Friday, December 30, 2016

What an incredible year.


I loved this year. More than anything, I think it's because I stepped outside of my comfort zone in many ways and tried new things and had new experiences. 

Music
Music was a huge part of my year. We lost some legends and some of my favorites this year, but I was also fortunate to see some of my favorites live. This year I was able to see Dierks Bentley, Mo Pitney, Dixie Chicks, and Kacey Musgraves. Every concert was memorable in its own way. And we've already got tickets for 2017...we'll be seeing Eric Church in April.

Family
I've always been close with my parents and sister, but this year we were just as close as they helped Chris and I so much with our first home. The holidays were even more wonderful, too. I was also fortunate enough to take two trips to Arkansas with family to see my great grandparents and extended family. Those were some moments I'll forever treasure.

Freelancing
I devoted as much time to writing as I possibly could this year. I wrote columns for a local blog about my newlywed life. I freelanced for a local newspaper. And I was published in the magazine for our local geneaological-historical society. Each publication and each byline thrilled me as much as the last.

Jacob Haish project
But the one project that meant the most to me? In April I started a blog dedicated to my 4th great uncle, an original inventor of barbed wire, and an underdog in history. Through the project of documenting his life and his stories, I've met so many wonderful people and have learned so many amazing things. My life is forever changed because of this project, and I am so happy to continue working on it.

My work life
My work life has been absolutely insane this year. I've been in three departments at my company this year alone, all in an attempt to make the most of my creativity and drive. Well, I can now say I've landed right where I belong, and I've been put to work. My work is allowing me to speak up in important conversations, implement change, and even travel. It's been quite a ride, and I'm so excited to see what 2017 has in store...

My home life
And last, but certainly not least, so much has happened on the home front. Christopher and I celebrated one year of marriage in October, and celebrated it by putting in an offer on a house. It was accepted, and we moved in the day after I turned 26. Finding, buying, and "building" our home has been so much stress, and it has been so worth it. I want to remember these days for all of my life.

What a great year. I'm truly humbled by it all. I'm so looking forward to building upon all of these things in 2017. 

Happy New Year, friends.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Photos: Christmas Prep

I love Christmastime for many obvious reasons. I also love this time of year because there are so many opportunities to practice with my camera. I decided to capture the signs of Christmas that have been springing up throughout our home. Click photos to enlarge.

Our first big (but fake) tree. It's 7 feet! | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Twitch likes to keep a safe distance from excitement. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Trixie gets too excited about new things, and then wears herself out. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Trixie was more than willing to be wrapped like a present. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
A wreath from a friend. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
A wreath I made last year. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Christmas cards on the fridge. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
I love fun wrapping paper. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Just one week until Christmas! | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Friday, December 16, 2016

Playlist: Country Christmas 2016

Photo by Jessi LaRue
For me, country music is an obvious choice for Christmas tunes.

So many Christmas nights have been spent listening to good old country music. Each year, my parents take out the same old country Christmas albums that we've been listening to for years...Sammy Kershaw, George Strait, Kenny & Dolly all bring about serious nostalgia. Something about those voices and those songs is always so comforting during this time of year.

This playlist features some of those country classics, but also newer artists. This playlist heavily features Kacey Musgraves and the songs from her recent release "A Very Kacey Christmas." My sister and I just attended her Joliet, IL stop on the Christmas tour last night. The beautiful stage featured Christmas trees and fake snow. It definitely got us into the Christmas spirit.

Enjoy the country Christmas playlist below, and let me know: what songs would you add to this playlist?

Sunday, December 04, 2016

First Snow at Our New Home

Chris and I moved into our first home yesterday. Fortunately it was a pretty easy day, as we had been moving over items during the last two weeks of cleaning and painting projects. We also had my sister help out with moving larger items, (I'm not much of a heavy lifter.)

It was a fun, exciting day to bring our items into the home, and to see the house fill with our character. Then this morning, my husband woke me up and told me I should look out the bedroom window. I was surprised to see the first snowfall of the year... and like all first snowfalls, it was beautiful.

After some shoveling, I ran outside to take photos of our backyard, which looked almost magical. I'm not a huge lover of snow, but the first snowfall in northern Illinois is always a sight.

Click photos to enlarge.





Check back for more posts as I document our house projects, DIYs, the holidays, and more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Songs I'm Lovin' - Nov. 2016

Photo by Jessi LaRue
These are the "Songs I'm Lovin'" lately. This playlist features plenty of country songs, (big surprise!) and I managed to sneak in a Christmas song.
 
Please leave me a comment and let me know what you're listening to this month!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Homeowners!

We did it! My husband Chris and I closed on our first home on Friday. Weeks of filling out forms, packing, and dealing with crazy nerves all came down to...signing our name on documents for more than an hour.

But it was so worth it.

That feeling of driving to the house, and opening the door together for the first time was a feeling unlike any other. It was a beautiful culmination of all the stress, hard work and emotion from the time we spent saving and planning for that very moment.

I'm lucky that I have a husband who is so willing to work hard. He's the absolute best. And I'm lucky to have a very supportive family, too; this weekend we started cleaning and painting the house, and my dad was practically on speed dial for questions, and my mom was our champion, getting us organized and helping us paint. 

Our house is a small, very cozy ranch in my hometown, and the town that Chris has been in since high school. It's close to work, and easily in one of the quietest neighborhoods in town. We are excited to paint walls and put our love into this home, we've worked hard to get to this point, so we're going to continue to work hard and make sure it's something we can be proud of, for a very long time.

And because I love documenting everything, I'll be taking plenty of photos and posting updates here. After all, how many times in your life do you get to do something for the first time?!

I'm so excited to see what the future has in store!

What advice do you have for new homeowners?

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Two Country Songs We Could All Use

This election season has certainly been one for the books, though not always in the best of ways. Headlines regarding this year's political scene use words like "surreal," "harsh," "turmoil," "chaos," "circus," and more.

At the same time, the election season seems to mirror a lot of the issues our country is facing.

Music has always been a constant that people can turn to, and some songs on country radio today are trying to drown out all the noise in the world, and even encourage change.

Tim McGraw: "Humble and Kind"
"Hold the door, say 'please,' say 'thank you'
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind"
 
The first time I heard Tim McGraw's "Humble And Kind," I became a little choked up. It has such a sweet, sincere feeling to it. It reminded me of the golden rules and simpler times of my childhood, while also urging me to continue these traditions for the rest of my life. 

While Tim McGraw wants to spread positive vibes, Eric Church takes a different route, by destroying negativity at its core: through words.

Eric Church: "Kill A Word"
"If I could kill a word and watch it die
I'd poison 'never,' shoot 'goodbye'
Beat 'regret' when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I'd pound 'fear' to a pile of sand
Choke 'lonely' out with my bare hands
I'd hang 'hate' so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word"
 
Church's gritty methods he'd use to take out words like "disgrace" and "hostile" just might work. I find the combination of this song's strong lyrics and stunning vocals very moving.

What would you add to this list?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

From Here to the Moon and Back

My husband Christopher and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary today. We celebrated by having some of our wedding cake for breakfast, as well as some shopping and flipping through our wedding photo album. Our wedding day was a beautiful day, and today was a beautiful day. I'm very lucky to have my best friend by my side.

Yesterday we attempted to take our own "anniversary" photos. It was a fun way to pass the time together. I look forward to many more days like the ones we had together this weekend.

I've found that the song we used for our first dance, Dolly Parton's "From Here to the Moon and Back" seems to express just how I feel...

"I could hold out my arms and say 'I love you this much'
I could tell you how long, I will long for your touch
How much and how far, would I go to prove
The depth and the breadth of my love for you

From here to the moon and back
Who else in this world will love you like that?
Love everlasting I promise you that
From here to the moon and back
From here to the moon and back

I want you to know you can always depend
On promises made and love without end
No need to wonder how faithful I'll be
Now and on into eternity

From here to the moon and back
Who else in this world could love you like that?
Forever and always I'll be where you're at
From here to the moon and back
From here to the moon and back"

Lyrics from "From Here to the Moon and Back" - Dolly Parton

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Songs I'm Lovin' - Oct. 2016

Photo by Jessi LaRue
It's October...my favorite month of the year. 

These are the "Songs I'm Lovin'" lately. This playlist features songs from some of my longtime favorites, like Maroon 5, Tim McGraw, Lady Gaga and and Justin Timberlake. But it also features new songs from some fresh faces, including Aubrie Sellers and Sarah Potenza.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you're listening to this month!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

"Mrs. LaRue"

photo by Jessi LaRue

This week I was addressed as Mrs. LaRue for the first time. Yes, the very first time, even though I've been Mrs. LaRue for almost an entire year.

Luckily the exchange happened via email, so the sender did not get to see the puzzled look on my face.

It's not that I have a problem being Mrs. LaRue or even Jessi LaRue. In fact, I like having that in common with my best friend, my husband. I love having that tie to him and I'm proud to share his name. But I'm nowhere near used to it.

It's like when I saw my new name in print for the first time. I commented online about how strange it felt. "Pretty soon your old name will seem strange and your new name perfectly normal," someone responded on Facebook.

Ha. As if.

Mrs. LaRue seems too stiff, too formal, too, well, beyond my years, I guess you could say. I've always been "Just Jessi." Yet here I am, faking my way through the real, adult world, one day at a time. It just seems fitting that me being a "Mrs." would feel the exact same way. Much like adult life, it seems like the thing I should be doing, but maybe it's just a size too big on me.

Maybe one day it'll fit better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Twenty-Five


My husband and I are both 25 years old, and it's been a roller coaster, to say the least. 

New jobs. Promotions. More responsibilities. New projects. Bigger goals.

We're just a month away from our first wedding anniversary, and we're in the midst of looking for our first home to purchase. 

Even though life is crazy, changing and hectic, I still wanted to document what twenty-five feels like. Because it feels good.

Twenty-five seems like such a monumental age. A quarter of a century, some may say! To us, it's that awkward yet sweet spot between the teen years and the ripe old age of 30. Gulp.

At twenty-five, we're super preoccupied with our goals, like buying a house, even though that task makes us absolutely crazy. We've fallen into tough and trying times at our jobs, but we finally can see our hard work come to fruition and we can see the impact it's having on our lives. 

Now more than ever, we openly discuss our hopes and dreams. Sometimes it feels like if I confide in my husband about these things, they'll actually come true. Because if it's the two of us working toward something, you'd have to damn near kill us to stop us. Sure, we're stubborn, but for all the right reasons.

I want to remember twenty-five as the year we went for what we wanted, and we got it. I don't want to have a future full of regret. 

But I'm also realizing that we have so much left to learn and experience. That thought would have scared me at 24 years old. But now, I kinda like it.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Songs I'm Lovin' - Sept. 2016

As summer fades, so do the flowers. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Happy September!

Much like my life lately, my musical tastes have been all over the place.

These are the "Songs I'm Lovin'" lately. This Spotify playlist highlights a little bit of everything: country, pop, rock and even a couple tracks from the "Suicide Squad" album, which I love. Featured artists include Dolly Parton, Twenty One Pilots, Sia, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Keith Urban and Adele.

 

What do you think of this playlist? What are you listening to right now?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Through the Lens of a Crazy Cat Lady

I recently stole my hubby's camera (he's a Canon, I'm a Nikon,) and took some photographs of my kitties Twitch and Trixie. Please click photos to enlarge.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Overthinked," lost friendships, current state of life

Photo by Jessi LaRue
Sometimes you reach a point when you've "overthinked" yourself into a bummed out, strange place. And you're stuck.

I don't do that as often as I used to; a couple years ago I would sit and dwell on things until I cried, or worse, until I had a panic attack. It always starts out innocently enough, you start thinking about one thing, or one person, which causes you to think about another, and then another...It's kind of like aimless scrolling on Facebook or Instagram. You start scrolling and scrolling and an hour later you have no idea how you got to that particular page. And there's no reason to still be scrolling, yet here you are.

But when it happens in your head, it's not a great place to be.

Even with analogies, some people will never understand what I'm talking about, and I consider them lucky. It's such a confusing place to describe. And although I've been teased and taunted for having these tendencies, I'm not afraid to write about it here. Why? It makes me feel better.

- - -

I wish I wouldn't dwell on things, especially ten at a time.

My latest issue? (Well, one of them?) Facebook suggested that I "friend" an old friend. Not just any old friend, but a friend I was close to for more than a decade while we were growing up. As with some of my closest friendships from grade school, we didn't have a big, messy fallout, although now I think that would be easier to deal with. Much easier to deal with than the absent, quiet falling apart in which years go by and now it's too awkward to try again.

I saw the profile, and I saw a photo that looked like a bridal shower, and although we haven't spoken in years, it's weird to think that we don't share those experiences together, and we'll never have the chance again. Maybe it's something about big life experiences that are bittersweet. Surely there was a reason we drifted apart. Why does it matter so much now? Does it even really matter at this point, five years later?

I'll never know. 

- - -

I have times when I'm ridiculously content. Like the past few weeks. I've been happy with work, my family, my personal life, my projects. Then boom, I'm hit with a ferocious sensation of doom. Sure, I'd prefer the occasional melancholy over constant frustration and aching, but I wish it wouldn't happen at all.

Or is this how it happens for most people? After all, I couldn't be happy all the time. Perhaps it's my soul balancing itself out -- you need something to measure your success and happiness against. Maybe this temporary feeling is to help me gauge how good I've got at other times, and to ensure that I never take those times for granted. Perhaps there's a bigger lesson to be learned here. 

Perhaps no matter how many friendships fall by the wayside, no matter how many times you feel like you just aren't quite "there" yet, perhaps it's all only temporary.

Friday, July 22, 2016

It's Not Always "Different For Girls"

I love Dierks Bentley, but I have to say it: His latest single feels a little...off.

"Different For Girls" plays off a male, stereotypical reaction to a breakup: they down a few shots, call a few girls, and get over it. This song claims that girls don't deal with breakups that way. Although the song is catchy, (and Dierks and Elle King sound great together,) you can't always assign people to one category.

After all, sometimes it isn't always "different for girls."


If I think back to "that one major" breakup in my life, I didn't always handle it like a girl. I had just turned 21, so I tried a "whiskey and Coke." I scrolled through my phone "looking for a BandAid." Although that time period brought out some of the worst in me, I did learn a lot about myself. But for the most part, I was just trying to cope, and just trying to feel better. And sometimes that means doing things you're not proud of. I did plenty of that.

And that's where "Vice" comes in.

Miranda Lambert's latest single is like the antithesis of "Different For Girls." Most likely inspired by her own breakup, she tells the story of someone who makes mistakes and falls on vices to get through a tough time. And from personal experience, it feels real and it feels like life for girls who are a little bit different.

"Standing at the sink now, looking at the mirror, don't know where I am or how I got here..." Yeah, I think we've all been there before.

Maybe for some, it is different for girls, and we deal with our emotions instead of stowing them away. Or maybe sometimes, we just find another vice to fill a void.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Flower power

I love, love, love taking photos of flowers and nature. It's so beautiful and it gives me a chance to try to focus on the details. Below are some of my recent photos. I'd love some feedback! (Click photos to enlarge.)