When You Can, Do

With a 1, 3, 5 and 7 year-old daughter, it’s a common theme in our house: frustration.

We want to be able to do it all, and yet we are confronted with relentless obstacles.

Siblings, spouses, co-workers.

Physical limitations beyond our control.

Emotional capacities we are incapable of attaining.

Situations we couldn’t have fathomed.

The question is not, which wall we will hit, rather, what will we do with it?

This is the lesson I work to teach myself and my daughters.

When you can, do.

We’ve all heard it: You Cannot Do It All.

And yet, like it or not, that’s the relative goal.

It looks different for each, but it all means the same.

Too much, too soon.

We want it now.  We wanted it yesterday.

We want what is unattainable, and want it anyway.

We want love.  We want things.  We want time.

Our desire is the same but our nature demands:

When you can, do.

Do as much as you can, when you can.

And in the meantime, grant yourself and others, grace.

When you can, do.

IMG_2793.jpg
Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Learning to Live with Gratitude

I had a “Come to Jesus” moment with my eldest daughter today.

I had just picked her up from a surprise playdate at her best friend’s house and was immediately met with discontent and complaint after complaint.  In less than five minutes, she had racked up six grievances.

I hit my limit.

This “ungrateful heart” is nothing new with our privileged child.  The majority of the time, she is sweet, imaginative and fun. She plays outside more than in, reads more books than she watches a screen, and is a stranger to none.  She has always been the teacher’s favorite- kind and a rule-follower.

But when she gets home, she lets herself go.

Upon entering the house, I listed the six things she had managed to complain about in the 90 second ride from our neighbor’s house in one column, and sat down to have her list what she could have and excuse me, should have said instead.

I drew a picture of a half-full glass of lemonade and discussed its meaning in detail.

It’s difficult for a child that has so much to understand what it means to be disappointed. But it does not excuse her from living with an ungrateful heart.

I vow to do more community service with her.  If she is always fed, at least she can help serve meals to those who are not.  If she is always under a warm roof, at least she can hand a blanket to someone who isn’t.

In the meantime, as long as she is under this roof, she will recognize her actions and strive to do better.  To say thank you often– to the cashier, the mailman, the janitor, the nurse, the teacher, her friends and her family.  To be aware that although yes, the glass is half-empty, to focus on the half that is full.  To live with a grateful heart.

image1-5.jpeg

Step

It was late.

It was far away.

It was foreign- something we “used to do”.

It had been a longggggg 10 days prior, complete with travel and a funeral.

There were a multitude of reasons why we could raincheck this date . . . but we didn’t.

We ate at a sushi spot one minute from home and when we still had 45 minutes until the main act came on stage, we decided to “pre-game” with my 87 year-old father who lived close-by.

IMG_1234

It. was. the best.

It’s been 7 years since my husband and I have had a conversation with my dad without children nearby.  And it’s been nearly that long since we’ve gone to a live show together.

There we stood with a crowd of others that, I pointed out, had at least one thing in common with us- an adoration for this band.

Lord Huron began with a song I frequently listen to as I write “Love Like Ghosts” and immediately I was catapulted into my writing space.

 

IMG_1236

My face lit like the sun itself so I stretched out my arms and danced.

I had taken a step- into the unfamiliar, into the faraway- but I was home.

We sang, we danced, we remembered what it felt like to step into our space and realized, it was worth the distance.

 

Once Upon a Time . . .

there were two inseparable sisters.

20 months apart one had never known life without the other.

Until there were three.

The second, no longer only the shadow of the first, had a choice.

Follow or lead?

The third met the fourth.

And life changed.

 

YR8A6080-cvaughan.jpg
Camille Vaughan Photography
YR8A6164-cvaughan.jpg
The Bigs by Camille Vaughan
YR8A6362-cvaughan.jpg
Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Weathered

A fire.

Roaring flames lick your face, the heat so oppressive you are forced to stand back to marvel at the demonstration.

A flaunt of power, an ignition of energy. Dangerously beautiful is this virgin blaze.

Time passes. Kindling sparse. The flames, once so bright, begin to dim.

Now approachable, friends find a spot to gather- round this comfortable, broken-in space.  Reaching in to warm their hands, absorbing the heat this tired fire has left to give.

The inevitable awaits.

Will this fire burn out?

Or will it scream for someone to feed it?

The story is the same.  A mother, a teacher, a doctor, a cleaner.  A social worker, an athlete, a therapist, an artist.

We begin ablaze, set to conquer.  Eager to learn, eager to share.

Weathered, we abate.

And subconsciously or not, we decide.

Feed the fire?

Or let it die?

I feast.

YR8A4847-cvaughan.jpg
Camille Vaughan Photography 

 

 

The End & It’s Beginning

They see opportunity, I see the end of an era.

They see a new purpose, I see the memories.

I’ve never been a big fan of thrift stores, yard or estate sales, but it wasn’t until today, when my elderly neighbor’s estate sale went “live” that I understood why.

I don’t see a record player, I hear the music it played over the decades.

I don’t see a dresser, I see the clothes it housed for birthdays, beach days, and every days.

They see dishes, I see Thanksgiving dinner.

They see a chair, I see the person who used to sit in it.

To many, they are just things.

To me, they are a story.

Of a life lived.

Of a past, now gone.

Of a future, without these things.

Perhaps this isn’t their end.

It’s just a new beginning.

 

1-t.jpg
Keep Playing

 

Elisabeth

Her name was Elisabeth but she was to be called “Beth”.

She was tall with long, wavy brown hair and the face of an angel because, she was an angel.

I was just 11 years old, when I saw her in my pantry.

I was searching for a snack.  My mom passed me by with a laundry basket full of clothes.

I paid no mind until I heard, from what seemed a distance, “Lauuuuureeeennn.”

I replied, “YEA?!”

No answer.

“YEA?!”

And then I felt it.

An energy.  A tingling on the back of my neck.  A movement of air.

I turned and she took my breath away.

She was beautiful, and without hesitation, I knew exactly who she was.

Elisabeth.

In her white dress, floating.

A smile crept upon her face, as if to say, “I’m here.  I see you. I’m with you, always.”

And then she evaporated right before my very eyes.

Immediately, I felt my heart restart, pumping so hard, I could feel it through my chest.  I gasped for air and screamed out for my mother.

She came downstairs and I pleaded with her, already knowing the answer, “Mom.  Did you call my name?  Did you CALL MY NAME?!”

She, confused and concerned, reassured me that she hadn’t.

Shaking, I processed what I had seen and felt and have kept close to my heart for the last 25 years.

I had seen her, my sister Elisabeth, gone before I was born.

And today, I see her still, in the face of my daughter, Elizabeth Joy.

My guardian angel.

Lizzie.jpg
Captured by Katie McCracken

 

 

 

My Name is Lauren

My name is Lauren, but I almost forget that when all I hear is “momma” these days.

As a child, I was seriously invested in the welfare of others.

My step-dad had previously lived in Africa and returned with dozens of paintings peppering our walls, sparking my obsession with Africa and all of its wonders.

I wanted to be a National Geographic Photographer and I wanted to join the Peace Corps.  I came as close as joining the American Field Service (AFS) at 17 years old, living with a Ghanaian family for a month and working in two orphanages.

As a child, I rescued birds, dropped from their nests. I used heating pads and eyedroppers to try and care for them.  I taped plastic containers on top of the sand mounds the ants made along the short walkway to our home, so that they would be safe during the rainstorm.

I worked closely with the homeless at soup-kitchens and inner-city teenagers through a missionary church.

I dressed my dachshund and walked her in my babydoll stroller.

I published my very own magazines, full of articles and quizzes (“Does your dog a: run out and pee b: walk a short distance to pee or c: sniff each and every blade of grass, peeing on everything in sight?!)

I never wore shoes outside and gained notoriety for this (even today for my total lack of a shoe collection).

I played “teacher” and “store” almost every single day, complete with tests and inventory.

I played the piano, easily.

In high school, I was the lead in three school plays.  And I was good.  

I was smart, but unpopular.

And now, I am a mom.

Trying to teach my four daughters everything I ever learned while still learning on-the-go.

Trying to witness and support their innate gifts, while wondering where the hell mine went.

Wondering how I can lead by example, when all I seem to do these days is serve.

My name is Lauren, and I’m still here, somewhere.

I just have to make time to find her and teach my daughters to do the same.

image1-4.jpeg