It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and our world as we knew it was shaken up and completely changed. Today marks the one year anniversary of the day that my kids were last in their kindergarten and 4th grade classrooms. What started out as two weeks of home learning (fun!) turned into three weeks (yay, longer spring break - but nowhere to go), and then the rest of the school year was finished remotely, ending with the teachers parading through the neighborhoods, waving to their students from their cars (is this real life?!). It was just surreal. I have been reminiscing and reflecting on this past year over the past few days, and talking with my kids and husband about the highlights, challenges we have overcome, and the memories. I usually do this type of reflecting as we approach the new year or on my birthday, but as pictures and posts have been popping up in my social media TimeHop and stories, I'm taken back to where I was a year ago... the activities and events we had planned, people I had planned to visit, vacations we were excited to take, goals I was excited to tackle and determined to accomplish. And then everything changed.
We were flooded with so many mixed emotions. I remember how scared we were in the beginning. Scared to get sick, scared to get our loved ones sick, scared to step out of our homes, or even to touch the mail. There were so many unknowns at the time. We were glued to the news. How many cases today? Is there a cure yet? I finally had to turn off the TV, stop focusing on the things that were out of my control (really hard as a control freak), and start focusing on what I did have - my family. Once I just surrendered and let go of the need to control, I began to see the little blessings that were all around me. My husband and I started writing gratitude lists and shared them with each other throughout the weeks, or whenever we felt ourselves stressing about the world. It's amazing what magic can come of writing down what we are grateful for - even if it's as simple as the taste of real cream in your coffee (I had gone a month with no cream, so this was on my list). As I read my gratitude lists from this past year, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and am reminded of so many of the tiny happy moments that otherwise would have been forgotten, had I not written them down.
It was hard for me to pick up my camera in those first few months. I was sad to have to cancel sessions that were supposed to take place, and I was worried about paying bills when my husband and I were both out of work (he works in the live entertainment/events industry). But then, almost the whole world was in the same situation, and I knew we would be ok. When I realized that, it actually felt good that for once in our busy lives, we had nothing on our schedules, and nowhere to go. I decided instead to use my (old) iPhone and start a video diary of our time together. As a highly visual person, I knew that having pictures and videos of our family would help me remember the highlights of each week at a time when every day felt like "groundhogs day". Even though they are very far from being technically perfect (from a photographer's standpoint), and my house is a disaster in almost every video, these videos were something my family would get excited about watching at the end of every week, and they will be cherished forever. They are perfectly imperfect!
Take a look!
Week one - The initial excitement of "homeschool"! I understand this was nothing like real homeschool. This was when remote learning was actually fun for all of us, and we cleared our family room for morning dance parties!
Week 2 - We loved to be able to take walks and bike rides in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, the first week of spring. You can tell my kids are Michiganders - it's over 40 degrees, so it's shorts weather. Lol!
Week 3 - My baby learned how to ride a two wheeler!! Woohoo! That girl was determined! After seeing her cousin learn the day before, she woke up that morning and said, "I'm learning how to ride a bike today!", and she got to work! We also started zoom dance classes this week.
Week 4 - Spring is in the air! With the weather warming up, we enjoyed more time outdoors, and our 1st bonfire of the year. We colored Easter eggs, had an in-home Easter egg hunt, and after celebrating with an Easter dinner for four, I got together with a group of my girlfriends that I hadn't seen in years for a ladies night over Zoom!
Week 5 - You can tell this is Michigan! The week started with snow and ended with water balloons in bathing suits! It also included a build of the most epic family fort!
Weeks 6 - 7 - Our energy was definitely shifting in these two weeks. It finally started looking like spring outside, and we had lots of energy to burn. We bought an Instant Pot and enjoyed cooking together and trying new recipes, as well as family game nights. My husband got a haircut from our (then) 5 year old (she did a pretty good job), and we ventured out for the first time in months to Walmart!
I know I probably drive my family crazy, always taking pictures and videos, but I'm so glad I took the time to create these (they really didn't take that much time anyways). I started slacking on the weekly video compilations once life started getting a little bit back to normal, but I still have plenty of footage. So in time, I will continue. I've got quite a bit of catching up to do!
Comment below and let me know what your highlights were this past year. What did you do to keep sane during this crazy year?
First, I want to say that my heart really goes out to all the graduating seniors. I can't imagine the range of emotions they must be feeling with this abrupt end to their final high school year. When I met Livvie last summer for her senior session, I'm sure THIS was not how she was expecting her senior year to play out. But this young lady has so much to look forward to in life, and I believe this part of it will just add to her own unique story.
I seriously had so much fun at this session. Livvie could seriously be a supermodel! And the outfits we picked went so perfectly with all of the locations - starting in South Lyon, and ending in downtown Ann Arbor. We totally lucked out with the weather too! It was nearly called off as there were storms all day, and then all of a sudden the clouds parted, and we had the most gorgeous evening light! Sessions like this give me such a high. Congratulations Livvie!
Here are some of the images that filled her beautiful coffee table album:
I don't often share my own personal stories on this blog, but I have something exciting to share! First though, I want to know - what are your passions? What activities can you get totally lost in, if given the time? Do you take time often to indulge in them? I have been noticing some friends revisiting their hobbies while stuck at home over the past several weeks, and it’s inspiring!
When I turned 40 a year and a half ago, I started thinking about the previous decade and realized there so were many activities that used to bring me inner peace and happiness that I was no longer taking the time to do. While I was busy building a photography business, raising little kids, and trying to balance family and work life I began feeling overwhelmed. At the same time, I was suffering with undiagnosed Lyme disease, and I was always exhausted. Other responsibilities, and life in general seemed to take precedence and I began letting go of “me time” and so many activities I once loved.
My passions are deeply rooted in dance, photography, makeup, art, music, and holistic wellness (with a little metaphysics mixed in). Together, I call them my life force. When I started abandoning my core passions, pain began creeping in...and the more pain I felt, the less I wanted to indulge in these passions, especially dance (it hurt to move), and this cycle continued. Coincidentally, my chronic Lyme disease was progressively getting worse and my pain was growing more intense, both physically and emotionally. Something needed to change.
I began my healing journey from Lyme disease almost a year ago, and a big part of healing has been in rekindling all the components of my life force. I used to say, “I can’t wait to feel better so I can dance again.” But then I had an epiphany - MAYBE I NEED TO DANCE AGAIN SO I CAN FEEL BETTER - not the other way around! I may not have the flexibility and strength I once had, but damn, it feels amazing to dance - even if it’s just in my living room!! I have been making myself take the time (guilt-free) to engage in the passions that drive my happiness in activities throughout the week -every week, and it feels so good! I really feel like I am coming back to life.
This time in quarantine has allowed me to really reflect on all the things that bring me joy and how I can share them with others. I have been feeling this pull for awhile now, and actually started planning before this pandemic came along, but I am so excited to share that I am working on expanding Gretchen Noelle Photography into Gretchen Noelle Studio - a virtual space where I can share ALL of my passions with you. Yes, I will still be photographing clients (once our stay-at-home orders are lifted and it is safe), but I will be sharing so much more than photography moving forward, including more of my personal stories and experiences.
I want to hear from you! What are your passions? What activities bring you joy and inner peace? Do you share any of my passions? What types of content, or courses would you like to see from me? I have some ideas brewing! Please take a moment to fill out my form on this link, and you will be the first to know of my new offerings and freebies!
Summer is still trying to hang on, but Autumn is just around the corner! The kids are back in school, pumpkin spice lattes have returned, and as I look out my window, I see trees with red tops as the vibrant green is starting to fade. I absolutely love being out in nature this time of year. Fall is definitely a favorite amongst my clients as well. Although it's been almost a year since her session, I wanted to share Ashlyn's senior session that took place last fall. The evening was absolutely gorgeous! Not too hot, not too cold - just perfect. After a short time in the studio, we headed to downtown Northville and then to a farm in Milford. Ashlyn's smile is infectious and she just radiates positivity and joy - a true beauty, inside and out! She is also a talented photographer with a very artistic eye, so it was fun to get some pictures of her with her camera as well. I wish you the best, Ashlyn, on your new chapter at CMU!
I absolutely LOVE how her canvas portrait and album turned out! There is nothing better than seeing your images in print!
Summer and Fall in Michigan are absolutely GORGEOUS!! They are also the most popular seasons for family sessions, and they book up so quickly. I've opened a few more days over the next few months for both summer and autumn Signature and Petite Sessions. See below for availability and to book before all the spots are taken!