Monday, March 28, 2016

Is this just "growing up?"

Do you ever look at old photos and feel sort of...sad?

Is that normal?

Life has been going by so quickly lately. I got a full-time job, I got engaged, married....and now we're saving to buy our first home. We've budgeted, planned, and we know that it's a realistic possibility in the near future. I love my life right now.

It's truly an exciting time, and a time I've been looking forward to for a long time. You see, I'm the kind of person who loves the thrill of checking off tasks on a to-do list. I thrive off of it. Is there something I need to accomplish? I'm going to go full steam until I can say I've kicked it in the ass.

And that's a good thing, I guess. But sometimes I wonder if that means I've been wishing my life away. 

Yeah, I still compare myself to my peers, and some days I feel like I'm way behind. I feel like I should be having children so I can please everyone around me and live up to society's expectations. And I'm ready to get out of this apartment and into a spacious house. But then I look at old photos.

So much has changed, and I keep rushing myself through more changes - taking them on one-by-one.

The old photos, even from just six years ago, show a completely different Jessi, one that I wouldn't recognize today. Dreams like marriage and a home were so far from my mind. I spent all my time surrounded by friends, taking selfies and doing other things that didn't necessarily mean anything. But it was a happy, simple time. Do I really miss those times, and friends that I've fallen out of touch with, or do I just miss those carefree days?

It's so hard to tell if I'm craving a piece of the past or if the future just seems too....finite. But my life is at a manageable speed for me right now. My anxiety's been at an all-time low. I feel so much like myself.

But I do miss my youth. (Is that a naive thing to say at only 25 years old?) 

Maybe I just need a little more spontaneity, a little more carelessness. But I'm rushing through checkpoints right now with such finesse and speed. I'm at the top of my game. Am I too old, too grown up to let loose a little bit? And what's the best way to do that without throwing myself off the track?

I guess that's part of becoming Mrs. LaRue, or just becoming me. Or is this just growing up?

Rockin' Road Trip Playlist

It's almost road trip season.

Last week I posted my country road trip playlist. This playlist is for the rock 'n roller in all of us. 

This playlist is almost five hours of head bangin', sing-along songs about the road, the fast life and more. I think classics like "Midnight Rider," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Don't Stop Believin''" make this a playlist for all ages to enjoy.

Check out the playlist and let me know: what would you add to this playlist?

And don't forget to check out my country road trip playlist!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy birthday Steven Tyler

Blurry photo from when I saw Aerosmith in 2006.
Happy 68th birthday, Steven Tyler. 

Aerosmith is my favorite band, and one of the greatest bands of all time. They encapsulate the best of gritty American rock 'n roll: stinging lyrics, out-of-this world vocals and unique, captivating instrumentals. I think "Dream On" is the greatest classic rock song of all time.

I saw them live when I was 16 years old; although I attended a few concerts as a kid, this is the one I really truly remember and consider my first concert. Motley Crue opened for Aerosmith in Wisconsin that year, and I got to experience the show with my best friend as well as my parents, who love Aerosmith even more than I do and have seen them many times.
Even decorated the car for the concert.
There's something about Steven Tyler that makes him special, and an extraodinary musician. 

Many of Aerosmith's songs are older than me, but even after listening to these songs for my entire life, I still get chills. I still crank them up on the radio and sing along. There's something so timeless about Aerosmith, and I know my love for them will never go away.

And sure, Steven Tyler is dabbling in country music right now, and not everyone's a fan. But for a man who can play almost every instrument, and has been the lead singer of a great band for more than four decades, doesn't he deserve to have a little fun and do what he wants musically? I think so.

Happy birthday, Mr. Tyler. You'll always be my favorite.

Take an hour out of your day and celebrate Steven Tyler's birthday the best way - with his music.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Country Road Trip Playlist

It's almost road trip season.

In just a couple weeks, my husband and I will be traveling with some of our family members down to Missouri to visit our extended family, including my great grandfather. I'm excited for my husband to meet more of my family, I'm excited to interview some family members (I'm a journo, after all...) and I'm excited for the trip itself. We've never taken a trip like this together before, so we're really looking forward to a mini vacation.

As soon as the trip was confirmed, the music lover in me started making road trip playlists in my head. It's fun to pick out songs that you can imagine for the soundtrack to your adventure. As a country music lover, I had to share my (long!) but iconic country playlist first. This playlist features classics like Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" and Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again," to unexpected but great songs like "Copperhead Road" and "Fishin' In The Dark." This playlist has something for every country music lover.

Do you have any upcoming road trips? What would you add to this playlist? 

Also, be on the lookout for my next road trip playlist post - rock music!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Springtime Playlist

Happy first day of spring!

Spring always seems to signal a new beginning and the best of what could be. I like to ring in spring with upbeat, fun music: it seems to fit the theme of the season. 

My playlist, which includes Elvis, Sheryl Crow, The Beatles and more, is below. What songs are included on your springtime playlist?


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Another day at the park

Another Saturday, another day at the park.

Spring is here.
I went out on a mission to take some photos. Going to the park gives me a chance to get some fresh air, and get some practice with a camera. My husband likes to tag along for the walk, too. 
 Our first stop was at my great grandmother's memorial tree. 
I also got some photos of the beautiful scenery.
I also took photos of some things I couldn't explain.
We thought the public pool looked a little spooky/abandoned.
I can't get enough of this good weather.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cardio Playlist

I recently joined a gym and I've been going almost daily. It's a pretty huge lifestyle change for me, so sometimes it takes more than just a little willpower to get me motivated and moving. Like with most other things in my life, I turned to music. 

I put together a fun, upbeat pop/hip hop playlist for cardio, as I spend the first half hour of my workout on the treadmill. This music lifts my mood and gets me in the zone to work out. Hopefully you can get some use out of this playlist, too!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Being a Girl Scout Changed My Life

It’s that time of year again: people are eating Girl Scout cookies or trying to hunt down a box of their own. 

Me? I’m elbow deep in a box of Thin Mints as I write this, but seeing as it’s officially Girl Scout Week, I have no remorse. 

Girl Scout Week began March 6 and ends on March 12, which is the 104th anniversary of the first Girl Scout troop to ever register in the United States. For me, Girl Scouts is about a lot more than just cookies. It was a decade of my life. 

I became a Brownie in first grade; as a shy, quiet kid I quickly found friends in my fellow scouts and mentors in my leaders. Over the years I forged friendships that would get me through the drama of middle school, and the tough times in high school. Our troop always stuck together, even as the group whittled down to just a few of us in high school. After all, it wasn’t “cool” to be a Girl Scout. But it turned out to be pretty cool for those of us who chose to stick it out for the long haul.
When I wasn’t making new friends or trying something new, I was connecting with my mother. My mom consistently assisted my troop, drove us around, and helped out in any way she could. Some kids find it embarrassing to have their mom “hanging out” with them, or at their group sleepovers, but my mom was always the cool and fun one at Girl Scout events. Plus, she always made everyone’s favorite veggie dip. Some of my most treasured Girl Scout memories involve my mother. 

After putting in countless hours of volunteer work and community service, together the troop earned our Silver Award, the second highest award in Girl Scouts. (For those familiar with Boy Scouts, it’s essentially one step below the Eagle Scout ranking; the gold award is similar to being an Eagle Scout.) We gave back to our community and in return, we matured, developed and learned more about ourselves. 

We learned about a variety of topics: cooking, camping, tying knots, leadership, morals, first aid and more. We became mentors to girls younger than we were. We earned badges for our vests and badges in the study of the real world.
When it came time to apply for college and scholarships, our tenure with the scouts gave us an incredible edge over others. We put in the time and effort, and it not only showed on college applications and job resumes, but it showed in our passion and work ethic. Girl Scouts prepared me for the real world.

When you receive your box of cookies from your local scout, or you buy a box from the group sitting outside Walmart, take a minute to ask the girls where the money goes. Ask them what outings they have planned this year. Encourage them to stick with scouting, even when it’s not the “cool thing” to do any more. Being a part of the Girl Scouts is life changing; it surely changed mine.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dreams Don't End. They Change.

Aging is a bittersweet thing. The closer I get to 30, the more a knot turns in my stomach, and all the same old thoughts come back.

Am I doing enough? Have I passed enough checkpoints? Am I keeping pace with the rest of my peers? Should I have kids, should I find a different job? Where the heck am I supposed to be at this point?  

The list of questions goes on and on.

But lately I've been pushing those thoughts out of my head simply by trying to be the best version of myself. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but it's working.

Growing up, I wanted to be a writer. In a city. In a high rise office. In a small town, writing books. In a newsroom. In another country. The dreams changed, but they changed in a good way. The dreams developed and grew.

Then, once I was set on journalism (a way to actually get paid to write!) I put all of myself into it. Once I got the dream job and didn't enjoy it, I considered myself a complete failure. I went down a dark path. I thought since I had hit a wall (for the first time in my life, and a big wall at that,) that I was a goner. I was done. I really had myself believing that there was no future for me.

It took almost a year and a half for me to realize that my dream - the one I've had since I was a little girl - still lived in me. I still want to be a writer. I proofread by day and I'm no longer a journalist in a newsroom, but there are still so many possibilities for me to explore. Once that revelation hit me, I started attacking that dream again - ferociously, and from every angle possible.

I'm now freelancing for a brand new local newspaper. I'm also taking on some election day freelance work for another publication. I've been blogging here, and on another blog, where I can specifically write about my life in the Midwest. 

And even bigger to me, I'm in the infancy stages of something I've dreamed about my entire life: writing a book. I'm nowhere near the finish line, in fact, I'm just hearing the starting gun, but it's exciting and it could be huge. The topic is close to my heart and I really feel that writing this story is the reason I was put on this earth, and is the reason I was meant to be a writer. 

Dreams don't end. They change. And to keep up with the momentum, I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps me inspired. I am learning more about photography. I joined a gym and I now exercise daily. These things are teaching me a lot about my soul. They're also improving my well being, inside and out.

People handle age in all kinds of ways. It used to intimidate me, but now I'm using it as a guide. I'm pushing myself to be the best version of myself, someone who can say that I try my hardest and I do things from the deepest parts of my soul. This life may not be what I imagined years ago, but it's changing and evolving right along with me. And that's a beautiful thing to endure.