Is it Hard for You?

As so often happens, a semi-long ride in the car prompted lots of talk amongst my little people and I. I’m learning these windows of opportunity to really talk to them and more importantly, to listen, are fleeting and few. I try to be present for the moments and conversations as they happen. (Keyword is TRY. Sometimes I miss it.)

As you all know, our feed store adventure came to an end and now I’m home with the kids – which has been fantastic so far. We’ve been doing just as I hoped – getting our school grove back, making a little progress on the house, and working on lots of outside farm projects. The end of the feed store sparked a lot of conversations. The one I’m going to tell you about was probably the hardest one for me.

I’ve learned that my kids have to see me vulnerable, not getting it all right, not having all of the answers. Or more importantly, they see those things and they need to hear that I see it too, that I accept it, and that I’m not pretending to be more than I am. If I can be real, and real with them, maybe I can impart the courage to be real to them. Maybe.

As he usual, Isaiah asks the hardest questions. He started out with, “Mom…Mom… Do you think the new owners will do better with the feed store than us?”

You mean than me, right son? The words I thought but didn’t dare say, they took a lot of ownership in the feed store. But at the end of the day, it was up to me to run it “right”.

“Yes, I do.” I replied. Eyes on the road ahead, don’t look in the rear view mirror. Don’t encourage wherever this is leading.

“What do you think they’ll do better?”

It boils down to consistency, and I wish that had been my answer, but I said, “Everything,” with a shrug, “probably everything, kiddo. They’ll keep the store stocked and they won’t let someone work there that doesn’t show up on time. The store will be open, clean, stocked. And rightfully so, they should do better than I did.” And quieter. A lot quieter. No baby crying in the high chair, kids running with show sticks and screaming, and 12-year-old sales pitches.

The car fell silent, and I’ll be honest, my thoughts were starting to get to me. The failures. The things I could have done better. The things I should have done better. Could have. Should have. Would have. Somewhere in that mess of thoughts, I heard the sweet voice of my boy again, “Mom?”

“Hmm?” I finally glanced in the mirror, meeting big, inquisitive eyes.

“Is it hard for you?”

“What?” I asked.

“Is it hard for you, knowing they will do better than us?”

Why doesn’t the team that helps you give birth to a child also hand you a book or pamphlet that prepares you for the fact that your kids will kind of gut you, while expecting your honest, vulnerable answers, but needing you to shoulder your trials with grown up strength – especially when you most want to curl up and let someone else make the decisions and take on the responsibilities? Why, in this moment, when everything is still raw, fresh, and I’m still kind of crossing my fingers that I did the right thing, does my son need to know if it’s hard to know they’ll do better? Is he asking me if I know that I failed?

“So hard, Isaiah. It is so hard knowing they’ll do better. And good. I want them to do better, because getting the feed store was an honor to me. I felt like the torch of something historical and long-standing had been passed to me, to our family. I wanted to carry it well, but the truth is, I didn’t. I tried. But too many things out of our control happened after we got the store and I just never could quite get my act together. I wanted to run it as wonderfully as the new family is going to, as wonderfully as the family before us did. But I can’t honestly say that I did as well as I hoped. And all of this is hard. Except for the part that I know I’ll be home with you guys, and we’ll have great adventures and we will build things and grow things and learn things.”

His voice sounded weepy, and his big blue eyes had tears welled in them, “It’s hard for me too, Mom. I wanted the feed store to go right, too. I liked owning a feed store.”

I didn’t realize how much ownership my kids, especially my two boys, took in the feed store endeavor until we let it go. I wanted that – in fact, when we first took over, I did very specific things to make them feel like it was theirs too. This was their adventure, too. They were part of making it what it was.

It wasn’t until after everyone was in bed, and I was left alone to my thoughts, that I could pick out that truth. I definitely felt the sense of loss and the things that didn’t go well were at the forefront of my mind. I may not have done well in all the things I wanted to, but my kids learned a lot. They took part in the adventure, they took part in the dreaming, and they are also learning that sometimes we let go of something good, to make room for something better.

Being home with them is definitely something better in my book. So yes, it was hard to let go, it was hard to let go to someone who is going to make the store everything I couldn’t, and I think these kinds of things are always hard in life. But when we do a hard thing for the right reasons, it makes the hard thing bearable.

If you’re facing a hard decision, make sure you choose the best, not just the good option. And look for the right reasons that make the hard thing bearable.

Until next time,
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Just Like That

It’s over so much the same as it began – a few weeks of anticipation, leading up to the final moment. It feels just as surreal to close this chapter as it did to open it.

I’ll never forget the day I first turned the key in the lock and opened the feed store. I couldn’t believe it was mine. So many ideas had come to mind in the weeks leading up to that moment, I had started a notebook just for the ideas.

I had too many ideas to know where to start, and I started too many ideas too fast, and lacked the follow through necessary to truly know which ideas were successful and which ideas weren’t. (This tends to be a recurring problem for me. I’m working on it.)

Knowing how many ideas were left untried, and walking out that door for the proverbial last time (I mean, I’m sure I’ll be back to buy feed), was downright hard. I put so much of myself in to that store. But things don’t always go the way we think they should, or even will.

A dear friend called today in the middle of me counting failures and kindly but adamantly reminded me I was looking at it all wrong. Sure, I could count failures if I wanted to, there surely are failures to count. But she pointed out that with all our family walked through in the last several months, I chose my family. I chose to be with them, available to them, present for them.

And she helped me clear my head so much. Instead of counting failures or even feeling like this happened to me, I could see the choices I made. And as I write this, while I acknowledge disappointment and things that could have gone different or better, I don’t regret that I chose my family. I didn’t bury myself in my work and wait for the storm to pass.

In 2 months, 2 years, 2 decades, I know I will be glad for investing my time and energy in my children, regardless of leaving a business behind. I think in a few short years, had I made the store the priority, I would have realized my kids were grown and I wouldn’t be able to get that time back.

I think this is one of those times where I am learning to say no to something good, to be able to say yes to the best.

On Cloud 9

(This is a three part series about our success and struggle owning our own business, and our plea for a little help to get things ironed back out. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. If you can help, with even a prayer and a share ,go to our GoFundMe page here: gofundme.com/u2wzu8)

Life was grand! 3 tow trucks and a service truck. My sweet husband, and the two guys working for us stayed pretty busy. We ran a few peaceful months – just balancing out, getting some good help in, and found out we were having another baby, too! This means 6 kids to keep out of the paperwork and grease! We rented a shop, yard, and an office, which allowed us to separate home and work a little bit. It was nice to go home, and get a tiny break from work (other than the phone…it’s always the phone.)

June 2014 saw the F450 go down and it was 3 long months before we got that truck running again. During that time, things were rocky, but it was evident that if we had another truck to run calls, we had the calls to run. They were coming in left and right and we could only get to so many at a time with just two running wreckers. So, we started looking for another wrecker, and found 2. The lending guy was certain we could get into both trucks, and we made the leap. (Insert my reservations here, but I held my breath and hoped for the best.)

We got home with the new trucks – our 2006 Chevy 6500 rollback, and our 2011 International DT466 rollback. Two weeks later the F450 was ready and we brought her home, too. Trucks are expensive, and it’s hard to keep them on the road. At this point, the repairs, down payments, and travel expenses cleaned us out. Our cash flow was keeping up but we weren’t able to put anything away for future repairs. We were counting on winter to keep us busy and let us get ahead.

This is the same time we started realizing how hard it really is to find good help and how hard it is to be a good boss. There are so many lines to watch – too friendly, not friendly enough. Too lenient, too strict. Too many days off, too many hours worked. Juggling a business and a family is such a challenge – but it’s worth it.

Don’t let me fool you as I detail all of the eye-openers. We love what we do. All day, every day, we love what we do. I love helping others and solving problems, and I have the most amazing teammate at my side to do this with. If it weren’t for his dream of owning his own wrecker service, I wouldn’t be here doing this, and that would be sad. My husband is amazing and it is an honor to stand beside him for the downs just as much as the ups.

Cloud 9 was short lived for us, we took on too much, too fast, and winter in Oklahoma never really happened. Our busy season was never really busy, and when we didn’t pick up with the change in seasons, a couple of our guys left because things were slow. We’re still fighting, still hoping, still praying for things to improve here. Lately, every day feels like I’m holding my breath hoping for a miracle. I’m going to keep hoping. Each day. Every day. The motor will get fixed in the International, and we’ll start making forward progress again.

Roadside Service Truck with Purple Lettering