Friday, December 29, 2017

The Few Books I Read in 2017

At this time last year, a friend of mine posted a photo of the STACK of books she read in 2016. It was incredible; I think she read at least 20 books. I was so inspired. "I'm going to do this next year!" I remember telling myself.

My big plan started in January like most new year's resolutions do: with a strong start. I think I knocked out two or three books that first month alone. And then I only read two more for the rest of the year. 

Well, I tried. 

As much as I love to read, sometimes it's just hard to find the time. I'm working toward better results next year, though: I received a healthy stack of books for Christmas, and I'll be building and installing my own Little Free Library in my front yard next year. It will be hard to resist a good book when I walk past them each day!
I read just a few books in 2017, but I loved them all.

Here's some info on the books I read in 2017. (In case you can't tell, I'm a biography nerd.)

"Theodore Roosevelt" by Lewis L. Gould
I love history, and I find the Roosevelts interesting.

"Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick
Picked this up at a Goodwill store when I was traveling in Indiana for work. Read it when I was bored in my hotel; it was a fun, easy read. Didn't really stick with me, though.

"Around the Way Girl: A Memoir" by Taraji P. Henson
I fell in love with Taraji when I watched the first season of "Empire." This is a gripping story, and she's an incredible woman.

"The Wire that Fenced the West" by Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum
A great research book for my barbed wire project.

"Long Mile Home: Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice" by Scott Helman and Jenna Russell, reporters for The Boston Globe
Moving account of the Boston Marathon bombing. Highly recommend.

What did you read in 2017? Any recommendations for 2018?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Reflecting on this crazy year

Spent some time tonight reflecting on this last year.

This year had an interesting start. It's something that I don't talk about too often, mostly because I just get frustrated. I'd been working hard at a job I loved for many years, and was even recognized for my hard work in a BIG way in January. But when the time came for me to finally move up and prove myself, the support I needed wasn't within that company. I didn't see any reason to stick around any longer, if I wasn't going to go anywhere.

I decided to cut ties and moved on to a totally different job, where I found myself in the awesome company of....animals. Maybe not "technically" the best use of a journalism degree, but for the first time in a while I am SO happy and I feel so appreciated and needed. It's amazing.

Meeting people, taking photos, researching, writing...those are some of the coolest, most rewarding things I do in my world. I may not have a journalism career, but I reap the rewards of that hard work every single day. I love where I’m at, and what I’m doing, even if it’s a little different than what I originally planned. I love everything I do, like the blogs that I write on, and the Facebook pages I work on. Heck, this year I even gave two public presentations AND unveiled a historical marker. Those are easily some of the coolest things I've ever done in MY LIFE. I think I gathered up that courage just because I was happier than ever.

All I can say is, find what you love, and do it, even if it's not the most conventional way, or the way you saw yourself doing it. I made happiness my goal this year, and miraculously enough, it worked. (Hope that wasn't too preachy. Sorry.... I'm a writer.)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remembering my grandfather

My grandfather was a lot of things.

A racecar driver. A salesman. A husband. A father. A grandfather. A great-grandfather.

He was a NASCAR fanatic. A Minnesota Vikings fanatic. He loved to play card games, from Go Fish to Rummy, but he'd cheat (and win) at every single one. He was a father figure to many people in his life; he provided love, assistance and guidance. 

He'd sit down for breakfast and eat half a watermelon, with it sitting on a plate like a big red bowl, and he'd scoop out chunks with a spoon. Then later, he'd point at his rounded belly and warn us kids not to eat the watermelon seeds, or else our belly would look like his.

He was old school. When the boys were naughty, he'd warn that he was going to use his belt. When the girls were naughty, well, not much would happen. Maybe a raised voice.

He always said "I love you" first when hanging up on the phone. When he smiled at you, there was always a cliché, but very genuine twinkle in his eye. 

He was stubborn. He was opinionated. He was stern. He was a hard worker. He was a loving grandpa who always told me I was his "favorite." (I never found out if that's something he told all nine of us.)

My grandfather was a lot of things. To me, he'll always be Grandpa Mel.

Melroy Svenkerud
April 8, 1929 - November 17, 2017

More here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Our bathroom upgrade

My husband Chris and I closed on our first house one year ago, and we've been busy with projects: cleaning, organizing, plumbing work, HVAC work and more. We've also done quite a bit of painting, including our bathroom!

When we moved in, our bathroom gave me a Florida/beachy/retirement house vibe. The pink tub, sink and toilet were a little intimidating. What were we going to do with those? But with a fresh color and some decorating (courtesy of this crazy cat lady,) the bathroom has become one of my favorite rooms in the house.

Before and after photos are below!

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

Bathroom before

Bathroom before
Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress

Bathroom in progress
Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Bathroom now

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A proactive attempt at combatting winter blues

Photo by Jessi LaRue
The winter blues are very real, and it feels like they'll be here at any minute. After the holidays it can feel like there's nothing to look forward to.

Last January/February was a hard time for me. There were mornings that I would lie in bed, unwilling to move, wondering what my purpose was. I would sometimes dread the day and whatever was waiting for me. I had no motivation and no interest in the day. 

Since last winter, I've spent some time thinking about those days. I'm not sure how effective this will be, but I've begun to plan a proactive way to keep my mind at ease and to create a mindful purpose for myself this winter. I've decided to slate some projects for myself to keep myself interested, busy, and looking forward to the next big thing.

I've decided to find "projects" mostly because hobbies like binge watching Netflix just leave me feeling groggy and unproductive, and only add to the issue, it seems.

I plan on painting my living room. My husband and I purchased our home one year ago, and we quickly painted our bedroom and bathroom to conceal the hideous blues and purples that were once on the walls. Now, we're staring at bright white walls in our living room, which remind us of our old apartment. I'm looking forward to splashing some color on the walls, as well as finally hanging some family photos. We also picked up a couple Hatch Show prints during our time in Nashville.

I hope to enlist my dad to help me out with another project this winter: building my very own Little Free Library. I've always been a reader, and really just started reading again in the last few weeks. My husband and I found an old dollhouse at Goodwill, and I plan to convert it into a cute library to display on my front lawn. I'm not a very handy person, but I look forward to putting it together and painting it. Over the last couple of months I've picked up books at thrift stores, and I've had friends donate their old books to the library as well. I look forward to putting it in the ground this spring and cutting the red ribbon.

I plan on writing more. My Jacob Haish project keeps me so busy and focused on an end prize -- enough information and stories to one day fill a book. I also hope to officially start pitching freelance writing. I have stories about family, cats and love that I'd love to find a home for. I've never ventured into that territory, but what a good time to try, right? Keeping my mind busy is very important.

One of my biggest healers is music. I'll be listening, blogging, and creating new playlists and mix CDs. Last year I also spent time filling my adult coloring books with bright colors, and trying Crock-Pot meals.

What do you do to combat those winter feelings?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hangin' with Superman in Metropolis

Superman statue in Metropolis, IL. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
I love a good roadside attraction. (Remember the Pink Elephant?) So when my husband Chris and I headed south for a visit to Nashville this weekend, we had to stop in the city of Metropolis, IL, right before you enter Kentucky from Illinois.

The town bills itself as the "official home of Superman," and features a 15-foot statue of the caped wonder. The small town even has a large Superman celebration each summer. You can learn more about this supertown's "origin story" here.

"Superman Square" in Metropolis features the Superman statue as well as the Super Museum, a collection of everything related to the superhero. Although we didn't stop into the Super Museum, we still had time for some fun photo ops. 

I'll post more about Nashville later, but I couldn't resist posting these Superman photos now. Check it out!

Chris poses with the Superman statue. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The Superman statue stands proudly next to the Metropolis city building. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Superman statue | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Jessi poses with the Superman statue. | Photo by Chris LaRue
The Super Museum in Metropolis, IL | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Chris ducks into a phone booth in Metropolis. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The many faces of Superman are seen in this Metropolis mural. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The Super Museum | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Jessi hanging out in Metropolis | Photo by Chris LaRue
The Super Museum | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Super selfie? | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Chris posing in Metropolis | Photo by Jessi LaRue

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?