Holiday Traditions

Sam has started a new holiday tradition here.

We have a crazy holiday schedule here. We've got both our parents to do Christmas with, and these get-togethers have to be scheduled around our siblings families as well. My sister's husband's family does their thing on Christmas eve, so I can't host my family's Christmas then or I'm eliminating one of the siblings right up front. Same thing on Sam's side of the family, with his brother's wife's family. Its a scheduling headache, to be sure, but this year we've entered a whole new phase of parenthood that kicked things up a notch.

This is the year we've actually taken into account the kids' significant others' families and when they do the holidays together. We have reached the stage when our children are that old. Josh and his girlfriend have been dating for 2 years, and they're pretty serious (obviously). We ran into a scheduling snafu at Thanksgiving that wrought havoc with things all around, so we were very careful about scheduling at Christmas. Becky has been seeing a boy for over a year, and they, too, are in the kind of serious stage, so we had to be sure their family time didn't coincide with anything.

To top it off, Sam worked Christmas day this year, because the hospital is never closed and someone has to be available to scan the injured on the holiday.

By the time we'd had Thanksgiving, ironed out all the scheduling conflicts for Christmas (including having Sam's brother's wife's entire family shift their celebration from Christmas Eve to Christmas day), had a Christmas party with Sam's mom's side of the family (and the 348 aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids), and celebrated Christmas with Sam's side of the family, we were kind of holiday'd out. Christmas hadn't even happened yet.

At the get together with Sam's family on Christmas Eve, the whole family was there. Sam's brother and his family were home from Italy, and their 2 older children were up from college in South Carolina. Josh's girlfriend and Becky's boyfriend were there. Quincey was finally home from college, after delaying the trip up from Missouri for a week. The testosterone level was running high with half a dozen teen boys in the house, so they challenged the adult men to a basketball game called Knock Out. Not to be outdone, the fathers rose to the challenge.

By the end of the evening, Micah had won a game, and Sam showed up Becky's boyfriend, who is crazy athletic and proud of it. But the consequences ran high. Just before being called in for dinner, Sam sustained an injury to his leg, which he promptly ignored the rest of the evening. The next morning, however, it was hard to ignore. The next morning was Christmas Day.

We pulled the crutches from the attic, opened gifts as a family, and headed to the emergency room. Thankfully Becky is in charge of the cooking in the house and did a fine job of making Christmas dinner while Sam and I enjoyed some peace and quiet in the hustle and bustle of the overbusy Christmas season. He also came home with pain meds, which is a win when you're walking into a house filled with in-laws.

His strained muscle wasn't a tear, so we're grateful for that. He's been fairly pain free enough to work without hindrance by it for the past week, which is good. He was even back to doing all sorts of normal daily life things like working on vehicles.

That was on Thursday.

After the New Year's Day event at his parent's house on Friday, Sam came home complaining of a sore eye. He said he'd got something in it from working on the truck the day before, and it just started hurting. When he awoke Saturday morning, it was pretty evident that he needed to be seen. His family doctor said to head to the emergency room. Turns out, if you have metal in your eye for 2 days, your cornea will start to grow over it. I learned that your cornea renews a layer every few hours. Fascinating, no? I'll let it up to your imagination how they got that metal out. He's been suffering with the pain for 2 days now.

I'm fairly certain, though, that Sam is just trying to gain drugs at the holidays. Whatever it takes to get through.

Life Goals of 2016

Resolutions are for those who have intentions of keeping them. That's pretty much not me. I mean well, but that's different than keeping resolutions. I just struggle with that. I also think that it's kind of like a diet. In your mind, you already know it's going to be nearly impossible, so you mentally sabotage yourself before you even start, dooming yourself to failure in the end.

Resolutions aren't for me. If they're for you, you've got far more initiative than I do, and I greatly admire you.

While we're on the subject of resolutions and other life milestones, I do not have a bucket list, either. This is less because I fear sabotaging my adventures, and more because I have always had the attitude that life is an amazing adventure already without having to think up crazy things to do. There are those who would look at my life and call it crazy boring, with a complete lack of bungee jumping and sky diving and whatnot, but those things aren't my cup of tea anyway. My bucket list things get crossed off as I put them on it. Like our European adventure last year. (Guys, I'm going to talk about that trip for the rest of my life. I'm sorry in advance. But honestly, it was truly a trip of a lifetime.) Going on a European adventure was never something I had on a Life To-Do list, but I added it and checked it right off in 2015. Also having a son with Down syndrome. That's been checked off for pushing 13 years now. Who would have guessed I'd want that on my Life's Most Amazing Things list? Not me, that's who. I just don't do lists, because that's limiting God. I prefer to wait on Him and see what fun things He wants to bring my way. They're always far, far more exciting than anything I would choose to do.

(That being said, I do aspire to write a book someday. Call it a bucket list goal or just a life dream. Either way, I'm patiently waiting on God's timing for this. And it it never happens, its because better things are coming my way.)

I also have some goals that I'd like to accomplish in 2016. I've taken the last few months to evaluate almost every aspect of my life, and have already made some changes that were needed. I don't generally wait until January 1st if something needs to happen. But this is, admittedly, a great time to think about the future.

I'd like to run a 5K. I was actually signed up to run one in 2015, but a craft show clashed with that date and I chose to make money instead of have fun. It's been on my to-do list for a few years, so i's time I made that happen. I'm looking at a few races in particular that allow your dog to run with you. I am the Crazy Dog Lady, after all. (I should totally get a shirt that says that, and run my 5Ks in them.)

Also, 2015 gave me the best 5K shirt ever! While I didn't run a 5K in the athletic sense, I did run one in the administrative sense. I was part of a team that put on the Jurassic 5K, and the t-shirts sport a T-rex chasing runners. I love that thing.

My good camera needs more love. That thing used to be attached to me. I called it my extra child. My children knew not to touch it, lest they die. Sadly, I was far too busy last year with things like craft shows and candle making and networking to take photos often, and it sat and actually collected dust between usages. That is sad to me. My photo album from 2015 will be a thin one. I plan to use my cell phone less (for photos) and my Canon more. I want to preserve memories forever in good digital pixels.

Being healthier is a good thing. I'm not old, but old enough to think about my health in ways that I didn't previously. Running a 5K should help with this, with training and whatnot. I discovered the joys of yoga last year, and would love to do more of that. It's an easy exercise for someone who is not athletic. I would like to eat healthier, too. That's been easier for me recently thanks to Becky, who has taken over the cooking here. She is an excellent cook, and a health fanatic to boot. She makes everything from scratch and uses healthy alternatives to things like vegetable oils and sugars. I'm grateful.

I need more nature time. I was far too busy with indoor work last year to be outside much. I didn't garden at all. My kids weeded the gardens, and I did nothing. This isn't good. I find gardening to be therapeutic. Nature is my happy place. I want to spend more time there, de-stressing, relaxing, and becoming a better person for my family to be around. As a bonus, I get closer to God in His creation.

Biking would be a wonderful thing. Between the weather and my craft show schedule last year, the motorcycle barely saw road time. That's unfun. I hope to see 2016 with Sam and I touring all over the tri state area, I'd love that. Our Christmas gift from the kids was an intercom system so that we can talk to each other as we ride, so we have to use the bike more now, right? I'd also like to bicycle more, too. My bicycle barely saw daylight last year.  That's not good at all. Being healthier would support bike riding. It's a win.

Huge life goals these are not, but fun things nonetheless. Or needful things, if we're talking about being healthier. You'll notice I didn't say "diet and exercise" or "lose X amount of pounds." I don't want to feel like a failure if I come up 5 pounds short of a goal. I want to focus on the positive, not the negative.

Positive thinking is also a great life goal for 2016. I'm generally an optimist, but I find myself, on occasion, being a Debby Downer. If someone is nearby me when this unfortunate state of mind hits, please slap me.

May 2016 be the year of Happy and Healthy for us all.

Recap of 2015

So 2015 was an interesting year, wasn't it? I mean, the fact that the blog kind of died there for a few months was unexpected. Okay, "kind of" isn't a realistic term. It died. The blog died. I've recently taken a CPR course, and have confidence that I can revive this dead thing, though. I'm a trained professional now.

So let's play catch up in one fell swoop, shall we?

This is the year that I said, "God, I don't even have a clue anymore. Seriously. If we lost half our dogs last fall, that's half my income. I need You to just go ahead and be in charge like you should have been in the first place. I'll happily follow Your lead. I mean it this time, because I'm so out of options that You're the only One I have left."

I know I should have had far more faith than this in the past. Life is always a work in progress, isn't it? The important thing is that I'm growing.

I was making dog collars for my Etsy shop, and had the grand idea back in January to start a blog for the dog as a way to advertise those collars. Dog blogs are all the rage, right? And Louie is a cute dog; surely he'd do a great job of advertising for me.

A friend of mine suggested that I attend Blog Paws now that I had a dog blog. Blog Paws is a conference for pet bloggers. Yes, there is a conference for this. It's well attended, and the place to be if you're a pet blogger. This same friend put me in touch with someone who was giving away tickets to the conference, and because God was in control, I was chosen as the winner. Nashville was a great place for Louie and I to be introduced into a whole other world of dogs and their people. It was a life changing learning experience. We came home from Blog Paws with renewed enthusiasm for Louie's blog, and so many wonderful companies to partner with.

Louie at BlogPaws. Obviously.

Also in January, because it was the start of an amazing year in so many ways, we got that fun email from a friend in Germany who said she was tired of waiting for us to visit, so she'd just pay our way. Don't say no. We didn't. We emailed back and forth for a month before getting dates that worked for both of us, and plane tickets were booked. We were a bit concerned where spending money would come from for this global vacation, but we were trusting God this year and knew He'd provide. He gave us a vacation, didn't He? It was the next month, just before tickets were booked, that the school called and asked if I'd sub the rest of the year. It wasn't a coincidence that the amount I earned at the school was exactly what we budgeted for the trip.

A 3-generation photo of my mom, my grandma, and myself, because it's a
random photo that applies to nothing I've said. But I love it.

Because January was such a transition month, I also began making candles. Sam and I decided that perhaps they could replace the dog breeding business. I spent a lot of time and money learning to make a quality product, and learned that there is a science to candle making. It's not quite as simple as melting wax and pouring into jars. At least not if you're going to make high quality candles. I marketed them to stores, listed them for sale in my Etsy shop, and booked a year's worth of craft shows. I spent almost every weekend from May through October at sales events. It made for a crazy year, and a lot of travel, but we knew it was the best way to get our candles notices. At the end of the year, we realized that the dog collars were doing far, far better than the candles were and decided to discontinue the line. If you have a French Dog Candle, know that it was a limited edition, only available in 2015. And enjoy that thing.

Summer was a busy, busy time with 7 of us running 7 different directions. Louie was given a free night at a hotel (one of the companies that we'd partnered with was Red Roof Inn), and it took 2 weeks for us to come up with one weekend that we could all enjoy that get-away together. We had a wonderful time touring a state park in the opposite corner of the state, just a week before the nephew left for college.

Our weekend get away. The dog is sitting in for me as I take the photo.

Yes, we have a college student in the house. Quincey decided to attend Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO. This decision came in July. We weren't quite prepared for the college thing with such short notice, but he's there and absolutely thriving. He's enrolled in Music Ministry, and is drumming for the college chapel band, his church, and the college's traveling team. He loves college, Springfield and his church so much that he doesn't plan on returning home any time soon. He'll be traveling with the college team over summer next year, so really, he doesn't plan to come home. We live for holidays in order to see him. And perhaps a visit to Springfield next summer as a family.

After getting Quincey settled at college, and seeing the kids start school at home, Sam and I left for a month to tour Europe. My gosh, you guys, that was amazing beyond words. Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain were on the agenda. By the end of the vacation we were kind of in a trance and ready to be home, but sallied forth and enjoyed it to the fullest, knowing it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Our Easter photo, with significant others as bonuses. Sure it's out of order here. That makes it fun.

While abroad, I realized that I needed to reevaluate my life. I was completely unplugged from social media with a lack of internet access or cell phone service. A few hours of Wifi most evenings at guest homes was used to get in touch with the kids. I realized that I was working far too much, with every minute of my day being taken up with work in some way. It was fun, but not healthy. I needed to redirect my focus on the things that would benefit us the most. The dog collar business had taken off in ways that only God could account for, and it wasn't due to Louie's blog. I realized that Instagram was my best advertising means, and became The Crazy Dog Lady, with my social media feeds all being taken over with dog photos. The dog blog (and all that went with it) was a huge time suck, so I stopped the thing that spurred the year into action. The forward motion of that, however, kept it's momentum. Another pet blogging conference was coming up in November, and I'd been accepted as a speaker there, teaching others how to start their own businesses on Etsy.

Sam and I at Rheinstein Castle, along the Rhine River in Germany

Bark World was another amazing opportunity for Louie and I. While at the conference in Atlanta, I met the editors of Dogster, and was invited to be a contributing writer for the online magazine. I'd begun writing a pet column for the local newspaper after Blog Paws, and loved it, but had been looking for more writing opportunities. This was definitely a Godsend. My editors at both places are such easy going bosses that it makes writing nothing but fun.

Micah with his grandmothers. What a gem of a photo this is!
Plus it has nothing to do with this post whatsoever. Win!

Just before Europe, I was hired as a Developmental Disabilities Services advocate with Youth Advocate Program, or YAP. Despite the name, I don't work with children, but rather adults in the community who require assistance due to developmental disabilities (as my title suggests). I can't for the life of me remember what my title there is, however, so writing it down here may help? I generally call myself an advocate, and I get to hang out with clients with handicaps. I get paid to take a client to a nursing home when Louie goes to do his therapy dog thing (something else we accomplished this year; passing both his Canine Good Citizen Test and his Therapy Dog Test). My client rocks the nursing home scene, and interacts well with Louie to boot. It's a win all around. I get to set my own hours with this job, and my boss there is truly amazing to work for. It's the most laid back non-job kind of thing I've ever had.

Micah and Margo, who went to a home with small children that play with her daily. She craved that.

We re-homed another of our frenchies at the end of the year, leaving us with just Louie and Jill. We have realized that we're done raising puppies, unless Louie (by some miracle) figures out the daddy thing. We now have dogs as pets for the first time in 15 years, and I have to say that I am loving it. It has taken me 3/4 of the year to finally get to this point, but I'm not sure I want puppies again. (I know!) God was so good in giving me jobs that I love so much, and every single one of them work around whatever schedule I have going on that particular day. Our bills are being paid, and I don't have the stress of bottle feeding puppies or losing a litter.

This was the year when I said, "God I don't even have clue anymore. I need You to just lead the way." It has been so very interesting to see where the year has gone, and the direction that it has taken. I am a little amazed at the life I now have, and credit it all to God. I can't wait to see what He has in store for 2016.