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.

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