Sunday, October 08, 2017

Music City Bound

Photo by Jessi LaRue

In just a couple weeks, my husband and I will be road trippin' to Music City --- Nashville, TN. 

It's a trip I've been dreaming of for most of my life. (Check out this post I wrote back in 2011.)

It'll also be the first vacation my husband and I take together. (After almost eight years combined dating/marriage, how is this possible?!)

We're taking our honeymoon just two years late.

We've got a full agenda of visiting museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum. We'll also be hitting up some fall-specific activities, and looking for murals and checking out the music scene, of course. Expect a LOT of photos on this blog.

It's been so exciting to have this trip -- really, a big goal --- to look forward to. This trip will be well-earned for both of us, and it will be nice to have fun and let loose a little bit. 

And as an avid music lover (particularly country music,) I can't wait to soak it all in. (And don't forget the food!)

Do you have any recommendations for visiting Nashville?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I have no clue what I'm doing.

I have nothing figured out.

I don't know what I want to be "when I grow up." I'm not sure how long I'll be in my current job, or if it will take me anywhere. I enjoy it, but somewhere in the back of my mind all I hear is, "what's the next big move?"

My husband and I say that we want to live in our current house for a long time, but a lot of that depends on whether or not we have kids -- and right now, we don't know if we are physically able, or even if that's our true desire. So I really don't know where that's going.

So much is up in the air, and so much is contingent on other things.

I'm spending a lot of time writing and researching for a project, and that brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment. But no, on the grand scheme of things, I'm not pointing myself down any certain path, and I'm not looking to make some major moves in my life. Is that OK? Or am I selling myself short? Am I not doing enough with my life right now?

It stresses me out at times, because I have a need to be in control of my life, my situation. But at the end of the day, I know that currently, I am happy. The things that I am doing right now are making me happy. But I can't help but wonder if what I'm doing right now is enough, and what the outcome of it all will be.

Being in my 20s has been tough. I consistently feel the looming pressure of my 30s sinking in. I feel like I'm supposed to have my shit figured out. And I have nothing figured out.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Working in the front yard

I love homeownership, even though it's expensive and can be a lot of work. 

In our front yard, we've removed rocks and bushes, planted a ridiculous amount of grass seed, and now we've installed some flower beds. Up next is planting flowers and installing a Little Free Library. These yard projects have been a lot of work and we don't always know what we're doing, but we're having a good time together.



Monday, July 17, 2017

'The Wall that Heals' comes to town

The Wall that Heals, the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial, visited my hometown July 13-16. 

The traveling memorial is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam memorial wall in Washington, D.C., and it serves as an educational tool as it makes stops across the country.

My husband and I visited the memorial wall at Saturday at Sycamore Park, and it was an incredibly moving experience. Below are some of my photos. Click the images to enlarge.
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue

Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue

Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Photo by Jessi LaRue
Have you had an opportunity to see The Wall That Heals?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Puppies Over Cubicles

Photo by Jessi LaRue
I recently changed jobs. I left a company that I had spent five years with -- to put it simply, I wasn't "moving up the ranks" in more ways than one, and I felt that I had exhausted my efforts. It was a "good" job, one that required a bachelor's degree; and although I do not have that degree, I acquired my position through my experience and hard work.

When I felt like my efforts there were no longer taking me anywhere, I decided that it was time to leave. I took a 180 degree turn in my life and decided to chase happiness over prestige. I took a receptionist job at a doggie daycare/groomery and I chose puppies over cubicles.

The "change" may seem drastic to some, but in the end it all balances out. The money is different, but with new benefits, the ability to walk to work every day, and ample overtime potential, I'm in the exact same financial position as before.

And, oh yeah, I'm happier.

A "higher-up" from my last job stopped by my current job recently to pick up her dogs. When she walked in, she was very surprised to see me behind the desk, and after she commented on how much I was missed, she said "so, are you on the grooming side or...?" Her eyes darted to the daycare side, where the sound of barking dogs continued to erupt.

"I do a little bit of everything here," I said. "I'm the receptionist."

" this is just part-time, then?" She asked with a concerned, sympathetic look on her face.

"No," I quickly responded, with a puzzled look on my face. "This is a full-time job."

She politely smiled, and I quickly found myself explaining how much I loved working with dogs and that I now have the luxury of walking to work. But as she left, I wanted to kick myself. Who cares what she thinks? I don't have anything to prove to anyone. But I still felt like I was being looked down on.

Sure, to some, a receptionist position isn't the most "prestigious." But to me, it's a job that actually has a lot of responsibility and importance.  It pays the bills, it keeps me busy, and I feel accomplished at the end of each day.

And, oh yeah, I'm happy.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Finding inspiration in my life

Photo by Jessi LaRue
I've been thinking back to just a month ago in my life, about how frustrated and lackluster I felt. Since then, I've made so many changes, some bigger than others. I changed jobs. I listen to more music, and I write more often. 

There's also been some things that have brought that "inspired" feeling back into my life:
- Walking to and from work daily
- The Wonder Woman movie
- A late night drive while blasting '90s alternative rock hits
- Playing with 15 dogs (at once!) at my new job
- Interviewing a couple that is so in love and planning their wedding
- A friendly wave from a neighbor in the morning
- The dedication of a historical marker recognizing my 4th great uncle
- My cat falling asleep on my lap during my lunch hour
- Conversations with my friend and mentor
- Every minute of family time that I can get

Where have you found inspiration?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Songs I'm Lovin' - May 2017

Photo by Jessi LaRue
It's been a while since I've created a "Songs I'm Lovin'" I decided to get one posted just before this month ends.

This playlist features a little bit of everything; as usual, it's heavy in country, but this also features some fun tunes from the Cyrus girls. I'll always be a fan of that family.

Check out my current favorite tunes below, and let me know in the comments: what are you listening to right now?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Making changes

Photo by Jessi LaRue
Recently I had some sort of "breakthrough" in my life. 

I was frustrated, I was sad, and I felt unfulfilled.

Unfortunately, I never realize these things as they start to creep up on me. Instead, everything has to come crashing down on me for me to see it. And it's the worst feeling, yet it always pushes me to produce some big results.

So last Sunday night, as I sat on my bedroom floor crying, wondering how I was going to fix these frustrated feelings surrounding my life, it hit me. It's time to make myself happy. It was so simple, and so obvious, but I had to actually stop and take time to evaluate myself.

Once I did, I knew exactly what I needed.
I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and tried to find that happiness. I got a new job, which I'll start next week. My sister and I recently had a long, healthy talk about anything and everything in our lives. My husband and I sat down and evaluated our priorities, our plans and our dreams.

And when the dust settled from all these changes (I tend to work quickly,) I took a deep breath and realized that the rush of chaos I just put myself through worked. I felt better already.

So I'm making some changes in my life, and I can only hope that it's all for the better.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I've been unhappy for a while.

Eh, maybe that's misleading.

As a whole, I'm happy. I love my family, my husband, the projects I've taken on in my life. But when I think about the nitty-gritty of my life, the "who I am" at the end of the day, I feel truly unsatisfied.

I feel off. I don't feel like myself. I don't feel as proud, excited, or intuitive as I've felt previously. This is typically a feeling that pops up during the winter, but now it's May and today hit 85 degrees...and I still feel unhappy.

I can't pinpoint it exactly. I just feel like something in my life is lacking, and I'm not exactly sure what to do about it right now.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A mother's love

Every year I try to put my love for my mother into words, and every year I come up short.

The recent "big moves" in my life, which include getting married and buying a house, have made me realize how important my mom is to me. When I think about all the times she has been there in the last few years alone, it astonishes me. She's always there to offer advice or a helping hand. It makes me regret some of those "growing pains" teenage years I had, where sometimes it felt like she was my sworn enemy.

But the older I get, the more I realize that I am so beyond lucky to have her. And the older I get, the more I realize that I am becoming so much like her. I can only hope that I will be half as caring, devoted, and loving as her. 

My mother's love is what keeps me sane, it's what keeps me driven, and it's what makes me want to be the best person I can. Because I want to be like her, and I want to make her proud.

So once again, I tried to put into words how much my mom means to me, and I'm coming up short. I can't put a number on just how many times she's been there for me and my husband. I can't even imagine listing off all the titles she's held, and all the roles she's played, in developing my life into something amazing. I simply can't explain how much I appreciate having her in my life.

Happy Mother's Day, Momma. I can't thank you enough.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Home Decor: Thrifting finds

Another week, another couple of days spent finding cute, quirky items for the home.

These items came from a few fun places!

This cute shelf (roosters not included)
I occasionally get to travel to shoot some photography for my job, so if I ever have downtime while I'm on the road, I tend to do some shopping and browsing. 

I found this cute shelf in an antique mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana last week. I had to buy it (and for only $10!) because I knew it would be the perfect home for my rooster collection. I love roosters, but this collection is very special to me because it has been handed down in my family through many generations. They now have a sturdy and cute home in my dining room.

After browsing the antique mall in Indiana, I came home and still had the itch to do some more browsing. My husband and I went to Roadhouse Antiques in Creston, Illinois to continue the adventure. While there, I picked up a couple of items, including this corn teapot.

It's a really strange item. Most people would find it tacky. But living in the heart of the Midwest makes me appreciate these things. For just $3.50, it fits my down home Midwest kitchen/dining room area very well.

Fun fact: The owner of the shop reminded me that the teapot did not have its lid, which honestly hadn't occurred to me until she had pointed it out. She said that at most vintage shops, it's rare to find a teapot with its lid. She explained that when items are up for auction, typically lids and teapots are put in separate boxes to entice people to buy both boxes. However, she said, sometimes people just don't want all the items in both. She said I may stumble upon the lid somewhere, someday. It was kind of a neat thought.

I also dig in boxes of vinyl albums whenever I come across them. I've loved vinyl ever since my dad handed down his old record player from his high school days. I now have one of those funky (and practical) players that can host Bluetooth, vinyl, CD and cassette. When I spotted this album, "Rowdy Country," the artwork was what really caught my eye. After all, when you think "rowdy" country, don't you picture a flannel-sleeve arm punching through a wall? I know I do!

The track list is pretty incredible, too. It includes songs from Hank Jr., Waylon, Willie and more. At $2, this album was a steal. I picked up this album in Creston, as well.

I picked up this cute, wooden bird while hitting up garage sales Saturday. I thought he would work perfectly in one of the many trees in our backyard. Plus, I figured when the wind picks up and his wings spin, it would give my cats just another thing to gaze at during the day.

The person selling these homemade birds said they were by far the most popular item at his sale, and that he had sold more than 70 of them the day before! At only $1, it was a fun purchase. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

What's next?

There's a lot of potential for my change in my life right now.

Change always makes me hesitant, and almost scared. But this time, I have a good feeling. 

Even though in the end, I have no idea what to expect.

- - -

I'm ready to take my writing to the next level. I have so many ideas, and so much pent-up energy on projects I've taken on. But where do I begin? 

- - -

Writing a book has been a goal of mine for as long as I've been able to write. I have two very strong feelings about it. 

1) Lots of people have done it/are doing it. So why couldn't you?

2) Lots of people have done it/are doing it. So how could you possibly stand out from the crowd and make your story worthwhile?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Home Decor: Thrifting finds

I love a good deal. And I love "unique" items. (Which really means I love dorky, vintage, country, down-home items. Yes, let's just call my style "down home.") With garage sale season upon us, my husband and I took some time recently to peruse the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, as well as some barn sales. Because when you live in farm country, barn sales are where it's at...

I was so excited to find this piece of barbed wire art at a barn sale that was aptly called "Crafts & Crap." Imagine my excitement when I saw that sign on the side of the road. As you may know, I'm a bit of a barbed wire nut -- my 4th great uncle was an original inventor of barbed wire and I run a blog about him here. For just $10, this homemade piece was a great find. This cute piece will fit perfectly in our little country-esque home.

The same sale had an entire table of retro Avon bottles, full of perfumes, lotions and more, for $1 each! They were fun to look through, but this rooster bottle of lotion caught my eye. I collect rooster and chicken knick-knacks of all types, so this one will be another welcome piece in the home.

A few weeks ago, I spotted this adorable salt and pepper shaker set at the local Salvation Army store. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox! For 59 cents, this set matches my quirky taste as well as my budget.

It's no secret that this house will be full of peculiar items. I have to admit, although I indulge in the show "Fixer Upper" from time to time, my style is anything BUT that... the "farmhouse" whites and grays, and stiff, formal sitting areas irk me. I'm more of a kitschy, walls loaded with colors and funky pieces type. I blame (and thank) my mom and grandma.

Do you like to thrift? Where do you shop for items for the home?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Digging up treasure

Digging up treasure in our front yard.
Chris and I have spent the past couple of weekends digging up the mess in the front and back yards of our new home. 

The yards had been needing some TLC for a while; dead flowers, grass, and more littered the area. We've mostly just been cleaning out the mess, we haven't even planted anything new yet.

Chris was working in the front yard while I tackled the backyard this weekend. At one point he showed me something he had dug up. To us, it looked like a belt buckle, or something similar. Unsure of what it was, he decided to post it to one of our local Facebook groups, "You know you're from Sycamore, Illinois when..." People often post pictures of things, looking for more information and such.

We were surprised when, within minutes, the comments started flowing, and people started tagging others in the post. Everyone immediately started saying "Oldsmobile hood ornament!" Within another twenty minutes, it had been determined that not only was it from an Oldsmobile, but more specifically, it was the emblem of a hubcap of a "spoked Olds 88/98 ... from about 1980-1985."

Someone was even able to send us the link of what exactly it looked like -- see below.
Within just minutes we had the most specific answer we could have asked for...and all from our hometown Facebook group!

I can easily say that while I'm part of the generation that grew up with the Internet, its power still boggles me every single day.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Six Month Curse

If I can handle something for six months straight, chances are I'll keep doing it for a long time. But for most things, I burn out before I even hit that mark.

You see, I'm the victim of a "six month curse."

No matter how invested I may be, no matter how hard I try, if I don't truly care about something, I'll write it off within a few months. This has become a pattern in my life, and it puts a ticking time bomb on many things: hobbies, jobs, and even relationships.

I'm not sure why the "sweet spot" is six months, and I'm not sure why it happens at all. When I told my dad about my sneaking suspicion of my "six month curse," he quickly quipped, "you've always been that way."

It's like I have a fear of committing to certain things. Or I'm always on the edge of my seat, seeking something better, something even greater. I also have a tendency to get really riled up and excited about something, and I tend to move quickly in the early days of any new endeavor. But if I lose interest or passion, you can bet I'll do it within six months.

Maybe I'm a serial quitter. Maybe I'm just a rambunctious spirit that won't be tied down. I'm not even sure if this curse is a curse at all. Because I'm always moving on and trying new things, I feel I've learned so much more than I would have if I'd stayed put. But in the long run, is my tendency to wander going to hurt me?

I'm kind of nervous to find out. But I know I'll find out soon enough.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Family is like a fart.

Maybe I'm at the age when I start realizing what's best for me. Or maybe, I've finally learned how to not give a shit.

Lately, more than ever, I've found myself quick to dismiss things. Someone disagrees with me? OK. That thing didn't go as planned? Fine. Family members can be undeniably self-centered and full of it? Buh-bye.

I'll never understand why some family members only make themselves available when it's convenient. Or how some family members can only find you interesting if you're constantly needing something. Turns out if you're self-reliant, independent, and aren't looking for a handout, some people don't find you very interesting.

And that's too bad.

Family ties shouldn't be forced. Family should call each other because they want to know what's going on. Because they miss the sound of your voice. Because they

Family should want to spend time with each other because life is too short not to. It's always possible to make time for family, right?

But that's not always how family works. Sometimes we are dealt a different hand, and with that comes different people with different expectations and different values. 

As frustrating as that may be, it's what makes me grateful for the family I've got, or rather, the family I choose to surround myself with. I'm grateful for the family that helps you get through the lows while celebrating the highs.

I'm grateful for the family that is consistently there, the ones that never need to force the time, energy, or love. After all, family is like a fart. If you have to force it, it's probably shit.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

PHOTOS: Visiting Antique Archaeology

The Antique Archaeology shops in Le Claire, IA | Photo by Jessi LaRue
My husband, sister, and I took a mini vacation this week. We went to an Eric Church concert and visited the Antique Archaeology store. 

Below are some photos from our visit to Antique Archaeology, also known as the Iowa (and original) home of the American Pickers, a show on the History Channel.

Chris and I consider ourselves quite the "Pickers" buffs, so this trip was a lot of fun. Although we didn't run into Mike, Frank or Danielle, we still posed next to the van and perused through their two buildings. They had some expensive items for sale, and some items that we had seen on the show, but for the most part, the two buildings were geared toward tourists and they had a variety of American Pickers gear and souvenirs.

Chris and I plan on taking a trip to Nashville in the next year, so we will stop at their Nashville location as well. Are you a "Pickers" fan?

Monday, April 03, 2017

Digging through boxes of my childhood

Once a cat lady, always a cat lady.
My husband woke up Saturday morning, groggily stumbled out to the living room, saw me, and then promptly headed right back to bed.

Normally I'd be offended, but considering the mess I'd created, I couldn't blame him. It was probably quite a sight for him, seeing his 26 year old wife sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor surrounded by oodles of Barbies, Barbie clothes, and pink plastic doll furniture.

Recently my parents decided that now that I'm a homeowner, it's time for me to get the rest of my belongings out of their house. All that remained was a slew of boxes from my childhood, covered in cobwebs in the attic. To my surprise, more than 20 boxes and bags labeled with my name came out of the attic that fateful day. Each box contained infinite stories and memories. Each stuffed animal, notebook from school, old newspaper article, and of course, Barbie, had its own tale to tell.

As I spent this weekend sorting through the "time capsule" of my childhood, in an attempt to condense and compile it into something that wouldn't use up my entire basement, I found myself reminiscing about my past, but also thinking about my future.

As I carefully placed each Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kid and Beanie Baby into a tote, I thought about the possibility of someday sharing these items with children of my own. That's a fact of life that my husband and I are still discussing, but I did feel a flutter of excitement thinking that I could share these items with my own children, and that maybe they'd find at least some of them as interesting as I once did.

As I read notes from friends and flames from high school, I found myself rolling my eyes and laughing to myself. It's funny to think how seriously I took myself back in high school, and how everything seemed so important. These days, high school seems like a walk in the park, especially compared to some tasks in adulthood.

And finally, I found so many bits and pieces of my personality in those boxes. Seeing books that I had written for "Young Author" contests, and diaries of stories and ramblings inspired me, as my love of writing has never wavered throughout my life. Finding old copies of my high school paper, the "Spartan Voice," brought back so many crisp memories of the founding days of my career as a journalist.

 In one of my "baby books," my mom wrote that she thinks my grandmother's cats may have helped me learn to crawl and walk. I wouldn't have my own pet cats until about three years ago, but I immediately felt a connection to my furry friends. Another baby book said early on, I loved "kitties, Alan Jackson, and McDonald's."

Some things will never change.