July 15, 2018

"how lovely is the silence of growing things."

Growth. The act of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Believing that you are worth something and doing your damnedest to make something beautiful out of the complicated webs of your past. Some might call it your swan song, that last-ditch attempt to follow the dreams that once made your fragile teenage heart cry out with joy and salvation. Don't listen to the ghosts of broken relationships in your head. Don't listen to the shadows of your darkest moments when you have finally made it into the light.

You're here. You. Are. HERE.

I know that the ghost of nineteen-year-old you is running through your memory right now. The heartbreak. The secrets. The lies. The choices you thought you were making freely at the time but now aren't so sure. Rooting around in my own memory bank always sucks me in like quicksand. The last six years have been a lot of, "How far can we run in the exact opposite direction of this problem? Don't even pack the car. Just get in and GO." And when we run out of gas it turns into, "Now how much work can I throw myself into so I don't have to sift through the junk in my head?"

I spent a lot of nineteen and twenty driving the back roads with my friends, windows down and music up, chain-smoking cigarettes to Kenosha and back, fighting over who couldn't make up their mind about who's phone was on shuffle. Not being at home was the priority. Working two jobs 7 days a week, plus having a social life meant I was constantly go-go-go 24/7. Through an abusive relationship, an unrequited love of my life, to intervention and finding Justin, my M.O. was to always just keep going. You'll get through it. The bruises don't matter (but they do). The empty kisses don't matter (but they did). The choices you made are staring you in the face again. The distance you put between you and your demons only lasts for so long.

You made it through the darkness already. You have eyes that can see in the dark. Your brain just needed time and space to catch up. I know going back to curling in a ball on reflex like a rollie pollie bug isn't ideal. Going back to that place where the guy you were sleeping with demanded you make a choice: your passion or Him still hits that tender spot in your heart hard enough to make it crack again. Give yourself grace. You don't have to forgive him for what he did, but you need to forgive yourself for the choices you made to survive. You are not just a faceless silhouette anymore, shrouded in darkness and strategically scattered bruises. You still have a beating heart beneath those ribs. Can you hear it singing? Can you see the light that has returned to your eyes?

You're a warrior now. Put your armor on and get ready for the fight.

July 08, 2018

say goodbye, say hello


My Babe With the Power t-shirt is two sizes too big for me. All of my clothes, actually, are at least two sizes too big for me. Nothing in my closet fits me anymore and now I am left with a choice: keep everything in haphazard, falling over piles all over the place... or grab out the trash bags and make an effort to sort through things and make a sizeable donation to Good Will? Saying goodbye to clothing almost feels like saying goodbye to an entirely different self, a past life that I don't know if I'm ready to let go of quite yet.

In the basement, there are two Rubbermaid totes filled with clothes that I haven't even looked at since we lived in this house. There is an entire wardrobe down there that belongs to an entirely different Anna. One that hadn't yet had to carry the heaviness of grief and loss on her shoulders. One that was so damn scared all the time, lost in the dark with only the stars to guide her. Sitting in the dark in my walk-in closet with the door closed listening to nothing but the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack and sobbing was my rock bottom. I would look up at all my clothes surrounding me and think, "Why even bother?" My hands would graze the bottoms of my dresses and I wished more than anything that I could make it out of the house wearing one, feel the warmth of sunshine on my shoulders and hope for the promise of healing along the way.

Wearing dresses will always remain a symbol of me trying to take my body back from the demons that claimed my teenage years. Newly eighteen and driving to the Racine Good Will with Noelle in tow—we were on a mission to feel like girls, damn it, and nothing was going to stop us. I still remember wandering around the Walmart next door and eyeing a red plaid sundress. I grabbed it and ran into a dressing room, silently sewing all of my hopes for redemption into the threads of its thin fabric. I wanted to feel wanted, in my own body and on my own terms. It was the first step toward me trying to dramatically love myself instead of letting others dictate how I felt.

Every summer it seems, the sun comes back and suddenly I remember that I am a woman. I feel the need to reclaim my femininity. Do something crazy to my hair, shave my legs, and spend 10 minutes in front of the mirror getting to know my face again as I groom my eyebrows into place and debate whether or not I want to spend another 10 minutes later on that night picking clumpy mascara out of my eyelashes. Then comes the hard part... What do I want to wear?

My "closet" right now consists of a corner piled high with clothes that once upon a time used to be organized. Trying on clothes and sorting everything into bags, deciding what to keep and which pieces of my memories to give away feels like too much energy and emotional dissonance to expend right now. Tugging on fabric, pinching and pulling at the places that used to hug me in my darkest moments brings me back to my eighth-grade graduation, wandering around JC Penney with my mom and grandma. They brought dress after dress after dress into the fitting room, and I couldn't keep the hot, stinging tears of shame from running down my face because even the biggest sizes they had wouldn't fit over my hips. Part of me says, "What if you give away all these clothes and then that happens again? Then what?"

Value yourself enough to let go. Haul out the garbage bags and start sorting. Letting go means saying goodbye, but it doesn't have to leave a bittersweet taste in your mouth. Don't listen to the voice playing devil's advocate in your head. You deserve to feel good about yourself. You are worthy of feeling pretty and like you belong in your own skin. Say hello to a new season. Say hello to sunshine on your shoulders again. Buy a new dress and feel how deep your freedom goes.

June 26, 2018

currently, june edition


writing this from an almost-dead laptop

drinking a second cup of coffee

editing photos from Noelle's wedding & family pictures from a shoot I had on Sunday

recovering from a chest cold that hit me out of nowhere

watching pretty little liars from the beginning

applying for a new job... we finally quit Hardee's!

trying to use this opportunity to get serious about photography again

celebrating a majorly needed camera upgrade AND a new website

pushing the Mew cat off my laptop every 5 seconds

listening to dixie chicks on my discover weekly playlist

feeling inspired and exhausted at the same time

June 20, 2018

i feel pretty, oh-so pretty



Rolling with the punches. I don’t have a 52 Weeks picture from last week because my camera DIED in the middle of the wedding I was shooting. Long story short, I have a fancy new camera now and a grateful heart for my couples who tell me to just use my phone camera and keep doing my thing.

*****

I spent this past weekend celebrating my best friend marrying the love of her life. I got to wear an awesome dress, have someone play with my hair and make me feel pretty, dance with my person to the songs we used to get ready to we were teenagers and be surrounded by love and light and joy all weekend. It was for sure the best weekend I have had in a very long time. 







I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t haul out my big camera and tripod during the reception and go dance and twirl by myself down the path to where their ceremony was held. Fun fact: it was like 107* F with the heat index that day, and because my dress blended in with the tall grass, some guests were like “Who’s that naked girl twirling in the weeds?” Made me laugh for sure. 

This space might turn into an “Other People’s Weddings” blog for a while... I’ve got tons of photos to share from both Beth and Tyler’s wedding and Noelle and Josh’s as well. 

Week 9/52