Stay

She called and she said, “I don’t know what to do.”

And I said, “Here’s XY and Z.”  

All the places someone else can help.

“But here’s the truth.  

There’s no one more qualified than you.”

Listen, I have those kids.  

They need professional help.  

They need accommodations, counseling, services and meds. 

And we utilize them!

But at the end of the day, 

What do they need most?  Above all?  Since birth? In addition to God?

Me.

They need me to show up. 

Me not to punt them and their struggles for someone else to solve. 

They need me to hold their hand. 

When it’s ugly and neither of us know what the hell to do. 

They need me to just walk alongside them through it. 

I fill blanks with the qualified but I also remain steady. 

No matter what they are going through, 

I am here.

“And that’s what you do.  

You stay.”

I stay.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Brave Girl

“But the other kids are going to know I’m leaving.” She lamented. 

I could have lied.  I could have lost her trust by trying to convince her that, no, they wouldn’t. 

But I met her where she was. 

“Yes.  Yes, they will.  And this is a choice you have to make.”  I said, instead. 

“Either you endure a read-aloud that sends you into a full-blown panic-attack or you make accommodations for yourself, like anyone else with a disability does and you excuse yourself to the library. In other words, you own it.” 

For me, it’s environmental allergies.  When I pet a dog, I immediately wash my hands.  I’ve owned dogs.  I love dogs, I take allergy shots for dogs, but I am, alas, allergic to dogs.  I make accommodations. 

For her sister, it’s food allergies.  I make separate meals three times a day to accommodate.  

My daughter suffers from anxiety.  We treat with professionals and we do the best we can do avoid triggers, when we can. 

“What will I say, when they ask why I’m reading a different book?”

“You tell them the truth.”  I explain. “You own it, you brave, girl.  And you give others the chance to know that they are not alone, if they, too, feel the same way.”  

We are Carawans. 

We don’t run.  

We face, own and conquer.  

Here’s your chance to shine. 

You brave girl. 

[Posted with her permission]

Camille Vaughan Photography

Jump In

“Why do you look so mad?  Come on, it’s a beautiful day.”  He said to me, fuming on the one beach towel I had thrown in at the last second.   

Ugh.  I hate it when he is right, which is so very often. 

I was mad because I was trying to be spontaneous with four young children. 

I was mad because for once, I was trying not to help get swimsuits on, pack snacks and lunches and apply sunscreen.

I was mad because it, of course, backfired. 

All four of my children were in the ocean, fully clothed. 

And now, my husband, too.  

Today was supposed to be about our kids accompanying me and my husband to ECSC- an annual surfing and volleyball competition in our hometown of Virginia Beach.  

This was our stomping ground- the way we first met- the way we spent our sun-filled days. 

We had a truck-full of bicycles.  

We brought water. 

But we were there to watch volleyball so we left the rest. 

And here they were. 

In the ocean. 

Laughing, begging me to join them. 

What is one to do?

There was no other reasonable answer other than to jump in. 

So, of course, I did. 

When in doubt, 

Jump in.  

Just Like That

This one’s for all of my Empty Nesters out there. 

You think you’re ready. 

Joke as you “count down the days”.

And then, 

Just like that, 

They’re gone. 

Mine aren’t off to college

But the youngest is off to preschool this fall. 

And it’s been 10 years (and 199 days but who’s counting?)

Since I’ve been home alone. 

Let me repeat that. 

It’s been 10 and-a-half years since I’ve been home alone. 

I imagine that I will begin that first day crying and then laughing hysterically while eating ice cream in broad daylight watching inappropriate shows on Netflix. 

And on the second day . . . .

On that second day I am throwing myself a celebratory brunch because you know what?

I’ve earned it. 

And so have you. 

Take time to cry and then upon realizing that they will be just fine, 

Celebrate. 

Just like that.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Carry On

I walked in and explained that I’d held on to this gift certificate since Christmas. That I was in the midst of a family trauma and that I was here to relax and let some of that go.

What I didn’t expect was to burst into tears 45 minutes through, as my massage therapist pulled the energy from my muscles and flicked it away. As she summoned my breath and thanked me for feeling safe enough to let it go in that room, with her, a stranger.

But there we were. 2 strangers united at 9 AM. She, not knowing the trauma and still, meeting me there. Helping me to release.

We hugged, afterwards. After all, after weeping, what else is one to do?

And then we carried on. Her next client. My day with my daughters.

We release and we carry on.

Apples

It’s been 15 years. 

And *tonight* he says, 

“I thought I knew, but I’m just now understanding.”

How about them apples?

You marry someone because your heart sees theirs. 

But it has taken until now for him to realize what those vows meant to me. 

The kind of forever I’d never had. 

The moment I’d always been waiting for. 

Permanence.

When you’ve lived with, it’s difficult to imagine life without. 

It’s been 15 years. 

Dee Akright Photography

Growing Pains

“Mommy, it hurts.”  

I wish I could tell her that it stops. 

But it never does. 

Instead, they migrate from the bones to the heart.

From the physical to the emotional. 

These growing pains. 

Just when we think we’re done . . . 

There they are. 

To remind us that we aren’t yet done. 

Growing, that is. 

And when you think of it that way, it makes sense. 

Perhaps instead of dreading 

We should welcome the pains.  

Peel back that layer

And discover what comes next . . .   

Camille Vaughan Photography

Written while listening to Cover Bombs (Odesza Remix) by Nomadic Firs

Show Up

Here’s the thing about mental health: 

No one knows what to do. 

Instead, everyone waits for someone else to solve it. 

Because it’s ugly. 

There is no straightforward “treatment plan”.  

When someone is in crisis, it’s scary. 

What do I say?  What do I not say?

How should I act?  

And so we freeze and wait for someone else to solve it.

But when it’s between life and death, 

What then?

Someone has to step up. 

That’s what. 

When everybody else waits, what are you going to do?

Are you going to wait?

Or are you going to show up?  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Here, we go

I told him. 

I told him tonight. 

I make it so easy for you. 

And he nodded. 

Because he’s always known. 

He was just waiting for me to catch up. 

And Here. I. Am. 

And you know what?

He’s still here. 

Here. He. Is.  

Here. We. Are. 

Here, we go.  

Straight Up

It was our first meeting. 

And I told her, straight up: 

I won’t be able to tell you what I need. 

Instead, when I go into labor for the first time, and I’ve met you literally once, 

I  basically need you to read my mind and anticipate my needs. 

Welcome to the life of someone who has no gumption to ask for help. 

I didn’t say it in those words. 

I said it in apologetic, self-deprecating language.  

Like, I’m sorry I’m bothering you with paying to help me have a baby. 

I’m sorry I asked you to be my doula.  

I don’t know how to ask for or accept help. 

So, when I resorted to acupuncture to induce me, 10 days after her due date and a few days before they were going to induce me with pitocin, 

I apologized. 

My doula was a mother and it was a weekend, after all. 

She slept in a hospital room while Emmett and I labored all evening without the help I neglected to ask for. 

I had a perfectly, beautiful baby girl and I felt like a failure. 

Because I was too sorry to ask. 

And oh, was this not the theme of my life.

Too sorry. 

Too sorry to ask for help.

Too sorry for the imposition of my existence. 

Until I met others. 

And realized, I can’t change my past but I can forge our future. 

My daughters will be grounded and supported. 

They will not be afraid to ask for what they need. 

Instead, they will. 

Straight up.