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Happy Birthday to My Guitar Playing Real Estate Man!

09/16/2015

Dear Husband,

I don’t write a tribute to you every birthday but this year has been an incredible test of your character through many big changes, and I want to thank you for your steadfastness through it all. On your last birthday I was pregnant and entering into a season of tiredness that I haven’t fully come out of yet…which translates to a season of you picking up my slack. Sorry about that and thank you. I could count this past year of your life with the number of concerts you’ve played, miles you’ve trekked, TV shows you’ve been on, guitars you’ve acquired, things you’ve built around the house, times you’ve mowed the lawn, plants you’ve planted, hours you’ve worked. But none of that is as important as the number of hugs and kisses for your family, the baby kicks, the soccer games, the contractions you held my hand through, the lost sleep, the happy tears, the diapers, the pounds of coffee, the bedtime stories, the date nights, the stacks of Nutter Butters and cups of milk for dunking, the dishes you’ve washed. So many dishes. I know that the latter list matters more to you than first because you proved it over and over again this year. Your faithfulness and determination to provide well for your family led you to a new gig with a busier tour schedule. During your time away you worked hard taking classes and tests to get your real estate license while your bandmates enjoyed the perks of rock stardom. When the gig started taking it’s toll, you made the decision to come home. A lot of people wondered why you left when it seemed like you were at the top—and you had indeed reached one of your biggest life goals—I know why. I will never forget the sacrifice you made for your family. It was a challenging year but now you are here: you have two beautiful kids and an adoring wife, you’re back to your less strenuous touring gig and you’re killing it in your first quarter as a realtor. I am so proud of you; for your hard work and diligence, your drive to reach goals and passion to provide well for us, your wisdom and daily presence in parenting (even on the days when you’re away), your integrity and devotion. You lead our family well and it’s a pleasure to submit to your thoughtful guidance. Thank you for choosing to love us and serve us everyday. We think the world of you. Happy birthday, Jason!

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Jason Ahlbrandt On Stage at the Ryman Auditorium

12/17/2014

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.

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Family Fun Weekend

09/23/2013

Friday morning Ali and I celebrated that we only had 1 more day until Jason got home from his recent Canadian tour.

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Then Friday night we had a girls night out, dinner and frozen yogurt. I love hanging out with her. She’s so much fun!

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Saturday morning we had a light breakfast and then went straight to the airport to wait for Jason to arrive. Then we went out for breakfast together.

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Can you tell that Ali was happy to see her daddy? I wish I would have gotten video of her jumping up and down and screaming, “Daddy! Daddy!” when we watched him walking toward our van with all his luggage and guitars. We sure love this guy.


“Happy Birthday, Da-Dee”

09/16/2013

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.

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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! 😉


The Blue Guitar

07/02/2013

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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.

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A Decade of Matrimony

06/20/2013

10 Years is a BIG deal.

When Jason and I announced our plans to get married at 18 and 20 years old, we had a lot of skeptics. I’m quite thankful they kept their concerns to themselves, or at least didn’t tell us until much later. We were very young, no question about that. But we were sure. One of my bridesmaids, Chrissy, sent me an encouraging message on our anniversary and told me how impressed she was that I was calm and cool as I got ready on my wedding day. She had expected me to be nervous the way brides are portrayed in the movies.

When I was 14 years old, I had grown apart from my best friend emotionally and I was lonely. I prayed and asked God for a new best friend—someone I could trust, share my dreams with, hang out with at youth group and on the weekends, someone I could pray with and grow spiritually alongside. I was shy and dorky (middle school, hello!) and wasn’t imagining a boyfriend. Across town a 16 year old Jason was fed up with not being treated well by girls. He took relationships seriously and the girls he dated were flippant with his sensitive heart. He prayed and told God that he didn’t want to date anyone else unless she was going to be his future wife. When Jason and I met and quickly fell in love, we both realized that God had answered our different prayers by bringing us together. I am incredibly grateful that we met and fell in love so young and were spared from much of the heartache and regret that comes along with dating different people over high school and college years.

Chrissy also reminded me of the funny way Jason and I entered our wedding reception as our arrival was announced to the room of waiting guests. It  took everyone by surprise and we really hadn’t put that much thought into it. We were waiting in the hallway as the DJ announced the wedding party and I just thought, hey, wouldn’t it be funny if you carried me in on your back? It’s best described with this visual:

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That’s pretty much the way we entered into our marriage. We knew we wanted to be together and we just went for it, wholeheartedly, jumping in with both feet, full of joy and energy.

Here’s a little recap of the past 10 years:

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• Got married on June 14, 2003 and were endlessly teased about not being legally old enough for a champagne toast

• Spent our first year living in a poorly climate controlled upstairs of an old house in Erie, PA. I was in college and working part time. Jason was working part time and teaching guitar lessons at two different music stores and leading a band. We did laundry at my parents’ house once a week. I have no recollection of how we managed all of that with 1 car.

• After nearly freezing to death in our drafty apartment we decided that there is no reason to wait until after college to move somewhere warmer. I applied to Watkins College of Art & Design in Nashville and got accepted.

• Much like our wedding a year earlier, we headed for the hills with excitement, hope and no reservations. At 20 and 21 years old, I don’t remember having any fear about leaving behind all we had known and starting a new life in Music City.

• I graduated from college in December 2006 with a BFA in graphic design. Two months later, we sold our starter home of 2 years and purchased our beloved mid-century modern ranch in East Nashville. The same month as I started my first full time job at Salem Publishing, where I still work as an art director designing magazines.

• Jason had been working part-full time at Starbucks while building his music career, working on his band, traveling and playing, networking and making friends, playing lots of different kinds of music gigs. In 2009, he was able to quit his part time job and focus completely on his growing music career. A year later, he had more than made up for his retail income  by doing only what he loves—music. He has an amazing testimony of working hard, chasing dreams and reaching goals. He inspires me!

• In 2011 we decided to become foster parents. We had been thinking about having kids for a year or so and had talked about adopting some day. God planted the idea of foster care into our minds through some adoption research I was doing randomly one night combined with a home related comment on this here blog from K (and then I got sucked into their story of foster parenthood.) Jason and I realized that we really didn’t feel the need to have biological kids first (or at all) and that we had the room, resources and love to become foster parents at that point.

• In July 2011 we became parents for the first time to 16 month old Ladybug. She was with us for 5 weeks. On September 21, 2011 our home was blessed with the arrival of our little Alianna, our second placement. She was 2 months and 1 day old and the most content baby I had ever known. In November we were granted custody of her so we could pursue a private adoption. (Long story.)

• The same month, we put our cool little ranch up for sale and bought a property less than a mile away and started to plan the construction of our dream house with an architect. We knew that we wanted to have more bedrooms so we could continue to foster children. In 2012 we sold our house, started construction of our new home, celebrated Ali’s first birthday in Outer Banks with my family, finalized her adoption in August and moved into our dream house in December—just in time to get settled and host a Christmas family gathering.

• In March 2013 we reopened our home as foster parents. We did a weekend of respite for 11 year old Sunshine in April. At the beginning of May, 2.5 year old Buzz was placed with us.

• This past Monday night we went out for a dinner date to celebrate our anniversary (and sort of my birthday and father’s day too since they’re all in a 5 day period). Jason bought me a new dress as an early bday gift so I could wear it to dinner. He always picks the most lovely things for me! We stuffed our bellies at J. Alexanders and brought home a giant piece of carrot cake because it’s a must-have, even when we’re too full. We picked up the kids at their respective babysitters and put them to bed. Then we finally made time to sit down and plan our 10th Anniversary Child-free Vacation! We set the dates aside months ago but still hadn’t found time to sit down and book anything. Two hours alone for dinner was not enough time to catch up from all of the craziness of life lately. We are so looking forward to getting away together next month. I love this man.

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Phew! It’s been quite an adventure so far. Not able to be captured in these bullet points are the wonderful friendships we’ve developed over the past 9 years that we’ve been in Nashville. I have loved to watch my husband grow, mature and adapt through roller coasters in the music industry, challenges in relationships and struggles with the foster care system. Jason is creative, keen, perceptive, wise beyond his years, loyal, humble, passionate, talented, fun, patient, consistant, generous, hard-working, loving, playful and strong. He takes his job seriously as a godly leader of our household—he prays for us, takes care of us, gently corrects and guides. I recently told a friend just before he got married that I think the greatest gift you can give your spouse is accountability. Jason and I have learned this hard lesson through the years—it’s not fun to be caught in the wrong by your best friend, especially when your actions are hurting the one you love. But, we’ve found that it’s actually a blessing and gift to keep each other in check—to not let each other get away with crap. No one cares more about your success as a person than your spouse. I tell Jason often that I appreciate how he keeps me centered when I start getting worried, selfish, angry or lazy. He’s truly my best friend and our relationship has only grown richer over the past 10 years.

I wonder what the next 6 decades of our marriage will hold!


Weekend Part 2

06/18/2013

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The second half of the weekend started when Jason got home Saturday night. I knew he was on the way so I let the kids have a dance party after their bath to prolong bedtime just a bit. Jason was greeted in the hallway by two kids running at him, screaming “Daddy!” and tackling him with hugs. I waited patiently for my hug and kiss. He is such a good dad and husband and we’re all so happy when he gets home. That greeting was his Father’s Day gift from Ali and Buzz. They love him. (Buzz started calling Jason “Daddy” a few days ago. He still calls me A Ma.)

Sunday we spent the morning at church. Jason played guitar in the worship band. I photographed the baby dedication portion of the service. The kids had a good time in the nursery. They wore the new matching clothes from Buzz’s mom and I was really hoping we could get a nice photo of the four of us. Did not happen. One of the four was not cooperative…

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I have to admit, I love this one, though. I told Jason it was a very accurate portrayal of his fatherhood at this place in time: trying to corral these two whirlwinds into place with his strong, loving arms.

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I guess it doesn’t have quite the same affect with the Buzz head on there. In the one below he’s looking straight at me with a sweet smile and I love the way Ali and Jason are looking at each other.

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After lunch and naps we went to my parents’ house for a cookout and swimming. Both kids love to swim so I’m always in the water with them and not taking pictures. I did beg Jason to get a video of Buzz jumping in off the side, swim/walking underwater and holding his breath to send to his parents. They were thrilled! Sadly, I can’t share it here because you can see his face in the video. Buzz and Ali are both doing really, really well with learning to swim and I’m so excited to see them getting better every time. I believe Ali will be swimming on her own by the end of the summer and if Buzz stays with us, he definitely will be too.

I attempted a few more times to get a good picture of the two of them in their matching yellows to send to Buzz’s mom. Ali will pose if I ask her; Buzz not so much.

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It turned out to be a pretty good weekend. I’m so thankful for all of the friends and family in our lives.