl dutifully forced himself awake at 5am, as the plan was to drive the remaining couple of hours to Casper as early as possible to avoid the crowds. I was already awake as Small Beastling had invaded our bed around 4am and woken me up. We managed to get the kids in the car without waking them. That was short lived though, and they woke up as soon as we set off.  The drive was quite fun – Wyoming is possibly even more empty and spacious as Saskatchewan, but it also has hills and a higher speed limit. And deer. Many, many deer who were very active at that time in the morning and tried to play chicken with cars, leaping out in to the road. They certainly kept Carl awake!

We were right to get in early; luckily the first place we tried had space and we parked and just set up right by the car in a field at Casper fairgrounds. By 9am, the field was full up. So was the RV park next to it. Miranda and I wandered around hunting for breakfast and found people setting up telescopes in McDonald’s car park. I read later that 317,000 people had descended on Casper!

We had some special eclipse glasses that allowed the kids and I to just look up and view it without any hassle – Carl was worried that they would knock his telescopes out of alignment through over-enthusiasm! It took nearly an hour of the moon moving across the sun (looking like it was taking a bite out of it, we got “Full Pac-Man” around 10.45am) before it actually got dark. But totality was completely surreal. Even Miranda, who had been watching DVDs in the car all morning and bored, was blown away. For those two minutes, you could look directly at the sun without the glasses. Twilight, and then late evening suddenly happened at 11.30am. All the dogs that fellow sun gazers had brought with them suddenly shut up. The temperature dropped dramatically. Such a weird experience!

 

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Disclaimer: Half-a-car effect not actually caused by eclipse.

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I hope Miranda remembers this trip. The next one will be in Mexico in 2024 and Carl is determined to go to that too, but by then Miranda will be a teenager! Terrifying thought.  Here are some of Carl’s laptop/telescope images. Impressive hey?

A motivational morning

It seems the internet is currently filled with clickbait articles that are ‘life changing’ and inspirational, with the sort of headlines like “7 things to do to kickstart your morning routine” and so on.

I appreciate that most of them are designed with good intent, but as with a lot of supposedly motivational rhetoric, I find it just makes obvious how much of a chaotic mess my own life is.

This morning was a prime example. Here is what greeted me on Instagram today:

(I am very sorry to borrow you, Kyle… but as the founder of Wheelhouse Cycle Club, I figure you know a bit about getting people motivated in the mornings!)

Here, in contrast, is the 5 odd things I ended up doing this morning:

1.) Attempt to insert Fruitloops into two decidedly not-awake children at 7.40am. While they are eating, I realise that when the husband left the house at 4am, he inadvertently locked my house keys in my bike basket *inside the locked garage*. Scramble around madly looking for the automatic garage door opener, only to find it helpfully clipped to the outer door handle on the back door. Which is the *obvious* place to look for it… Stand in the alley in barefeet and eventually get into the garage, reclaim keys, find shoes, packed lunches, backpacks and shunt kids out the door.

2.) Arrive at daycare 8am. Smaller beastling is fine right up until we are inside the entrance way, then she realises where she is and that Mummy will be abandoning her there. She starts howling and literally clinging on to my ankle so I can’t leave. Detach her and transfer her into the arms of one of the poor women who have to deal with regular tantrums and snot all day. Make a break for it with the bigger beastling, who is now complaining that her backpack is too heavy.

3.) Miss 8.07 bus to the Science Centre for day camps. Cross road, find another bus ten mins later. Get downtown. Bus does not meet up with connecting bus, despite what it says on Regina Transit’s schedules. Start fuming. Sit downtown waiting for the next one and playing I Spy.

4.) Discover that this bus does not actually go right to the science centre. Persuade a shy and tired Big Beastling to walk about half a mile across Wascana Park. Discover that some fricking idiot has set all the park’s sprinklers to soak the entire sidewalk for a good 200 yards, and that there is no way to avoid them. Try to convince daughterling that it is an obstacle course and we have to run and duck between the sprays. She thinks it’s fun until she gets hit in the face with cold water.

5.) Arrive at Science Centre dripping wet. Successfully drop off daughter only 5 minutes late, but see the direct bus drive off before I can make it to the official stop. Make my way back to the other bus stop, and get drenched again. Bus appears… and sails past me, as it is an Express bus and won’t stop at minor stops. Sit for another 20 minutes drying off in the sun, and use the time to write an official complaint email to the Wascana Centre about the sprinklers.

5.5) Arrive back home, 10.07am, and realise that not only did the whole ordeal take TWO FRIGGING HOURS, I haven’t had any coffee or any breakfast yet.

I’ll go to the library, I think, I’ll collect the books I ordered then treat myself to coffee and reading time at the coffee shop to relax.

Forget that it is Monday and the library is closed.

Come back home again amidst silent screams of despair.

 

Prince Albert

For years, friends back in the UK made constant “Regina” jokes (“snigger snigger”) – they loved the “University of Regina” and that my friend is a Regina Professor, and then when I started Wheelie Good Coffee on the Farmers’ market, I got “How do you become a Regina Farmer?” and so on. I feel that they would have as much fun with Prince Albert (as the towns called Climax and Intercourse in Saskatchewan are not subtle enough). I really hope there are loads of piercing studios up there.

Prince Albert first appeared on our radar when the Parents treated us to a camping trip up there in June. We wimped out of actually tenting, Mum and Dad citing their Old Agedness and ‘knackety knees’, but we hired a little cabin up at Waskesui lake in Prince Albert National Park. It was utterly glorious!

We swam in the lake, toasted marshmallows (as is a requirement), hiked – well, stumbled – through the forest (proper trees!!), rode wonderful Quadracycles and even saw bears (of the non-threatening, handsome type). It was a fantastic place for the kids, and not even that many mosquitos.

To get to the national park, we had to drive for nearly six hours (made longer of course by kid-and-granny cup of tea breaks). We drove through Prince Albert city on route too, and apart from the usual array of gas stations and the Timmies and Subway visible from the highway, there was little to see. Little did we know at the time that we would suddenly need to know far more about the place than that!

Carl applied for a job in Prince Albert a while back – out of total desperation, as he has been out of work for four months now. One job advertised in Regina just disappeared in all the stupid budget cuts,  one never responded to the application, and another took a full 2 months to even interview anybody.  His hope with the Prince Albert job was that they would let him work remotely, or at least, not require him to be physically present 40 hours a week. Besides, he figured he needed the interview practice. Meanwhile, my own job hunt is entirely hopeless. I have now applied for 45 jobs, and gotten just 5 interviews and no offers. This means that 40 companies (most with HR departments) just didn’t even bother to respond. It’s incredibly frustrating and every application makes me less inclined to ever want to work for someone else anyway.

The Prince Albert company got back to Carl remarkably quickly, however, and invited him to interview before they even closed it for applications. He made the effort and drove all the way up the for the interview. He talked for nearly 2 hours, and came back, exhausted, saying it was pretty positive.  Two days later, he got called for an interview at somewhere in downtown Regina, which also seemed to go well. That was the company that took two months to get around to interviewing for the position though.

Then, Prince Albert called, and offered him the job! On an amazing salary, a definite step up from what he was doing before, and even offered relocation costs. There lies the downside. He is going to be in charge of a new team, and so they need him to actually  be there.

We do not want to move again. We may have stayed in the same few blocks, but including emigration, we have actually moved 5 times in 5 years. And now we have a mortgage to contend with as well. Every single person we know in this whole country is in Regina. Miranda is in school here now. My Wheelie Good Coffee, which is the ONLY thing that has allowed us to actually eat in the last few months, (no exaggeration) is based here. We even have a brand new kitchen! All of us moving to PA is just not an option.

We stalled the company for as long as possible, still hoping to hear back from something I applied for and Carl’s other interview, either of which would have allowed us to stay here comfortably. Yet again, I was rejected, and we are STILL waiting for the results of Carl’s job, 3 weeks after his interview. So, at risk of losing the offer altogether, Carl accepted the PA job. The plan is, he will rent a small apartment up there for the week, and just come home at weekends. It will be very, very hard (especially since Miranda is home on summer holidays at the moment), but at least it solves the immediate financial crisis – there is no point in turning down an opportunity like that in favour of staying in a city that we can’t actually afford to live in anyway.

Hopefully, he will really enjoy the job – it does sound good. Hopefully, we can find a nice apartment for him and make it an adventure. Hopefully, it won’t be forever – they can let him transistion into remote working, or he will find something else in Regina first. Hopefully, me continuing to stay home with the kids will enable me to keep writing and find a publisher for the book and make my fortune… (yeah, right). Hopefully, Theia will reach her 2nd birthday and suddenly decide to sleep through the night without needing Daddy to wobble her to sleep all the time.

Hopefully.

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!

Saskatchewan stereotypes

I am in a wide open space…. There is a great deal of snow-covered nothing out here. Carl is driving us back, 300km of dead straight roads stretching out ahead of us and not another car in sight. Its almost eery. They even put rumble strips running up to the few junctions to wake you up in case you’re using cruise control and forget to turn!

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There are many jokes and stereotypes about Saskatchewan, most of which I have ignored because they don’t really apply to Regina.
“In Saskatchewan, time stands still” (no daylight saving time)
“In Saskatchewan,  you can see your dog running away for two days”
There’s also plenty of Corner Gas references that I can’t comment on having never seen it, and then there are the less kind comments about marrying your cousin and so on….
In comparison to the UK equivalent, Regina is a small town, barely a blip on the map and certainly not a “city” in the more generally understood sense of the word. To my mind, a place is not a city unless you can walk for more than half an hour without running in to someone you know. After nearly 4 years here, i am pretty much guaranteed to see a familiar face as soon as i leave the house. This is not just because the population is tiny but also because everyone is so friendly. But outside Regina, in rural Saskatchewan the likelihood of running into anyone,  whether you know them or not, is distinctly remote.

The Parents are here for Christmas, and this year we decided to go adventuring and booked a log cabin in the woods near Greenwater Lake, which is about 3 hours north west. It was gorgeous! Much more snow than in Regina, and Proper Trees! I didn’t realise I missed trees, but it was oddly pleasing to wake up surrounded by them again.  We were the only people in the campsite, and got to play around in the snow,  take Miranda toboganning and march across the frozen lake completely undisturbed. No phone signal and no wifi either – actually quite lovely, At night it was pitch black and utterly silent, to the point where Miri woke up st 1am wanting her bedside light on because she was scared of the dark. She’s not used to it!

Of course,  this also meant that there was no food. We’d read online that there was a cafe in the provincial park, and so hadn’t brought much with us. It being Christmas week and the park being empty apart from us, of course the café was closed, and so we had to venture out to “nearby” Porcupine Plain (25km away) as soon as Carl started looking hungrily at the squirrels. There were only two places that did food in Porcupine Plain, and both were just about to close at 8pm when we finally arrived. The first was WEIRD. Funny little cafe with chunky white diner mugs, and a group of old men who just stared at us without saying anything when we went in. There seemed to be no one behind the counter and no one interested in serving us, and also nothing that looked like food, just the diner mugs full of stewed coffee. So we turned around and walked out again, and still the men didn’t say anything.  Next door (literally), was much more friendly, and despite us arriving two minutes before closing time (sorry!) we were soon presented with enormous burgers and small mountains of chips. Yum. As we left, I read the community notice board: a house for sale for $45,000 complete with its own well on site(ie: no running water), a poster for the Christmas Eve service at the church, and an ad for “Firearms training”…

On route, we’d stopped in Wadena, and encountered our first Coffee Row. I’d vaguely heard about this little ritual: small cafes in tiny communities where people gather with their coffees on one long table to chat and discuss the world all day, every day. It may sound simple enough, but it is a very distinct cultural phenomenon in small town Saskatchewan. From what we heard it was mainly about what was on TV last night and the weather, but my parents rather reluctantly got into conversation with the old man next to them, who was not only fiercely proud of being Canadian, but also a devoted Christian. After makinng sure we understood the true meaning of Christmas, he fortunately turned back to his friend before he really noticed he was addressing a bunch of liberal godless cynics!

Those cafe experiences were glimpses of Real Saskatchewan for me: remote but friendly, conservative but well-meaning,  flat and cold, but beautiful and certainly a very very long way removed from the grey, miserable mass of humanity in Britain where we were last Christmas!

I’m not saying I’m Wonder Woman…

…I’m just saying that no-one has ever seen me and Wonder Woman in the same room at the same time.

It has (as usual) been a very busy few weeks – nay, months and I haven’t had time to do anything other than The Immediate Project, Dr Coffee’s Cafe. No blog posts, no poetry nights, no beer club (although that is also the fault of pregnancy), no letters to friends, etc etc.  Saying that though, I do feel like I’ve achieved quite a lot.

UAS For a start, I quit the day job. This is MASSIVE. An achievement in that I stood it for so long in the first place (or as my dearest friend Rumble would put it: “I can’t believe they haven’t fired you!”), but also in leaving a job whilst still feeling relatively good about the place. I had more than a few run-ins with our immediate supervisor, I didn’t have a lot of respect for his ‘management style’, shall we say and worse, I’m sure he was well aware of that, but it didn’t stop me making some very good friends there. Whatever else I can say about the place, it was a very stable job with a great team of colleagues, and provided me with a steady income and benefits when I needed it most, in return for very little effort on my part. Dealing with the tedium of the work was harder than the work itself. Leaving at this point (on Friday 13th, no less) was either very brave, or very stupid. Had I stayed, I would have got the very generous Canadian one year maternity leave on full pay. Now of course, I get diddly-squat. Was paid mat leave worth hanging around being bored to tears for another few months and passing up the opportunity to open the cafe? I’d like to think not!

Oh, it was my birthday just before I quit work. I am 32, and I couldn’t even have a beer on my birthday. Worse, a few weeks later I got an invite to a Highworth School reunion – we all finished school FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Somehow that doesn’t feel like something to celebrate!

Not having the office job has meant “plenty of time” (ahem) to work on Dr Coffee’s Cafe. However, it definitely has not been as easy as just me setting the place up. In fact, my newly-retired parents came out here for a whole month, to help me work on it as well. Dad naively thought he would run out of things to do in a month and so even got me to download “historical walking tours of Regina” maps in case they got bored. Those maps really do exist, I kid ye not.

Anyway, the Parents were both wonderful and Dad single-handedly built both the front and back bars in the cafe space, learned the layout of Home Depot, Rona and Lowes blindfolded, got thoroughly frustrated with a malevolent spirit level, and achieved more in 3 weeks than our idiot contractors did in 3 and a half months. Mum and I painted (a long task given I can’t bend or lift things or stand on ladders too often and she can’t kneel at the moment) and organised things and cleaned and we got it soooo close… but not quite finished. It was incredibly disappointing not being able to get it open before they had to leave, but we certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near opening day without them!! They did see the full range of Saskatchewan winter in that month as well, which seemed to amuse them. They arrived when it was still 30 degrees below zero, saw a snow storm or two, appreciated the crisp icy sunshine, Mum even mastered winter-driving, and then they saw The Melt, followed quickly by The Floods. Fun and games! We also managed “day off” trips to Moose Jaw spa, a snow festival in Fort Qu’appelle, a trip around Lumsden to see if it had sufficient hills for them to consider moving there, a night out at the Globe theatre, tobogganing with Miri and a mini-not-quite-launch-party at the cafe. I really hope they enjoyed themselves! Here’s some pics:

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The New-Human Growing process is going fairly well so far as well- I am feeling slightly less sick and disgusting now that I’m over half way, the giant boobs are back, it is booting its giant feet about in there happily and as far as they could tell from the scan (where it was hiding and refusing to cooperate) – she is a she. On that basis, Carl and I have nearly decided on a name already. But I’m not telling what it is. Miranda, and Granny and Grandad all managed to come with me for the scan, and Miri was utterly agog, blown away by seeing inside Mummy’s tummy. She desperately wants a sister, and actually wants me to “put it back” if it’s a boy…  uh oh.

It's a mighty big Timbit now!
It’s a mighty big Timbit now!

So, quite a bit going on. I’m exhausted, I feel like I’ve not spoken to my friends in ages, I’ve completely forgotten about some social engagements, and I’ve not been anywhere except the cafe for weeks. BUT, I feel like I am coping remarkably well given the  circumstances. Getting a brand new business off the ground is stressful anyway, especially in a new country where you don’t understand all the regulations, let alone whilst pregnant and with a very loud nearly-five year old in tow, and when both the husband and business partner are working full time at other, completely unrelated jobs. We may not be open just yet, but even Wonder Woman needs a nap sometimes, I’m sure.

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