Without travel I had a chance to look with new eyes at the things around me. Here are some of my favorite photos from 2020.
It was a strange year. I’m craving new places, people, adventures. Looking back through these photos is bittersweet. There are some wonderful moments captured. Time I spent with my very favorite people ( my husband and our boys), but they also remind me of the days in early March full of agitated uncertainty and yet a confidence that this would all be over in a few months. 10 months later the monotony of it all can feel overwhelming some days.
These are some of my favorite photos of 2020 some because they put me back in a moment of joy and connection, some because I love the photo itself.
Most of the photos I took this year are at home and family, but my family will only tolerate being photographed so much. Many are of nature, I was forced to practice looking for beauty in my everyday surroundings. A lot are of our dog, he never tires of being photographed. Finally a few are of the few and far between shoots I had for the podcast and for Spartan Games - all at a distance and all outside - but a welcome variation in my routine.
I love these events for the incredible expressions of drive, will, strength, and determination written across the faces of the athletes and for the images they create.
I’ve worked from a home office since I took out my first business loan and bought an edit system in 1995. I have always loved the flexibility. Taking calls while pacing around the yard. But equally important have been the trips and adventures that break up the time at home. That’s what I’ve always loved most about my job as a videographer, producer, and photographer. The places I get to go, the people I get to meet and spend time with.
For me, the part of life that happens at home hasn’t changed that much, I cherish that as much as ever, but I do miss the rest!
So... the home haircut didn't quite turn out as planned. But it provided a few of the best laughs we've shared as a family since COVID times began!
The good news:
1. His beautiful smile is even more visible
2. Hair grows back
3. Mac is a great sport, with a great sense of humor who doesn't let the little things like an unintended shaved head get him down.
I do feel a little heartbreak on their behalf - at a time in life when they should be spreading their wings they are pushed back into the nest. But it's just a speed bump in the story of their lives.
And - they are learning a set of skills that will set them up for life. The skills of the "digital nomad." If you can work independently, digitally, you can work wherever and whenever you want. You need to have work that can be done virtually, you need the ability to manage your own time and deadlines interspersed with scheduled meetings and phone calls, and you need a sufficient self drive.
Their school right now is very much like 80% of my work.
Of course I look forward to the day when we are all able to be more human and social again, but it the meantime I'm focusing on what can be learned. What we learn is not always in the classes we take or the books we read, but in the way we live.
Today - true simple pleasures. There is nothing that makes me happier than our family working together on a project. Especially when I know my husband is passing on a little of his practical knowledge to the boys. In this case about winches, come-alongs and pump jacks. But also about solving mechanical problems. About being innovative, self reliant, and safe with machines and heavy weights.
We're starting our first spring in the new house, and they are building me a raised bed ... which means I'll be trying to grow a few things.
Trooper was on hand to supervise.
The Spartan VP of content and I were talking (by talking I mean we exchanged abbreviated text messages.) We noted that teens, and parents of teens, seem to be invisible in the media right now. Here's the letter I wrote for publication on the Spartan site. ( Spartan published the article 4/23)
Teens and moms, dads and mentors of teens - YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE! In fact you may be the world’s most powerful resource. And here’s the question - how do we empower the vision, energy and innovation of our teens? I'm not going to give advice because I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong, but here's what being a parent of a teen in “captivity” has been like for me.
My kids have lived on a steady diet of the Spartan ethos since early childhood, even if we didn't call it that then. In our tiny Vermont town, our neighbors were the DeSenas. Even then Joe was leading pre-schoolers in jumping jacks and push-ups at birthday parties.
Around 2007 we started shooting videos for what would become Spartan, and as soon as the kids could manage they started tagging along as my assistants.
“These circumstances reveal the pretenders & reveal us to ourselves." ~Bruce Babashan on Spartan Up
Fast forward to today. My husband and I find ourselves in isolation with two teen boys. Teens who seem invisible to the media these days. In addition to the uncertainty we all feel in the face of a pandemic, they are experiencing the flip-flop of hormones, eddies of energy, the usual stresses of life, and a deep yearning for both the social interaction and structure that school and sports provide. They don't complain, they know there are a lot of people who have things a whole lot worse than us. Sometimes I wish they knew it was Ok to admit that this is hard, at the same time I admire their fortitude.
“Ultimate success is how I felt about myself in those quiet moments when no one is around” ~ Tom Bilyeu on Spartan Up Podcast
When school closed and track practice shut down the boys started running every day. I think today is day 37. I’m convinced the time alone, the outlet for energy, and the fresh air are essential for all of our mental health.
On school days we insist they get up and make their beds at a set time, other than that and a few chores, they manage their own school schedules and responsibilities. My 8th grader is usually finished with school in a few hours, then he's left to fill his days without much direction. He used to tell me he was lonely, he doesn't anymore.
My high school junior feels the stress of adapting to virtual school. I regret all the times I told him junior spring was the one time he needed to worry about grades. He spends a lot of time in his room.
There are so many resources for activities with young kids, I haven't seen anything for parents of teens. It's a time when they should be spreading their wings, becoming independent - how do you guide them through that when they are stuck at home with mom and dad for company? It’s not the natural state for a teen. A teen is a doer by nature. An inventor. An explorer.
We try to model resilience. The moments we spend together, without the separation of headphones and devices, come into crisp focus. The long facetime calls with their grandmother. The unconditional love of our dog Trooper. Watching them learn to cook dinner for the family. Those are bright lights.
We're all learning how to live together and learning together how to live. What I know I’m doing right is letting them know I love them, focusing on the positive, and continuing to adapt and learn as we walk into the future. What I need to do better - help them find their purpose.
Teens, what can we do to help you live - body, mind and spirit - during a pandemic? Moms, Dads, mentors - how are you helping shepherd this essential resource for our future?
"If I’m not failing, then I’m not reaching high enough…." ~Kevin Flike on Spartan Up Podcast
This is what life is. Laughter. Laughter with people you love. This part is utterly the same as any other time.
Without trips, without visits, without school, meets or appointments the days blur together. There is a sameness to the days. A grinding monotony I have never been good with. 7 days a week we do out Spartan Up zoom chats. No matter how much I edit, I never get ahead.
The days blend one to the next in a confusing muddle of sameness. Maybe that's the work. To be Ok with that. To learn to focus on the moments that stand out. .
Its the one big outing - a trip to the grocery store. Today most people wore masks. The store limited the number of people inside at once. The line outside spread thin with 6' between shoppers. I took photos of the empty shelves because they are remarkable ... new and different for us, but other than toilette paper, bleach and some of the brands we like they had more than enough of everything.
I just didn't feel right. It was a tough day. Maybe not enough sleep. Maybe it was the natural progression of this strange experience we're all living through. I spoke to a few people who had a tough time Friday. Here, in Vermont, life is easy. We have space. We have food. The number of cases is still low. There's no tragedy, no emergency to respond to. In fact it feels self indulgent to complain at all when many people are truly suffering. And yet there is this slow incessant mix of isolation and friction. Monotony and frustration. And a sense that we're removed from the outside world.
But when I sit down to compile today's entry and I look through the photos from the last few days I see, even in the midst of a funk, there is normal and accomplishment and even laughter. It makes me smile again reliving those good momements.
A friend confessed to me that she had called her young daughter a name she deeply regretted. Another said "I thought I was the kind of person who was strong enough, but maybe I'm not." It's important to share the stories. It's not easy every day. But we just keep marching. Pick our heads up. Look for the bright spots and hold them in focus. And know that a few months really isn't that long.
Do you feel like you spend your days looking through a virtual window?
It's not the greatest photo, but I love the image of my mom on a virtual call using her dictionary.
If you're not familiar with the game of "fictionary" here's how it works: one player finds a word in the dictionary that no one knows the definition of. That player writes the actual definition on a slip of paper, each of the other players writes a fake definition on a slip of paper and anonymously drops it into a bowl. The first player reads all the definitions out loud and the we all try to guess the correct definition. There's a point system based on guessing the right definition or tricking others into choosing yours...but that's really not the point.
We figured out last night that we could set up a zoom call on the ipad and text each other definitions, so we played a few rounds with Grandma Roo.
We did our first ever virtual podcast interview today too. Joe had a great conversation with James Altucher while his engineer Jay and I listened in.
... and just like a TV news anchor - no one can see that I'm wearing sweats and pink slippers below the view of the camera.
I'm grateful for the virtual connections, but there is something deep within me that craves in person visiting. There's a lot of conversation about how the world will be different. How people will realize so much commuting and office time is wasted. I think that's true. But I also think we will all come out of this with a greater value on real, in person, human connection.
Spring was in the air today.
Sunday we had a family zoom and shared poems and drawings, my mother shared this spring Haiku:
Small rains are falling.
Petals nudge aside the soil.
A soft day in April.
and this about life in Cambridge:
Breath can be deadly.
Fear is clearing the sidewalks,
Like wind chasing leaves.
On March 27th I was envious of the "pause" to reassess and learn I kept hearing about. I was fortunate enough to still be working, so I committed to a more active blog. This is my chance to think out loud about podcasting, messaging, story, nature, family and life.
~ Marion Abrams