In 2017 I took a leaf out of Suzanne from Inside Outside and Beyond’s blog pages and started tracking my year in numbers, measuring the year according to all the things that are important to me and which I value the most: family time; love and connection; travel; creativity; helping others and personal challenges/growth.
I enjoyed documenting my year in this way so much (I can’t help it, I just love lists) that I’ve done it every year since and 2020 is no exception, even though it’s been one of the strangest years any of us have ever experienced. It’s a lovely way to reflect on the last twelve months – I keep all the headings the same each year and sometimes add in a new extra category or two as well.
Here it is: 2020 as it was for us in numbers…
# Of Trips Taken: 5
This number honestly surprised me. In a year that was so full of restrictions and travel bans and the strong messages to ‘stay home’ (which we absolutely abided by – we’ve followed the rules 100% of the time) I somehow forgot that we’d managed to squeeze in a few little adventures in between lockdowns whilst we were allowed to. I’ve had two solo trips and we’ve had three trips together as a family. I can’t even begin to describe just how grateful I am that we were able to make them happen in the middle of all of the the disruption. It’s really shown me just how important it is to say “yes”, to take advantage of opportunities and to be ready to take action.
The first adventure of the year was one just for me. Back at the beginning of March 2020, just as the news report rumblings of Covid-19 were beginning to make their way over to the UK, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Atlanta in the US state of Georgia for ClickAway.
ClickAway is a three-day photography conference run by ClickinMoms* and it’s an event I’ve wanted to attend for years. Several of my friends who I met in Colorado three years ago were also attending so it was like a mini-reunion and I loved seeing them all. It was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot of things that are going to help me grow in many different ways.
In between photography classes I had plenty of time to explore the city. Wandering round the back streets, getting lost, seeing all the sights and discovering hidden treasures are my favourite things about being in a new-to-me place. I do a lot of research in advance and I also make sure I leave time and space for spontaneity and unexpected adventures. I loved all the street art that was scattered throughout the city, loved the feel of the place and loved the unique combination of energy and laid back vibes that permeated the atmosphere.
I’ve written a post with my Top Ten Things To See And Do In Atlanta, just in case you ever plan to travel there.
I arrived back in England after being at ClickAway to the chaos of coronavirus, about a week before the first lockdown was announced. I look back now and realise how lucky I was to make it home safely. The days following my journey home from Atlanta were spent wondering what on earth the next few months had in store for us. Cancellations, mostly. All of the trips we had planned, booked and paid for in 2020 could now no longer happen:
- A solo trip up to Manchester for Phlock Live photography conference (a UK-based event with some incredible speakers flying in from all over the world – I was so excited to attend this one!)
- 3 days in Spain at Ca’Dario eco villa near Malaga after winning a competition on Instagram
- A week at The Beach Haven in Bude, our happy place by the sea, during the Easter holidays
- A week in Scotland at May half term, splitting our time between Edinburgh and Cameron Lodges on the shores of Loch Lomond
- A solo trip for Neil to New York City for 2 weeks to celebrate his best friend’s 50th birthday in style – he was absolutely gutted to not be able to go.
To say we were disappointed was an understatement, even though of course we understood the reasons. We resigned ourselves to a year of zero travel and tried to accept that local adventures would be the best we could do for the time being.
The summer months rolled around and an opportunity arose for us to go to Bude after all – a week during the summer holidays in July came available after another family had to cancel their stay. We snapped it up straight away and escaped to Cornwall to reset and refresh ourselves after more than a whole term of the challenges of juggling home-schooling with working from home. Sophie was able to come with us too and it was exactly what we all needed.
The girls went back to school in September and Sophie started university in Southampton. We headed down there for a weekend at the end of the month to check that she was settled in ok and to spend a bit of time with her ahead of rumours of possible tighter restrictions. We managed to squeeze in a socially-distanced afternoon at the park with my best friend (who also lives in Southampton) so we could meet her new baby too. We usually stay with her but because of Covid we had to stay elsewhere. We opted for Room 2 Hometel and it was fab – there was plenty of space for the five of us and we’ll definitely use them again.
At the start of October I journeyed on my own to Essex to visit my stepmum. It had been far too long since I’d seen her in person and I wanted to make sure she was ok with everything that had been going on. It was my first time on a train since the start of the pandemic and it was actually, surprisingly, ok. I stayed at the only hotel in the tiny village she lives in and it was lovely to spend some time with her. I enjoyed wandering around the village too and explored nooks and crannies I’d not been to before.
Our final trip of the year was back to Bude again. Another cancellation came up – this time for October half term after the ‘rule of six’ came into play. A family of 8 could no longer go and so we took advantage of it instead. Sophie wasn’t able to come with us this time so it was just the five of us and it rained for pretty much the entire week (except for one day!). It didn’t matter though – we were just grateful to be able to escape before lockdown #2 started the day after we got home. We’d never been to Cornwall in Autumn before and even though this time around it was a rather soggy experience, I think we’d go back again one day.
We managed to squeeze in one day trip (well, afternoon trip really) to Padstow whilst we were in Cornwall in October. It’s somewhere we’ve been wanting to see for years so I’m glad we finally made it there, even if it was far too busy for our liking given the circumstances. It’s a beautifully picturesque little fishing village and I think there’s far more to it than we were able to see during the time we had. I’m pretty sure we’ll go back again another day.
I know I keep saying it but honestly, I am SO grateful that we were able to do these little trips. Travelling, even if it’s only in the UK, is something that lights me up inside and fills my soul with happiness, so to not be able to do it was something I found really hard. I’m very much hoping that 2021 will see us travelling more.
# Of New National Trust Properties Visited: 1
We only made it to one new National Trust property this year, although that felt like an achievement in itself. They were all closed for a while due to lockdown and then once they re-opened you had to book at least a week in advance so that visitor numbers could be controlled and monitored. This made getting tickets quite challenging plus we had to try and factor in predicting the weather!
Still, I was determined for us to go somewhere new after months of walking the same trail near our house and seeing the inside of the same four walls and garden. I made a list of potential places to visit and we eventually settled on Wightwick Manor.
We visited on a Sunday in September in the warm early-autumn sunshine and it was so good to get out. The property was stunning and whilst we chose not to go inside on this visit (partly trying to be extra safe and partly time-constraints as we’d booked a mid-afternoon slot) I have a feeling it will be full to the brim of interesting pieces of history. Ella, Mimi and I popped into the art gallery for a quick look and watching the girls eyes widen as they took in all the artwork was just wonderful. I can’t wait until the world opens up again and I get to take them to more places – art galleries, museums etc… – that will stretch them even further.
The grounds were beautiful, the gardens were filled with gorgeous flowerbeds still in full bloom and there was a woodland walk too, though we didn’t have enough time to explore that fully. We bought ice creams from the tea room and ate them sat on the grass, people-watching from a distance. We’ll be back for sure.
# Of Photos Taken: 5,679
2,054 less images captured (on my big camera, phone snaps aren’t included in these numbers) than last year. I suppose that’s to be expected really – I didn’t have a personal photography project for the year, we didn’t travel anywhere new, plus the pandemic and lockdown meant that there were limited places to go and things to do even locally.
I did my absolute best to focus on documenting our ordinary, everyday moments of magic and mess at home and think I mostly managed to do that, even if each day looked pretty much the same!
I’m hoping with everything I have that our modest travel hopes for next year are realised – I’m craving new landscapes, novel views and different places to explore because that’s what really sparks my excitement. In the meantime I’m wholeheartedly trying to continue telling our story of life at home – the chaos, the calm and all of the moments in between.
# Of Photoshoots: 3
Three photoshoots this year, all at ClickAway Photography Conference in Atlanta. I took five classes in total – four shooting sessions and one about editing – and I chose these ones in particular because I wanted to be able to use what I learned both in my personal photography and also with potential families who might want me to capture them once I launch my business. The line-up of keynote speakers and instructors was amazing and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend the conference and learn from them all. It was an intense schedule (especially with jet lag thrown into the mix) but I managed it and was able to explore the city in between classes too.
I loved Ashley Marston’s ‘Loving Lifestyle – the Art of Families at Home’ indoor session. It was brilliant watching her shoot and I picked up tips and ideas for how to let things flow naturally whilst still getting meaningful moments on camera. Shooting indoors in unfamiliar spaces is something I find quite challenging so it was immensely helpful.
Dana Leigh’s class on ‘Harnessing Light – a Guide to Golden Hour Light Play’ was fantastic. We literally chased the setting sun through the streets of Atlanta near our hotel, the models she’d chosen for us were brilliant, we played with tools such as copper pipes, coloured straws and plastic bags to create unusual light effects in camera and I learned so much about how to play with light in different ways. 100% worth the freezing cold fingers and toes.
The third class I took was with Neely Kerfox who was teaching about ‘The In-BeTWEEN Years – Preserving Authenticity with Older Children’. I chose this session because I’m acutely aware of my own girls growing up and how important it is to me that I can still capture moments with them without them grumbling or posing unnaturally. It was brilliant – Neely was so generous with her knowledge and experience, the family we were shooting was wonderful and I feel that I learnt a lot.
I’d been excited for all of the classes I chose and the one I was most looking forward to was with Yan Palmer ‘Clearing Space for Connection’. I’ve followed Yan on Instagram for years and love her authenticity, her vulnerability and her uniqueness. The first half of the session was conversational teaching and I was completely transfixed throughout – she is magic, pure and simple. It’s hard to explain exactly what it is about Yan that everyone falls in love with but just being in her presence changed me, as silly as that probably sounds. I didn’t capture a single image during the photoshoot section of the session because I was so enthralled with watching her do her thing. I still think about that time with her on a daily basis.
The editing class with Twyla Jones ‘Mastering Lightroom – Editing and Workflow for the Emotive Artist’ was so useful. I’m completely self-taught with regards to photography and editing so there are many things I don’t know and hundreds of tools within the editing software I use that I was completely unaware of. Learning what everything does and how to implement it in conjunction with the images I capture has definitely made a difference to how I edit.
I’m very much hoping that 2021 will hold more opportunities for photoshoots with families. I want to put into practice what I’ve learned and create and capture meaningful moments of love and connection for people who want to remember how and who they were at this particular time in their lives.
# Of Client Therapy And Supervision Sessions: 272
2019 had seen me deliberately scale down the number of clients I was working with and the plan for 2020 had been to continue with this reduction so that I could turn my attention to creating and building my photography and writing, and be with my girls more.
Apparently the universe had other ideas! Work was quiet during the first lockdown from March through to July and then from the second half of August onwards more and more people started getting in touch and booking in to work with me. So many people have been really struggling throughout the pandemic and it seems that they all wanted some help through therapy to get themselves feeling better again.
That trend continued through to the end of the year and I ended up doing almost 100 more sessions overall than I did last year. Whilst this wasn’t the original plan and I’ve finished the year absolutely exhausted, I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve still been able to work through it all, be at home and earn enough to pay the bills, even if it’s been a challenge trying to balance seeing clients with helping the girls with their home-schooling.
# Of New Additions To Our Family: 2
We had two new additions to our family in 2020 – both of my best friends had baby girls! I don’t have any siblings and consider my best friends to be the closest thing I have to sisters, so that means I now have two new nieces 🙂
The first was born the day after the first lockdown started. What a time to decide to make your entrance into the world! We eventually met her when she was six months old when we travelled down to Southampton to visit Sophie, as they live in Southampton too. Baby M is such a beautiful, smiley little thing (just like her big sister is) and I’m so glad we got to meet her during the short window when restrictions were lifted a little bit.
The second was born in September and she is my other best friend’s first baby. Motherhood suits her. We’re yet to meet baby J so I’m very much hoping that once things are looking a little bit more positive I’ll be able to head down to London and see them in person rather than in WhatsApp photos.
I find it really hard living so far away from all the people I love, especially now that we’re not allowed to travel. If this pandemic is teaching me anything, it’s exactly what matters most in the world.
Sadly we lost a family member too: Neil’s lovely Grandad. He passed away in November, having reached his 90th birthday just a month earlier. Neil attended the funeral, though I stayed home with self-isolating children. I’ll never forget the way he welcomed me into the family with open arms and the bone-crushing hugs he gave. He’s going to be very missed. Neither of us have any grandparents left now and I feel incredibly sad about that. I still think of all of mine on a daily basis and miss them so much that my heart hearts. If you still have yours consider this your reminder to go and give them a call and have a chat with them, and to give them a big hug as soon as you’re allowed to and it’s safe to do so.
# Of New Experiences: 21
I’m pretty impressed that despite 2020 being the year that it was, with lockdowns and tier restrictions and travel limitations and everything else it involved, we actually managed more new experiences than we did last year and they were (mostly) positive ones. Saying an enthusiastic “yes” to trying new things is an attitude I really want to instil in the girls, as is the resilience to be able to manage it when unexpected events pop up.
In January we visited a ‘Kitty Cafe‘ (1) for the very first time as part of Lola’s birthday treat. We went to one in Birmingham, although a cat cafe has now opened up in a town nearer to where we live so we might pay them a visit too when all the restrictions lift. It’s so important to support local businesses. I also tried out essential oils (2) and fell in love with the wellness benefits they’re bringing our family. We’ve been using them consistently ever since and even my husband (the biggest sceptic on the planet) is converted.
February saw Lola have her first experience of horse-riding (3), something that she’d been begging to try for years. It’s such a shame that her lessons had to stop due to the pandemic – hopefully she’ll be able to pick them up again once it’s all over. March was when I travelled solo and visited Atlanta in the US state of Georgia (4) in order to attend ClickAway, my first photography conference (5). Being able to reconnect with the friends I made at Leap Retreat in Colorado in 2017 was wonderful and being surrounded by and learning from such a huge range of insanely talented and inspiring women was an incredible experience.
April was a little less positive. Schools, shops, pubs and restaurants were closed and we were officially in lockdown (6). April was also a month where Lola had an operation (7) to remove a benign tumour from her arm. Incredibly, the procedure was done whilst she was wide awake and I can’t even begin to describe how in awe I am of her bravery and resilience. I used the time off to finish putting together my portfolio and submit my application for ClickPro (8). I got turned down (on my birthday in May) and although of course I felt disappointed, the feedback I received was invaluable and I will try again.
April through to July was a blur of figuring out home-schooling (9), doing home workouts via the awesome ‘PE with Joe’ (10) and starting to wear facemasks (11) once lockdown started to lift and shops began to open. It’s crazy how quickly that became the norm. We breathed a sigh of relief once the summer holidays started and managed to escape to Bude for a week where the girls swam in the sea pool (12) for the very first time.
In August I had my initiation into the world of hair-dye (13). I’ve never even dyed my own hair, let alone someone else’s, so when Mimi announced that she wanted to colour the ends of her hair red I was a little bit nervous. I said yes though and she was really pleased with it (even if it did last for months and months!). Every summer I try and organise a ‘big day out’ for us all as a family but with not many places to go, we opted for something a bit more local and I booked for us to go and see a film at a drive-in movie theatre – The Great British Drive-In – (14) that had opened up. It was brilliant!
September ended up being quite eventful. The girls went back to school (although I had at least one child home every week due to having to self-isolate because of positive Covid cases in their respective classes); I attended a virtual baby shower (15) for my friend who was only a few weeks away from giving birth; and I got hit by a truck (16). Thankfully it was fairly minor – the wing mirror of a delivery truck hit the back of my shoulder whilst I was walking on the pavement and it was trying to fit through a very narrow lane of traffic. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Southampton to see Sophie who had just started university there – exploring the city properly (17) for the weekend was fun and I’m so glad we got to see her then because we’ve not been able to since.
In October we snapped up a last minute opportunity to visit Cornwall in Autumn (18) and although it was an overridingly wet-weather week I’m still glad we got to go. I was thrilled to find my very first piece of seaglass (19)! November was very much all work, work, work, work, work before we decided to put our Christmas tree up two weeks earlier than usual (20) before the end of the month to add a bit of joy and a few sparkles to our home. December brought the promise of Christmas festivities and to help make the build up even more fun (because goodness knows we needed it) we started a brand new tradition: an activity advent calendar (21).
# Of Date Nights With The Husband: 0
This makes me feel quite sad. With no family nearby to help out with childcare, we didn’t really get many opportunities to go out just the two of us as a couple even before the world went wonky – it’s usually just our respective birthdays and our wedding anniversary. Of course the pandemic and lockdown put a complete stop to all of that anyway.
We could have created a date-night (of sorts) at home but to be honest with the girls staying up later now that they’re older and us being exhausted from juggling all the things (emotions, work, home-school etc…) we simply didn’t have the physical energy or mental headspace to pull anything together. This really needs to become a priority in 2021 – marriage is a mindset as much as it is anything else and we both need to focus on paying more attention to nourishing it.
# Of Books Read: 18
Every year my goal is always to read a minimum of one book per month. Thanks to lockdown and a quieter season of work during the springtime, I’d already hit my target of twelve books by the time we reached the summer holidays. I slowed down a bit during the second half of the year as work got busy again (there’s a definite correlation there and some learning to be taken around prioritising self care) and ended up averaging 1 1/2 books per month overall throughout the year. I’m pretty happy with that! Next year in 2021 I’m aiming to read two books per month – 24 in total.
It’s an eclectic mix of genres. Only one travel book (I’m definitely hoping for there to be more to be in next years list!) and just one non-fiction book, which surprised me as I usually have more work and personal development related titles in my end of year list. I guess I wanted a bit of escapism from the real life happenings of 2020 and books are the best way I know of to get myself out of my own head.
Here’s the full list of books I read in 2020:
- City Of Glass; City Of Fallen Angels; City Of Lost Souls and City Of Heavenly Fire (Shadowhunters: Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare
- Lonely Planet guidebook to Eastern USA
- Clockwork Angel; Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess (Shadowhunters: Infernal Devices trilogy) by Cassandra Clare
- The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
- The Next Person You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
- The Keeper Of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
- The Anatomy Of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin
- The Magic Strings Of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
- The Binding by Bridget Collins
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- Lady Midnight (Shadowhunters: Dark Artifices trilogy) by Cassandra Clare
My three favourites by far were: ‘Untamed’: every woman on the planet needs to read this book – it’s phenomenal; ‘The Binding’: utterly beautiful descriptions and a story that held me captivated long after I finished the book; and ‘The Midnight Library’: life-affirming, heart-breaking, heart-warming and thought-provoking – I couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed ‘The Immortalists’ as well. Clearly I am now also thoroughly invested in the Shadowhunters series so I’m sure there will be a few more of those on my list next year too!
# Of Times I’ve Said “I Love You”: 38, 149, 652, 718, 435 (approx.)
More than last year and still nowhere near enough. Not just to the girls but to everyone who matters to me. Life reminds us so very often – and never more so than this year in 2020 – that there is no guarantee of tomorrow and that it’s vital to tell the people we love that we love them. Tell them in words, show them in their love language, do whatever it takes so that they know. Because really, love is the most important thing. To love others and to be/feel loved yourself is all that matters. These three girls are the centre of my world and I will do everything in my power to make sure that they know how deeply and infinitely I love them.
# Of Sunrises And Sunsets Watched: 228
I love sunrises and sunsets and somehow this year I managed to watch 79 more than last year which I am very pleased about. I wake early and go to bed late so I’m always around at the right time of day/night no matter what season we’re in – it’s just a question of whether the sky decides to put on a show and me making a conscious choice to look out of the window or up at the sky to notice it if/when it does.
There is something infinitely comforting and reassuring about the rhythm of sunrises and sunsets: no matter what happens during the hours in between, those two things will always happen regardless. And yet within that consistent and ever-flowing cycle of dawn to dusk and back again, each display is completely different. Like a unique fingerprint streaked with paint has been smeared across the sky – no two are the same.
That conflict between familiarity and difference, the never-ending consistent change, absolutely fascinates me. It’s comparable to our lives really – our daily routines and rituals remain relatively constant and yet every day is different (except maybe for this year where the monotony of lockdown did creep in a little!). Some days are beautiful and colourful, others are muted and serene, some are like a dance across the heavens and some barely raise their heads above the horizon. The important thing is that they keep showing up, day in, day out. And that’s what matters to those who are there to see them. Like me.
Here are a few of my favourites from the year:
# Of ‘Likes’ On Instagram Photos: 6,300
According to the ‘top nine’ app, I received 6,300 likes over 116 posts in 2020, an average 54 likes per photo. It’s a huge difference compared to last year’s 14,500 ‘likes’ – less than half the amount! And an even bigger drop compared to 2018 which was over 26,600.
It’s a little discouraging. I’m sure there are lots of factors involved (hi, Instagram algorithm) that are beyond my control and nothing to do with me, but when you work really hard to genuinely connect with people it feels quite disheartening to find out that it’s not actually making any difference at the top end of the scale. I know numbers aren’t everything – truly, I do – and I hope that I’ve helped to make a positive difference with at least some of the lovely people who do choose to follow me and interact with me. It would just feel a little bit more rewarding if the numbers actually reflected the efforts I put in.
Perhaps there’s something more I still need to learn from this? Or maybe it’s a measure to let go of. We’ll see. I really love the Instagram community and find it to be an inspiring, uplifting, encouraging and positive place to spend my time. Celebrating other’s successes, supporting people where they need it and exploring new ways to see life is important to me and that will always continue no matter what the numbers say.
I find it really interesting to see which images are the most popular. Birthdays, bravery, family selfies where we all squeeze in the frame, a little bit of travel and some quiet moments all featured in my 2020 top nine, which I suppose is an accurate reflection of the year! I wonder what next year’s grid will look like?
If you aren’t yet following me on Instagram and would like to, you can find me here: https://www.instagram.com/picturetakermemorymaker
# Of Cinema Trips: 3
There were two films I was REALLY looking forward to seeing at the cinema this year: James Bond ‘No Time To Die’ and the new Top Gun ‘Maverick’. And then, you know, coronavirus happened, film release dates got delayed, cinemas shut and that was that. Fingers crossed cinemas re-open in 2021 and the films get shown then instead.
Despite this, we did actually see three films in 2020! Two were at The Great British Drive-In: we saw ‘Dolittle’ during the summer holidays and ‘Home Alone’ in December. It’s such a brilliant idea – I’ve always wanted to go to a real drive-in in America so to be able to get a taste of it here in the UK is a real novelty. The girls loved the experience too and if it’s still up and running in 2021 I’m pretty sure we’ll go back.
The other film we saw was ‘Trolls World Tour’ at an actual indoor cinema in between lockdowns. It all felt very safe and covid-secure and whilst the film itself wasn’t that great it felt really good to do something normal for a couple of hours.
# Of Items Ticked Off My ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ List: 1
Just one item ticked off this year, which I guess is to be expected considering what a strange year it’s been. I watched the sunrise and the sunset on the longest day of the year and it felt pretty special. I still have lots more items on the list to work my way through over the next two and a half years and I’m going to do my absolute best to get through as many of them as possible. I wonder which ones they’ll be.
Looking Forwards To 2021
And that’s it! My 2020 in numbers. It’s been a completely out of the ordinary year. Incredibly hard in many ways and utterly wonderful in others. We have never spent so much time together as we have this year and we’re unlikely to ever again. I’ve done my best to make the most of it and will continue to do so until the pandemic is over and some sense of stability has been regained.
If the tentative plans we have in place actually happen, 2021 holds much to look forward to. When we reach the end of next year and I write another post like this I want to be able to record that the husband and I have been on significantly more date nights, that I’ve read more books, that we’ve taken more trips together as a family, that we’ve had many more new experiences as a family and that I’ve ticked a few more things off of my ’40 Before I’m 40′ list.
Let’s hope it’s going to be a good year