“How do you do it?” he asked.
I replied, “It requires being surrounded with a good team, a whole lot of trust, a deep respect and commitment to the idea….”
He interrupted, “No, not that. How do you do it? How do you work with your spouse? How do you keep together through all the stress and demands of owning a small business?”
I said yes, and repeated what I just said.
Karen and I are in the minority. Doing business with family is a difficult endeavor. Owning your own business is hard enough. Doing it with blood kin increases the challenge.
But it also exponentiates the rewards. The victories are certainly sweeter in the end.
Here on my blog, I’ve been mentioning people on my staff lately with whom I am proud to be associated, and the list would certainly not be complete without mentioning my life partner, ally and cohort, Karen. Without her, none of what we’ve achieved would be possible.
You see her behind the counter at lunch daily at bread&cup. You feel her welcoming spirit. You’ve experienced her willingness to go the extra mile to make your visit with us special. You may be one that has a special order that she knows by heart and gets it ready for you before you even arrive.
When we were first married, we found ourselves asking the same question when we visited a bed&breakfast or café on our travels. We played the “what would you do if it was yours?” game. We would quiz each other on what we liked about the place and what we would keep or what we would change in order to make it better. After a few years of marriage, we found we were still playing this game. It dawned on us that maybe it was more than just an exercise of conversation while driving down the highway.
When we hosted people in our home, we ran into the same argument. I would be in the kitchen up to the last minute, trying to get the food just right, while she urged me to come out into the living room and meet with our guests. Once we understood that a restaurant necessitates this division of labor, it was another small epiphany that maybe we could take this plunge together.
When we finally made the decision to launch into the unknown, there were two years of groundwork that needed to be done before we ever opened our doors. There was a season when we were both unemployed, living paycheck to paycheck, still trying to maintain some semblance of stability for our two kids that were still in school. Like the pioneer women she admires, she never looked back. She stayed the course and weathered the storms. We walked through some dark valleys, but we walked them together. Little did we know there were darker times ahead.
In the summer of 2010, when we discovered she had Stage II Ovarian Cancer, it felt like a kick in the gut. Many of you know the feeling. This kind of news takes away your appetite, among other drives, and can cause you to lose perspective. But not Karen. The strength she displayed through this ordeal made me fall in love with her all over again. When you’re young, the affection you have for each other is indeed real, but it hasn’t truly been challenged yet. As life gets harder, it gets tried by the flames of life’s difficulties. I am most blessed to have a companion with such character and strength.
My dad, Jack, always had a saying (he had a million of them, in fact) when he felt filled to overflowing. I’d hear him mutter it under his breath during family gatherings or after a nice meal…
“These are the best of days…the best of days…”
He would say this, even in his final days, despite being tethered to an oxygen tank, weary from his declining health. He could see past certain distractions and peer into the more important matters. He had eyes to see what others could not.
Through that old man’s example, my vision is coming more clear and my eyes more in focus. I’m crazier about this woman than ever.
The best is yet to come.