Thursday, January 1, 2015

Amanda + James: A Christmas Letter (2014)

I know it's "traditional" to type and print something like this and send it in an envelope to our 100 closest family members and friends, but this year we skipped the whole letter thing because we didn't feel there was anything worthy to force in front of you regarding our 2014.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize 2014 was a remarkable year for us and is definitely something worth documenting.  (Granted, I don't feel like paying the postage to send this to everyone in my address book, but it's here if you so desire to read it.)

As you probably already know, we ended 2013 on a somber note--my mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after James was laid off in November we were looking for a solution to our financial woes which resulted in us relocating to San Diego to live with my parents.  The plan was short-term; it wasn't supposed to last for any longer than it would take for my mom to heal from her surgery and for James to find a new job, but you know what they say about the best laid plans... So here we are, in December, still living at home and trying to figure out the next steps.  I guess I shouldn't say "we" are living at home, but more on that later.

I like to refer to 2014 as "the lost year," because it was really one big blur that kind of got lost in all the drama going on in our personal lives.  For those following along, my mom was diagnosed last December and underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction on the last day of February.  Praise be to God that she was only Stage 2 and did not require any chemotherapy or radiation, but that shouldn't discredit the recovery that she did undergo.  I stayed home to help take care of her and bring her to all of her doctors appointments and as difficult as it was to be the caretaker, I know it was much more difficult for my mom.  She is back at work now and doing great; she is cancer free and has also become a vegetarian.

I purchased my first DSLR camera in March and began shooting everyone and anything, knowing I would be shooting my friend's wedding come September.  What I didn't know at the time was how transformative this whole experience would be.  What started out as a photoshoot here or there to test out new techniques soon became a profitable side-business that has kept me busy all year.  I believe I have truly found my passion in life--both photography and graphic design bring me so much joy it doesn't even feel like work.  I ended the year shooting 4 weddings and countless family portrait sessions, not to mention the engagement shoots to go along with the weddings and also a few newborn baby shoots!  I can honestly say creating DOSKOFOTO has been the highlight of 2014, and something I plan to pursue more professionally in 2015 and years to come.  While I have been shooting away, pouring over photography blogs and tutorials, making business cards and shaping my vision, James has been behind the scenes helping make everything possible.  He has taken over the accounting side of our business, built me a website, and is learning code for future DOSKOFOTO expansion.  I could not be doing what I'm doing if it were not for his constant support and encouragement.

Following her surgery, as soon as my mom was healed and back at work, the job hunt began in full-force, for both James and myself.  I started working a temporary office job for a soccer camp--the Berkshire Soccer Academy--whose office is located here in San Diego though the camp officially takes place in East Otis, Massachusetts (in the beautiful Berkshires).  What I thought was a two-month assignment soon turned into a full-time job that then led to the adventure that was our Summer on the East Coast.  After turning down the opportunity quite a few times, I eventually decided to accept a summer position as the camp photographer, so long as I could bring James along with me.  He worked at the camp doing odd jobs, but primarily working as the official camp Driver.  I accepted the position knowing it would give me exposure to a new field--sports photography--and it would also give me the opportunity to meet soccer celebrities from the USWNT like Mia Hamm and Heather O'Reilly.  It was truly amazing to watch (and photograph) them, but the best part of our summer was making new friends and getting away from home and the rut we were in.  We capped off the summer with a trip to New York City for our second wedding anniversary and we had an amazing time.  It was an unforgettable trip, filled with touristy stuff and plenty of new experiences.  I think we would be fine living there if we could afford it, but maybe only for a year or so as it is quite a busy place.

Heather O'Reilly, USWNT

Tisha Venturini-Hoch, Ange Kelly, Mia Hamm, Me, Kristine Lilly

Coming home from camp was like clearing the slate.  We were both unemployed all over again but with so many new experiences under our belt.  During the summer I had been having a lot of pain in my hips (note: I have chronic hip pain and had surgery last March to fix the right side, but it is/was still very painful from time-to-time) so I went to see my hip doctor who confirmed my fears--I would be having surgery again to fix the left side.  What a damper!  So there we were, in the middle of August, both ready to get jobs and move out just as soon as we could, but then being told I would be having surgery October 1st and would be laid up for about six weeks after.  As you can imagine, no one wanted to hire me knowing I would only be able to work for a month, and not again until December, so my job prospects were slim.  A month and a half later I had a left hip arthroscopy and femoroplasty with a little work done on my labrum.  While the surgery was a great success, I have learned that rehabilitation and recovery are no joke.  I should have learned this the last time but instead I overdid it and denied my body the recovery it needed.  This time around I made an earnest effort to take things more seriously with an intensive physical therapy routine 3-4 days a week, home and occupational therapy exercises, and many trips to the doctor to check that healing was going as it should be.  There are so many things I'd rather be doing but I have to constantly remind myself that this will benefit me the most in the future if I can be patient and disciplined now.

In October we had a lot of things happening apart from me having surgery.  Early in the month two of our friends from camp relocated to San Diego to work full time for BSA.  We've had fun helping them settle in and experience San Diego, and it's also been nice having some friends down here for the time we have left.  On October 21st my younger sister, Kayla, gave birth to their first child and my newest nephew, Bradley Shayne Boelter, who is an adorable addition to their family.

In November, James began working in Long Beach as the office manager for his fathers new accounting firm, Doskocil Accountancy.  As you might have guessed, and for those still following along, this means we are officially moving back to Long Beach in the very near future!  James is actually already living there (remember when I said "we" aren't living at home anymore?), and I will be joining him very soon as I finish up my physical therapy program here in San Diego.  On New Year's Eve we signed the lease on our new place and we couldn't be more excited to be moving back and living together again.  What a way to end the year!

So that was our 2014.  It wasn't the most exciting year of our lives, but it also wasn't the worst.  I've gained a lot of perspective this year and have come to value time with family much more than I ever did before.  While a lot of this year felt like a step backward, I know it was more like a springboard for greater things to come in 2015, even if those things are small.  In 2015 I look forward to a healthier year for myself and my family, a new home and new job in Long Beach, and continued pursuit of my passions in photo and design.  For anyone who has stuck with me through this longer-than-anticipated letter, I hope 2015 is a year filled with growth and blessings for you and yours!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!