December 31, 2017

2017: a year in review


I started 2017 by hitting the curb so hard when I pulled up to the gas pump that I got a flat tire, and got a valuable lesson in grief management: just because you aren't prepared to deal with it doesn't mean that it's going to go away. January brought the 5 month anniversary of my dad's passing. Then we found out that my mom was for sure going to have surgery done this year, and my anxiety kicked into high gear. I spent a lot of time thinking about the fickleness of memory and how beautiful the bonds of real, unconditional love between two people can be. I was watching Parenthood and read Lauren Graham's memoir, Talking as Fast as I Can. I took pictures of flowers at the grocery store and spent a lot of time listening to the same music I did in high school. The Booky Cat died on January 24. I took hb.'s #cravingseries class on faith in January and resolved to dive a little deeper into my relationship with God. I chose CARE as my One Little Word for the year and tried to give myself a pep talk whenever grief threatened to overwhelm my heart.


February will always go down in history as the month I made my coworkers listen to classic Britney Spears hits while closing. It was cold, and Justin and I had a love affair with chocolate pudding and watching Naruto from the very beginning. Every day the sun came out made me ridiculously happy.

MARCH 2017

March started with a Burlington trip for my mom's neck surgery. She had 3 broken discs taken out of her spine and replaced with metal plating. I was an anxious mess for the entire trip and heard my dad's promise of "Everything will be fine" ringing in my ears while pacing the surgical waiting room floor. My biggest accomplishment in March was hauling my giant box of death paperwork down to H&R Block and sorting through every single paper until there was nothing left... and then filing 6 years of back taxes and having more than one anxiety attack in my tax prepper's cubicle. (Julie, you rock my socks off. Seriously. THANK YOU.) Iced coffee and a walk around the lake was always my act of self-care after the headache that always comes with tax time. Betty, my old Adrian's boss, passed away in March, and I still think of her every day. A flashback to ten-year-old trauma knocked the wind out of me and taught me how important it is to work through your fears instead of around them.

APRIL 2017

I turned TWENTY-FIVE this year. The blog also turned SIX! Justin and I celebrated 4 years of living together. April brought back Deadliest Catch for the year, so we celebrated with pizza and Justin's salmon-mashed-potato-concoction. Once the ground finally thawed, we buried the Booky Cat in the backyard and planted a cherry tree to mark his grave. New beginnings are worth celebrating, even if it's only letting go of the past. I spent a lot of time in my head, thinking about stars and magic and that flighty temptress, inspiration. I started my 25 book, a new 365 project, and finally started selling some of my dad's things. I had a job interview and sold my dad's Monte Carlo on the same day. One of those things ended up working out better than the other (i.e., I'm still employed at Hardee's), but both things taught me important lessons about taking chances and letting go.

MAY 2017

In May, we finally got the ball rolling again for Justin's teeth extractions. We had our first consult with his oral surgeon. I spent one glorious afternoon in the sun, taking thousands of pictures of pink trees and pretty light. I got my hair cut! An impulse decision for sure, but I loved my short hair, and I think it's going to make a repeat appearance whenever I get my hair cut next. I made my first big electronic purchase of my life: a shiny rose gold Macbook. Buying that felt like a step in the right direction, like I was actually investing in my future and in my dreams of opening my own photography business again. I started taking walks around the yard every morning, drinking coffee and listening to music and taking pictures for my #annalovesmornings series and my 365. I felt overwhelmed by grief. Missing my grandma, I started toying with ideas for a memorial tattoo. I wrote about hazel eyes staring into brown from across cafeteria lines, confronting old demons that I thought I put to rest a long time ago. Time has a way of doing that, though: making your past come back to haunt you.

JUNE 2017

June started with me crying in traffic because I missed my dad. I went to the bank to deposit a check that was made out to his estate, and the teller looked me dead in the eye and said, "I'm so sorry for the loss of your father." I knew she meant well, but that small comfort was enough to reduce me to tears. Grief doesn't care where you are or who you're with or what you're doing. When it hits you, it forces you to show up for it whether you are ready or not. I read Dani Shapiro's memoir Devotion after hearing her on an episode of The One You Feed. June brought the first Father's Day without my dad. All of the hard, one-year anniversaries started sneaking up on me: a year since he told me he had cancer, a year since the last time I ever saw him alive. Retail therapy was my coping method for my grief, which resulted in me actually being able to take pictures with my big camera again. Feeling that rush of inspiration and energy while shooting brought me back to being 18, 19, and 20 and running around the boat launch with my friends and clients. I spent some time at Shopko as an act of self-care. Flowers and color always make me feel better when I'm depressed.

JULY 2017

I started listening to podcasts on a regular basis again. Coffee with Chrachel remains the one I listen to most frequently, but I also started listening to a few new ones: The One You Feed, Dear Sugars, The Coffee + Crumbs Podcast. I took a lot of selfies and felt like I had an identity crisis. Those would be the growing pains of taking in hard anniversaries. Morning sunlight casting tree shadows across the garage always made me stop and appreciate the beauty of summer for a moment. I started reading A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman. Burlington declared a state of emergency after heavy rains and thunderstorms caused the Fox and White Rivers to flood the small little town I used to call home. I prayed for community and togetherness and light to surround my hometown, and watched all of the town updates on Facebook. We finally started extracting Justin's teeth! I spent my dad's birthday photographing a sweet family with a story that is very near and dear to my heart. Their son Emmett and I were both premature deliveries, both spent a lot of time in the NICU after birth, both had a lot of trauma and struggle to overcome as we were born into this world. The Lasky family are a group of warriors, and I am so proud to know them. After an emergency trip to Weston at the end of the month, because we thought Justin had dry socket, I found peace in color and lines at the grocery store. July was all about confronting scary things and taking a moment to rest after. 


I crossed something off my bucket list: dye my hair pink. I started listening to musical soundtracks and watching early episodes of Grey's Anatomy all the time to access the recesses of emotion that I had repressed to cope with trauma. I started writing it all down, much like I did when I carted a three-subject purple notebook everywhere with me my senior year of high school. I probably won't share the contents with the world, but getting all those words out of my heart and down on paper is the best form of catharsis there is. One morning after I showed Justin a picture I had taken of his mom's flowers on the front stoop, he told me, "You always find beauty in plain sight." Those words still bring me comfort today. Once Kesha's new album dropped, I listened to it almost exclusively for the rest of the month. I tried my hardest to make the one year anniversary of my dad's death a good day. Melissa, Starr and I road tripped to Burlington. They met my mom and Bruce, Noelle, and Bryce. We went to Adrian's and Next Door Pub and the old fish hatchery where I took pictures all the time as a teenager. Justin and I celebrated 5 years of us. I went to the county fair with Tammy, Cora, and Hayden on our anniversary. I took pictures of Cristin and David in their cute little house. We drank coffee and caught up, and it makes my heart soar that my friends trust me enough to capture moments in their life. The month was capped off by a perfect cotton candy sunset.


I celebrated 11 years of being a survivor on September 3. Wearing red lipstick was an instant confidence booster. I started to work on setting boundaries and sticking to them—which included speaking up and voicing when people made me uncomfortable. My teenaged and early-twenty-something self would have never had the confidence or the guts to do that. I started watching Love on Netflix on Noelle's recommendation. I finished a knitting project that I started in August, and decided to get in front of the camera again when I took pictures of it for the blog. Dancing in my favorite clearing in the perfect golden hour light was a dream come true. I will always be chasing that feeling of being seventeen, prancing around in the woods with just my camera and the sun. My frenzied writing in August came to a stall in September. A former girlfriend of my abuser reached out to me, and we bonded over sharing assault at the hands of the same man. To cheer myself up, I spent the next day over at The Lost Companion playing with and taking pictures of cats for an upcoming adoption fair they were hosting. I hired my friend Emily to design me a logo for my photography business. Being able to hire my friends to do what they love so that I can achieve my dream of doing what I love makes me feel the happiest. I started knitting a blanket for Starr for Christmas and picked up a book of Soduko puzzles to try to spend less time on my phone. I applied for an actual writing job and got a call for an interview. I was over the moon and so, so happy in September.


October started off confident and light. We celebrated Justin turning 31 on the 3rd by taking a little vacation to Weston so we could get the last of Justin's teeth extracted on the 5th. We had a pretty terrible time on vacation, to be honest, and it made us both crabby and irritable for a few weeks afterward. I caught up on Scandal and Grey's Anatomy once they were added to Netflix. I showed up for my job interview with as much heart as I muster. I put my all into trying to get that position, and they told me that I "definitely had the heart for the job." I just didn't have the degree to back it up. I practiced self-care by going for walks around South Park in October. I finished Starr's Christmas blanket. Swooned over pretty sunsets and vowed to trade in February's cold, gloom and doom in exchange for an extra October. When #metoo broke out, I was suddenly in flashback, PTSD symptom central again. Realized how much I have overcome in ten years, in five years, and how much work I still have to do. Thought a lot about forgiveness. Forgiving your abuser is one thing; whether or not you forgive them is personally your choice. But you must always forgive yourself. I don't know how many times I watched Phantom of the Opera, but "Point of No Return" always sparks something deep within me and was the soundtrack during my writing time. We celebrated Kerry's life and had his memorial service down at the River at the end of the month. I got to meet a lot of Justin's extended family for the first time. For Halloween, I dressed up as Debbie from The Girl's Room skit on the Amanda Show.


November and I started off sort of melancholy this year. I showered and danced it out and used the yellow towel because it made me happy to shake off the rejection from that writing job. I watched The Keepers on Netflix and fell deeper down my sexual assault rabbit hole. If what they say is true about every cell regenerating every seven years, this year I lost the parts of me that held onto high school, my very short college experience, and my first 365 challenge. Taking a self-portrait every day for a year opened up an entirely new life for me, and I am thankful every day for the discipline it took to do that every day. I needed a new knitting project, so I started knitting my mom a black and white blanket that I gave to her for Christmas this year. Justin and I went on a makeup vacation to Appleton in November. We went to Funset Boulevard and had a blast swimming in our hotel's heated pool every night. I kicked his butt at Skee Ball and got to make a little girl's day when Justin told me to go pick a family and give them all of our game tickets. We bought lollipops with bugs in them from a candy shop in downtown Appleton. It was precisely the "us time" that we needed after our horrible vacation in Weston. Work kicked my butt all month long, and I was burnt out by Thanksgiving. Justin and I spent the day at home. I started my annual Gilmore Girls rewatch. I ordered my first ever business cards and reminded myself that baby steps still count as progress.


I feel like I spend every December in a fog. Working at a mall during Christmas kind of conditioned me to hate the holidays, and this year was no different. I drank a lot of coffee and spent a lot of time sitting in the chair under my blanket watching Gilmore Girls. I didn't actually start feeling Christmas-y until the week before Christmas when it started actually snowing. The sun was out, and I ventured down to the backyard to take a picture of my coffee for Instagram. I finally finished reading A Million Little Ways and started Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I made homemade Chex Mix for the first time by myself and brought it to our work potluck for Christmas Eve. I booked four shoots for my Burlington trip over Christmas. Three of them canceled on me, and I had to cancel the fourth because of car troubles. Womp, womp. I always look forward to seeing my family and friends the most whenever I go back to Burlington. Noelle, Bryce and I drove around aimlessly on Christmas Day wondering, "How did we ever live here? And why did we ever leave?" Those two know my soul on a deeper level than anyone else, and spending time with them always leaves me with so much positive energy. I've been making plans for the new year and brainstorming methods to keep myself accountable. 

2017, you have been oh-so-good to me. Thank you for all the growing pains and the strength it took to slug my way through the mud and the dirty, messy, harsher parts of life. You brought the prettiest sunsets, deeper relationships, and All. The. Coffee. You have honestly been one of the best years of my life.

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