My talented husband has had the opportunity to travel all over the world playing music—Iceland, Alaska, Amsterdam, Faroe Islands, more states than I can keep track of and many miles logging by tour bus and airplane. It’s a dream come true for him and nothing could make me happier as his wife than to see his purpose and destiny fulfilled as a professional guitarist, to see his passion satisfied by playing music every single day. I had a really special proud wife moment at the end of November when I got to see my best friend take the stage with his guitar at the famous Ryman Auditorium for Opry at the Ryman. For several years Jason has been Guy Penrod’s right-hand-man—literally at stage right most of the time, playing lead guitar—through many 100s of concerts. Several times a year I get to see a concert. This particular one was actually Jason’s third time on the Ryman stage but I missed the first two times and I was determined nothing would stand in my way this time. God sure has blessed us with amazing opportunities and friendships as we’ve pursued our dreams. Jason works so hard fine tuning his gifts and it’s a treat to see him play live. Such an honor to be in the audience that night.
We’ve celebrated a lot of birthdays this past week so Ali has been randomly singing the happy birthday song. My favorite is when she sings “Happy Birthday, Daddy. Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to Daddy, Happy Birthday Daddy.” Today is Jason’s birthday. He’s in Nova Scotia and we’re in Nashville so we’ll have to hold off celebrating together for a few more days.
We love you SO MUCH! You are an awesome daddy to Ali and a wonderful husband and best friend to me. We are blessed to have you. I hope you have a great day. We can’t wait to smother you with hugs and kisses when you get home!
Update: If you want to give Jason a virtual birthday present, you can pledge a preorder for his upcoming Christmas Classics acoustic guitar album! 😉
It was Jason’s first guitar almost 20 years ago, the one he learned to play on. It was a red burst color back then. The mid-60s Sekova guitar (like this one) originally belonged to his mom, believe it or not! His dad taught him as many chords as he knew and then Jason started weekly guitar lessons. He’s been obsessed with all things guitar ever since. By the time Jason was a guitar performance major in music school, he was the one teaching guitar lessons. He’s had a lot of different guitars through the years, always buying, selling and trading up. In a high school art class Jason painted the old Sekova blue but never reassembled it into working order.
I’ve always treasured the blue guitar but it took a lot of convincing before my guitar loving husband would allow me to display a non-functional guitar in our house. To me, the blue guitar represents dreams that come true—if you pour your whole heart into something, work hard and never give up, you CAN reach your loftiest goals!
Some bitter, cruel, and perhaps a few even well-meaning people through Jason’s adolescence attempted to crush his dream; to tell him he wasn’t good enough… or suggest how arrogant he must be to think he could actually be a professional guitar player… or to say “it didn’t work for me so it won’t work for you.”
Jason has a tender heart, an inherited work ethic and perfectionism (I blame his German roots), and a rare tenacity. He’s now playing professionally, traveling the world, making a good living doing what he loves. I hung the blue guitar in the playroom where our kids spend a lot of time because I want them to ask about it. I want to tell them over and over again about how hard their daddy worked and how much he loves what he does; I want them to know—to really know—that with enough passion and diligence they can achieve whatever they desire to achieve. Dreams do come true.
I disciplined myself to rest from sundown Saturday until sundown Sunday. I’m trying a new thing this year inspired by the way the Jewish people observe the Sabbath (only I’m doing it the following day). I had spent every minute of Ali’s naptime and every evening after she’s asleep for several days nesting–organizing, unpacking the last few things, hanging shelves, curtains, etc. Either that or I was finished up some wedding invitations I designed for my sister’s friend. Jason was in Florida on tour and I had been busy. It was really difficult to rest, especially on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Once Ali was asleep, I decided to sit outside in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes to get my daily dose of Vitamin D.
Our courtyard offered the perfect spot, in direct sunlight just for an hour or two in the afternoon. Lucy joined me outside while I planned our meals for the week and sent some emails I’d been trying to find time for.
Once I came back inside, I spent sometime reading and started a book that I’ve read several times before, The Power of the Praying Wife. After a few hours of forced rest, I had a list of things I was ready to do as soon as the sun went down, which was just about the time Ali was waking up from her nap. It’s hard to explain but I felt really truly refreshed: full of energy and joy. Ali and I ate dinner, went grocery shopping, I gave her a bath and put her to bed and then I cleaned the house. Wow! I felt ready to start the week and to welcome my man home on Monday after 5 days in a tour bus. Home to a clean house with a full fridge, meals planned for the week, and two happy girls waiting for him.
A few weeks ago I was grumbling about how “I just want to go home” and I’m tired of living at someone else’s house. Well, there are also a lot of perks of living with my parents. I also mentioned those in my complaining post. One of the best aspects is the ability to leave the house while Ali is sleeping (when one or both of my parents is home, of course). This has been really helpful with all the running around we’ve had to do with the new house. Often during her nap one of us is running down to the house to check on something or other. My favorite is when we’ve been able to put her to bed at 8:00 and then slip out for a few hours. It reminds me of our pre-parenthood days and it’s just lovely. A few times we’ve popped over to our friends’ house either to watch their kid so they could go out, or to have some adult time after their kid is asleep, too. A few weeks ago, in the midst of a busy travel time for Jason and my intense deadline time at work, we were able to grab a late dinner at our favorite Indian place. It was peaceful, delicious and romantic. Despite our busyness, I felt refreshed—like I had just had a weekend in the middle of the week (it was a Tuesday night).
Jason and I have always been intentional about date nights, even during the first 8 child-free years of our marriage. At least once a month we’d spend a little extra (sometimes that meant $30 budgeted instead of $15) and spend some set apart one-on-one time. We continued that habit when we had our first foster placement, a toddler just a bit older than Ali is now. My parents offered to babysit for us one evening early on and it was a precious time for Jason and me to reflect on everything that was happening. Once baby Ali was placed with us, we found it to be quite easy to take her with us on date nights. We could still go to our favorite restaurants, take our time and have great conversation. It’s a bit different now. The more busy we get with work, home building and an active toddler, the more date nights alone have become essential. We can really feel it when we haven’t had one in a couple months because we need it. We crave that time of quiet undivided attention, away from the distractions of home. Thank you to my parents for demonstrating how important date nights are and for valuing them enough to offer to babysit for us!
Happy Independence Day! I LOVELOVELOVE fireworks so this is one of my favorite holidays. I’m optimistic that we can keep Precious up late enough and that she’ll be entertained and not terrified by all the colorful explosions.
Here’s a little musical morsel to celebrate the 4th of July. My handsome husband Jason Ahlbrandt playing “Freight Train” (Tommy Emmanuel’s arrangement):
Jason has been home the past couple of weekends and it’s been really nice to spend so much time together, not only for going to estate sales and antique malls but just to hang out, usually the three of us. (Ali-gator was here, too.) Since we’re living at my parents’ these times when we get out of the house together are even more precious. I love this guy so much. It’s hard to believe—because we don’t feel that old—that we’re coming up on 13 years together.
About a week after Jason and I became parents to Ladybug, my mom offered to babysit so we could go out. It seemed too soon to me, unnecessary even. After all, we had over 8 years of date nights as a childless couple. Jason and I discussed it and decided we would accept the offer. It turned out to be a really rich time for us to catch up and give each other focused attention over dinner without concerning ourselves with a food-flinging toddler.
My mama told me, “The most important thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse.” Date nights are really important.
Saturday night Jason and I got to go on our first date night since the arrival of Precious, 6 weeks ago now. We even planned ahead! We had a Living Social coupon for our favorite sushi place, RuSan’s—paid $15 for a $30 gift certificate. We both got salads with orange ginger, miso soup and fire cracker maki rolls (they’re too good to share) and another forgettable roll (unagi and avocado, I think.) Service was quick, thankfully, because we were rushing to get to a movie. We saw The Help. Excellent movie. We only go to the movie theater a few times a year and this one felt worth the $13.00. Yeah, that’s right we got discounted movie tickets through my work. I should also mention that we’re sly about finding free street parking in the city. I remembered to wear boots instead of heels so I don’t mind walking a couple blocks. Our entire date night: dinner at a favorite restaurant and a movie, cost just $37. Not bad at all for an indulgent night out. Babysitting was free. Thanks mom and dad!
Do you go on date nights? Even before becoming parents Jason and I made a point of going on a date night at least once a month. We’re not extravagant but the time set apart together is really good for our marriage.
My love. My husband. My best friend.
What a year this has been.
You traveled the world by plane, tour bus and van.
Played on stages big and small.
I saw you on TV and in a magazine.
Your quiet confidence was never boastful
…except maybe about all the good food you ate on the road.
This year we became parents but not in the way we had expected.
Or planned. But an idea was planted in my heart and it grew.
I strategically brought up the need for foster parents in the US.
I secretly prayed that God would open your heart to this crazy idea.
You jumped in with both feet.
We sat through long, boring classes together.
Homework, physicals, blood tests, home studies.
You painted the bedroom and assembled IKEA furniture with me,
And then let me go hog-wild with the rest of the kids room design.
You were right by my side through every step.
Praying with me, for me, for yourself and for our future kids.
In July I got the phone call that changed everything.
You were in Norway but I knew what you would have said to this one.
The next morning you met your first daughter through Skype.
I watched you fall in love with her, grinning from ear to ear.
It was the first time I had seen her smile and say hi in her first 12 hours.
Three days later we picked you up from the airport.
It was getting late but you wanted to take your little girl to the park.
You pushed her on the swing and chased her through the grass.
As I stood back to observe and take photos, I was witnessing a transformation.
You became a daddy right before my eyes.
In your strong arms she felt safe immediately.
She was stand-offish with some new people but never with you.
You taught her what a father’s love looks like; what Daddy means.
And I fell in love with you all over again.
We taught her how to kiss. It took 2 weeks and several demonstrations.
I’ll never forget when you called me at work at say,
“Guess what I got?”
A kiss! Her first kiss was reserved for her daddy.
I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
On September 1st we walked into a courthouse carrying our first baby girl.
And walked out without her.
We clung to each other as we went down the steps and crossed the street.
I’m not sure who was holding up who as we tried to hold back the tears a little longer.
Then we cried together.
This past year has been wonderfully difficult and full of joy. A beautiful mess.
You have grown so much as a man.
I am endlessly proud of who you are,
And thankful to call you my husband.
Happy 29th, Jason.