March 31, 2017

strength. bravery. courage. growth.

Do you ever have one of those moments that just knocks the wind out of you?

The kind that leaves blood rushing in your ears, which almost certainly means your face is the oh-so-lovely shade of a tomato red. 

The kind that leaves your heartbeat threatening to thump right out of your chest and out the door. 

The kind that leaves your breath coming in gasps, harkening back to darker days in high school chemistry classrooms, clutching railings on the wall for support. 

The kind that leaves you laughing inside about how funny time really is. 

• • • • • •

On Tuesday night, we decided to get Taco Tuesday from our favorite Mexican place for dinner. $1.49 deep fried tacos with the works are my love language so I was game. I wanted Justin to come with me, but he didn't feel good so I went on this dinner mission solo. I knew exactly what I needed: 1 fried supreme taco, 2 soft shell supreme tacos, and a chicken quesadilla with extra veggies. 

I was caught off guard when I walked into the gas station and behind the Jonny Salsa's counter, I thought I had seen a ghost. 

All it took was the sight of a stupid almost grown out mohawk to transport me back to being fourteen, in a stupid little pup tent trying to wrestle with the decision between right and wrong. Back to writing letters that, in hindsight, never should have been sent. Back to dodging awkward glances across the cafeteria line and trying to kiss my boyfriend in the hallway without feeling like he was going to spring up out of nowhere. 

The all of a sudden flashback jarred me. The sudden onslaught of anxiety made me forget Justin's quesadilla when he asked me what he could get for me. I wasn't present when Jonny & Miss Julie asked me how I was doing. All I could think about was tan skin and getting lost in brown eyes. About how crushing the weight of silence is. About how much I just wanted to get the hell out of there and be anywhere else. 

• • • • •

The last time I went to Burlington, in my childhood bedroom, Noelle and I were laying there talking, wondering, "Would Cassie be proud of us?" 

Cassie was our therapist when we were seventeen. 

Cassie was the one who gave my life meaning again when I didn't even know which way was up anymore. 

The question lingered in my brain, adding to the echo of the blood rushing through my ears. 

Would she be proud of me, having a flashback in the middle of a gas station Mexican food stand, triggered by something as innocent as a haircut? 

Would she be proud of me? Would she still think I was the strong, courageous, empathetic soul that she nurtured out of me in the first place?

• • • • •

Lately I have been thinking about strength. What does it mean to be strong? What does it mean to really be brave? What is the true meaning of courage? 

All of the strongest members of my tribe are the women who have looked impossible life experiences in the face and won. My mother, my aunts, my almost-mother-in-law, my grandmothers, my best friends. They are my heroes. They are my role models. They are my words of encouragement on crappy days and my cheerleading squad on my good days. They have each looked life square in the face every day and said, "Bring it on."

Am I that strong? Am I that brave? Do I have that level of courage to inspire others? 

Ten years after the fact, I am still completely knocked over by a flashback. I am still susceptible to the harsh sting of memory and the breathtaking wind of panic. I feel powerless and more vulnerable and on display than I have ever felt. 

I have to believe there is strength in that. Of finding joy from the ashes. Of finally being able to see in the dark. Of being able to be trapped in fourteen for a moment, and then being snapped back to the present: twenty-four and thriving. 

I have to believe there is strength and courage and bravery in growth. In facing your fears. In putting one foot in front of the other and getting out of bed every day (even if it's only to go hang out in the chair on the other side of the room). There is strength in being able to look at your brokenness, your suffering, and your softness and seeing how far you've come.

There is empowerment in being able to picture that face in your head and say, "See? You don't have that power over me anymore."

Show them who's boss. 

March 28, 2017

a death in the family



My Adrian's family, that is. 

Betty, the woman standing next to me in the picture, was the night manager at that little frozen custard stand for over 20 years. She was hired by the original owners, Jim & Darlene Adrian, to keep Brigette (two down from Betty) and her coworkers in line when Brigette worked there in high school. Brigette and her husband bought Adrian's from Jim & Darlene, and Betty came with the building. She was a staple of the Burlington community. 

Betty passed away this morning. 

She truly was a badass woman. Sassy. Smart. Full of wisdom and experience. And my god, Betty could talk. You'd pop in to Adrian's just to say hi and you would end up standing at the window for a good half an hour or more. She always knew what she wanted and got it—no nonsense, no frills. That was Bettty. 

I still think of her stash of TV dinners kept in the freezer at work every time I go down the frozen entree aisle at the grocery store.

I think of her every time I work second shift and drink coffee at Hardee's. Every day when Betty got to Adrian's, as soon as she unpacked her purse, giant tote bag, and rolling suitcase full of stuff, she would make a pot of coffee at 4 pm, and still be drinking it when we closed the stand six hours later. 

I hope they serve Maple Walnut custard in heaven and she has all the coffee she can drink. Betty Lou, Adrian's will not be the same without you. Thank for the last 8 years of enriching my life. You will forever be missed. 

March 21, 2017

tuesday blues



After a meltdown in H&R Block today, coffee and a walk in the park was just what I needed. 

Dad's taxes, round 2, starts Monday at 10 AM. 

March 19, 2017

a love letter to Saturday

  
 
 

Oh Saturday. 

You were the unexpected surprises that I didn't even know I needed. I woke up at 7 AM today all on my own. Whenever I tried to fall back asleep, the Mew cat started crawling on me and nudging me, saying, "Mama! It's time for you to get up!"

But, let's be real—as much as I love my Mew girl, if I'm getting up at 7 AM the only thing I can coherently think about is coffee above all else. I thoroughly enjoyed my cup of coffee this morning, nice and warm in the remnants of my blanket cocoon. 

After I woke up, I was on a mission: go to the bank before they close, and then brave the grocery store on a Saturday morning. I took pictures at the grocery store because, as my mom would put it, I'm a dork. But I think there's a lot to be said for the power of grids and color and displays. (And tbh, I was so on board when Justin asked me to pick up some donuts with sprinkles for breakfast.) 

Honestly, the best part of my day was seeing the oh-so familiar Girl Scout cookie display set up in front of Pick N Save. I couldn't resist picking up my favs—Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, and Peanut Butter Patties. Sometimes I actually forget that I was a Girl Scout and I sold these same exact cookies. I made sure to thank the girls who were selling them for all the work they do. Being a Girl Scout is no joke. 

When I was in first grade, I was the top seller in my troop because my mom took my cookie sheets to the bar with her on nights she bartended. Turns out, slightly inebriated people really love Girl Scout cookies. (Who knew? ;) )

I didn't have to work until 5 tonight. I hate going in so late in the day to close because it throws off my whole schedule. But the sunset tonight after a day of almost nothing but clouds made me so happy. One of the perks of working at Hardee's is honestly the view of sunsets we get from the parking lot. Beautiful. 

Saturday, thanks for being awesome. See you next week. 

March 17, 2017

seven(teenth)



March 17. St. Patrick's Day. 

It's been seven months since you've been gone, Padre. I'm wearing green in the form of your Green Bay Packers 1996 Super Bowl sweatshirt. I'm doing laundry and washing my sheets and just trying to have a relatively low key day. 

Missing you comes in waves still. It usually peaks around now, the anniversary of the day you died while I am still only counting in months. The thought that soon it will turn into a year and then several years is mildly debilitating. To think that I will go on growing and experiencing and living a life that has gone on without you breaks my heart. To even think about the future and all of the major life milestones I will have to experience without you in them makes me weep. Even now, writing this, there are tears forming in my eyes. 

The process of letting go is difficult. That's not even the right word for it. It's painful and crippling emotionally as well as physically sometimes. It's one of the hardest life lessons to learn, over and over again in life and it's always one of those things that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot make a roadmap for letting go. You can't make a detour to completely avoid the messy freeway construction of your emotions by taking the back roads, the easy way out. 

The grief has to come first. You have to wade deep in the trenches of your emotions first. It always gets worse before it gets better, in the beginning when everything feels so raw and overwhelming. You have to hit rock bottom before you can start picking yourself back up again. Your emotions are going to do their best to knock you down over and over again. They are going to drown you. But you will survive. 

March 16, 2017

light parties



I literally woke up at 7:30 yesterday morning, saw the golden light coming in through the windows, jumped out of bed and took pictures, and then went back to bed for an hour. 

March 15, 2017

currently, march edition

 

breaking the viscous cycle that is stay up late, sleep even later

drinking all the coffee

loving the extra hour of sunlight every day (thanks daylight savings!)

laughing at Justin chasing the cats around the house

watching naruto with Justin & (still) making my way through Parenthood solo

wishing winter would get the hint and go away already

appreciating the morning sun streaks across the floor

sleeping with the Mew cat curled up on the end of the bed

waking up (more often than not) with her trying to lay on my face

reading everything I can get my hands on lately

feeling creative & somewhat restless again... it feels good to be inspired

hoping for a good rest of the week

March 14, 2017

24.92

*(Ironically, the age I am now + the year I was born.)

One month from today, I turn twenty-five. 


Twenty-five feels like a big year, y'know? It also feels like a freight-train of nostalgia and I'm strapped to the tracks, powerless to stop it. Everywhere I go, I am bombarded with memories. It started the day of my mom's surgery, with my dad on a constant loop. From there, it has spiraled off into smaller rivers and even more complex tributaries. 

My grandma. She has been on my mind a lot lately. Since my mom told me not to drink all of her favorite apple wine before we left after her surgery, her memory has popped into a lot of my quiet moments. Last night in the shower, I was thinking about the special bond she had with my dad. Even after my parents divorced, they remained close with one another. 

My dad stayed by my side through her entire service at the church she attended her entire life. The church I was baptized in. The same aisle my mom walked down with her Uncle Bob by her side to give her away to my dad at their wedding. I made my first communion at the front of the same church in a big fancy ceremony 3 years later. It only seemed fitting, at the very end, for my dad's journey to end the same way: at the front of the very same church, and buried as close to grandma as I could get at the cemetery. 

In t-minus one month, I will be the same age my mom was when she met my dad at a racetrack, one August night in 1988. My dad remembered her number because the last four digits were the same as his tire size on his stock car. My dad, the romantic. 

That feels like it carries weight somehow. It feels like magic, knowing you're going to be the same age as your mom was when they met and fell in love with your dad. Because of their love, you exist—regardless of the later outcome. You exist because of those butterflies and nervous, new relationship feelings. 

Twenty-five has me feeling all sorts of circle of life feelings. Losing my dad and my grandma at this point in my life also plays a huge part in that too. Feeling the true depth of their loss has made me appreciate every time I see another pregnancy announcement on my Facebook feed. Or engagement post. Or wedding photos. (I'm a sucker for wedding photos.) I love seeing the celebration, of a new milestone, a new chapter, a new life. It reminds me that maybe there is good left in the world on the days where all I can focus on is all the suffering and the brokenness. 

Twenty-four, we have one more month together. Let's feel these growing pains and then dance it out. Twenty-five is coming whether we are ready or not. 

March 12, 2017

come & rest your bones with me



when I worked at my studio, my sunday morning tradition was coffee, listening to "sunday morning" by maroon 5, and reading PostSecret in bed. 

this morning, I made a dang good cup of coffee. turned on the sunday morning playlist on spotify. stayed in bed for as long as possible because I don't have to go to work until 3 today.

quiet, peaceful mornings are my absolute favorite. 

March 10, 2017

burlington makes me nostalgic af.

 

Bike rides up and down the sidewalk with my dad. Sitting in my bedroom with Noelle, just talking for hours and hours. Town fryer French toast. Staying up all night just to go get Lucky Star breakfast at 6 AM. Coloring at the kitchen counter with my grandma. The summer we had the trampoline in the backyard. Bike rides with my cousins all throughout the neighborhood. Running around with my camera and tripod in the middle of my (very) residential street. Making a time capsule with Brittany and burying it in the yard. Snowball fights with Bubba. Countless summers spent in the Ad Room at the 'Loft. Kissing a boy in the stairway leading to the wrestling room at the middle school. All my middle school dance polaroids. Drives to Lake Geneva with Shannon and Noelle on early release days after I got my license—we'd either get coffee or Coldstone and take a walk on the beach. Adrian's runs. That time I got hit in the parking lot and the lady who hit me accused me of not even being old enough to drive. Hanging out in the garage with my dad. Driving to Kenosha, chain-smoking cigarettes with Bryce. Sitting at George Webb's for hours, talking with Shantal & Allie, because anything was better than being home at the time. 

Little things that all add up to big ones. Love. 

March 02, 2017

promises & parking lots

 

My momma had neck surgery today. She essentially had 3 broken discs taken out of her spine, along with removing any bone spurs, and now she has metal and plating where the discs used to be. Which basically means I was an anxious wreck all day, but not for solely for the reasons of being worried about my mom. 

Let me start off by saying this: I have always hated hospitals. I was born at 27 weeks and for the first two months of my life, a hospital was the only home I ever knew. I hated going to the doctor as a kid, and spoiler alert: I hate it even more now. When I was little, my mom used to bribe me with ice cream so I wouldn't cry when I got my shots. 

The last time I ever saw my dad, he was in the hospital. I got lost on the way there because my GPS took me a different way than I was used to. I cried alone in my car when I finally found the open (not blocked off by road construction) part of the lot and before I could go inside, I had to stop. To sit. To smoke a cigarette. To collect myself. To breathe. To just be. 

Walking from the back corner of the hospital parking lot this morning with my mom, Bruce, and Auntie in tow was a constant flashback to that exact moment. I was grateful when we forgot to grab something out of the truck because it meant I could possibly take a moment to collect myself. I smoked my cigarette and tried to concentrate on anything but the cold air biting at my skin. Anything but the weight of that moment, crying under all the frustration from getting lost and living three hours away when your family needs you and your dad has cancer and you can't even fucking begin to be able to process that. Anything but one of two possible outcomes for today's events: life or death. 

Going into today, everyone reassured me that everything would turn out just fine. My mom would be okay. You'll still have one parent at the end of this, Anna. 

The part of the story that no one knows is this: the last time I saw my dad, I sat on the edge of his hospital bed. He looked more broken than I had ever seen him in those moments before we said goodbye. His hair was gray–gone were the streaks of dark brown hair I had grown so familiar with. He looked thinner than the last time I had seen him only two days before. I held his hand as he made me promise him that I wouldn't worry about him. He promised me everything would be fine. I was teary-eyed as I kissed him goodbye. Told him "I love you, Padre" one more time. I told him I would see him soon. 

We sat in waiting rooms for a grand total of 7 hours today. On the end tables in the surgical waiting room, there were baskets of half-finished knitting with a simple instruction card: "Cast on 60 stitches. Knit in garter stitch until shawl is 60 inches long. Cast off." My dad's promise rang through my ears as yarn danced through my fingers. Every so often, I looked up at the list of numbers on the screen in the waiting room–always checking to make sure my mom's was still either pink (in surgery), gray (complete), or light blue (in recovery). Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine. Everything will be fine. 

My mom gets to come home tomorrow afternoon. She made it through surgery like a champ. She even scolded me and told me not to drink all her wine when we went to visit her afterward, which sort of reminded me of something my grandma would say and it made me smile tenfold. 

Today I realized that ultimately, my dad was right. Everything is fine. Through all the storms we may weather, and all the bad stuff that happens to us, we will always come out on the other side still fighting. I have survived everything I have lived through up to this point—including losing him. I will survive through everything else life throws at me, including my mental illnesses and the fact that no one is getting any younger. 

Momma, I'm ecstatic beyond words that you're okay. Padre, I miss you. And everyone else, if you made it this far, go eat a cookie and know that I love you for reading.