Freeze Frame

In photography, freeze frame refers to a photo that freezes motion.  Everything in the frame of a photograph presents as if time has stopped.  The photographic capture, if done well, portrays energy in a way that is impossible for us to see otherwise.  Freeze frame takes the space in between the transition of a subject from one place to another. Freeze frame sheds light on what is happening in the time between these two points. 

It’s in the crest of a wave before it breaks.

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It’s in the athlete in mid-hurdle.

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It’s in the bird in flight.

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It’s in a hot-air balloon in the moment before it lifts off the ground.

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It’s in the unfolding.  And it’s beautiful.

 

Pandemic

Here we are.  Week four of the COVID-19 world pandemic.  In the middle of bike ride last week, our 14 yr-old asked me a question about the pandemic.  Our 8-yr old quickly chimed in, “What’s a plen-dem-lik?”  “Seriosly mom?! She doesn’t know what a pandemic is?,” retorted our 14-yr old.  Can you feel the tone?!

How do you explain to an 8-yr old that the whole world  is dealing with the potential of a sickness? That it takes all of us sheltering at home, for an unknown amount of time, to make sure the whole world heals. I’ve tried. I have tried many explanations. And our 8-yr-old has some very sophisticated vocabulary thanks to her older three sisters. And still, this concept, this word, it’s just so much for any one of us to grasp.
Before COVID-19, I needed to go to the store and asked our oldest to keep an eye on her sisters while I was out. When I went to tell our 8-yr-old that her sister was in charge until I returned she asked, “Does she know the heimlich?” My response was, “Yes. She learned it at her babysitting class.” To which she confidently responded, “Ok then, see you when you come back!”
We have had many of these oddly mature conversations. We have covered the idea of a “virus” and the idea of “transmission” and though I have tried to transfer the idea of “pandemic” like most people I assume, I am struggling to grasp a definition for myself and make purposeful all the layers of changes this word has unfolded in front of me.
Because I have so many thoughts around what has changed as of recent, I am beginning with the high points.  I will share as much of these categories of change as I can with my deepest sentiments about each of them.

 

COVID Gifts

Since the quarantine began, our family has recieved such beautiful and generous gifts from friends, neighbors and family members.  We recieved a heart-warming painting, made just for our family.  We have been gifted delicious soup, twice!  We have had games and art supplies dropped off at our door step.  Family has sent new games and recipe books and care packages.  Friends have dropped off apple cider vinegar and a white claw, tied up in a ribbon to boot!  Fresh produce from a friend’s farm in abundance was delivered and yes, even the very coveted toilet paper!!
The gratitude we have for each and every one of these gifts has been so heart-felt.  In turn, we are enjoying sending hand-made thank you cards, delivering homemade whipped coffee to neighbors in the afternoon, dropping off flowers or produce for friends and neighbors nearby and genuinely enjoying each and every gift.
In addition to these physical gifts, there are many radiant blessings that have come because of this “extra” time.  For example, our daughters are using Christmas gifts they never used before.  Recently, our 14-yr-old spent hours threading and setting up a sewing machine while she FaceTime’d family, friends and grandparents for guidance.  It is a double-win!
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Craft kits that sat lonely in closets for far too long, have all been un-earthed.  I am even using my white elephant gift from Christmas!  Regal, brass Moscow mule mugs have come in handy as an awesome late day coffee cup. They make me feel fancy. And caffeinated, above all!!
The gift of having no time frame to keep and no places to go in any organized fashion is completely liberating!  Where we often would spend our weekends shuffling between sleep-over pick ups, a friend’s party, a soccer or football game, or a gymnastic or horse show, we now have zero that binds us to keeping up.   It’s just us.  On our own family island.   This has led to more thoughtful, non-rushed conversations between all of us.  This has enabled quality time without any distractions and this is a gift.
In addition, since quarantine has begun, I have had zero mom-guilt!!! Omg.  It’s amazing. I know I am doing the very best I can playing so many new and enhanced roles.  I know I need windows of space to absorb the immense changes which brings me to my next category; solo-time.

Space

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It’s takes a lot of energy to absorb the dynamic changes daily without some time by one’s self.  But without teachers, grandparents, neighbors or babysitters, time by one-self is not easy to find!  I exercise with my girls, running even, which I don’t do fast, as my girls have made apparent to me many times.  Eek!  Children’s honesty is beautiful, right?!  I eat all meals with them.  We read and write and paint and watch movies together.  We garden together.  We bake and cook together.  I work five feet away from them while they are on Zoom classes.  I organize and care for our home with them.  We do EVERYTHING together ALL THE TIME.  Which means, I need my Anna-island time.
The grocery store shopping on my own has not sufficed one bit.   It feels so anxiety-filled for me to enter a store, wearing a mask, trying to stay 6-feet apart and decide which surfaces I am safe to touch!  So, walks by myself in the morning, daily, with no phone are imperative.  Sometimes, a drive for no reason but just to rock out to music in my mini-van will do.  And when it is really juicy good, I take a chair down to the beach by myself, pushing my toes under the salty sand, to simply listen deeply to the waves rolling in and the birds singing above.  This is grounding and allows my entire emotional, physical and mental self to feel supported as I actively take in all the changes around me.
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Innovate- from the Inside, Out

During this time in history, we are not being asked to innovate; we are being told we HAVE TO.  This is the time to create new possibilities in all new ways.  Yes, we are all stretching the ways in which we work, live and exist in our seperate bubbles; reimagining our roles in work, as parents and as family members and friends.
I am seeing impressive representations of innovations everywhere.  Our local library has designed a new book program engaging parents fill out a survey of your child’s interest, then creating a book bundle to be delivered to your doorstep, coutoured and put together by our fabulous local librarians!
Artists and engineers with tooling devices have re-tooled their machines to make protective plexiglass shields for storefront workers or face masks for medical professionals.
Anyone who isn’t categorized as an essential business at this time and who cannot remain open, has offered on-line deals or door-to-door delivery to keep the best of what they do selling and keep as many employees on pay-role.
Local breweries have converted their systems from making craft beers to producing hand sanitizers.
A dear friend of mine turned her parent-child music studio into an on-line birthday party, playdate and virtual parent/child engagement outlet.
Yoga studios have continued to grace us with their classes while orchestrating play lists on Spotify and live-streaming classes while we find quiet nooks inside our house to enjoy our mat.
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My own husband, a savvy engineer, is spending long hours creating new innovations to support hospital workers during this time.
Parents?!  Well, we are becoming our own avatars aren’t we? I have found a second source of ingenuity and strength within myself. I’m not just talking about when I google, “crafty ideas to do with a mason jar,” though this had been an act of desperation in week 2. I feel focused and purposeful in a fully grounded way. And just so this is clear, this does not mean I feel energized and happy all-day-long. I, like all parents, am working hard to mesh all the new changes together and weave them into a day that is meaningful.  But because this time is giving me only my family to focus on, interior to my shelter-in-place modality, I am fully engaged in creating purposeful, authentic togetherness in a different way.  I know I am not alone in this experience.

Family Ties

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A friend of mine who is soon to be a father shared with me recently that he thought this was a very unique and epic time for family strengthening.  He is right.
Sibling rivalry has no outlet beyond resolve. Space isn’t an option. The girls are getting underneath things on their own and as challenging this is to endure (four girls can get super loud FYI), I know this is critical for their continued close bond for life.  I don’t think there has ever been a better time to have this kind of quality, all-in family time.
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In our family, especially since the recent pandemic, we have a new lay-out for the day and everyone helps in creating the day we envision.  We start with breakfast.   Each daughter has at least one day a week in which they are responsible for cooking breakfast for the whole family.  The rules are that they have to make something from what we already have in the fridge and pantry- no special ingredients or trips to the store.
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After breakfast, every one visits our “vitamin C isle” which is now stationed in our kitchen.
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Then, our entire family shares the duties of the activities director, the cafeteria women, the content support assistant, the teacher, the tudor, the password and app manager, the hallway supervisor and the janitor.  During the weekends in particular, when my husband is out of his new workspace, our garage, he is reveling in the time we have take simple walks together as a family or just eat together… three times a day!
Spring cleaning has never been more thorough and our house is looking better than it ever has!  The girls do their small chores daily (making beds, putting away clean laundry, unloading the dishwasher) and they do at least one big chore a day, (mopping the floors, or vaccumming the house, switching out laundry loads, or cleaning the bathroom or kitchen surfaces).  Everyone is helping create space for all of us to be effective at our jobs, our classes and our free time to be creative.
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Zoom In or Zoom Out?

When our youngest daughters dress up for her Zoom class, I feel both two completely opposing emotions; delighted they are taking things so seriously and heart-sad that this is the only way they are seeing their friends, classmates and teachers.
When I used to think of the year 2020, I imagined a kind of Judy Jetson environment.  But this pandemic is starting to feel more like “Ready Player One.”  This is just so obscure.  A few days after the California Governor shared that schools would not physically re-open until after summer, our daughters’ schools coordinated pick ups of the contents of their desks, report cards and school ipads in preperation for, “new school”.
I arrived at the school on a Wednesday morning to pick up their supplies and the first thing I saw was a hallway full of posters for a school-wide event that did not happen.  I walked down another hallway to see a line of steril bags hung outside our daughter’s classroom ready for pick up.
New school began a few days later.  There were many new buzz words for this development of education to include “virtual learning” and “distance learning”.
With four daughters, there are so many passwords and codes and links to many different and new learning platforms. And, with so many people in one small house, in seperate conversations and engaged in seperate activities, it can be auditorily overwhelming!
Zoom, one of the most frequented platforms since COVID-19 for students, office mates, comittee members and families is often presented in a Brady bunch style screen share with all your co-participants in their garages, mini-vans or bedrooms in hopes to find a quiet space.   

Persons clothed in hoodies, working hard to get the job done together, but separately are showing up.  These classes and meetings and reunions are what is connecting people while we all do our part in social distancing.  

That’s COVID grace.
However, the effectiveness of Zoom and any of this distance learning can vary just as much as the individual classrooms they are all a part of.   I see teachers checking in, engaging in full lessons, assigning lessons on google classroom, reading aloud and overall, trying new modalities to connect virtually with 25-plus kids.   One of our daughter’s teachers sends an audio file of her feedback every time she turns in an assignment.  This is beautiful and such a unique way to support the students in feeling seen and heard.  There is even Zoom ediquette for our daughter’s dance class to include hand signals to indicate to the instructor how things are going.
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Our portals to education have rapidly changed.  And while we zoom in to see what is most effective and how to make this possible, we are all quite aware of the need to zoom out as well.
Thus, our girls have been staying creative in keeping things real post-school comitments.  They pick fruit in their roller skates, create a curbside surprise party for a neighbor or race down to the beach for a picnic and soccer in between zoom sessions.  They have baked lemon bars and too many batches of cookies to count and worked out on a stationary bike to speed up the process of cooling them. Ha!
Our oldest has created her own postcard for our iconicly stunning city using Adobe photoshop.
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They have done sidewalk chalk, redecorated small spaces and created endless games together.  Driver’s Education has even begun with our oldest because… why not?!

Rites of Passage

With COVID-19 has come a wave of grief.  There is such sadness felt by all of us when we see a news story about another person who dies alone because their family was not permitted to be with them because of the potential of exposure to this virus.  There is a pit in my stomach when I think about family weddings, funerals and baby showers, just to name a few significant moments for families not occuring because of this invisible beast.  There are so many jobs that have been lost and so many people waiting to be welcomed back to their jobs after being furloughed.
And then there are missed graduations, proms, state championships, end of year parties, long-anticipated trips, retirement celebrations…the list goes on.  COVID has put a hard, but hopefully temporary stop to these moments.  But they aren’t moments any one of us can get back.
I saw a friend the other day who shared she happily has her college freshman back from school.  Her daughter, an accomplished student who worked so hard to get into the college of her choice has been heart-broken ever since returning home; for rightful reason!  Her freshman year was blatantly interrupted.  There are many heart-felt, antipated moments that just don’t get to happen this spring or summer, at least in the ways we were used to and that weighs on each of our hearts.
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Essentials

I am so grateful to every first responder, doctor and nurse, care giver, grocery worker, gas station worker, banker, and mail delivery person, just to name a few, for all they are doing to show up daily to keep our systems running.  I think my dad said it best when we were talking about non-essential businesses opening back up.  He said, “Everyone is essential, and even if all they have to offer is their need.”  So, as much as I have eternal respect for each and every one of our essential businesses that are open at this time, I am really engaged to see how all of us return to being essential.  I think many of us have done some deep un-earthing of personal meaning during this time.  Imagine when we all come back and bring our essentials to the playing field?  I visualize this being completely different and completely energetically beautiful.  I imagine our points of connection will be so much more true and present.  I can see the other side of COVID-19 and it looks pure and balanced and slowed down.
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Connection

Connection is everything. Virtual connection doesn’t hold a candle to the real deal.  I am not sure if its because we recently watched Taylor Swift’s documentary on Netflix, in an effort to find yet another show that all four kids were somewhat in agreement with, or if its just where my head and heart are at, but I keep asking myself, “Are we out of the woods yet?”  The answer is unknown to ALL OF US.  There is no definitive timeline on when life will resume with the “regular” things in place: offices and schools open, restaurants and stores open, non-essentials- open.  And then how do we “go back” so to speak? Do we move from sheltering-in-place to social distancing, then does this finally become, hug your friend again day?! Will this happen once we have a successful vaccine for the entire world –  for billions of people across every continent?!

Who knows?  We are just adjusting, in mass numbers to what today brings.
I guess in a way, we can choose to freeze frame as we unfold.  It’s a unique union of both.  Joys and heart-ache all folded into one.  
Pause, act, learn, freeze.  BE AWESTRUCK.  Pause, act, learn, freeze.  BE AWESTRUCK.
It’s in the crest of a wave before it breaks.  
It’s in athlete in mid-sprint.  
It’s in the bird in flight.  
It’s in the hot-air balloon just before it lifts off the ground.
It’s in the unfolding of each one of us.  
And it’s beautiful.  

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Warmly,

Mama Stump

 

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Ps.  Below, our 13-yr-old has made this coffee and my green tea for me every morning since the quarantine began.   Apparently, she found this recipe on-line sharing with me that, “Tik-Tok said this was ah-ma-zing!”   Without this, I cannot even sing, with vigor, “Out of the Woods,”  nor find the password sheet with all the Zoom conference codes for the day.  This has been a life-saver.  Please accept this caffeinated, COVID-19 gift from me.  The little things matter.  Now, more than ever.  With love and support to you and your families. Parents, YOU ARE DOING A SUPERB JOB!! Teachers, WE THINK YOU ARE AMAZING!! Family and friends, we miss you dearly.  

Clara’s Whipped Coffee

2 Tablespoons instant cofeee
2 tablesooons hot water
Add sugar or honey to taste
Whip together for awhile.  It’s a great arm workout when the gyms are closed.  Fill a glass with your milk of choice and add ice. Then, add coffee mixture. Wah-la!!! Xox
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#covidgifts #familyties #mothering #parenting #photography #freezeframe

 

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