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Moving to the Front of the Class with Wellness and Yoga Coach, Kim Hughes
Episode 66th September 2023 • The Second Chapter • Slackline Productions
00:00:00 00:47:38

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A limb difference at birth meant Kim Hughes' confidence was shaken at an early age. Years in a career that just wasn't right for her and a lifetime struggling to settle, finally changed after a relationship catastrophe in her forties.

Now 51, Kim has gone to the front of the class literally (she's a yoga teacher!) and is letting go of judgment, mainly her own.

For more on Kim's Women's Health and Life Transition Coaching, go to

And on Instagram @wellbeingwithkim_


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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!

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Moving to the Front of the Class, with Kim Hughes


This week I'm speaking with Kim Hughes.

A limb difference at birth meant Kim's confidence was shaken at an early age, years, being in a career that just wasn't right for her, and a lifetime struggling to settle, finally changed after a relationship catastrophe in her forties. Now 51, Kim has gone to the front of the class literally and is letting go of judgment, mainly her own.

Hi Kim. Thank you so much for joining me on The Second Chapter. How are you doing?


[00:00:52] Kristin: Yes, me too. Me too. Thank you again. Your second chapter story, starts with what you might call your first chapter how you accidentally became an accountant. Can you tell me a little bit about what led to that? It definitely sounds like it wasn't a real intention in your life.


That was what I thought I wanted to do and left because I couldn't settle. And I left, my father said to me, get a job, this won't do, you need to get a job. So I found myself a little job in a finance department and I guess they say it kind of set my path really. You know, I suddenly had this job where I was earning a little bit of money and that felt quite nice and it just felt quite safe and secure in this job and I really just fell into it and, Consequently, I, over the years trained, did my accountancy training.

All the while though I was moving from job to job, I never really settled in one place. So I'd be in a job, I could be in a job for, even just a week and I'd be looking for a new job. So I didn't really settle very well. And Eventually, I think in my thirties, I had the opportunity to set up my own accountancy practice, which I did, and I grew it and it flourished and, it was successful and all intents and purposes, I'd in inverted commas I'd, I'd made it, my ego was pretty satisfied.

I was an accountant. I was doing what was expected, but there was still just this piece of me that wasn't really happy and contented. I always felt that there was something more for me. And it wasn't until I. Until kind of life took a little bit of a turn and I moved into my forties, things changed for me that I decided that, I was gonna actually do something about that and try and make some sort of shift in my life.


[00:03:21] Kim: Yeah, so I was born with something which I now know to be probably something called amniotic band syndrome. So it's a congenital limb loss, which basically means that the amniotic sac. Ruptures and these little amniotic bands get tangled around the developing limbs. Now I was born in the early seventies, my, my mom didn't have a scan when she was pregnant.

It was a complete surprise when I popped out and I didn't have any fingers on one of my hands. They didn't know what it was. It was just one of those things and. I think what I found very difficult with that growing up was that I knew absolutely nobody like me. It wasn't particularly something that was talked about.

I don't think that my parents particularly had an awful lot of. Support around that, it wasn't as it is now where they could hop onto the internet and google this thing and find out, potentially why it had happened or anything. And I found it very isolating growing up.

And when I was about eight years old, I moved to schools and that is when I can remember. Becoming very aware that I was different, that I had something that everybody else didn't have. And I can remember going for my first day at this new school and I was wearing a kind of pitiful dress that I could pop my hands into my pockets, and that became my kind of security blanket, was putting my hand into my pocket.

The best thing I found [:

I think that probably became quite difficult during those teenage years, because you're very you become very self-conscious anyway, and I didn't like being different, actually, I wanted to be the same as everybody else, so I did all that I could to hide my hand and to I guess pretend it wasn't really there.

But of course on the inside it really was. And I was very aware of it. I think that was probably, as I was saying when I went to university and I didn't settle. I think that was a huge part of it because one of the things I had to do in going to university was meet lots and lots of new people and my the limb losses on my right hand, so that often meant potentially needing to shake hands with people, which was something that I.

Really couldn't cope with navigating. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know whether to tell people. I didn't know whether that was going to shock them or whether that was going to, or whether I would just not shake hands and potentially that might look a bit rude. And so I think that was a big part of me not settling at university was that it just felt safer to come home again.

Rather than, put myself into those situations, which generated quite a lot of fear for me.


[00:06:55] Kim: Yeah, I guess so. And I guess that's perhaps the way that it, that my hand had been dealt with throughout my life. It was, just, you just need to fit in like everybody else. And of course, to a degree that was absolutely true. But I think what that felt like to me was that. It was quite difficult to talk about because I knew nobody who was in that situation.

So even my parents, who, whilst they might have ridden alongside me, They hadn't fully experienced it from the point of view that I had. They were experiencing it as a parent as opposed to as I was, as the person going through it. So I guess my dad was just thinking what on earth are you gonna do now?

I think they hadn't been to university. I think they were probably quite excited that I was going to university. And then when I came back, within 12 weeks, I think. I imagine there was probably a level of disappointment and he just probably thought, you know what, you're not just gonna sit around the house doing nothing now.

You need to get a job. Which interestingly was a challenge in itself because, The time that I left university was the early nineties, so there weren't a lot of jobs around still at that particular time. I seem to remember might have even been late eighties, but one of the experiences I had in searching for a job was that I can remember going for a job in a bank and I'm not sure that I particularly even wanted the job in the bank, but it was something that I'd managed to get an interview for.

They asked me about my hand and I told them and I said, no, it won't cause me any problems whatsoever. I filled in the sort of health questionnaire that you had to fill in then, and a couple of weeks later I was called in To his credit, he did it in person by the bank manager who said, oh, I'm really sorry, but head office have said I can't.

I can't employ you. They don't think you'll be able to count the money fast enough behind the counter, and I can remember that just being a really kind of, moment, because whoever had decided that had never met me had no idea of my capabilities. And I think they'd obviously just been able to decide that based on what that potentially looked like on a piece of paper.

And I think thankfully things have moved on, but it was, I guess back then it was it was different than it is now. And I think it was. Those sorts of pinch points that also stifled my confidence and kept me. Then, as I say, my life quite small, really, I'll stay in this nice, safe job now that I've got it.

Rather than, potentially putting myself into a situation where I might be rejected,


Like you said, even as far as growing up, you would've had, books about how we can all be different and still, get along and how it's wonderful to be different or your parents would've had, infinite resources online to find groups for you . It's just the whole thing seems unimaginable now.

But Looking back to my childhood, I can completely imagine all of the things you're saying.


No wonder I found that challenging sports. And now that just wouldn't have happened. Everybody would've been saying we just get you a left-handed hockey stick, it's not a problem.

And things like that. So I think. Things have moved on and yeah, as you say, it's interesting, isn't it? Because, timelines are are so strange. 'cause yes, in, in one way it feels like only yesterday, but actually, we are 30 years on and yes, thankfully things are moving on.

And I know as an adult in probably only the kind of last five years, I've discovered all sorts of resources online, which has been amazing. And I'm now connected with lots of different people who who have a limb difference. And that's very, been very inspirational to me actually. And has really been quite supportive in helping me to make change actually, you know, is seeing some amazing youngsters, people that are much younger than me, doing some wonderful things and me thinking, oh my goodness, if only I'd seen this.

30 years ago, maybe my path would've been different. Maybe I would've walked a different pathway. So I think that's, one of the absolute positives of social media. And I know that there's some, groups out there that actually were around in the seventies, but of course my parents wouldn't have known how to access.

Because they weren't local. And how did you find out unless somebody told you really? So yes, thankfully I think things are changing. They need to continue to change, but they are on a upward TR trajectory.


[00:13:05] Kim: Y Yeah. Every now and again, you can't help but reflect and ponder on whether things would've been different had I had different circumstances or been born in a different time. However, I. On the flip side, of course, they always shape you in the way that you progress through life in a positive way as well.

And maybe I wouldn't have the insights that I do now as a kind of 50 year, 51 year old woman had I not. Been through those different experiences myself. So I think there's, pros and cons, aren't there? But yeah, you're right. Every now and again, I might reflect back and go, oh, if only if I have known that.


[00:14:07] Kim: Yeah. So I think over the years, as I said, I'd never really been settled in this world of accountancy. It was something that I'd fallen into. I was good at it on paper. Everything should be fine. I. I'd never been really settled, and I'd always been thinking of things I could do instead.

One minute I was thinking, maybe I could be a nurse or maybe I could be a teacher, or maybe I could be X, Y, Z. But because I was so insecure, I didn't feel I could follow through. That shifted really in my forties and in my forties. I went through a second divorce, which completely blindsided me.

e marriage, it was over with [:

I was very anxious on waking. I had heart palpitations. I was struggling with changes in my own body, but I thought at the time that these were all related to the fact that I was going through a divorce. I think what happened as a result of that was that it made me realize that absolutely nothing was set in stone.

I felt that I was in this great second marriage. To me, I thought everything was going okay and. I guess it made me realize that I really didn't have any control over so much of my life, but what I could control what was what was going on within my own head. And I think that was when I started to really dig a little bit deeper into my own mindset and really do some of the mindset work that set me up to be able to create change and to. Have a new kind of inner resilience, and the other thing that happened in my forties was that I started to go much deeper in my own yoga practice. I'd practiced yoga in my twenties and then in my thirties I'd been a bit more a gym bunny. I used to like to go to the gym a bit more, but in my forties I'd come back to my yoga practice and one of the things that had happened as well in my forties was that.

I've been doing my very typical, if I go to a yoga class, I need to get there incredibly early because I need to be at the back because I don't want anybody to see me. So it wasn't unheard of for me to arrive sort of 30, 45 minutes early to a yoga class because I had to ensure that I was stood at the back.

But what I started to realize as I went. Deeper into my yoga practice from a more, emotional space as opposed to really just using it as a physical practice was that I started to realize that I was very unaware of anybody else in the room. So when I was in a class, I didn't really know who was stood next to me.

I didn't really know what they were doing. And I realized that actually this was a really internal practice for me and. For some reason, it suddenly occurred to me that if that was the case for me, maybe that was the case for everybody else in the room. And actually maybe they were all walking outta the class not having noticed me at all.

And so I started to. Decide that maybe I would not need to arrive quite so early for these yoga classes that, maybe it was okay if I wasn't in the back row, maybe I could be in the middle row. And I started to just experiment with what that felt like. And it turned out that it wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be.

And so during my four, whilst I'm going through these kind of. Realizations that maybe I really don't want to be an accountant for the rest of my kind of working life and that maybe I don't have as much control over life as I thought I did. I start to think what would I like to do? And that was when I really started to think what if I could become a yoga teacher?

What if this shift in me that has been. So supportive is something that I can share with other people. And what if I can be somebody stood at the front of the room, who is, who has been able to let go of those, external kind of chains that sometimes bind us, don't they? We sometimes worry so much about what others are thinking of us and what if I can be that kind of example of letting go and being free of those external binds. So I had an amazing yoga teacher myself who taught yoga teachers, and I can remember sending an email to her, which I think said something like, I know this might not be possible, or you might think this is a silly question, but. Could I train?

And she came back and said, of course you could, if we are going to have yoga for everybody, as we so often say, then actually we need everybody. From all walks of life to be a yoga teacher. And, it's not really a case of whether you could, it's, it's, yes you can.

ppened, actually it was very [:

And I went on to train to be a health coach, but very much within part of that, the, what I really want to support people with is what I feel I've managed to embody myself now, which is this kind of transitional piece, and so yes, I think my forties have. Absolutely changed everything, and I think it's really interesting that sometimes you can feel that you can come from a place of almost being crushed, and not knowing one Earth, you're going to do next to coming out the other side and feeling very empowered and. I'm all in on the next, kind of 10, 20, 30, 40 years of my life in a way that I don't think I would've felt had I not been through that last sort of decade or those years in my forties.


I think, two things we, what I said about. At a different time, maybe your life would've been so different. But also because we're in this time now where so many people are reclaiming things like menopause or perimenopause. So many women are reclaiming a time in their life that they're like, it's okay to change.

It's okay to do something different. Or taking back this kind of control. I suppose in that sense, you're at the perfect time. So as you said, The insight that you've gotten and the fact that we are in this moment where I feel like it is okay to say, I'm taking back control. Doing this new thing that, that really is right for me.

Instead of I'm just gonna stay in this career till I retire. There's so many things I feel like at the moment that, that have worked in your favor. My favor and I don't wanna say allowed us to do this, but have helped with that control,


I can't possibly do something different. And the same when I approached 40 I can't possibly do something different 'cause I'm nearly 40. And then, Yeah, I got to nearly 50 and I was of course I can do something different. I'm nearly 50. This is great. All to play for and yeah, and I, and we come with a wealth of experience as well, that perhaps we didn't have 10, 20, 30 years ago too.

So I think absolutely there's. There's opportunity isn't there? In the world that we live in now, there's opportunity. We don't have to stay in the same career path for the rest of our days. Actually, if we wanna do something different then there is possibility. And I love that, how great that we've got this opportunity to do something completely different.


[00:23:47] Kim: Yeah. Yeah, because. One of the things that I think holds us back so often is fear. And in my case it was very much fear of judgment. But I see this with a lot of the women that I work with. Fear of either wanting to be, those. Everything needs to be perfect.

We need to have control or fear of judgment. What will who, what will some somebody think if I do X, Y, Z? And I think that for me, there's been a real mindset shift around what confidence is because I spent most of my life thinking when I'm confident, maybe I'll be able to do. X, Y, Z and it turns out that the confidence piece is on the other side of the doing of the thing.

y on the other side there is [:

And I think that's what's been. So positive and supportive for me is really recognizing that. And now I would say that I actually embrace fear, which I didn't ever think I would be able to do. If I start a new class, there's fear, there's fear that what if nobody comes?

What if nobody comes to my new class? But I'm very able to work through that now and. Of course, what's the worst that's gonna happen? The worst that's gonna happen is that I'm right and nobody's gonna come to my class. But actually that's okay. And really learning to let go of the outcome of whatever it is that I'm trying to achieve.


Blah, blah, blah, whatever that end of that sentence is. But I think one of the things I realized speaking to all of them was that. There's different kinds of coaching, and we had all gotten to a point where we were interested in helping especially women around maybe the same age group, or women in general.

But it wasn't just life coaching. And that's what I thought was really interesting about the group I spoke with and I mentioned it to them. We realized, like I said, as I'm sitting there, okay, you help people with life changes, you help people with gardening, you help. I am a triathlon coach.

Everybody was doing things to help each other. And I guess my question's kind of twofold. Why do we get to this point that we want to be sharing this with others and, sharing this coaching and helping others through these difficult times.

And I guess, what do you bring in particular that makes your coaching, your health and life transition coaching as well as your yoga practice different.


And and I think that one of the things that I've learned, and in. Going through my own journey and my own process. I worked with a coach myself and I found it incredibly powerful and empowering. And it wasn't that we actually sat and particularly looked backwards so much as, okay, where am I now?

Where do I want to get to and how, what's stopping me from getting there? And I think that's really What I try and bring to the table as a ho health coach myself is that I don't just want to look at the physical, I want to look at the emotional as well, because I see them very much as interconnected.

If we think of our health as a jigsaw puzzle, we want all of the pieces in place to make a really nice rounded full picture. And I think the mindset piece for me has been very important in the work that, that I do. Because I always say you can be eating all of the broccoli in the world, but actually if your nervous system is not settled and not happy, then actually you are not gonna be absorbing the nutrients that you want to from, from that piece of broccoli.

And it's also, vice versa. You can actually be doing all of the mindset work that you want in the world, but actually, if you're not nourishing your body, then you are not going to have that really lovely Holistic picture to life that you that most of us, that's what most of us want.

Really. We want to we want to feel whole and confident and have purpose. We want all of those pieces of the pie in place to really support us to move forwards. And I think that for me, particularly as I said, that mindset, Piece around confidence is incredibly powerful. Because I think that we often know what it is that we want, but it's that fear voice that will so often come in before we get chance to act on that and will really pull us back.

And when we can really act from a place of empowerment, from our most empowered voice, and make that fear voice that much smaller, that's when we can start to. And make the changes that we really, that we really want to. And I think from my own journey, I never imagined that I would be able to make the changes that I have done.

t people that I didn't know. [:

So I think, one of the things I always say to people is, that I believe that change is possible. And sometimes that can sound like a bit of a flippant statement, really, or just something that you kind of stick on an in Instagram post. But for me, I really do believe that we have the power to change when we have the tools to do so.


And you'll see people that all shape sizes, diverse ethnicities, people just embracing that you can do yoga. And it doesn't have to be about a competitive physical sport. It can be, for everyone. I wanna be a bit tactful about this question because I don't wanna come across the wrong way, but so much of your story has to do with the confidence you lacked, or the way that you felt for so long in your life about having a limb difference .

And we've talked about it quite extensively. It's not something you really shout out about on your website, and I'm wondering if it's a conscious choice from a, it's not about me. I want this website to be about my clients. Or if it's something that you're still coming to terms with as far as how you present that to the world.


I'm way more than this limb difference. And and I think. It's a bit more of a kind of conscious choice that I want it to be much more about. The changes that others are going to be able to make themselves, as opposed to, this is this is my story, this is what happened to me. And so I tend to, I do share it on talk about it on my Instagram. And actually I had a amazing experience earlier this year when I went to London and I taught a at a. Limb difference event, which was amazing. They were launching a new yoga tool, a company for people with lower limb loss below elbow limb loss. And I was asked if I would go along and teach, and so was very much part of promoting that. But yeah, I think it's, I think it's interesting that you are right.

I don't particularly shout about it on my website and I think it's. It's probably comes back to, it's not it doesn't define me. And I guess, 'cause I've just talked about it quite a lot, maybe it sounds like it does define me, but I guess it's, we are multifaceted and I think it's very much part of my story and my journey, but can teach yoga regardless, and I guess I feel in a way that I don't particularly need to show up and justify myself in that way, which perhaps I always had done. It's I'm just gonna, I'm just, you come to my classes, say, when people come to my classes, they don't necessarily know. They don't know that I have a limb difference.

And I also pondered when I started teaching on whether to tell people, do I. Tell people when they book that, I have this, do I explain it to them? And I decided not to. I decided that when people come, they will see me and they will decide whether they like my class regardless. And actually the reality is they're probably going to come to my classes because they like the style of teaching that I provide. And for me it's been really about letting go of maybe that need to justify or explain, and just be. What you see is what you get when you turn up. And if you like my style of teaching, then you'll come again. And if you don't, I'm okay with that as well, which I think is part of the letting go of the outcome this is my style of yoga. It's a yoga practice that has been very supportive to me. And come and share it with me and hopefully you'll enjoy it and you'll come back and, of course people do.

I'm not for everybody, but I am for many people. So I think it's, yeah it's interesting. It is interesting.


You mentioned finding groups where you were like, oh, there are other people like me. So that's why I was like, how much of that do you wanna share and how much of it do you want it to just be about, what you're offering as a service to other people? And I think I completely get what you say about learning not to take it personally.

Because I know as a triathlon coach for the long, for the longest time, my club was me coaching. I founded the club. So if somebody didn't like the club, somebody didn't join the club, they didn't come back, they left the club at some point, even if they were moving away, I'd be like, oh, they don't like my coaching.

And now we have more coaches. It's not just about me anyway, but it is so difficult sometimes not to feel like it is a personal thing. Whether there's. Physical aspects like a limb difference involved or not. There's always that taking your work very personally when you really care about it.

I think


Sort of modifying my practice and thinking maybe I need to make it a little bit more challenging. Maybe it's too challenging. What do I need to do? But now I feel very much as I said, if it's right for somebody, they're gonna find me. They're gonna come into my space if it's right. And that does take. Quite a lot of belief and self-belief and self-trust. And I think those are all things that, over this last, several years and I guess maybe over the course of my life actually, I've probably been working on this without necessarily being really aware of it, but really working to establish that self trust that trust in myself.


[00:37:47] Kim: One of the Things that I often do with my clients when we're, when they're in that position, is to ask them who else is in the room with them? Because we've all got those inner critical voices that are going off when we wanna do something that's a little bit scary, those voices come up, they come up for all of us and say, are you sure that's a good idea?

What if you fail? You know what are your friends gonna think of you? You're gonna look silly. All of these kind of voices can go off in our heads. And so one of the things I suggest is thinking about who's in the room with you. Noticing those voices and maybe asking yourself where they're coming from.

Maybe it's a parent's voice, maybe it's an old teacher's voice. Maybe it's in my case maybe it's that bank manager's voice. Who told me that I couldn't do the job. Where are those voices coming from? And then I think once we have that awareness, then we can start to decide what we want to do with those voices.

Do we wanna listen to them or do we want to lean into something a little bit more supportive? And I think, again, we often, when we do that, what we find is that, Our own intuition. That voice, when that voice comes in, that's the one that really has the answers for us. And I think it's about really recognizing that those other voices in the room are usually coming from a place of fear.


You're too, and that room is so loud and so crowded sometimes. So I really like the idea of who's in that room and why. Get 'em out. You're not welcome here.


And it's, and it's repetition as well. The more that you do this, the more that you become aware of those voices, of those of that inner critic that's going off then the easier it becomes to identify those voices quite quickly and replace them with the more positive thoughts.

It absolutely becomes much easier the more you do it. I definitely don't find it as challenging as I would've done kind of 10 or 15 years ago at all.


[00:40:37] Kim: I did, and I, the I wrote down two actually, but one that I like is just in the absence of your judgment, everything will be okay. Because I think for me, that one's been very pertinent, and judgment, actually just, not just my own judgment, but what I perceive to be the judgment of others.

And actually when I really think about that, Actually, if that judgment wasn't there, would everything be okay? a lot of the time it would, for me, fear of judgment has been big in my life, so I really like that one.


Everyone has their own, everyone has their own shit to deal with basically. And when you're in that yoga room or in the world, everyone's not looking at you .


And I can remember thinking, Hey, but what about me? I've got this to deal with. And of course the reality is actually that each of us have our own, as you say, we've got our own shit to deal with. We come to the party with our own internal worries and preconceived ideas and all of those sorts of things.

We can start to let go, and I actually use say this all the time in class, in my own classes that I run now. Just letting go of all judgment. Judgment for yourself. Just coming to class and seeing what the body has to offer is I. And, really letting go of the ego because the egos, the ego can be pretty loud when it comes to, when it comes to yoga classes.

And yeah, as you say, maybe pushing yourself a little bit too hard or, wanting to show up in a particular way.


[00:42:58] Kim: Am I allowed to,


[00:43:03] Kim: this is just one that my, it's actually my partner's quote, and he's always saying Never problems, only solutions. And it's one that I've now adopted as my own because. Actually, he's right. When he used to say that to me, I used to think, yeah, right. but actually it's true. He's a carpenter and he's constantly finding things go wrong in whatever it is that he's building or creating.

And he always finds a solution to to whatever it is that's not quite working out exactly as he expected. And when I think back, I think actually, Whatever problem has presented itself, there's always been a solution. It hasn't necessarily been the one that I would've immediately chosen perhaps, but I've always managed to resolve anything that has stood in my way that has potentially derailed me, that there has always been a solution, and I quite like that one.

It's just. Sometimes when you perhaps don't have a great day, and I come home and he'll say, there's solution to this. There's, there's never a problem that we can't sort out. And I just think, yeah, that's great. I love that.


But he's right. And it is it's a wonderful way to look at the world because it's certainly more optimistic than, ugh, I'm just gonna, I just have problems.

The world's against me.


And as I say, it might not necessarily been the solution that you had necessarily hoped for, we do always navigate, we navigate our way through and I, yes, I just really, I really like that positivity.


The thing that was right, the thing that you least expected and leads to a whole new path as you have demonstrated.


[00:45:50] Kristin: Definitely you mentioned hopefully the right people finding you and that they will, so we'll make sure that all of your links are in our show notes. Is there anything else you'd like to share with the listeners today?


[00:46:14] Kristin: That's true. I'm constantly saying it's never too late. But I do feel like we get a little bit, like you said I'm almost 30, I'm almost 40. How am I gonna make these changes? And it's if you're not happy, just do it now.

Why wait until you have something catastrophic happen?


[00:46:33] Kristin: doesn't take catastrophe. Just do what you need to do.


[00:46:40] Kristin: Thank you Kim, so much for joining me today. I've really enjoyed chatting with you, and I wish you all the best of luck and take care.


[00:46:49] Kristin: Thank you.