I should probably provide an explanation for where I've been the past.... long time. Besides not here, which you already know.
There was that time when I stopped breeding dogs, and was terrified of the future of our finances, so I looked for income in other areas. That was an interesting time, spanning most of 2015. I was selling dog collars on Etsy the same as I'd been selling shirts; as a hobby on the side to pay for my Starbucks addiction. Sam's suggestion was to make and sell candles, which I could do from the home. So I did. I loved it, too. The learning curve with candle making was steep and expensive, but I mastered making high quality candles (if I have to say so myself, which I don't; my kids tell me that they're spoiled now and won't buy just any old candle in a store or craft show). My plan was to market them at craft fairs, get my name and product out there, and eventually have them carried in stores so that I didn't have to do craft shows every weekend. The end product of that was a whole lot of craft shows in the tri state area (literally), and a whole lot of fun, but zero stores to sell the candles in.
By the end of 2015, we had to reevaluate what we were doing, because our plan wasn't working.
In January of 2015, I had the bright idea to start a blog for the dog. I had to swallow a lot of pride to do this, because... a dog blog? Really? And to make it worse, I ended up speaking from the dog's perspective. No idea why, except that's how it came out, and I stuck with it. I was embarrassed for myself, but the kids were properly mortified. My friends even questioned my sanity, wondering where I would find the time to add one more thing to my plate, and such a trivial thing at that. But I had a plan, because almost everything I do is on purpose. (Falling down steps, peeing while laughing, and losing things on a regular basis are not on purpose.) I'm a researcher, and studies showed that a blog drives traffic to an Etsy shop. If I had a blog, written by my dog, it would help sell collars, right? That was the plan.
I had a friend who had been after me for a while to attend a conference with her, and I'd mocked her and her conference because.... what kind of weird world does she live in? There are freaks there, trust me. It's a dog blogging conference. (Right? They have those. Really. Its' a real thing, for really weird people.) She said that since I have a dog blog, I for sure needed to attend the dog blogging conference. Long story short, I did, in the spring of 2015, and while I didn't know it at the time, my world began to shift because of it.
I came home, made candles, attended craft fairs every weekend for months on end, and sold dog collars as I got orders.
This friend who lives in the weird dog blogging world suggested that I apply to speak at another dog blogger's conference in the fall of 2015. I scoffed, we laughed together, and this banter went on for a month over summer. One July evening, at 11pm, she caught me in a compliant mood and I filled out the application with one hour to spare before the deadline. The next morning, I received an email from the conference heads-that-be, congratulating me on my speaking engagement that fall at their conference. Funny thing is, I was ask to speak on something I didn't even propose. God works through weird (and wonderful) people, and in mighty mysterious ways. I'll never stop marveling at how He orchestrates life when we let Him.
The conference happened about the time we were contemplating the future of the candles, and our financial stability, and what we needed to do to make life work better. Over summer I applied to work at a company providing home and community hours with adults with intellectual disabilities. While hired in August of 2015, I didn't pick up a client until November, shortly after coming home from speaking at a national dog blogging conference. Upon returning from the conference, I ran a sale in the store, let all my new conference friends know, and sales skyrocketed.
I'll forever look back at 2015 and laugh at the way things played out. While I was desperately trying to make life happen, God was subtly in the background putting a puzzle together around me. His ways are always better than mine, and I'm now very happy to say that I'm deeply entrenched in this super weird dog blogging world that I have found myself in. It's a great place to be, and I'm fairly certain that I've found my people. Hi, I'm super weird, in case you didn't pick that part up.
So where was I in 2016? Trying to figure life out. Again. It took me a while to realize that I can't do all the things, be all things to all people, and work every job available to me. I cut out candles altogether (sadly), have not attended a craft show this year, decided that photography needed to be laid aside (and ironically, I've done more senior pictures this year than ever), and learned how to juggle a very long work week. Social work doesn't take up many real hours, but somehow it eats up many more than it should. Making dog collars takes up a large portion of my week, but the marketing of collars was almost the death of me. I absolutely loved everything that I was doing, and never viewed it as work. I would be researching, sewing, working outside the home or marketing every minute of every day. I was chosen to speak at another conference, in Phoenix, and we decided to vacation around it to show the kids the other half of the US. It was an amazing month, that couldn't have happened without the sale of dog collars. The sale of dog collars couldn't have happened without God blessing the business in every way possible.
And then, two weeks after coming home from a month away, Sam and I were in the motorcycle accident in July, returning from a weekend getaway for the two of us. That was a wake up call for me. I re-prioritized my life, and made sure I had me-time and family-time in my schedule, because in the grand scheme of things, family is the most important thing one can ever have. Me-time was for my sanity.
Summer was a blur of trying to get current on orders and recovery, and fall found me at a pet conference again, learning how to grow the business. Connections made at these events are invaluable, and the business has benefited greatly from the knowledge gained. It took all year for me to figure out where I am with the collars. I no longer look at it as a hobby; The French Dog is an amazing little company that I get to be a part of. It's taken months for me to be able to tell people that I make dog collars for a living, because that's weird. Normal people don't do things like that. I've come to terms with my brand of weird, embraced it with open arms, and claimed it as who I am. My kids are now working on coming to terms with having a weird mom, and I feel for them. I mean, how does one explain that their mother's dog started a blog, has an Instagram account larger than any teen they know, and is a mini celebrity in the weird dog blogging world that she lives in?
Shoot, I still take a step back on occasion, when I see this level of weirdness, and wonder at how I got here. The only answer, of course, is that God directed every step, which makes the whole weird world I live in super fun and perfectly okay.
The dog has retained his humble roots, thank goodness. If he knew he were scrolling on the Sheetz convenience store chain's TV screens above the order kiosks, he'd probably demand free hot dogs. He's blissfully unaware, but half the county has been awestruck when they've seen him there, saying things like, "I know that dog!" The kids quickly and quietly get their bottled drinks and walk away. It's a lot to accept, I'll admit. When the dog is far more famous than we'll ever be, it's a hard pill to swallow.
I also still do social work, in case you were wondering. I'm trying to figure out how I can talk about that without violating any privacy laws. You guys, you wouldn't believe half the stories I have to tell from that. I'd quit the job, because all the more I make, in comparison to my business, is a joke. The entertainment factor alone is worth staying for, though. And turns out, I have a heart and care for this person, because she needs someone to help her, and apparently I'm that someone.
I think I've found a rhythm to life, after 2 full years of searching. I couldn't be happier with the busy that I am, the travel that I get to do with it, the people I meet, and the family time I've found. While 2015 was a year of desperation, 2016 seemed just as manic with trying to figure out the new life I found myself in. I have a good feeling about 2017. I think it'll be one of the best yet.