Sunday, February 11, 2018

State of My Life

Photo by Jessi LaRue
I'd like to think that I'm in a pretty good spot right now.

Sure, my writing has been minimal, but that seems to happen when I'm thriving in other areas of my life. I tend to find new things to get excited about (often) and I plunge into them. 

Right now, I'm very interested in animals. (Although I always have been.) I lovingly blame the current "knowledge obsession" on my job at the doggie daycare/groomery, and my own pets -- my two fish and my two cats. I've been reading about them and learning about them, and it's been so fun. I want to be a lifelong learner, and this is just another way for me to keep that up.


I've been reading more. Biographies have always been my first choice, and I've been learning about an array of interesting people this winter -- from Prince to Wanda Jackson to Barack Obama.

My work life is thriving and I can honestly say that I'm proud of what I'm doing and what I'm accomplishing. That feels great.

I was dreading the winter blues this year. I tend to get nervous right after Christmastime each year. While there have been those darker days, overall, I've been good.

I've been busy, so I don't have much time to get stuck in my head. I painted my living room, got some pet fish, and I'm still brainstorming my Little Free Library for the spring. There's so much to look forward to this year, so I'd like to think I'm in a pretty good spot right now, and I'm going to continue to make sure it stays that way. That's all we can do, right?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our growing family...

Surprise! It's just fish. (Such a misleading headline, I know.)

But in all seriousness, we've added a couple of fish to our family and I'm loving it. I've wanted some fish for a while --- I love learning about animals, Chris loves to fish/loves fish in general, and I figured our cats would enjoy watching some fish move around --- so it seemed like a great idea.

We got a five gallon fish tank, and the education began. I learned that you need one gallon of water per one inch of fish, so Chris and I each picked out one fish. Each one will grow to about 2 inches.

Chris picked out a zebra danio (below) and obviously, it looks like a zebra. It's a pretty peaceful fish, but it darts around our tank, swimming like a madman. For this reason, Chris named it Jet (as in, it flies around like a jet.)
Jet, a zebra danio
My fish is a little more "exotic;" it's a neon blue dwarf gourami (below.) It's a pretty laidback fish, too, and its coloring is beautiful. I named this fish Joplin (after Janis Joplin) and as a play off of Chris' fish Jet (Joan Jett, anyone?)
Joplin, a neon blue dwarf gourami
Twitch and Trixie LOVE watching these fish. It's the equivalent of leaving the TV on for them during the day while we're at work. I've enjoyed watching the fish too, (it's pretty soothing/therapeutic, to be honest,) and I like reading up on them (nerd alert.) Although one thing I haven't figured out -- how do you know if your fish is a male or female? Good thing we have gender neutral names, I suppose.
While we were at the pet store, I was internally shaking my head as the employee kept talking about how we'd eventually "graduate" to even larger fish tanks. I figured, who needs more than 5 gallons? But the more I watch them, learn about them, and read about other fish, the more I think about bigger tanks, with bigger fish and maybe even beautiful, bright saltwater fish...

Maybe someday. :)

Also, I totally want to rant and rave about the neat-o cabinet I found to hold the fish tank.  Pictures don't do it justice. I found it on Facebook's Marketplace (the equivalent of Facebook eBay/Craigslist) for just $20. It's vintage, it's beautiful and I'm just a little obsessed. I felt a little guilty covering the painting on the top of the cabinet...

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Goals for 2018

photo by Jessi LaRue
Read more. 

Write more. 


Build and install a Little Free Library in my front yard. 


Reach financial goals with my husband.


Improve my media and PR skills through my job and my volunteer work.


Learn more about cats, so I can be the coolest cat mom ever.

Continue playing with photography.

Get creative with my house and my life.

Be the best wife and best friend to my husband.

Be a good daughter, and a good sister.

Be happy.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Few Books I Read in 2017

At this time last year, a friend of mine posted a photo of the STACK of books she read in 2016. It was incredible; I think she read at least 20 books. I was so inspired. "I'm going to do this next year!" I remember telling myself.

My big plan started in January like most new year's resolutions do: with a strong start. I think I knocked out two or three books that first month alone. And then I only read two more for the rest of the year. 

Well, I tried. 

As much as I love to read, sometimes it's just hard to find the time. I'm working toward better results next year, though: I received a healthy stack of books for Christmas, and I'll be building and installing my own Little Free Library in my front yard next year. It will be hard to resist a good book when I walk past them each day!
I read just a few books in 2017, but I loved them all.

Here's some info on the books I read in 2017. (In case you can't tell, I'm a biography nerd.)

"Theodore Roosevelt" by Lewis L. Gould
I love history, and I find the Roosevelts interesting.

"Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick
Picked this up at a Goodwill store when I was traveling in Indiana for work. Read it when I was bored in my hotel; it was a fun, easy read. Didn't really stick with me, though.

"Around the Way Girl: A Memoir" by Taraji P. Henson
I fell in love with Taraji when I watched the first season of "Empire." This is a gripping story, and she's an incredible woman.

"The Wire that Fenced the West" by Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum
A great research book for my barbed wire project.

"Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice" by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell, reporters for The Boston Globe
Moving account of the Boston Marathon bombing. Highly recommend.


What did you read in 2017? Any recommendations for 2018?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Reflecting on this crazy year


Spent some time tonight reflecting on this last year.

This year had an interesting start. It's something that I don't talk about too often, mostly because I just get frustrated. I'd been working hard at a job I loved for many years, and was even recognized for my hard work in a BIG way in January. But when the time came for me to finally move up and prove myself, the support I needed wasn't within that company. I didn't see any reason to stick around any longer, if I wasn't going to go anywhere.

I decided to cut ties and moved on to a totally different job, where I found myself in the awesome company of....animals. Maybe not "technically" the best use of a journalism degree, but for the first time in a while I am SO happy and I feel so appreciated and needed. It's amazing.

Meeting people, taking photos, researching, writing...those are some of the coolest, most rewarding things I do in my world. I may not have a journalism career, but I reap the rewards of that hard work every single day. I love where I’m at, and what I’m doing, even if it’s a little different than what I originally planned. I love everything I do, like the blogs that I write on, and the Facebook pages I work on. Heck, this year I even gave two public presentations AND unveiled a historical marker. Those are easily some of the coolest things I've ever done in MY LIFE. I think I gathered up that courage just because I was happier than ever.

All I can say is, find what you love, and do it, even if it's not the most conventional way, or the way you saw yourself doing it. I made happiness my goal this year, and miraculously enough, it worked. (Hope that wasn't too preachy. Sorry.... I'm a writer.)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remembering my grandfather

My grandfather was a lot of things.

A racecar driver. A salesman. A husband. A father. A grandfather. A great-grandfather.

He was a NASCAR fanatic. A Minnesota Vikings fanatic. He loved to play card games, from Go Fish to Rummy, but he'd cheat (and win) at every single one. He was a father figure to many people in his life; he provided love, assistance and guidance. 

He'd sit down for breakfast and eat half a watermelon, with it sitting on a plate like a big red bowl, and he'd scoop out chunks with a spoon. Then later, he'd point at his rounded belly and warn us kids not to eat the watermelon seeds, or else our belly would look like his.

He was old school. When the boys were naughty, he'd warn that he was going to use his belt. When the girls were naughty, well, not much would happen. Maybe a raised voice.

He always said "I love you" first when hanging up on the phone. When he smiled at you, there was always a cliché, but very genuine twinkle in his eye. 

He was stubborn. He was opinionated. He was stern. He was a hard worker. He was a loving grandpa who always told me I was his "favorite." (I never found out if that's something he told all nine of us.)

My grandfather was a lot of things. To me, he'll always be Grandpa Mel.

Melroy Svenkerud
April 8, 1929 - November 17, 2017


More here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Our bathroom upgrade

My husband Chris and I closed on our first house one year ago, and we've been busy with projects: cleaning, organizing, plumbing work, HVAC work and more. We've also done quite a bit of painting, including our bathroom!

When we moved in, our bathroom gave me a Florida/beachy/retirement house vibe. The pink tub, sink and toilet were a little intimidating. What were we going to do with those? But with a fresh color and some decorating (courtesy of this crazy cat lady,) the bathroom has become one of my favorite rooms in the house.

Before and after photos are below!

BEFORE:
Bathroom before

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

Bathroom before
DURING:
Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress
AFTER:
 
Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A proactive attempt at combatting winter blues

Photo by Jessi LaRue
The winter blues are very real, and it feels like they'll be here at any minute. After the holidays it can feel like there's nothing to look forward to.

Last January/February was a hard time for me. There were mornings that I would lie in bed, unwilling to move, wondering what my purpose was. I would sometimes dread the day and whatever was waiting for me. I had no motivation and no interest in the day. 

Since last winter, I've spent some time thinking about those days. I'm not sure how effective this will be, but I've begun to plan a proactive way to keep my mind at ease and to create a mindful purpose for myself this winter. I've decided to slate some projects for myself to keep myself interested, busy, and looking forward to the next big thing.

I've decided to find "projects" mostly because hobbies like binge watching Netflix just leave me feeling groggy and unproductive, and only add to the issue, it seems.

I plan on painting my living room. My husband and I purchased our home one year ago, and we quickly painted our bedroom and bathroom to conceal the hideous blues and purples that were once on the walls. Now, we're staring at bright white walls in our living room, which remind us of our old apartment. I'm looking forward to splashing some color on the walls, as well as finally hanging some family photos. We also picked up a couple Hatch Show prints during our time in Nashville.

I hope to enlist my dad to help me out with another project this winter: building my very own Little Free Library. I've always been a reader, and really just started reading again in the last few weeks. My husband and I found an old dollhouse at Goodwill, and I plan to convert it into a cute library to display on my front lawn. I'm not a very handy person, but I look forward to putting it together and painting it. Over the last couple of months I've picked up books at thrift stores, and I've had friends donate their old books to the library as well. I look forward to putting it in the ground this spring and cutting the red ribbon.

I plan on writing more. My Jacob Haish project keeps me so busy and focused on an end prize -- enough information and stories to one day fill a book. I also hope to officially start pitching freelance writing. I have stories about family, cats and love that I'd love to find a home for. I've never ventured into that territory, but what a good time to try, right? Keeping my mind busy is very important.

One of my biggest healers is music. I'll be listening, blogging, and creating new playlists and mix CDs. Last year I also spent time filling my adult coloring books with bright colors, and trying Crock-Pot meals.

What do you do to combat those winter feelings?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hangin' with Superman in Metropolis

Superman statue in Metropolis, IL. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
I love a good roadside attraction. (Remember the Pink Elephant?) So when my husband Chris and I headed south for a visit to Nashville this weekend, we had to stop in the city of Metropolis, IL, right before you enter Kentucky from Illinois.

The town bills itself as the "official home of Superman," and features a 15-foot statue of the caped wonder. The small town even has a large Superman celebration each summer. You can learn more about this supertown's "origin story" here.

"Superman Square" in Metropolis features the Superman statue as well as the Super Museum, a collection of everything related to the superhero. Although we didn't stop into the Super Museum, we still had time for some fun photo ops. 

I'll post more about Nashville later, but I couldn't resist posting these Superman photos now. Check it out!

Chris poses with the Superman statue. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The Superman statue stands proudly next to the Metropolis city building. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Superman statue | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Jessi poses with the Superman statue. | Photo by Chris LaRue
The Super Museum in Metropolis, IL | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Chris ducks into a phone booth in Metropolis. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The many faces of Superman are seen in this Metropolis mural. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The Super Museum | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Jessi hanging out in Metropolis | Photo by Chris LaRue
The Super Museum | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Super selfie? | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Chris posing in Metropolis | Photo by Jessi LaRue