Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ms. Misunderstood

Hey there, weird kid in your high-top shoes...

That line could have been written about me.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for country music radio, Eric Church wrote it first. It's a line from his song "Mr. Misunderstood," a song I immediately connected with the first time I heard it.

It tells the story of a kid who's a little different; he likes music his classmates have never heard of, his dreams seem a little too big, and he wears high-top shoes (my preferred choice of shoe, even on my wedding day.) The lyrics spoke to me.

High school is a tough enough time, even if you're pretty "normal." Me, I was always different from my peers. I had a vinyl collection and I loved music from my parents' generation. I didn't drink, I didn't have much of a social life...If I wasn't working on a Friday night you'd find me in my bedroom with my headphones in, and pounding away on a laptop. It was what I knew and it was what I loved. Nothing else mattered.

I was misunderstood enough that my circle of friends changed and even diminished in size throughout my years in school. And sure, there were times that my "oddness" made me feel sad, but in the back of my mind I knew it had to mean something. Maybe one day, I'd be something more. I just had to let myself be...myself. It was a struggle at times, but my family always encouraged me to be true to myself.
There was always pressure to fit in, or to not stand out. But I didn't give in. I sacrificed friendships and being cool, but I honed my art: writing. I found myself, and I figured out who I wanted to be. I chased dreams and goals. I may have been Ms. Misunderstood, but years later, I think for that same reason, I'm able to understand myself better than I ever could have imagined.

And that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

10 Life Lessons Learned By Age 25

I've started to realize a few things during my 25 years. None of these lessons came easy. I can proudly say I've mastered some, yet some are still in the works. Either way, these 10 life lessons have changed my life for the better... 

You don't have to spend time with people you don't like.
Once I cut off ties with toxic people, my stress went out the window and my happiness went through the roof. (Cheesy but accurate!) Life is too short to spend with people who make you feel like dirt. You deserve better.

You can pause or start over at any time. It's your life!
I've had some stops and starts in my life. Blogging. College. My career. Don't worry about what other people think; take your time and figure out what you want out of life. Then go for it. If it's not what you thought it'd be, then stop, reevaluate and try something else. No one gets everything right on the first try.

That being said...

It's OK to have some failures.
Failures will happen. I'm still feeling burned by some of my "failures" in recent years. And although they may hurt and I may regret how some things turned out, I'm starting to realize that they all got me to the place I'm at right now. And I like that place. Instead of sulking in your failures, take away any lessons that you can, and then, when the time is right, move on. 

Don't ever compare your life to others'.
This is one I'm just now learning. At 25, it's pretty easy to compare your life to your peers. They just bought a house, AND a new car! They have kids! They're doing so well! It's easy to take things at face value and assume because you don't have the same things, you're not doing well. That's not the case. You don't know their full story, and you're still working on yours. Let things happen as they're meant to.

Don't be so hard on yourself.
The world is going to be hard enough on you. Take care of yourself! If you can go to bed each night knowing that you did your best that day, you should be proud of yourself. Don't beat yourself up; you have one life and you've still got time to figure things out. 

It's OK to ask for help.
And because no one gets everything right on the first try... Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but don't be afraid to ask for help. I used to feel too "proud" to admit I needed help, but it's OK to do it when you need it. It'll save you a lot of stress.

Dreams change. Goals change. It's normal.
I need this tattooed on my hand so I can remind myself of it daily. If I compared my current self to 16-year-old Jessi's dreams, I'd be a big failure today. But life changes, and your goals and dreams change with that. And it's OK to change them as many times as you like! I think my life will be full of those changes. After all, if we always stayed the same person with the same goals...we'd run out of things to do and get pretty bored, wouldn't we?

Make peace with the things you can't change. 
Do your best with what you can, and everything else? Just forgetta about it! Easier said than done, I know, but it's worth a shot, right?

You're the only one in control of your life.
I've learned that it's important to realize you're in control. You can't blame a bad day or an unfulfilling life on a boss, friend, or husband. Why? Because you always have the power to make things better. Where there's a will, there's always a way. It may not be the way you originally imagined, but there will be a way, somehow.

Love is all you need.
Sounds silly, doesn't it? Sure, you have to have a job, and money to pay the bills, and a lot of other things, but at the end of the day, love is what you need. It feeds the soul, which is the most important thing of all. If you love, you will be loved in return, and there is no greater feeling than that. I hope I never stop chasing love.

What important life lessons have you learned? Please share!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Why Dolly Parton is the Queen of Country

She can sing, act, write, and she gives back in a big way. And right now, she's kind of having a moment. Again. Or still?

Dolly Parton recently appeared on "The Voice," and the movie based on her childhood and song "Coat of Many Colors" was a hit on NBC.

I worship Dolly Parton. Although I've always been a fan of her music, I recently fell in love with her all over again. "From Here to the Moon and Back," was the song my husband and I chose for our first dance at our wedding. Her voice can effortlessly impress people of all generations. I just watched "9 to 5" for the first time recently. I've been bingeing on her music, to say the least. After all this, I've decided that Dolly is the queen of country music. Here's just a few reasons why.
She tells a powerful story
"Coat of Many Colors" was inspired by Dolly's childhood, and that story earned its own movie. She also wrote one of the biggest songs in the world, "I Will Always Love You," not seeking fame or fortune, but to tell a friend and partner how she felt. And oh yeah, she's in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

She believes knowledge is power
Dolly started Imagination Library to provide books to children, regardless of their family's income. More than 60,000,000 books have been provided to children in the United States and in a few other countries. 

She fights for what she believes 
She thinks everyone should be able to be with the person they love. She tries "to love everybody."

She turned down the King of Rock and Roll. Yes, Elvis Presley wanted to record "I Will Always Love You," but he'd take half of the publishing rights, so she turned him down. It ended up working out just fine.

She's an icon in every way
She was recording music by the time she was 13 years old. She's the most honored female country performer of all time. She's been happily married for 50 years. She can sing country, gospel and pop. She's a businesswoman and philanthropist. She's Miley Cyrus' godmother. She has her own theme park! She starred in movies like "9 to 5" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." ("9 to 5" is also a musical!)
"Just because I'm blonde
Don't think I'm dumb
Cause this dumb blonde ain't nobody's fool!"

Enjoy my Dolly playlist below. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On Finding Friendships That Last

"Your friends are so much better than my friends."

It was an offhand comment from my younger sister Lilly, and knowing her, I assumed it was sarcastic. I was wrong.

We had just finished watching a movie with my husband and a couple friends of mine. She made the comment about my friends after we told them goodbye and got into her car. I didn't think much of it at first, but then it all started to make sense.

My sister is in her first year of college. She's only 18 years old. She's in that tough first year after high school: friends leave, friends make promises they don't keep, and after more than a decade of being in school with the same people, it's tough to branch out and meet people for the first time.

I've been there, and I don't think back on it too fondly. I smiled when she complimented my friends, but then I realized that my friendships weren't just a lucky occurrence.

They came after years and years of work. Six years ago, I was in her shoes. I was in college and trying to keep in touch with people at big universities, and people living in different states. I kept holding out when they said they'd keep in touch, or when they said they'd get back to me. And again when we eventually were no longer Facebook friends. It's a tough time to get through, and it doesn't go quickly. You have to be patient.

So I tried to be patient. After years of friendships that go stale, missed connections or blow ups with lifelong pals, you start to see the smoke clear. And that's when you can open your eyes and see who remains. That's when you see who your real friends are. I think it may just be a part of growing up.

But it takes hard work. And it can take years.

I may have a small number of friends, and I may not see them every day, but they are the best friendships I've ever had. They're certainly the strongest friendships I've ever had, so I think they were worth the wait. I think all good things simply take time.

So, Lilly, if you are frustrated, if you feel alone, if you're wondering if things are going to get better, I just want to tell you that they will. It just takes a little faith and some time. But it'll happen.

And in the meantime, I want you to know you'll always have a friend in me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ziggy Stardust Changed My Life

I've always appreciated music that came before my time. Music from the '70s and '80s always spoke to me more than today's hits. In my mind, artists from that time were true artists.

Near the top of the pack was David Bowie, someone I'd reserve the word "genius" for. I discovered his music when I was 15 or 16. I heard "Changes" and "Rebel Rebel," just scratching the surface of his discography, and my life was changed. Heck, I even once named a pet goldfish "Ziggy Stardust."
I know everyone says this, but Bowie made it OK to be weird and to be yourself, even to a teenage girl in 2005. He was so cool in his own skin and he transcended musical genres. 

It was a shock when I found out he died last night. I spent the first 20 minutes of my day, half asleep and scouring the web, seeing if his death was a hoax. When I realized it wasn't, I instantly started playing his music. It was my small way to say thanks.
That photo is a good depiction of me as a teenager. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom: I'd sit on my bed with my back leaning against the wall, big white headphones on, all while scribbling in my journal or staring up at the vinyl records on my ceiling. And David Bowie inspired me.

I felt cool when I listened to his music, so his music gave an awkward teenage girl some confidence. He inspired some of my bright hair colors. He inspired some of my poetry.

The lyrics, the sounds, the fashion, it all had a profound impact on my life. His creations inspired me to create my own.
Thanks for being one of my heroes, David Bowie.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

How to Beat the Winter Blahs

January is no joke.

There's not another long weekend in sight. The excitement of the holidays has passed and your wallet is thinner than ever. There may not be snow, but it's cold. And miserable.

You may experience seasonal affective disorder, or you may just feel unhappy. If you're like me, you're feeling super uninspired and even lacking motivation at times. It happens, but it doesn't have to stick around. If you're looking to kick the January blahs in the butt, here's some tricks I've found.

Try a new hobby (Or pick up an old one)
I've been dabbling in photography. Baking. Slow cooker cooking. I've been making a ton of music playlists, which is easily one of my favorite hobbies. I've also started reading again. Give yourself something to get excited about! 
Set a goal (Or keep your resolution!)
When you have something to work toward, you kind of force yourself to get motivated. You can pick a resolution like eating healthier, getting to the gym, or even something as simple (but important!) as being kinder to yourself. Or maybe you can try out a life mantra, like Melissa plans to do. Or maybe your goal is related to your new hobby. (How many books can you read this month? How many new recipes can you try?)

Get sun when you can
I work in a basement 40 hours each week, so sun time is scarce, especially in the winter. Even if you can't afford a tropical getaway, sun does wonders for the body and soul. I squeeze my sun time in during my lunch; I'll eat in my car even during the cold months because it's important to get out.

Stretch your creativity
We're not all artists, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the perks of being one! Sing a song, write a poem. Better yet, try an adult coloring book. They're handy when you need to unplug for a while, or ease some anxiety. For being a simple coloring book, I've found mine to be incredibly rewarding.
What do you do when the winter blues kick in? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Dear 2016, Please Bring Better Country Music

Dear 2016,

Please bring better country music.

Mainstream country radio has been...lacking for a while. I've blogged about this before, so it's no secret that I'm craving something a little deeper. 

Sure, 2015 seemed like it was beginning to steer into the right direction. Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe put out phenomenal albums, and Chris Stapleton stopped some non-believers in their tracks.

But I want more Chris Stapleton, and less bro country. Sure, it's cool that Kacey, Ashley, Carrie and Miranda are hitting it out of the park. But there's got to be more room for female powerhouses in country music. 

Maybe the Dixie Chicks can do that? 

What I want most out of country music in 2016 is more...authenticity. I want more stories, I want more heartache. Those feelings may exist somewhere, deep in Nashville, off the mainstream, but why can't it be on the radio too?

And like I said, there are some people who are sneaking it in on the radio, here and there. Thomas Rhett's song "Die a Happy Man," surprised me in a good way, for instance. George Strait recently put out a new album, and he's still able to do good, classic country. I'll always love Dierks Bentley.

But I'm ready for something different. Something real. 2016, can you do that?

In the meantime, I've made a playlist with some inspiration. Here's what I like on today's country music radio. What do you think?


Sunday, January 03, 2016

Through the Lens of a Crazy Cat Lady

My husband Chris and I adopted our two shelter cats in 2014, and we've all had a lot of fun. Although I grew up in a "dog family," I quickly became attached to my two kitties and I can't imagine life without them! And judging by some differences between cat and dog people, I can see why I found cats to be my "type."

My cats, Twitch and Trixie, have been super patient while I learn to use a camera. Sometimes, they'll even pose! 
Are you a cat person or a dog person? Any tips or tricks for photographing pets?

Exciting news! 
I'll be blogging over at Barry Schrader's blog in the coming weeks. My posts will focus on my life in the Midwest (specifically DeKalb County, Ill.) I will still have regular posts, photos and playlists here at Becoming Mrs. LaRue!