Herding Cats

Previously a fourth-grade teacher, I once considered myself a master at classroom management.  It was both a blessing and a curse:  a blessing because my students were well-behaved even with substitutes and a curse because I was assigned the most behaviorally-challenged students, since I could handle it.

Then I had my own children.

I’m currently 9 months pregnant and managing a classroom of 20 behaviorally-challenged students seems like a cake-walk compared to the daily task of getting a 2, 4 and 6 year-old fed, dressed, and out-the door.  I might as well be herding cats.

As my due date draws near, I find myself more-easily exhausted and while I appreciate the offer of help from friends and family to help out with meals and running errands, I don’t think there is a perfect solution to the daily challenge of managing three small children.

I’ve created morning checklists combined with incentive-charts to help the two eldest manage their routines but I still find myself saying things like, “We don’t talk about poopy-heads at the table” or “She doesn’t want to be picked up” and “brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth”.

The more frazzled I become, the more braxton-hicks contractions I have, but how does one “let go” and still get out the door?

It’s not just a daily struggle, it’s a minute-to-minute battle to SURRENDER ALL.  As soon as I claim victory for getting socks and shoes on the four year-old, the two-year old has replaced hers with rain boots, complete with an umbrella opened inside of the house.  Bad luck?  Oh, well.

Last night, I described, to my husband, the beginning of each day as a full water balloon. By the time he comes home, a thousand pin holes have been pricked in that balloon and I’m drained.  Attempts to plug and patch the leaks are fruitless, a waste of precious energy.

Instead, after Kindergarten drop-off this morning, when the two-year old dashed out of the mini-van to bask in the rain with her umbrella and boots, I grabbed mine and joined her.  Dishes?  They’ll still be there.  Sanity?  It’ll be gone anyway.

I like to think of this early-childhood phase as practice for what is to come in the adventure of child-rearing.  We can prepare our children with access to support and resources and still watch them struggle to take responsibility to make something of it.

At some point, there is only so much we can do before we have to let go, surrender all and have faith that we are all doing the best we can in that very moment.

In the meantime, we can grab our boots and umbrellas, lift our faces to the sky, and dance in the rain.




It took me just 24 years to find you. I knew what I was looking for: Someone steadfastly loyal, fun, athletic, adventurous, hard-working, handy, handsome, sincere, and loving.  Someone who would make an incredible father.

Fast-forward ten years.  Just weeks away from expecting our fourth child, everyone is rooting for you to have a son.  And, of course, in many ways, I am, too.  After experiencing The Nutcracker with our eldest daughter, I wanted you to have solo-outings fishing and camping with your son, just like that.

But God knew what he was doing when he blessed three daughters with you as their father and a fourth would be just as fortunate. When our middle daughter asked if she could marry you, my heart burst with pride.  I explained that you were “taken” but that someone like you would be perfect.

In my life, I’ve been hurt with words and fists, with absence and distance, with broken promises and a broken heart, but never by you.

If I have done anything right in my life, it is in finding and choosing you.  It has been bearing your children and witnessing you teach and encourage them.

Yes, they will remember gardening and fixing things with you, but what they may not even realize is that they will continue to look for you in the face of every partner they choose.

Someone who supports her unique passions and feelings.  Someone who challenges her.  Someone who holds her hand.  Someone who loves her through and through.

So while I do not know whether this child is our son or daughter, I do know that they will know what it is to be loved by an incredible man, by the best father. By you.


Camille Vaughan Photography


1 year later with a fourth baby on the way, and this still rings true.

New Leaf Parenting

“Take a day, babe.  Get out of the house because I can’t do anything with them when you’re around.  They only want you when they see you.”

My husband was right but where would I go?  After a week of very little sleep, I’m exhausted.   And to be honest, all I really want to do is stay home.

But with a high of 40 degrees and a 1, 3 and 5 year-old in tow, kicking my husband out of the house left him with limited options.

“I’ve got some errands to run- I’ll take them with me.”

Music to my ears, but how long would I have?  I didn’t care.  I parked my rear on the recliner and watched a tv show for 30 minutes before starting dinner and calling my mom.

She lives only five minutes away and comes over to play with the kids twice a week…

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The all- encompassing kind.  Pumping like electricity through your veins.  Consuming your every thought and action.  Making it hard to breathe.

The forbidden kind that taunts and teases you.

The joyous kind that beams like warm sunshine.

The dangerous kind that hurts.

The sweet kind captured by tiny moments of tenderness and thoughtfulness.

The tragic kind that breaks your heart.

The Godly kind that makes all love possible.


Receive it.  Feel it.  Give it.


Camille Vaughan Photography




Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  It’s impossible not to know this Hallmark holiday is nearing, since we are assaulted on a daily basis with ads for flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and heart-shaped cookies.  In stores, Christmas decor was immediately replaced with Valentine’s, reminding customers not to forget anyone they love.

My husband and I have been together for over a decade now and although our marriage is far from perfect, we have managed to keep our love and desire for one another alive.

I don’t mind setting aside a day to celebrate the ones we love, so long as it is not the only day we do so.  Because I believe, deep down, we all share one thing in common- we want to be wanted.

We want to feel desirable.  It feels good to be needed.

As a parent, I sometimes gripe about all three of my daughters sitting on my lap for bedtime stories, but secretly, it fills my heart.

Pet owners, school teachers, nurses, service members, fire fighters, librarians, custodians, florists, writers, gravediggers- they all are needed and likely serve best when they are reminded frequently of how necessary and appreciated they are.

In times of stress, when our marriage has been challenged with sleep deprivation, moves, or careers, my first instinct is to feel defensive.  I wish my husband would do more of XYZ and panic when I sense distance between us.  Over the years, I’ve realized that the more I complain about what I am not getting and ask for more, the greater the distance increases.  Now, instead, I reach.

I thank him for all that he is doing.  I recognize his sacrifices.  I ensure he knows how much he is needed and appreciated and in return, instinctually, he does the same.

Isn’t it ironic that during some of the more stressful times of our life, when we need each other most, we feel distant from the ones we love?  Illnesses, death, child-rearing, job-changes, moves- it’s easy to ask our loved ones for more than they have to give and feel angry at them when they are unable to fill our void.

If instead, we can reach out to grasp one another’s hand- to verbally acknowledge all that the person is already doing to contribute- we then find ourselves stronger together.

We all want to be wanted.  And the more we let others know just how much we need and appreciate them, the more they will want our love and recognition and return it.  If only we can reach.  ❤

Dee Akright Photography

A Man Misunderstood: Part II


The water is wide
I cannot cross o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
build me a boat that can carry two
and both shall row my child and I

I’ve been singing this lullaby, from the “Triangle Collection” by Music Together, to my two-year-old for weeks now.  It’s a beautiful tune, but the meaning of the words didn’t resonate with me until I sang it to my middle daughter last week, consoling her over the loss of her beloved pacifier.

She’s four, two years older than I swore I would ever allow a child of mine to use a pacifier.  We’ve gradually diminished its presence – from the stroller, car, and now only to be used at night.  She desperately wanted to nap this past week, but found herself unable to without it.  I, currently 7 months pregnant, wanted to sleep, too and yet found myself lain beside her in her twin bed singing the song over and over.

The wide water represents sleep without her comfort object.  I, acting as her boat, was helping her to cross.  I reminded her that she was not alone in her journey, that I would walk beside her to overcome her attachment.

And that reminded me of the poem, Footprints in the Sand, in which author Mary Stevenson suggests that Jesus carries us through our most difficult times.

Last year, I would have been resistant to such a notion- allowing Jesus Christ to carry me.  Always questioning, suspicious and doubtful, never fully trusting his intentions or the doctrines describing his life and purpose.  Skepticism and all, I trudged forward, watching sermons from Trinity Church online and reading books such as Jesus CallingRelax, It’s Just GodThe God Girl Journey, and Mere Christianity.

The Sicilian, Taurean, stubborn part-of-me constantly challenges every word I read or hear, but the more I learn, the more I find myself reconsidering my staunch resistance.  Whereas “softening” used to be synonymous with “weakening”, I now feel the strength that comes from opening my heart and mind to allowing Jesus to lead.

I was always searching for someone to explain to me how to get there.  Surrounded by believers, church was too intimidating.  The bible, too overwhelming.  It seemed you were either a believer or you weren’t and I felt lost in the middle.

Randy Singer’s sermons and these books became my boat, leading me across the great distance that separated me from Christianity.  Like most things in life, they did not fall into my lap.  Amidst all of my doubt, I continued to search and seek, gaining courage along the way.

I realize now that this journey will last my lifetime but oh, how much richer my life already feels.  I have so much more truth to uncover and to expose my children to but finally, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” Philippians 4:7 is mine to behold.

Jesus once was a man I misunderstood, but has gradually become the man I seek to carry me across the great divide.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

Camille Vaughan Photography

See Also A Man Misunderstood: Part I





You know the saying, “When life hands you lemons . . . ”  It’s a saying that was branded into every fiber of my body at a very young age; a side effect of having a mother who traveled the country as a motivational speaker.  Growing up, no setback was too high for me to overcome.  “No one can make you feel a certain way.  You choose how you allow others to impact you.”

It’s great advice, most of the time.  But sometimes . .  sometimes. . . life hands you lemons and they are sour and bitter and no amount of sugar can turn them into lemonade.

As someone who has been raised to always find the silver linings, this realization doesn’t sit well with me.  I constantly search for the good in any crappy situation, even if it takes years to discover it.

But what do you do when you are rendered helpless in situations that are completely out of your control?  Cancer. Car accidents. Infidelity. Violent crimes. Natural disasters. Infertility. PTSD. Abandonment. Mean people. Death.

As much as you try to focus on all of the good that you have to be thankful for in your life, sometimes, a terrible situation is just that and there’s no pot of gold to be found.

It’s a tough pill to swallow- this notion that it’s not going to get better.  That it’s not going to work out the way you thought it would.  And that this bad thing is not going to politely go away so you can drink your lemonade and move on with your life.

Instead, it becomes one of “the things we carry”.  Unable to place it in a box and set it on the top shelf of our closet, it is with us wherever we go, like a meddlesome pebble caught in our shoe.

If we focused on it all of the time, we literally would be rendered helpless.  So we trudge onward, painfully recognizing it when something triggers a reminder.

I used to believe my mother, that nothing was beyond our capacity to overcome.  But now, I realize that some things are not made to be good.  Like the bad spot on a banana, you can eat around it, but it’s not going to make it go away.  A bad spot is a bad spot is a bad spot.

And it’s good and healthy to call it what it is as opposed to forcing yourself to drink lemonade when you fucking hate lemonade.

It’s a lemon. It’s sour. And bitter. And sad.  And we carry them wherever we go.



Bone-tired.  So tired you can’t think clearly.  It’s been a long day.  You’ve been looking forward to getting the kids to bed so you can finally sit down and exhale or go to bed yourself.  But one of them just. won’t. go.

To add insult-to-injury, she skipped her nap and is overly-tired.  She won’t let your husband put her to bed.  She only wants you.  You, who has been with her for the last 12 hours.

You know what she needs to go to sleep but you resist because you have nothing else to give.

And yet, you are a mother.

So you dig deep, into the reserves.  Your tank is on empty, but just like your car, you know you can always push it a little further, to get there.

You hold her, rock her and lay her down in her bed.  She settles her cries almost immediately as you rub her back and sing that lullaby she loves.  You slow the song down, verse-by-verse, eventually removing your hand so that song is all that remains.

Then silence.

She’s still awake.  You are still present.  And that is all she needs.

To know that you are there, even when you are tired, with nothing left but your presence to give.  `

You dare not move your legs, tingling from sitting in that same position for so long, until her eyes get heavy.  Opening and closing, just enough to make sure of you.

You hear her quiet breathing, slowing to soft snores and you think,

I am a mother.

I always have enough for this.


View More: http://danielleicephotography.pass.us/emma-jane-carawan
Danielle Ice Photography

No Regrets


It’s too painful to imagine, so usually, we don’t.  And yet, by the time it happens, we wish we had spent a little more time thinking about it because if so, perhaps we would have done things a little differently.

We would have slowed down.  We would have cherished the moments and days.  We wouldn’t have sweated the small stuff so much.

So why do we wait?

I had a surprising situation happen to me at a party last night.  Someone I never would have expected, told me they read my blog and love it.  It meant the world to me.  I don’t write for the money (I don’t make any) or for the praise.  I write to understand and I share so that someone else out there may feel that they aren’t alone.

But it dawned on me- what if this person had never told me they read my work?  What if I suddenly passed away, like a friend of mine did recently?  Would they have regretted not telling me that my words touched them?  Why do we live with these regrets?

Perhaps it is because we are, indeed, too busy.  There’s simply no way to do it all.  And it would be depressing to think about death all of the time.  But there are small things we can do.

One of which, is to frequently and emphatically tell people what they mean to us.  A phone call, a text, a written letter.  Just one person a week.

It felt amazing to be given a compliment and has inspired me to pay it forward.  To begin 2018 with praise and without regret.  That’s one resolution, I intend on keeping.  Cheers to that.  Cheers to you.  Keep reading.  I’ll keep writing. Happy, Happy New Year 🙂


Camille Vaughan Photography

A Man Misunderstood: Part I


Suspicious. Doubtful. Annoyed at your devotion while I smile and nod my head.

Happy for you. Equally wishing I could “buy in” and yet unable to foresee a scenario in which that would ever be possible.

Curious. Incredulous. Impatient. Restless.

Tuning out the moment I hear or read the words “God”, “Faith”, “Jesus” and “Christianity”. I don’t want to be your prized missionary “save”.

And yet still, I wrestle. Blaming it on brainwashing from church as a child every Sunday but deep down, I can’t escape the curiosity.  How can so many bright and intelligent people believe in this?

They told me to read The Book but every time I try, it doesn’t make any sense.

They try to encourage me, but there’s an ocean between us and our conversations only leave me feeling more isolated and lost.

Still, I search.  I read books about Buddhism and find common ground.  I continue to watch sermons from the church I started attending a couple of years ago. The pastor, a successful lawyer, author and professor, is a master at tackling current issues using biblical scripture to make sense of it all.

I assumed some are just born to believe and others don’t take much convincing.  The task is daunting, confusing and overwhelming and yet as much as I want to stop, I keep pursuing- fueled equally by my own questions and the pressure to teach my children principles to live by.

Piece by piece, I find myself peeling back the layers.

For the past month, I’ve been reading The God Girl Journey by Hayley DiMarco.  It’s a 30-Day guide intended for teenagers, but as my faith is certainly no more advanced, it’s just right for me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

After a 3 day introduction, the book is divided into the attributes listed in the verse above and it has changed my life. 

I’ve never wanted to call myself a Christian for a number of reasons:  I do not want to align myself with a faith whose leaders have been convicted of child molestation time and time again.  I do not want to be associated with a religion that believes their way is the only way and all others are damned to hell or not welcome in heaven.  I have issues with the damnation of homosexuals or the idea of confessing my sins.  I have issues with well-meaning missionaries converting people from other cultures under the pretense of helping.  I have issues with hypocrisy which I feel Christianity and many of its followers are grossly guilty of.  I have a hard time believing in biblical stories and I don’t want to “cherry-pick” my religion.  If I’m going to label myself something, I want to be all-in.

For these reasons, and many others I’ve skirted Christianity.  Peeking inside its chambers, but never fully entering.  Cautiously observing.

As a child, I attended an Episcopalian church, summer camps and even found myself at a Young Life retreat one year.  I clearly remember sitting on a rock, pleading with a leader to tell me how I was supposed to believe.  His answer was, “You just have to have faith.”  In what?  Blind faith? Believe first and the rest will come?  I’m not hardwired that way.

And yet I am insanely envious of those who do have faith.  I think to myself, “I wish I could be that naive”. Harsh, but true. They seem so peaceful.  In the face of some of the worst tragedies, time and time again I’ve heard or read Christians who are able to find goodness amongst evil- like when the congregation and family members of those killed at the church in Charleston publicly forgave Dyllan Roof for his senseless massacre. How? Why?

Reading The God Girl Journey has helped me to understand just how and why that could ever be possible. Reading this book has given me a much clearer understand of who Jesus was- a man that I’ve researched enough to know that few doubt his existence. Reading this book has helped me to understand why the Christians I know and respect seem so confident and peaceful and why they share their faith.

I’m still at the beginning of my journey (hence, Part I), but now I know that once you start to believe, you feel selfish keeping it to yourself.  It’s not that you are trying to convert others to check off your “good Christian to-do-to-get-into-heaven list”- it’s that you feel true JOY and you want others to feel it, too.

I have lots of questions but for the first time, I am beginning to understand why so many people love Jesus.  Strip away the rules and denominations surrounding him.  As I learn more about what he stood and died for, I see so many similarities in all that I love about Buddha- principles that I try to live my life and teach my children by: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

And as much as I want to know it all before I begin, just like parenting, I realize now that sometimes you just have to start somewhere- anywhere. I’m tired of curiously observing from the outside.  I have nothing to lose by diving in and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to gain.

Jesus: A man I’ve grossly misunderstood.  A man, a faith, I want to understand. A man whose birth I’m actually celebrating this Christmas.


Dee Akright Photography