Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve Dance Party Playlist

What are your plans for New Year's Eve? Whether you're planning on partying with friends or just dancing around your own living room, I've got a playlist for you. This playlist features boogie-worthy tunes, old and new, including hits by Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Iggy, Wham!, Bieber, Pitbull and more. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking back

Sometimes when I'm looking for inspiration, I look back to my old blog. While I'm reading, sometimes I'll laugh, or even cry. 
I read about old heartbreaks; some make me smile and some still tug at my heartstrings. I read about old goals and wishes, and one thing is obvious: my life has been all over the place.

I read about my goals as a teenager: first I wanted to be a journalist, then a teacher, then a journalist again. Today, I am neither.

I wanted to move away and be somebody. Today, I live in my hometown.

I read about how much I loved my boyfriend (now husband.) I read about our awful breakup. I read about us getting back together, and being stronger than ever.

I read about dropping out of school because I couldn't afford it. I read about being accepted to my dream school. I reflect on fumbling my way through college at the local university until I left to work full-time.

And it's all exhausting.

When I started blogging six years ago, I never would have imagined my life taking this winding, crazy route that appears to have no specific destination. I still can't even completely believe that I got married this year.

And my life continues changing: before our wedding, I dreamed about having kids. Now, most of the time, I wonder if I want to have children at all.

It's exhausting when you realize you don't know what you want....

All that I need out of 2016 is happiness, and the ability to feel less guilty about the changes and choices I made in the past.

I am happy now, but sometimes it's hard not to regret choices I've made: Why didn't those things work out? How do other people view my choices? Why am I in this place in my life right now? Where do I go from here? 

But as much as those thoughts weigh on me, maybe I'm actually OK.

Maybe it's all about the destination and not what happens in the end. Sure, I'm not a journalist right now. Or a teacher. Or a mother.

But along the way, I think I've managed to learn about not only myself, but the world around me. I've learned about happiness, love, and getting through tough times. I've developed and grown as a person, hopefully a person my family is proud of, even though I may not have the expected accolades and success. And although I may not have accomplished the goals I once pined over, maybe there's something else in store for me. 

Maybe life doesn't always turn out as planned, and maybe that's just fine.

Right now, I'm just taking one day at a time, knowing nothing is permanent and anything can change. It's both terrifying and exciting.

Here's to 2016 and whatever it may bring. Hopefully I'll make future Jessi proud.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Songs of 2015

Musically, 2015 felt like a breath of fresh air. The Weeknd stormed in and made us all want to dance, Justin Bieber grew up and gained a bunch of new fans, and country music had a second coming thanks to artists like Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton avoiding the "bro country" stereotype and creating lasting music. 

It was a good year for music.

This playlist features my "best of 2015," from the songs you heard everywhere, like Charlie Puth/Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" (a.k.a. The "Paul Walker/Fast and Furious song") to pop hits including "Hotline Bling," "Cheerleader," and "Honey, I'm Good."

I also have to give a shout-out to Taylor Swift, who had the best year ever but is not featured on this playlist because she doesn't allow her music on Spotify. (Hat tip to the entire "1989" album, though.)

Check out the playlist below, and let me know in the comments: Do you agree with this list? What would you have added?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

10 Ways I Stayed Happy This Year

2015 was the year of Jessi's rediscovered happiness. 

After a less than amazing 2014, I wanted 2015 to be my year. I wanted to do something for myself that would change my life. For me, that was finding pure happiness.
I've realized that only one person is responsible for my happiness, and that's me. So I took charge and evaluated my life. I asked myself, Where could I improve? What did I want out of this year, and my life? Here's my 10 ways I found and kept happiness in my life this year. 

1. I took "me time." 
Something my husband and I are learning as newlyweds is that it's OK to have our own time. Although we've lived together for a few years, we were always working opposite schedules until the past year. Because of our newfound time together, we were constantly attached at the hip. But we're now realizing that if I want to read while he watches a movie, that's cool. By taking more "me" time for the first time since college, I've been doing more reading, blogging and listening to music. And taking time to do things I love makes me one happy, relaxed girl.
 
2. I asked myself: 'Is This Worth It?'
It's no secret that I deal with anxiety, and I'm aware that there's not necessarily a "cure" or a good way to stop it in its tracks. However, to help curb my anxiety and stress in situations, I'd find myself asking, "Is this worth it?" As in, "Is it worth it to care about this? To get worked up over this? Will this matter in one year, five years, twenty years?" Most of the time, the answer was "no," and although my worries may not have completely subsided, they did seem easier to handle.

3. I was especially grateful.
I think I realized how grateful I really am during my family's Thanksgiving dinner this year. We were going around the table saying why we were thankful, and I burst into tears. Sure, this isn't completely shocking, since I am an emotional person, but in that moment I realized how much the people around me meant to me. I reminded myself of that often throughout this year, and it made me appreciate each day of my life a little bit more.

4. I worked hard.
It's easy to fall into a slump at work, or to just give the bare minimum day in and day out. But when you give your all, you tend to feel better about yourself. When you work hard, you can come home satisfied with yourself. You'll sleep easier at night, too.

5. I spent more time with family.
If you're not a family person, or if your family stresses you out, I wouldn't recommend this one. But if you're lucky enough to have a supportive family, spending time with them will rub off on you in the best way. 

I also hugged a little longer than usual. (Especially my husband and cats.)

6. And on the flip side, I spent zero time with people I didn't want to see.
Guess what? You don't have to be friends with people you don't like. Seems simple enough, right? It's a hard concept for some people to tackle. Don't waste time on those that don't give a hoot about you! Once you allow yourself to remove those people from your life, your life will change for the better.

7. I tried new things.
I'm not the most adventurous type, so we're not talking mountain climbing or skydiving here, but I did dabble in a few new hobbies to get my feet wet. These things include cooking, baking and photography. (And oh yeah, the biggie: getting married.) Taking time to learn and try new things not only gave me a challenge, but gave me something to look forward to. I've found it's important to have something new and challenging to look forward to when you work in a 9 to 5 atmosphere during the day.

8. I said 'please' and 'thank you.'
Maybe mom was onto something when she drilled this one into our heads all those years ago. It becomes all too easy to gloss over little things that people do for us throughout the day, but when you show appreciation, it will make you and other people feel good.

9. I treated myself.
My husband and I aren't rich by any means, but I was able to do little things for myself as a reward for accomplishing goals or "just because" this year. I spent one long afternoon at the library, I got my hair cut and colored, and I visited a museum with my husband this year. Even if you don't have the means to do something big for yourself, like a luxury vacation, make sure to treat yourself throughout the year in a few ways. It'll feel good to do something for you!

10. I reflected. A lot.
Heck, even reflecting and putting together this post made me happy. By reflecting on my actions, my thoughts and my life, I found appreciation for even the smallest things in life. And when you can appreciate even the smallest things, that's when you've really found happiness.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Very Soulful Christmas...The Playlist!

For the final countdown to Christmas playlist, I went with good ol' soulful sounds. This playlist features some of the greats, including Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Aretha and Otis.

Check out the Spotify player below for my soul Christmas playlist. What would you have added to this playlist?

And of course, have a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Worst Christmas Songs Ever

I've spent nearly a month researching Christmas songs and sifting through iTunes, Spotify and more to create a variety of Christmas playlists. Along the way I've discovered songs that have become my new favorites (Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper," anyone?) but I've also found some serious clunkers. (I mean, why did David Hasselhoff ever need to make a Christmas album?)
Santa is not pleased.
After my dad told me about the most depressing Christmas song, "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot," (the title gives most of the song away,) I realized that for every great Christmas song, there's a few that miss the mark entirely. I decided to seek out the worst Christmas songs ever, and hand out some awards.

Most Depressing
Nat King Cole's "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" is pretty self-explanatory. Not only does the little boy not get any presents, but on top of that, he also doesn't have a father, and he spends his day playing with broken toys. You keep hoping this song will somehow have a happy ending, but it never comes. I don't think you'll hear this one playing in the shopping mall this season, but maybe it should?

Honorable mention for most depressing goes to John Denver's "Please, Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas.)" Denver's lighthearted, sing-songy voice matched with lyrics like "You came home a quarter past eleven and fell down underneath our Christmas tree," just don't match. The song tells a somber, realistic story, but how do you take it seriously when it sounds so cheery?

The Most Annoying
This one's a tie between Elmo & Patsy's "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and Spike Jones' "All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth.)" Yeah, yeah, yeah....go ahead and tell me these are Christmas classics. I don't care. The high-pitched voice and whistling/wheezing in "Two Front Teeth" nearly makes my ears bleed. And "Grandma?" Honestly, it kinda makes me sad. It's also annoying at the same time...somehow.

Just...Why?
Why did Destiny's Child get rid of four days of Christmas? Why did Cyndi Lauper think there needed to be a "Christmas Conga?" Why did New Kids on the Block ever want a "Funky" Christmas? Why does "Thistlehair the Christmas Bear" sound so much like the story of Santa? Why do the Beach Boys sing about a child assaulting the shopping mall Santa? The world may never know.

If you dare to take a listen, I've included the Spotify playlist of these awful, awful holiday songs. I've also included a few extra. Enjoy, I guess?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Duets Playlist

I've really gotten into the holiday spirit this month while putting together these playlists. I even have a few more Christmas playlists to share with you in the next week. But for today, enjoy some Christmas duets. This playlist features a variety of duos: Nick & Jessica, Justin & Usher, Blake & Reba, and of course... Kenny & Dolly. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Very Rockin' Christmas...The Playlist!

For this week's countdown to Christmas playlist, I picked a variety of rock and roll Christmas songs. I've been listening to rock music for as long as I can remember, so this playlist just made sense. And surprisingly enough, there are a ton of rock Christmas songs out there!

Check out my playlist below via Spotify...and be sure to check in next Monday for the final Christmas playlist!

 

What songs would you add to this playlist?

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

When You Realize Life is Fleeting

In the last year and a half, my hometown has lost two people from my graduating class. They were sudden, surprising deaths of two people I've known since I was five years old. Each time, people came together, Facebook posts were written, and fundraiser accounts were created. But it never gets easier.

To lose people, so young, only in their early 20s...it's impossible to put feelings into words. And sure, I've known these people for so long, but my sadness can't hold a light to the pain their close friends and family are feeling. I hope they find peace.

Although I knew these people, I only feel like an outsider receiving one message: life is fleeting.

My husband and I were just discussing life's unpredictability just the other day. I opened up to him and told him how scared I am of death. I said that as I get older, I'm beginning to comprehend mortality, even my own. I told him I'm worried to lose loved ones; I'm scared of things completely out of my control. 

After all, life is fleeting.

My husband told me I can't be scared of death. I can't know when it will happen, or who it will affect. Instead, he said, I need to appreciate every day and tell everyone how much I love them. Be there for them. Remember people when they're gone, and live every day I have to live, no matter how simple or insignificant that day may seem. Seems simple enough, right? But it was something I needed to hear from someone else in order to completely understand.

So I'm taking time to remember those we've lost, and the memories we shared. Those memories that included walks together home from school, or the bloody nose I got before he once took me on a date. (It didn't work out, but he was still kind.) I remember study sessions at the bookstore, and Guitar Hero jams in his basement. Our moments together were brief, but they left an impact. Such people with old souls and kind hearts will never be forgotten.

I'm realizing that life is fleeting, and life is precious. Tell people you love them, that you need them, and that you appreciate them. It will change lives.

Monday, December 07, 2015

An Oldies Christmas... the Playlist!

For this week's countdown to Christmas playlist, I went with good ol' oldies. After all, it's hard not to get swept up in vintage Christmas songs like Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" and anything by Frank Sinatra.

Check out my oldies playlist below via Spotify...and be sure to check in next Monday for another Christmas playlist!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Falling in Love All Over Again

In 2010, I fell in love for the first time.
Of course, I didn't realize it for the longest time. He was the one who said "I love you" first, way too soon in my opinion, but somehow it didn't scare me away. In fact, it just made me think about it all even more. 

I visit my old blog all the time: to reminisce, reflect on my past, and to find writing inspiration. I found this blog post I wrote when I first realized I was in love. (Because as a writer, I took to writing about my feelings before realizing they were real....and then later expressing them to the person who needed to hear them the most.)

In the post, I couldn't figure out how love even happens. 

"Basically, how the hell can two people fall in love with EACH OTHER at the same time? How can two people, just two people out of all the people in the world care for each other and dub the other the right one, when they haven't met all the other people in the world? When everything could change tomorrow? How could these two find each other and be content with just the other?"

To be fair, I still think these are legitimate questions. Especially when being asked by a 19-year-old.

By the end of the post however, I start to realize that maybe it is possible, and it can happen. (A.K.A. the cynic in me starts to believe that even I can enjoy this luxury called love.)

But then when I went all in, and I allowed myself to be in love and truly enjoy that relationship, it clicked. 

"I've found that two people can be with each other and REALLY, truly be content. It's like your own little world, or rather, you're living out your own inside joke every single day. Even on the bad days, it's still yours and yours alone. And you wouldn't trade it for the world."


It's funny how I defined love as "your own little world" more than five years ago, and to this day I'm still experiencing that exact feeling... with that exact same person. It was one time that I left my comfort zone (and carefully gave someone trust, something I don't typically do,) and it happened to pay out. 

Sure, it never came easy, and it didn't work out every minute of every day, but it worked out in the end. And all the tough stuff in the middle made the happy outcome taste even sweeter.

Now more than ever, our love is our own little inside joke. Now more than ever, we are best friends. We've just started to build the foundation of our life together, and I wouldn't want anyone else by my side. 

I realize there's a long way to go and a lot of trials and tough times ahead, but I know that we can get through it together. 

He reminded me of that just yesterday, when he helped me through a difficult time. Those moments really show me that together, we've done something right. Even if the rest of the world doesn't know about those things, it doesn't matter. Because we know, and we know we can get through it together.

I think I'm falling in love all over again. Those 19-year-old Jessi posts about love resonate with me just as much now as they did then. Maybe it's the newlywed glow I have. Or maybe it's starting to sink in (all over again) that I have so much to be appreciative of. 

(And, some things never change... This morning I took to writing about my feelings first to sort them out...but this time around he knows he's very loved. There's no doubt about that.)

Friday, December 04, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Christmas has arrived at the LaRue house...
Chris and I spent part of last weekend getting Christmas decorations out of the basement and setting up our tree. (Even the kitties decided to "help.") 
This is the third year Chris and I have set up our Christmas tree together, and this year's holiday season will be even more special since we just got engaged last Christmas Eve. We look forward to giving gifts, driving around to look at Christmas lights, eating my mom's delicious Christmas cookies, and enjoying our first married Christmas. We'll spend the next few weeks wrapping presents and listening to Christmas music, of course. 
Movie theater ornament for the couple who met at the theater.
What are some of your Christmas traditions? Any suggestions on how to celebrate our first married Christmas?

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Birthday Wishes for Myself (Bonus: Playlist!)

It's my birthday! I'm officially 25 years old. I'm a big fan of self reflection, so what better time to give myself some birthday "wishes," or rather, goals?

Some things I'd like to accomplish in the next year:

Continue to self improve: Handle my anxiety even better next year than I did this year. I think it requires the simplest of steps: Just take everything one day at a time.

Write more often: I've written more in the last few weeks than I have in the last year. I'd love to keep this momentum going! I feel so inspired.

Speaking of inspired...I'd love to take more photographs. Sure, I'm definitely an amateur and I have a lot to learn, but it's a hobby and challenge I'm excited to take on.

Love deeply. I was so lucky to marry my best friend this year. I'd love to continue showing how grateful I am for his love and my family's love, not only next year but for the rest of my life.

Get crafty. I love to craft, and although I have plenty of pins on Pinterest, I rarely find myself taking the time to complete these projects. This winter will be the perfect time to make some crafts as well as learn how to cook a few meals. 

And finally...enjoy life for what it is. My life may be simple, but it's the best. Never forget to be grateful, love, laugh and simply be happy. I'm happy to be alive.

And since I love music and have a history of making birthday-themed playlists (See this and this...) Here's a playlist of songs (old and new) that I'm currently loving. (Warning: It's pretty eclectic.)