Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Work and MOPs and Peers and Grief and Loss and Hope and...

Hi Bloggyland!

I hope this finds you well.

Life has been a crazy whirlwind the last many months.

5 years ago, my husband started a little auto repair business wherein he was repairing cars for the dealership that used to employ him as Controller. It was a one car at a time operation and the overhead was low because he used space at their dealership or here in our driveway. Eventually that business grew and he borrowed some space from the dealership's other location.

2 and a half years ago, the opportunity to move into a proper shop presented itself. For a long time, it was just him. And then it was him and one other guy.  Over the last 2.5 years, business exploded. We transitioned our model from repairing cars for other auto businesses (wholesale services) to focusing primarily on retail customers (individual vehicle owners). God has been amazing at providing work and customers for us. What was fledgling 5 years ago, is growing rapidly. We have a team of 6 employees (including DH and I) and we've grown 48% over last year, and almost 400% since we started. God is gracious and generous. We're now a full-service collision repair shop in our metro area.

What that means for me and this little blog though is that I really had to step up the role I played in the business. When we were all wholesale, I did almost nothing, except for the occasional ordering of office supplies or something. DH prefers to keep the books to exercise his Accounting Brain (I say no thanks anyway!), and between two auto businesses, there wasn't much I could do. Wooing retail customers is a whole different ballgame however and is massively time consuming. 4 employees and turning dozens of cars a week require a lot more systems too than one car and one guy at a time. Those are the areas I am more gifted in doing than DH is. So for most of the spring and summer, I worked whenever Matthew was sleeping, so I would work from about 6:30 am to 8:00am, between 2:00pm and 5:00pm while he napped, and from about 10:00pm to 1:00 or 2:00 am after Todd and Matthew went to sleep. It was exhausting. I honestly don't know how women who have to keep that pace all the time sustain it. You're amazing.

Thankfully, I don't have to pour quite so much time into it now, and so I can be a little more balanced though I still do work a lot.

When Matthew is awake, I try to give him as much of my attention as I can. We did a lot of classes at the Rec center over the summer-gymnastics and tumbling and dance. He loved them all. We do have to go into work sometimes and he enjoys going.

Now that I can breathe again, I hope to blog some more.

I went to my first MOPS group today. It was...interesting. I'm an extrovert. I have never felt uncomfortable walking into a room and making new friends. However, I can honestly say that the last time I had to walk into a group of strangers whom I was going to know for longer than a couple of hours was more than 10 years ago when I walked into what is now my church. I am such a different person than I was 10 years ago. 10 years ago I wasn't full of grief and loss and feelings of inadequacy and confusion.

My church is multi-generational. There are less than 5 families who are under 40. Most of my friends are in their late 40s or older. And I like it that way. For one, I'm an old soul anyway. Always have been and I just gravitate to them. So in the last 10 years, I haven't missed having the majority of my friends be my own age (ish). I do have girlfriends my own age, but all of them are from before any of us had kids, most of them are friends I met through infertility because they struggled too, and the number of non-peer friends I have still outnumber them.

So as this morning's meeting approached, I was nervous in a way I couldn't really understand. I'd never been nervous to go to a new group before.

It wasn't until I got there and they told me to make a name tag and tie little bows on it that I got it. Blue bows for boys, pink bows for girls, and white bows for children in Heaven. I almost walked out right then. How do you put 13 white ribbons on your name tag and not feel utterly absurd? The situation IS utterly absurd. I took 6 because it's what I thought I could take of what they had left and still leave some for other people. Gladly for them, not many people needed those white ribbons. I could have taken as many as I needed. So, from the get go, I was forced to deal with stuff I wasn't prepared to deal with today. Broadcast "hey, I'm the weirdo with 13 dead children" to a bunch of women whose necklaces were full of pink and blue. Let me tell you, it's not on anyone's list of conversation starters.

And that's when I realized how overwhelmingly uncomfortable I was in a group full of moms of young kids. When I'm with my friends whose kids are grown, the reminder of what I have lost and what I want so badly isn't staring me in the face all the time. I'm not constantly reminded of how different I am.  I don't feel threatened or sad because I'm watching their kids play happily together while Matthew is alone. I don't feel like I'm going to get left behind or passed up.  I don't feel like they might think I'm silly if I'm tired or overwhelmed with my one while they're juggling their 2 or 3 or 4. Conversations about how easily they get pregnant or when they might have another one or if they're pregnant now just don't happen. Give me menopause talk any day! I mean no disrespect to my friends who are my peers and I am so grateful for them too. I don't consciously feel uncomfortable with them in one on one situations. But walking into a whole room full was overwhelming.

We played some mindless games and I thought I was ok. They showed some fluffy rah rah rah video and I thought "piece of cake." They asked some fairly benign questions and, trying to participate some, when it came to my turn, I started to answer.

And the floodgates just opened. Here I was, in a room full of strangers, sobbing. Did I mention I make a great first impression? (sarcasm!) How do I honor my kids, honor the other women there, respect the testimony God has given me, be responsible with grief and feelings, and do anything productive with the time?

I just had no idea how difficult it would be to go and be with a bunch of "normal" moms. I just felt so inadequate and unable to relate, and sure that no one would understand me. 2 mamas at the table were jiggling infants. All but one had multiple kids. One woman had one loss.  I hear everyone talking about how they just want a break and want some identity outside of being a mom. I just don't resonate with that. I know that "all" I am is a mom right now, and I LIKE that. I don't find myself wishing for more. More sleep maybe, but I don't really identify with those feelings that most other moms share. Maybe it's because I feel like it's already slipping away from me. 7 years of agonizingly slow waiting have given way to blink-of-an-eye time that I wish I could freeze.  I feel a sort of panic about that pretty regularly. Like I'm clawing at the recent past and trying to stop time. I have a lot of growing to do in that area. God is the God of my past and of my future, but He's also the God of my now, and Matthew's now, and I want to be present with Him and him here.

I had no idea any of these things subconsciously bothered or hindered me. And the peer friends I do have are great so I'm not even sure where these thoughts came from because they're not really grounded in actual experiences.

The devil is crafty and brilliant. Never underestimate him and his ability to manipulate, lie, surprise, and steal. I am grateful that none of these things are a surprise to God and that He is big enough to handle my emotions.

We're supposed to transfer one final time sometime this fall and I find myself afraid, and even unwilling to hope. I was just resigned to another loss. This morning God reminded me though that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. That verse is usually used in context of the hope of Heaven. But my testimony is small if I can't believe God is big enough for Hope. So I'm trying to hope. I'm praying for hope. I don't have it yet, but I want it and I know by His grace, we'll get there. And if I'm crushed again, Selah.

Matthew continues to be amazing. God has given him a heart that wants to know and love the Lord. He astounds me with the things he says and does and thinks.

I intend to homeschool him for now. I don't think kids his age need formal education so right now any class we take is because it gives us access to people or resources for play that we don't have in our regular life. Plus, I used to be a preschool teacher so it seems sort of silly to send him to school for what I can give him. All of his learning is through exploration and play. We go to the zoo and museums and the library and other kid-friendly places like that. He's environmentally exposed to "concrete" things. He knows his upper and lower case letters by sight and sound, his numbers 1-20, his shapes, his colors, his address, his pronouns, his verb and noun tenses, most of his opposites, and many superlatives and spacial/size/measurement relations. This weekend he surprised me by deducing that 3 minus 1 is 2. So I think our system is working for us :) He's tall enough and verbal enough that a lot of people ask him if he's in school yet. I always feel a little bit bashful about saying no, and he's not going to be. I keep trying to remind myself that if it's not broke, don't fix it. This seems to work for our family and his learning style and personality. If we ever need to change it, we will.

He has a list of chores that are his and he generally does them happily. I really am so blessed to be his mom.

Right now, the love of his life is wheels. If you don't have wheels on you, he's either ignoring you or pretending you have wheels, or pretending that HE has wheels. Vehicles of every kind tickle his fancy. His imaginary friends are vehicles, too. He loves them all. The only things he loves as much as vehicles are books. He will sit and "read" for hours if you let him.

He's also 3.5 and all of stubborn and disobedient and noisy that comes with it. It's not all sunshine and roses, but I try to focus on the times that are. Because he might one day read this, I don't want to showcase his flaws for everyone to see, but suffice it to say, he has them. Sometimes I call him my little sinner. Hopefully one day, saved by grace.

Well, hubby is waiting for me to detox with him a bit before bed, so I'll leave you with this. Here's my little guy, taken just recently!

Goodnight, friends!


  1. Jen, what a great post. Thanks for your brutal honesty and for being open to what God has brought your way. May He continue to grant you space as you process what it means to be with those "normal" parents. And may you remember that your and Todd's journey is just as normal as theirs.

  2. Wish I could give you a hug, Jen. Praying for you!

  3. I went to a MOPS thing a few months ago, and I had similar feelings. You are definitely not alone.

    Praying for you as you cycle again!

  4. So, so glad to hear an update. When you aren't blogging you are missed. I completely get the nervousness with MPOS or mom groups - I usually don't "fit in" either. Matthew is looking so handsome!

  5. Wow, what a lot of stuff has been going on for you! Thanks for the update - it's nice to see you blogging again! :)