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Friday, March 12, 2010

Reflecting on the Year

A year can be a funny thing. It can seem like an eternity if someone you love is ill, and go by at lightening speed if you forget to sit back and enjoy it now and again. A child can change into a whole new person--go from gurgling to talking, toddling to a full on run. Their hair color can change, they can double in size and go from 6 diapers a day to training pants (well, unless your the world's worst potty trainer, than it takes a little longer than a year).

Today I came to work, opened the bills, started making phone calls, updated the accounts, requested an insurance certificate, printed some new file labels and created three new vendor files. That's when it hit me--a year ago, I didn't know how to do any of that. A year ago I was getting ready to take over the books for our company which, back then, I still referred to as Lee's company. I was not learning how to apply vendor credits because I wanted to, I was learning how to do it because we were scared to death about what the next few months held for us and our family. We couldn't afford an office manager, and I had the time...sort of.

So I took a Quickbooks class, and cried at least once a week on the way home. I didn't WANT to do this! It wasn't fair. My youngest was finally in school all day, I could be a real writer, I could keep up on the housework, I could read every day. On March 24th, I went to work and kept crying on the way home; drowning in my own self-pity.

I resented it for a long time. I didn't know what I was doing, and what I did do wasn't done well. I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, I just like to do everything right :-) and numbers have never been my friend. The situation also put me 'in the know' of where things really were. It wasn't good but I realized how much of the burden Lee'd been shouldering on his own, realizing that because I didn't understand how the buisness worked, I didn't have any way of really understanding the issues we were facing. We were involved in a lawsuit, we weren't making any money, we were in disputes with a landlord, and I wasn't very good at my job. It was a heavy load to help carry and I longed to not be so aware.

For awhile I whined about every little thing I had to do in order to make sure Lee realized this was a sacrifice. We kept waiting for things to turn around...and waited...and waited. In August we had a long discussion about whether the company was even viable to keep going, but we'd put so much into it and we still had the lawsuit to contend with--quitting wasn't an option, and I don't say that in a romantic "Aren't we heroic" kind of way, I mean we really didn't have an option. It was at least paying the legal fees.

In September a key employee in our Vegas office quit without notice. I cried some more. I thought there was no way we could do this without him. We interviewed and hired a woman we thought would be prefect--she quit after two days. I went to Vegas again. I missed my deadline with my latest book. We called our second choice and I did my best to train her, but held my breath. During training we'd realized that we had a huge number of jobs that hadn't been billed--and the companies had filed bankrupcy since then. We were out $30,000.00 and still had never recieved a paycheck. It was dark, ugly, and really discouraging. I was six weeks past my deadline before I turned in Devil's food cake and I wondered how on earth I was supposed make all this work? It had been 6 months and I was still trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

And then, finally, the change began to take place. The new employee was AMAZING. She was diligent and detailed oriented and anything she didn't know, she figured out. As she got settled she took over billing, and found dozens of jobs that hadn't been billed but, unlike the ones I'd found, they still could be billed. We collected on these jobs and found ourselves in the black for the first time in months. The economy, though nothing like it had once been, stablized in Vegas a little bit and we realized that a lot of our competition hadn't made it through the year. We felt horrible for them, knowing what it felt like to lose your business, but it left more of the market share. Our salesman in Vegas never gave up, even when he wasn't pulling any commissions, and he hit the ground running now that there was work again. I didn't have to negotiate extentions on the bills anymore and in January Lee got his first paycheck from the company he'd owned for a year and a half.

Today he asked me a question about the attorney bill--something I take care of without discussing with him because it raises so many ugly feelings. I told him it wasn't too bad and not to worry about it. He looked at me and said "Gosh, you take really good care of me, don't you?"

He left to run some errands and I reflected on that statement and realized how much had happened in the last year. I went through my own process of accepting my role, and Lee went through his processes of pushing forward and making this work. But we did it together and it brought us together and while I was given a bird's eye view of the burden he's been lugging around, he got an up front seat to the sacrifices I was making too. I came to understand what he meant when he was venting about something, and he came to understand how necessary my writing time was and worked hard to give it to me because he could see how hard I was working to do my part. My kids have learned a new level of independance and they've learned that they are an essential part of our family. We need them to be responsible, and they've risen to the challenge.

It's been a hard year, one of the hardest we've faced in our marriage, but we made it! We'll celebrate our 17 year wedding anniversary in a few weeks. I have officially been married to Lee longer than I lived without knowing him. I can see this last year as a gift to us, a means of drawing us together in a common goal and remembering that we are people and partners and parents and really, truly, very best friends.

Would I wish for the hard things we've trudged through this year? No, and yet maybe I prayed it into life all those times I prayed for the Lord's help in keeping my family strong, in helping me support my husband, and in asking that He help me overcome my weaknesses. Either way, I can look back and be grateful for what I've learned, how I've stretched myself, and where we are now. That is something I'd have never imagined a year ago.

I was at a bookgroup a few weeks ago, talking about individual gifts we all discover about ourselves throughout our lives. One of the women said "And don't you think it's our trials that lead us to those discoveries?" I had never thought about it like that, but I've pondered on that theory a lot since then. I learned to cook because I was tired of Tuna Helper. I learned to write because I was on bedrest and falling victim to depression and self-pity. I learned patience because I had toddlers that didn't understand things the first time. I learned faith when I had nothing left within myself to push me forward and needed to believe in Him.

Yes, a year can be an amazing journey, and each time one ends, another is just beginning. I wonder what the next year will hold...


Kristina P. said...

I find that things usually come full circle.

Loves this post, Josi!

Cheri Chesley said...

You're one brave lady! :)

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

You and I have been on a similar road this year, Quickbooks and all. We'll get through this!

The Damsel in Dis Dress

MixedNuts said...

Wow, you just put everything I have been feeling the last little while into words.

Thank you


alisha said...

Wow, Jos. I'm sure glad you survived the year and came out on top. It's too bad that we do learn so much from our challenges - darn them! And thanks for sharing - it is always comforting and inspiring to hear other people's experiences.

Well, I think you're awesome and I'd have told you that I knew you could do it. :)

Happy 17!!

Cathy said...

Josi, you are amazing. Thanks for sharing your trials and triumphs.

L.T. Elliot said...

It's no small wonder that I think the world of you. And I don't say that just because you had a tough year. I say that because of the woman you became THROUGH that tough year. I admire the heck out of you, Josie.

Carolyn V. said...

Wow! Josi, this is a great post! We had a difficult first part of the year. Surprisingly, it lead to a great job and happy children. But boy, it was hard to get through the trials!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I think that this is so relateable even if the challenge itself is different. I love the way you explained what you learned.

Cranberryfries said...

Wow. What a year. It always makes me stop and think when I hear the trials of others because I think so often it's easy to just assume you're the only one with tough problems.
I love the thought that trials lead to discoveries. And all the discoveries you've had.

Quick question, were you and hubby school mates? :)

Grandma 'D' said...

Trials and Blessing in the same sentence. Isn't that an oxymoron?
Your are amazing at your worst...i can't imagine you at your best. Your are awesome Josi. Thanks for the lifes lessons that inspire us all to become all that we can. Even at my age we can learn so much from you young wives, mothers etc...Wishing you a wonderful, better year with everything you stand in need of.....BECAUSE YOU DESERVE IT!!!

Krista said...

An inspiring post. I think if we all threw our own trials on a table for a swap, most of us, seeing what others have gone or are going through, would take our own back.
We can have an opportunity to learn what we are made of through adversity. Your husband is lucky to have you, and it sounds like he knows it. Great job, Josi.

Annette Lyon said...

This is powerful on several levels. I'm so glad that year is in the past for you, yet a lot of great things came out of it. As always, I'm standing back and admiring you. Wow.

Aud's Space said...

Reflecting can be such a wonderful experience. I'm so glad you made it through the year. What wonderful blessings for your marriage and family relationships have been the result~

Don said...

Oh, the things I've become expert at that I never wanted to learn. It really is nice to look back and realize that we've survived, and might actually be the better for it.

Great post. Thanks, Josi.

Amy said...

I had to leave a comment because I just finished reading English Trifle recently and after downloading the recipes (sooo excited to try the crumpet one!), I saw on your website that you had a blog.
To say that it looks like you've had a trying year would be about as much of an understatement as the Lamanites in the book of Alma "beginning to be astonished" when Ammon cut their arms off. I hope that you continue to find success and relief. I also congratulate you on 17 years of marriage! I'm on my third year now. Going on forever.
I'm a writer too, only I've been trudging through my last dozen rejections and wondering when I'm going to get a 'yes.'
Any advice?

C.S. Bezas said...

Wow, Josi, you really know how to touch us all. What an amazing post and what an amazing woman you are. You've created a memorable moment for me today reading your words. Thank you for the breath of sunshine you are to all of us.

Karlene said...

Thanks for the post. I needed to hear that. Again.

Curtis Moser said...

Josi, this is one of the best posts I've read. It's reflective and thoughtful and honest--all attributes I admire in writing, and among the rarest of qualities in people. Thanks.

Shelly said...

I totally get this. Its been almost a year that my husband was laid off. Yesterday was his first day at his new job. The past year was really hard.Sometimes when it rains it pours. But together my family prayed, loved and relied on our Heavenly father to make it through. Thanks for sharing your trials and how you have turned them to strengths. It has helped me reflect on my past year as well.May this next year bring us much peace and happiness

2sisters said...

Wow Josi! What a year, and look at the amazingly strong woman you have become. It's been fun reconnecting with you (through Micki at least). May blessings rain down upon you! We have a blog together if you have time to stop by you can link to it from our blogger profile. Your books are awesome! We both loved them even before we realized it was you!