June 30, 2014

5 years


5 years ago, I claimed my title as a survivor of sexual abuse in front of a group of people that were not my immediate family or my therapist. It was a pivotal moment down my path to recovery--they say being able to say it out loud provides a sense of empowerment. And it did. My voice shook as I said those words out loud one more time: "I am a survivor of sexual abuse."

But this time was different. I wasn't in the comfy blue recliner within the safe four walls of my therapist's office. I wasn't sitting in the kitchen talking to my mom about it while helping her with dinner. I was standing front and center at the podium of a lecture hall at Lake Forest College.

My knees were weak and I gripped the podium for dear life. I spoke about my diagnosis with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I had received six months earlier. I spoke about being afraid at school, being afraid at every family event that occurred where I knew he was going to be there. I gave statistics and cold hard facts about sexual abuse and PTSD that I had learned in therapy. For a split second, I felt her in there with me--the girl I was before it happened. Like she slipped in unnoticed to give me a show of the utmost support before she disappeared forever.

When I was finished reading, everyone applauded. After celebratory reading was finished, a handful of people gave me hugs and told me how brave I was to share that in front of them. I remember that day being the first time I had ever felt truly empowered on my journey of survival.

Since then, I've also given speeches about my experience to my college speech class and to a small group of girls at my old high school. I never walk away from a chance to talk about it because a) more people need to be educated about sexual abuse and rape culture in general, and b) the feelings of empowerment is like a high. It's like I get to stare my abuser in the face and tell him, "Hey guess what, you don't own me anymore. You don't get to control my life or my actions or my feelings anymore." It's one of the best feelings in the world, empowerment.

June 29, 2014


I hate that word, "Stay." It holds every last plea, every last ounce of energy you can ever hope to give to a person.

I remember uttering it to my mother when I was seven, begging her to please stay home and put me to bed instead of going to work.

I said it to my dad when my parents divorce was finalized.

I begged for my first love to stay even though our hearts didn't fit together anymore.

My best friends asked me to stay before I left for Savannah to go to college, and again before I moved in with Justin.

A boy asked me to stay once. He asked me to stay and my heart broke into a million pieces because I knew I couldn't. I had to go home, so he walked me out to my car and gave me a crooked kiss through my open window. And a make up kiss after that to apologize for the crookedness. He was cold and distant, always on the edge of letting me into his fragile heart.

"A heart can be blind," he said to me, "acting upon feeling without the knowing of what is good for itself."

Because of him, I don't know how to lead with my heart anymore. I don't know how to lead with the heart that urged me to chase the dream of a seven-year-old Anna of attending art school. I don't know how to lead with the heart that always whispered to just hang on, keep putting one foot in front of the other for one more day because it will get better. I don't know how to lead with the heart that told me to speak up about my sexual abuse, that told me to tell my mother, and then the school counselor after that, and the my real therapist after that. I don't know how to lead with the heart that used to trust so completely and deeply that it formed all of the best relationships I have ever known.

So in place of leading with the heart that doesn't know which direction to go in anymore, you start to lead with the mind. You make informed decisions, using logic and reason and there is no room for emotion. But what happens when your mind becomes ridden with anxiety? What happens when there is no room for decision making because you're stuck on all the "what if"s? What happens when your mind follows the same path as your heart, wandering down that lonely street into the unknown because it's so deathly afraid of the consequences that could happen if it choose wrong? Then what are you left with?

I hate that word, "Stay," because it represents all the times in my life that I was weak enough to selfishly ask for someone to give up their own path to happiness just so I could have mine. So my mind could catch up and process everything that was happening before the defining break in my heart occurred.

When I chose my one little word for this year, I didn't fully realize how much of an impact it would have on me. Zora Neale Hurston wrote, "There are years that ask questions and years that answer." So far, 6 months in of Unafraid has taught me that 2014 has been a year of answers. It has been a year of realizations. It has been a year of growth, and I am so full of thanksgiving for that because it means that I have survived. It means that I have endured, and that I have come out stronger on the other side. It means that I have learned to embrace my vulnerability that I used to banish to the back and only seek refuge in it when I was sure nobody else would know.

2014, you have been the answers to the trainwreck that was 2012, the year I started out by hiding in a camera room and bawling my eyes out because my life was a mess. Now the answers are all falling into place and I am growing as I should.

June 28, 2014

all we can do is keep breathing

Sometimes you just have to follow the light and see where it takes you. I originally wanted to take photos in the parking lot but they didn't look right. So I went to Swan Park to explore the dog walking trail (which you've seen here & here) and I just walked and walked until the light told me to stop. I found my ability to "wing it" has returned and it feels really good to just trust my instincts where my self portraiture is concerned.

This week was hard. It feels like I have said that every week for the past month, and I'm trying to pull myself out of this. I finished season 3 of Grey's Anatomy this week, and the finale got to me. When Meredith cuts Cristina out of the dress and this song is playing, I can't hold back the ugly heart wrenching sobs. So consequently, "Keep Breathing" has been stuck in my head all week and I think it's what made me want to go take photos again.

Week 26/52! Happy halfway point, 2014.

June 24, 2014

chasing rainbows

All of a sudden, Monday evening, it started to downpour as golden hour started. So I put my dancing shoes on and danced in the rain and chased rainbows with my neighbors. It was the perfect start to the week.

June 23, 2014

thank you

After a very long day at work where I came home and immediately fell into bed (and a 5 hour nap later #oops), my heart hurt the same dull ache that it's been hurting for the past few weeks. Maybe it's a combination of the weather and weird hours at work lately now that I'm transitioning from mostly nights to mostly days. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm in a rut. Maybe it's because this is just one of those things like last September was when I put my camera down for almost a month and got reinspired again. All I know right now is that I'm not devoting enough time to creative endeavors, and now I'm on the road to fix that.

I've been going through some heavy life stuff lately--mostly involving figuring out what I want from photography right now. When I work my day job, the one thought in the back of my head is "Jeez, I could be taking pictures right now." That right there tells me something has to change. I have been told by family and friends to go back to school. I have also been told that I don't need to go back to school because my talent and passion for photography is evident enough that I could make a career out of my photography just from what I'm doing now. Honestly, I'm on the fence about school. All I know for sure is that I don't want to be stuck in fast food for the rest of my life.

I just wanted to say thank you guys for reading and for your comments and emails and all the sweet words I've had thrown my way lately. I read every single message I receive, and it makes my heart swell with pride for this little space that it's turned into something people enjoy coming back to. Things might be weird around here for a little while, and I hope you guys know that I appreciate all the good vibes.

June 22, 2014

on my walk: flora

It felt good to get out of the house for a little while and go for a walk. On the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, I set out to photograph flowers and I love what I found.

Week 25/52!
see all on my walk posts here

June 20, 2014

around here

Spending as much time as possible outside has been the name of the game lately. So in love with all the sunshine and the flowers and sitting in the grass. June, you have been a topsy turvy month so far but I'm excited to see what else you have in store. Happy Friday!

June 19, 2014

on inspiration

Inspiration always ebbs and flows. After picking up photography seven years ago, nothing is more obvious to me than this. Every year I find myself "in a rut" and every year I struggle to pull myself out.

When I completed my 365 in 2010, I always knew that tomorrow I had the chance to do better. Maybe today I was busy, bogged down with work & school & college applications, but I knew that the choice to do better was always on the horizon. All it took was a short walk down to the playground or the soccer field and I knew my creative mojo would come back.

Today, it seems harder for me to tap into inspiration when I run out of ideas. It's harder for me to "just wing it" like I always have in the past. I do, however, have a few methods of looking for inspiration that I didn't know how to do a few years ago. 

Read. Read a lot. Books, magazines, articles, blogs. I've always been an avid reader and now I've learned to appreciate how the words of others can aide in the inspiration department. Right now, I've been slowly making my way through The Happiness Project and trying to identify and take the steps necessary to leading a more fulfilling life.

I also find myself going back into the archives of A Beautiful Mess as well as Elise Blaha Cripe's blog, enJOY it, to look for inspiration. Elsie & Emma have grown their business and their brand from the ground up and I love that they've documented everything along the way. Elise frequently blogs about goal setting and small business (and cool DIYs! Project Life! Her awesome family!) and she is someone I aspire to be like when I grow up. Her advice to "just start" is always perfect to read when I need that extra push to get an idea off the ground. 

Speaking of archives, I frequently go through my own as well, both on the blog and on my flickr page. Reading my own words and seeing past photos can sometimes spark something in me to see things in a different light. I look for different poses I've used, certain ways that I have manipulated different lighting setups to work for me, and when all else fails as least I know that my own work goes through phases as I do in my life. It's interesting to see where my work was say, four years ago during my first 365 and when I was in art school as opposed to where it is now when I am a broke twenty-something trying to figure out how to chase my dreams. 

Music is another big point for me. I have a whole set on flickr dedicated to interpreting song lyrics into photos. Music brings out so many emotions in people, it sets the tone for a lot of my own memories and it's fun to take those words that other people have written and put my own spin on them. 

Pinterest, while it can be a huge time suck, is another tool I turn to for inspiration when I need it. I have a whole board just for photo inspiration full of photos from my favourite photographers and random things I've found while browsing. It's nice to have all of my visual inspiration in one place. 

Right now, I'm in the process of going through seven years of archives and making a hardcover portfolio that I can show to future potential clients. It's exciting to see how far my work has come since 2006. I was a baby, fourteen years old and taking pictures of everything I could. Now I've tackled one successful 365 self portrait project, one 52 weeks project and am in the process of seeing another one through to completion. I have taken a million self portraits. I have photographed 26 seniors since I started taking photography seriously, the summer before my senior year of high school. I've dabbled in fashion photography, as well as families, babies, weddings and events. I'm confident in all of the experience I have under my belt that I can make a career out of this. 

I worked at a portrait studio for a year and a half that gave me such a great opportunity to learn what it takes to run a business, a lesson in efficiency, and how to provide awesome customer service. My time with Lifetouch was such an eye opening experience and I would absolutely do it again if I could. 

I can find inspiration everywhere. You can too. Just believe in yourself and the journey you're on and you can do it.

*some links throughout are affiliate, which means if you purchase something I receive a small commission

June 18, 2014

currently, june edition

loving my tattoo still, six months later--such a good feeling

drinking coffee like my life depends on it

enjoying summer sunlight & longer days

waiting for my bookshelf from IKEA to be delivered

praying Justin and i can put it together (ha!)

obsessing over how to arrange my books & my cameras once it arrives

watching grey's anatomy (again) with random episodes of glee thrown in here and there

designing senior picture posters & new business cards

making a new paper project

reading elise's blog for inspiration to get me out of this rut

wearing my leopard print shoes every. single. day.

finding quotes of inspiration everywhere

wishing my momma a very happy birthday today :)

June 17, 2014

a case of the blahs

Oh Mondays. I drank a pot of coffee and had donut holes for breakfast while watching Grey's Anatomy (I just started season 3). I wrote a letter to my best friend and went to the post office to a) mail the letter & b) buy more stamps. I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed the bedrooms and swept the floors. My makeup looked phenomenal. And yet I could not take a decent picture to save my life.

I have a case of the blahs. I feel like I am in a rut and now have to begin the process of pulling myself out.

June 14, 2014

week 24

I missed diptychs. This week made my heart hurt like no other. I am truly embracing my one little word for the year. I don't know what the next few weeks are going to look like, but I know that I can muddle through whatever life throws at me and come out stronger on the other side.

Week 24/52

June 11, 2014

my mug collection

My mug collection makes me happy. It's like I get to have an adventure every morning when I drink my coffee: which mug will I use? All of my mugs were either thrifted, found on eBay, souvenirs, or gifts from friends. I love all of my mugs.

June 09, 2014

self portrait therapy

Dress & Necklace: Thrifted, Flip Flops: Old Navy

Golden hour adventures and pretty dresses are what the best Sundays are made of. (And getting up early, working breakfast, cleaning the apartment, and making the best homemade nachos for dinner.) Hope you guys had a good weekend!

June 08, 2014

early father's day

My padre came up this weekend to go to a car show in the next town over, and we spent the weekend together. He looked at my leaky power steering hose in my car on Friday and we ran all over town looking for someone to fix it. Every auto shop in town couldn't fit me in until at least Tuesday, so here's to hoping someone can actually fix it for me. On Saturday after I got off of work, he picked me up in his baby, the '72 Monte Carlo and we hung out a couple of his friends at Channel Cats. There's nothing like drinking Jack & Coke's and beers with your dad on a Saturday afternoon. We watched boats go by on the river and just talked for hours. It started to rain so we headed back into town and stopped at Mo's for ice cream before he went home.

It was so lovely to be able to see my dad this weekend and to, in a sense, celebrate Father's Day with him a couple of weeks early.

Week 23/52!

June 06, 2014

chevron & sunshine

Dress: Thrifted (originally Lane Bryant)

Thursdays are weird without Grey's Anatomy, so I started my annual "I miss Grey's so I'm rewatching the entire series" thing on Netflix. I'm learning how to open at work, which means a 3:30 AM wake up time. I get up, drink my coffee, watch an episode while I eat my breakfast & check social media. Then I get home and sometimes sit down to watch an episode and end up taking a little nap instead. But yesterday it was far too nice out to sit inside and watch TV. So I went to the park and sat in the grass, made a little more progress on The Happiness Project, and of course wore something cute so I could photograph it. It was a perfect sunshiney afternoon.

Today my dad is in town looking at my car, and we're spending the weekend together so I may be MIA for a couple of days. Have a good weekend!

*links throughout are affiliate, so if you purchase something I will receive a small commission

June 05, 2014

why i need feminism

#yesallwomen just hit me like a punch in the stomach. If you've been active on twitter lately, you may have seen tweets with vignettes from women about their experiences with harassment and misogyny. This form of expression allows us to come together to fight for our equality. And this got me thinking about my own personal experiences with harassment from men, why I need feminism to survive.
I need it because when I was fourteen my cousin showed me his penis when I didn’t want to see it. He made me a statistic, scarred me for life. I used to have panic attacks whenever I saw him because I was afraid he was either going to do it again or that he somehow knew I had told someone and was going to hurt me for it. It took two years of PTSD to say "I've had enough" and report it, and then it took two years of therapy to combat the PTSD and overcome it. (Read more on this here & here)
I need it because when I was sixteen I agreed to go on a couple dates with this boy I thought I liked but then realized I didn’t. And then when I told him “Hey I’m going through some heavy personal stuff right now, I think we should still be friends but I think it’s best if you leave me alone for a while” he still showed up at my house on his unicycle and I made my mom answer the door and tell him I wasn’t home. I had to threaten him with a restraining order in order for him to get the hint and leave me alone.
I need it because when I was nineteen I was lonely and met a guy off of plentyoffish. He told me I was a good person, I made him want to try harder and do more to be a better person. Slowly he became more controlling and manipulating, pushing the boundary lines until I felt like nothing more a grain of sand on the beach. It took an intervention from my friends to make me see what he was doing to me. I have made a vow to never let a man make me feel that way again.

I need it because when I originally tweeted about writing this post, I received backlash from men who sit in this hashtag and troll unsuspecting girls and try to break them with their misogynistic ways. I was told that I don't work and that my blog posts don't save lives. I work almost 40 hours a week to support myself and blog as a hobby--you do not know me and do not get the right to tell me how to live my life. As for my blog not saving lives... That's not really the point. If I save a life because of something I write on the Internet, my life will be complete, but that's not why I blog in the first place. I write in this space because I need somewhere to get everything down, I need a space to share my love story with the world and this is the platform I choose to share it on.

I need this campaign because I have been harassed and broken by men. I have risen up and beaten it and I need other ladies to know that they can do the same. You are not alone. You are strong, beautiful, independent babes and I believe in all of you.

June 04, 2014

crop top lovin'

Shirt (tied as crop top): Walmart, Shorts, Necklace, Shoes: Thrifted, Bandana: Mom

Fat babes in crop tops are such a beautiful thing that I have witnessed through the body positive community on Tumblr, and I'm proud to say that I've joined the movement. Last summer, an empowerment milestone for me was wearing shorts for the first time in years out in public. I like to think if last year me could see this year me, she'd give me a big hug and all the #babevibes in the world for going out in a crop top.

These shorts fell into my lap at the perfect time. I only had one pair of actual shorts that didn't come down to my knees, so I almost jumped for joy when I found these at Good Will last week. They fit! They're the perfect length! I can move in them! The dance I did around the fitting room was the stuff all good thrifting trips are made of.

Happy Hump Day!

June 01, 2014

beach day

Yesterday I went to the beach with a few friends. The water was chilly, but the sun was high and kept us warm. When I was growing up I lived a couple blocks away from the community pool, and I remembered why diving boards are so much fun. I used to live in the water when I was little, and it's fun to remember what made my childhood so special.

Week 22/52!