Bust a move- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles.

The problem with posting a video on your social media saying what you are going to talk about the next day is that you are committing to it, so even though I have gone for a float, my head feels rather clear and I would rather eat my Finish chocolate and listen to audible; I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles. Sounds incredibly exciting, I know.

If we are talking personal struggles I could talk forever about how unfair it is that when I wake up and pluck all the grey out of my eyebrows that I am left with half an eyebrow that I have to fill in, only to discover that I have three brow pencils in my make-up bag that are empty, so I consider using the color stick that I use fill in the greys that grow in between colorings along my hairline. Oh middle age; *I shake my fist at you*. It is sad really that in our twenties we have shiny hair and taut bodies but we really haven’t a clue about self care and emotional well being. Now that we are at an age that we are figuring it all out, the things that really matter, we have to worry about leaving the house with half an eyebrow and our clothes on inside out. Life is not perfect, but it is a journey and we are responsible to make it the best one possible, even with half an eyebrow.

I know that my situation of struggle I am about to share is not unique. I know that a lot of people have been affected by the Boom and Bust of Alberta’s economy. To many who work in the energy industry, the current downturn is the worst they’ve experienced.

I moved to Alberta in the summer of 2008, I was originally not so thrilled about the idea but my husband started working in the Alberta Oil sands in the fall of 2007 and at one point we spent over 6 months apart. It was the best decision for our family and nobody in their right mind would move their family across the country without putting in a great deal of effort to make it work.

There was some negativity surrounding our move, from family and friends alike, the same negativity exists today, almost ten years later; and it is based on a lot of assumptions about our lives and what would be best for us. The truth is that we have worked hard to do the best for our family, we have had great times and great struggles. Geography has been one of the greatest struggles, not just being away from our Nova Scotia family, but being away from each other!

In 2008, I sold our rural Nova Scotia house privately and spent weeks packing up our belongings before my husband arrived to sign the papers for the sale of our home and pack up the U-Haul. He drove across Canada with our belongings and our dog, I flew with our 7 and 3 year old girls and our cat.

In July of 2008 we moved into a house that I had never seen, not even in pictures. My husband had seen it once and determined more than anything that it was a safe Edmonton neighborhood for his wife and children as he would continue to work over 400 kms away.

In 2008 the Alberta Oil sands was experiencing existential growth. Workers were coming from all over Canada and when companies could not keep up with the demand they were hiring foreign workers to work in the service and construction industry for much lower wages.

We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children

We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children, seeking and nurturing the sports and arts activities that they were passionate about. Life was busy for both of us, my husband running a crew and working 80 hours weeks, sometimes working 21 days in a row in remote parts of Alberta and B.C., away from his family and me as a mother and a wife with a full time job, volunteer work and children in extracurricular activities, missing my husband.

I am sure our story sounds very similar to many  people who came to Alberta to work and raise their families. It wasn’t an easy life but it was a different kind of struggle than we had back home. In our beautiful province of Nova Scotia we were no strangers to financial struggle but the boom mentality was all new to us. I was way too caught up in the in the thick of it to consider that what goes BOOM, also goes BUST!

We bought a house when the market was at an all time high; it seemed a waste to keep throwing money away on astronomical rents.

For someone who came to Alberta very unsure I was able to navigate my way very quickly and make a place for myself here. Though I will always consider Nova Scotia to be my home, I am proud of the way that we dug in as a family, put in the hard work, and built a life.

There have been hardships all along. We have no family here and at times that can be very difficult. Being away from your significant other is a challenge as well , and as bad as it is for me, I recognize that he is the one that misses his children’s milestones as he moves place to place, saying goodnight via text in a different bed that is not his own.

Then when he came home we tried to jam the two weeks we missed into a 4 day visit. This sometimes meant spur of the moment trips to the mountains for relaxing time because otherwise you were inundated with things that needed done around the house and the four days were stolen from you in a flash.

Before things went completely bust there were hiccups, company issues, growing pains, last minute job changes and getting by on our savings during the down times. When we got through it we high fived each other as we have several times over the years because, once again, they couldn’t keep us down for long.

Then things go to BUST. It happened really quickly. The Alberta economy was devastated and though it started primarily in the Oil sands you learn pretty quickly how that trickles down, how many sub industries depend on the oil industry.

We had already depleted our savings and good graces during the hiccups. We found ourselves sadly unprepared for the bust. Even then we tried our best to be optimistic.

My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry

My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry. In a short time he landed some commercial work as well and his work ethic led him to a new career in the commercial restaurant trade. Diversifying your skills in this economy is essential. The money was a lot less but it meant being home more and being a part of a growing company that did not depend on the unpredictability of the Oil sands.

My husband being home more seemed sadly short lived. As with any growing company, the work area expanded to take him once again throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. My husband spent almost eight months away from his family last year just to try to stretch the two ends of the rope to meet in the middle. Everything about our lives seemed to be hanging in the balance, relationships are strained and financial struggle is imminent as you are trying to keep up with mid boom debt on a post bust budget.

Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially.

Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially. We were committed to putting in the hard work because the promise of extensive work at home and being together as family full time was worth that effort.

Unfortunately, elsewhere; someone else is succumbing to the burdens of mismanagement during an economic downturn and my husbands hand was forced , once again to change jobs quickly. He believed in the potential of his company and promise that his hard work and sacrifice would reap the reward he desired, being with his family full time.

I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind.

He packed his bags on  Sunday night and said goodbye to his children. I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind. Realistically, one can look at the situation as an outsider and say we should be grateful. We are grateful, for many things, we are not grateful however for the time we spent apart and we have heard the “no money is worth that!” We know that too. It is not about “money” at all, except that we are trying to keep a ship full of holes afloat on a stormy sea.

We bought our house during the boom, to sell now would mean we would most likely lose any equity we put into the house. To go back home seems like an ideal idea when you think of it in terms of family and friends. The thought of the easy relaxed lifestyle we could adopt is very tempting.  However,  if we stop to construct a plan we can’t help but realize that we have over the years romanticized the idea of “going home’.

The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.

Being with all of my children, watching my grandkids grow up and being close to family and old friends is one of those ideas that make your heart swell with longing. The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.

Then I am forced to think of the fact that if we sell our house right now we could lose all of our equity, our girls have on countless occasions flat out refused to move from the only home they have known for ten years, and we would be jobless in a province that is not bursting with economic opportunity.

So, even though it feels like we have been on the same uphill foot path forever, maybe our miracle is on the other side of the mountain. We need to make healthy decisions regarding our financial future and keep moving even though it feels like we have been stuck in the same spot way too long.

We are grateful we are able to maintain close connections with most of our family and friends even though we are on the other side of the country, our hard work has afforded us some great opportunities and we have made great memories. Perhaps on the other side of this we will once again high five each other and remark how we couldn’t be held down for long.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the future will bring, it seems best to just focus on today.

I know that we all face our own personal and financial struggles. I am interested to know how you cope during times of stress. Do you believe in retreating to safety or do you just keep swimming in the hopes of one day moving forward? When you can’t get ends to meet no matter how far you stretch them are you able to keep a cool head and do the next best thing or does it tear you apart?

I believe that we can help each other. I look forward to your input!

 

 

 

Round and round-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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I am just going to sit here for five minutes, if you talk to me please know that I am not listening

I know I keep saying it but I really love fall. I am just as sad as anyone when summer comes to an end, mostly because I know that the bitter cold of winter is right around the corner.

Fall I can appreciate. I like the cooler mornings and comfortable temperatures for sleeping in the evening; I love cardigans, homemade soup and hot drinks. I like the way the trees huddle together showing off their colors, proudly boasting stunning shades of gold, orange and red, and lightly dusting the landscape with a layer upon layer of vibrant color. My shade of lipstick changes, my clothes change, and my choice in foods change but the biggest change of all, one that I can never quite prepare for is the change in my sleep patterns.

Changes to temperature, the amount of sunlight we take in per day, atmospheric pressure, humidity and precipitation influence us in many ways, both positive and negative. For the last three weeks I have been struggling to get up and going but once I do I am happy to enjoy the rewards of a crisp autumn day. I feel grateful and fulfilled and I sail through my work days with plans to be productive in the evening only to be hit in the face with the three o’clock brain break.  So I struggle through my afternoons with tired eyes and big yawns. I am barely finding the energy to throw together meals for my family before putting on my jammies.  It’s hard to be productive when your brain is dormant from 3 pm onwards.

So I give in to the sweet promise of an early sleep, hoping for an early rise but repose is futile. My brain is lethargic, my body is already in a coma like state but something is compelling both of them to get up and move. So I lie there suspended somewhere between awake and dreaming, easy and agitated, tranquility and tempered.

When you go to bed exhausted expecting a soft fall into dreamland that ends up to be a fitful night of  restlessness, it is the equivalent of biting into a chocolate chip cookie only to find out that it is oatmeal raisin, the result is less than gratifying and quite frankly it leaves you a little pissed off.

Yesterday I dragged my tired ass out of bed and stumbled through my morning routine. The kids had made supper the previous evening and promised to clean up so I found the kitchen in shambles, which they refer to as spotless. I picked at the clutter for a bit and decided to leave it till after work and maybe it would be better. I lumbered through my day as sluggishly as the day before knowing that I had a bank appointment to sign papers, I had to drop books at the library and my youngest had voice lessons. I really just wanted to make it home in time to shower and change into comfy jammies and pour a glass of wine in time for Greys Anatomy. I talk about drinking wine a lot; I find the time to drink wine a lot less than I talk about.

I arrived in the bank in lots of time to be able to sign the papers, pick up Haley, run to the library and get Haley to lessons on time. I waited in line at the bank which seemed to take forever and a day. Clearly some people have not discovered online banking. The teller was super pleasant and went on an unsuccessful hunt for my papers. She could not find them and consulted everyone in the building before a kind lady took over and informed me that the papers were at my bank branch 20 minutes away. Why in the world would I have thought I could walk into any branch and sign the papers is beyond me. This branch was close and convenient for me and my brain was already two hours into break. I think the kind lady could tell that I was frazzled and that I my day was a succession of going round and round and stifling yawns. She was able to help me from that branch and I was able to continue on with the rest of my responsibilities on time and they only thing I had to give up was peeing and brushing my teeth. That seemed to buy me some extra time and on the way to lessons and I was able to stop and pick up my very first pumpkin spice latte of the season.

I read a little at lessons and on the way home my daughter was full of stories from welcome week at Junior High. I still have a hard time believing she is now a Junior High student. In my head she is still eight years old. She was talking away and not even breathing in between and I sort of zoned out. I went on a little vacation. In my head I was still and quiet. Then I hear “Mommy, Mom, Mommy…are you there? Why are you not talking? I am talking and talking and talking and you are not saying anything.” I needed to figuratively splash cold water on my face and re-engage. We talked about school and the birthday party she is going to on Saturday and her friend that is a boy but not her boyfriend that she would be upset if any of her friends dated him but only because it would be weird not because she likes him that way even though his name comes up constantly and she thinks he is so funny!

It was late so we picked up Subway as we had a two for one coupon. We got home and the dogs met us at the door, Rocky’s black fur was full of White powder, he had cardboard hanging out of his mouth and Buddy was walking around in circles and hanging his head, the pantry door was wide open and the remnants of Aunt Jemima Pancake mix and an empty box of Trix was on the living room floor. I was so mad but all I could think of was “Silly dogs, Twix are for kids!”

As annoyed as I get with them I love them to pieces and I feel like they are just kids faced with temptation. Like when I was a kid and my mom would bake cookies and tell us we couldn’t have any till later and then she would find the cookie container half empty and at least one of us kids with traces of chocolate on their face. I also like to believe that the dogs love me so much that if they could clean up they really would. I wouldn’t have to tell them the same things over and over.

I gave my oldest daughter grief about leaving the dogs in the house when she left and leaving the panty door open, she quickly informed me that it must have been her sisters fault and recounted to me how she had already cleaned up the garbage they got into. I noted the garbage that was stuffed back into the container so full that the lid would not even latch. More temptation for the dogs, like sitting me at an all you can eat buffet and telling me I can only look.

Nobody would think to change that garbage and nobody had fed the dogs, or the cat, or picked up their laundry off the bathroom floor, or wiped off the stove they cooked on or cleaned the tomato sauce they dropped off the tiles in the kitchen. But alas, I am too tired to even argue so I wiped up the tomato sauce, cleaned off the stove, tidied the counters and  ignore the wisps of dog fur that have collected around chairs and table legs and in every visible and invisible nook and cranny. I pour myself the glass of red I have been promising myself for a month and mentally prepared to go round and round again tomorrow.

I am not going to lie, September was a difficult month for me, but I kept trying and in that there is no failure.

Be W.I.S.E. friends. .

W.I.S.E. Journal notes- Remember to taste the wine

Notes from my W.I.S.E Project Journal.

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Have you ever felt really busy but you are not sure why?

For me, my mind is often so busy thinking of all the things I need to do that it tires me out. The biggest problem is that in always looking ahead at what needs to be done I often forget to enjoy the present.

Have you ever poured a glass of wine (or juice, scotch, milk…whatever your pleasure) and your intention was to really enjoy it but the glass is empty and you don’t even recall drinking it?

I want to be that really annoying person that sits back in their chair with wild abandon and notes the hints of cherry and vanilla in the cheap Merlot and compliments the smooth finish. I don’t care if I am drinking a $10 or a $40 bottle, I want that experience every time.

 

The present is all we really have, the past is gone, the future is uncertain so I think to learn to live in and fully appreciate the moment would be a great gift to myself.

One of my biggest problems is that I spend a great deal of time thinking about what needs done around the house and it takes away from my enjoyment of my life. It’s hard to even sit back and enjoy a glass of wine when I am worried about picking up dirty socks and cleaning out the fridge. I think it can also lead to over-drinking. If one glass of wine doesn’t make me forget, 7 likely will and I’m always up for a good challenge!

That is why I kicked off my W.I.S.E project by organizing my space. For me a De-cluttering my home helped declutter my mind. I want to rule my mind and not have it rule me.

I got some wonderful feedback last night and thank you to everyone who reached out to me. For that reason I wanted to share some of my journal notes from this month so far.

I jotted down and circled the word intentional. It’s just a word but to me it has opened up my eyes. 40% of happiness is intentional. By focusing on my monthly principles of W.I.S.E. (January being Wonder, Imagination, Smile and Energize) I am being intentional in trying to be happier.

Getting more rest, eating well, drinking lots of water, organizing my home, spending more quality time with my girls…all intentional.

There is so much of our lives beyond our control, knowing we can be intentional and contribute to our own happiness is a great thing.

For those of you who like the reassurance that you are doing well you will find that in yourself. I was wondering last night if my family notices that I am happy and more engaged. That was important to me till I realized that my focus was to be happier and more engaged and I am feeling that so their applause of my efforts is not really necessary.

I am enjoying the Sunday morning quiet at my house over a cup of black coffee. I hope you will join me.

Michelle xo

You’re Going to Miss This!

I am sitting here on this frigid and snowy winter night thinking how quickly the moments of your life sail by and all the things you wished away that now you would give anything to have back. When you are five you want to be ten and at ten you just want to be a teenager and when you become a teen you can’t wait to become an adult. Then it happens, you legally become an adult and you just want to be a kid, you want to have the freedom to make your own choices but none of the adult responsibilities that come along with that.

Your parents inevitably told you to be careful what you wish for, they told you how quick it would pass by and how you would long to have the time back. What did they know? Old fogies! THEY KNEW EVERYTHING!

I remember how on Holidays and Sunday dinners at my grandmothers they always had a kid table set up. I sat with my brothers and cousins eating my turkey dinner all young ladylike while Mike played hide the boogie in Gerry’s mashed potatoes and Gerry fell for every tall tale and dare my cousin Billy laid out on the table and then some. In the blink of eye and without any fanfare we graduated to the adult table. Apparently you get to be an adult at a certain age even if you are still putting peas up your nose and engaging in eating contests.

Over the years we thought of those missing from the dinner table, those we had lost to life’s cruel fate and those who were enjoying their own family dinners miles and miles away. Some of us had our own young families now, taking their place at the kids table where we once sat.

As the world turns and it continually does, life as we know it changes so quickly but one thing will always remain the same. The moments that at the time may seem like nothing special or out of the ordinary are the moments that we would do anything to have back.

Christmas at my Grandmothers house is the one thing that will always come to mind during the holidays. My mother comes from such a close-knit and special family. The thing I like the most is that they never save their affection for the holidays. It is there all year-long and they make a constant effort to be together, even now. The Holidays always felt extra special because we were dressed in our good clothes and we were told to be on our best behavior (some of us must have been deaf) and there was even more food then usual!

Christmas can be a stressful time of year for people, mostly because people have long ago forgotten why we have Christmas and it has become so commercialized that we break the bank trying to give everyone the perfect gift when the very best thing we can give to the people we love is our time. It is the one thing we always wish we had more of, time with our loved ones. So I say that this Christmas though I cannot see my family know that the most precious thing that I have ever gotten from you is the time we spent together, the laughs we shared and the memories we made. Know that a simple phone call, letter (or text if you are so inclined) means more to me then any gift possibly could.

Merry Christmas and enjoy this special time with your loved ones and if they are far away or not with you any longer give thanks for the time you shared.

Love Michelle xo

 

Working Man-Building a strong family

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I don’t really believe that there is women’s work and men’s work. I believe that gender roles should be equal but that being said somehow in my marriage we fell into more of traditional roles and I have been lucky enough to not have to get my hands dirty changing my oil, changing tires or taking out the toilet all three times our children decided to flush something that didn’t belong.

About a year and half ago I quit my job. My husband and I thought it was important that I have more time for our children with him away. Initially trepidatious I agreed it was for the best.  I do some work from home and I am a volunteer board member for a local league.  I am a full time wife, mother, cook, taxi driver and role model.

Do not misinterpret this to mean that I love picking up dirty socks or dirty dishes.  I don’t and I can safely say that though my family does not readily change their heathen ways it is not from lack of trying. My displeasure is known and though it would be easier I don’t do it for them. If I have to ask ten times it gets louder everytime and eventually the socks will get picked up.

My husband is away for work more then he is home and I know when he is there everybody wants a piece of him. His phone rings steady, people are in his ear and he is responsible for a crew of young guys that he affectionately calls his kids.

One day last week I was on the phone bitching to him about trying to get our daughter out of bed for school and he asked if I would like to trade him and get five thirteen year olds out of bed in the morning. I changed the subject of the conversation. 

Both if us have our roles and he is exceptional at his and I handle mine. Sometimes we struggle silently because part of our roles as husband and wife is too lift each other up, not weight each other down with complaints. When you live apart from each other sometimes part of supporting each other is learning to lean on yourself.  It’s a unique situation for certain and I don’t know that I will ever master it but I know that I won’t stop trying.

I know that my husband doesn’t tell me everyday how lonesome it gets living up North, how hard it is to miss your childrens special moments and get up and go to work each day, everyday knowing how many people are depending on him.

In turn I try to make sure that all the business here gets taken care of. The children are fed, educated and active, I volunteer at their school and their league, the business paperwork is done on time and I teach our girls about hard work, about integrity, about accountability and about the value of a dollar. I try to have a little life for myself because it is important for me and for them to see.

Our roles are very different but equally important.  I know I miss Kirk somedays more then I say and I definitely appreciate him more then I could ever express. I know that he makes our lives possible  and in turn we make his possible. We are all doing our best and continuing to learn. I do not define him nor he me but I believe that we make each other better!

Our kids are growing up with a family that doesn’t all get to sit down at the dinner table together every night but they are being given opportunities that neigher my husband and I had as children.

Families don’t fit into a little box like they used to. That perfect fifties style family with the Mom serving dinner in a dress to a suit and tie dad while her well groomed children say their prayers and talk about their day over meatloaf and pie!

Tell me about your unique family!

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Simple Things

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My grandmother Bernice was born January 5 of 1925. It’s easy to describe her but I am not sure that a description could quite do her justice. She was very simple, but not in the way that you would describe someone who was “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, more like  ” She was two dimes short of a quarter! ” and when I say that I mean that money and material things didn’t mean anything to my grandmother. She was sensible and practical and she absolutely wanted to be surrounded by nice things, nice things to her were her family and friends. Her name, Bernice means shining star and she most definitely was the bright light that lit up our world. I can’t describe any grand gestures that made this so, I can only say that she was simply herself and in that we all felt comfortable in being ourselves. She never wanted for more, she wanted to have enough. She was a remarkable woman and I will love and treasure her memory always. The best compliment my husband ever gave to me was to say that my grandmother was one of the best people he ever met. I agree. I also like to think that there is a part of her in me that keeps shining.

We strive for all sorts of things in our lives that we think we will make us happy but my grandmother taught me that happiness is a lot simpler then we think.

Things we think will make us happy

1. Being Wealthy
2. Being thin
3. Being loved
4. Pretty things
5. A nice home

Things that will actually make us happy

1. Measuring wealth by the people you have in your life
2.Being healthy
3. Loving yourself
4. Things that can’t be seen, only felt
5. A home filled with love and laughter

Sometimes the things we stress about have simple answers. I find myself often looking up to the heavens and wondering what my grandmother would do.

♥♥

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Under the light of the moon-Movies on the Square

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I love Sir Winston Churchill Square in the summer. The city organizes all sorts of family events and festivals to bring people to this downtown meeting place. Last night the offering was Movies on the Square, a free screening of Despicable Me on a huge blow up screen.

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The fun commenced long before dusk fell. A D.J. lit up the popular downtown mecca with the sounds of summer, Polynesian dancers delighted young and old alike, even giving mini dance lessons to those willing to shake their groove thing in front of strangers. Free hoola hoops, beach balls and sunglasses were a hot accompaniment to a summer evening that’s weather could only be described as “close to perfect”.

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Families delighted in face painting, balloon making, outdoor chess, table tennis, a bouncy house slide and some cooled off in the city hall wading pool. Food trucks offered tasty delights such as pulled pork, hot dogs, pizza, mini donuts and no movie night would be complete without hot, fresh popcorn.

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In addition to the Amphitheater seating families brought fold up chairs and blankets to ensure a comfy and cozy movie experience under the stars. It was a wonderful night, even long before the movie started my teenager told me how much fun she and her friends were having and the youngest loved the beachy atmosphere.

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A crowd favorite was Spider Man who talked and posed for pictures with all the children. Lots of prizes were given out, I won glow in the dark bubbles 🙂 The movie commenced around 9:45 when nature struggled to dim the lights on a magnificant summer day.

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Movies on the Square will be back on August 30-31. Tips for first time movie goers with young children, It is a long night, the movie does not start till dusk falls. Bring cold drinks and snacks if you are looking for an inexpensive evening. Weather can change quickly, pack cozy blankets and sweaters. Looking for more info about movies on the Square and other city events see HERE

Cheers. Happy Sunday!!

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