Just Keep Going

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Believe it or not, I was the captain of my Varsity Cross Country Team in high school.  I attended a tiny, all-girls boarding school just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, filled with rolling hills and scenic trails through deciduous forests.  I like to tease that I led from the back because truth-to-be-told I struggled and wasn’t all that good.

Our coach was a Vietnam Vet and also our American History teacher who completely filled the giant wall-sized chalkboard with keywords he would use to tell the story of the battle, using a broken golf club to whack the board and grab our attention when necessary.  He walked with a limp, a war injury, and during our running practices would scream, “UP THE HILL, DOWN THE HILL, CAN’T GO THROUGH IT, MUST GO OVER, JUST KEEP GOING.”

I found myself chanting this long after our meets were over.  After high school, after an abusive relationship in college, as I worked 60+ hour weeks into the weekend as a teacher, during labor, and now, as a mother of four children with a marriage, house, and part-time sales job to tend to.

Do I want to quit?  YES.  So many times!  So many days!  I’m too tired to get over this damn hill and I just want to sit the hell down.  But in the midst of consideration, I can so clearly see and hear Mr. Bailey barking orders at me.  I can only imagine what he endured to conquer his hills and in my weakest moments, I scrape the barren remnants of my energy reserves and find the strength and will to carry on.

To Just. Keep. Going.

Because the view from the top, I know, is amazing.

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

 

The Calling

It’s that little voice.

You know the one I’m talking about.

The one that won’t leave you alone.

That red flag.

That green light.

That nagging feeling.

That encourager.

The relentless pusher.

Lord, you are so annoyed by it sometimes.

JUST GO AWAY.

I don’t want to try something new and different!

I don’t want to leave what I’ve known!

I’m afraid.

But there it is and here you are.

That new job.  That new relationship.  That child.  That move.

And, so long as it is in the direction of progress, it’s our job to listen.

If only we could trust . . . and listen.

 

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Hurricane

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Like, seriously.  What in the actual $*&% am I supposed to do.

A real hurricane is headed our way and yet, I already feel like I am in one.

How many fires a day can one firefighter endure before she needs a break?

So many little personalities, so many big needs.

The demands seem insurmountable.

Until I remember where I’ve been.

And how much more challenging it truly can be.

So, I cry.  I mourn my inability to juggle it all.  To feel like a “good” mom.

And I focus, instead, on what I do have.

A family.  A free country. Health. Resources.

I exhale.

And I begin again.

All Was Well

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20 months apart, it appeared nothing could separate them.

Until our third arrived.

The eldest went to school, leaving the middle to be a big sister on her own for the very first time.

She took it lovingly and ever-so-seriously, out of which an unbreakable bond was formed.

The Middles.

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#2 and #3, inseparable, especially when #1 returned from school.

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So, we had # 4 . . .

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and all was well, again.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Destiny

It’s difficult to describe the moment you realize you’re on the right track.

And that moment came to me today, when I very matter-of-factly explained to my 7 year-old that in addition to becoming an inventor, fashion designer and mommy, she could also be a writer because, didn’t she know that besides her own mother, my parents had each written a book?

I retrieved them from our library and set them next to one another.

And it dawned on me.

I’ve arrived.

This is where I’ve been headed all along.

The line, not straight.

The path, not clear.

The destination, the same.

A writer.

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Dreams

You wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom.

I reassured, you were no safer than your comfortable bed.

Shaking and sobbing, you wouldn’t believe me until I explained:

It’s not my job to hold your fears.

Rather,

It’s my responsibility to cheer you on.

To remind you that your courage comes not from me, but from within.

That there, is where you discover your dreams.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

The Traveling Salesman

Wrinkled.

The best way to describe my fingers.

Saturated.

My undergarments.

Rain.

Nonstop for 9 hours as I walked door -to-door on the streets of small-town Ohio.

The Traveling Salesman.

Finally, someone answered.

The furniture, well-worn. The space, cluttered.

Thoughtfully, he leafed through my encyclopedias as he listened to my pitch.

Sincerely, he asked if they would truly help his children.

It was the question I had been trained to answer.

I glanced at the Britannicas on his shelf, knowing very-well how much he had sacrificed to pay for them.

And with my first sale of the day within arms reach and tears in my eyes, I shook my head “no”.

No, you don’t need these.

No, this is not worth the “sale”.

No, this is not for me.

And with that, I thanked him for his time and made my way back into the rain.

Face up. Cleansed. Renewed.

The traveling salesman, no longer.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

 

 

Better Together

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You wanted to fish.

I wanted to paddle board.

We respected each other’s desires and handled dinner and bedtime solo with the knowledge that we were doing it for each other.

I returned earlier than expected one evening and you breathed a sigh of relief.

Because, as much as we need our alone time, you and I both know

We’re Better Together.

Happy ninth wedding anniversary, my darling.

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

No Time to Lose

They say, “You do so much.”

I say, “There’s no time to lose.”

Just today, my father reminded me that since I was a very little girl, I’ve always been cognizant of death.

I questioned, I wondered, and I experienced it’s effects when my friend Ruth passed away at 11 years-old from leukemia.

I’ll never forget the size of that tiny coffin or the banner the budding artist made of felt for her funeral.  The one she was unable to fully finish.

I’ll never forget the look on her mother’s face then and 20 years later when I saw her again.  The guilt I felt for still living.

And I haven’t forgotten that life is not to be taken for granted, but to be lived.

There’s no time to waste!  There’s no time to lose!

We know not of tomorrow so we celebrate today for the gift it is.

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Camille Vaughan Photography 

The Reason

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POW!

It’s fascinating how authors of graphic novels have nailed that onomatopoeia.  Because, that’s exactly how it felt when he punched my face, breaking my jaw.

Thrown back into the closet from the force of the punch, I stood up and looked at him quizzically, as if to ask, “Really?”.

But truly, I had always known it would come to this and had been almost waiting for the inevitable.

The reason to leave.

He left for class, I headed, mouth bloodied and all, straight for the rental office, requesting a new apartment placement.

I packed my belongings in under an hour and called the police when he found my new residence and started to rip them from my car.

I lived my entire senior year of college in fear of seeing him, as I had the previous two years of dating him.

And wondered, as I received weekly ultrasound treatments for my jaw, how I had allowed it to go on as long as it did.

Same old story.

Different girl.

It begins with the shaming.  The belittling. The Emotional Abuse.

And evolves to the physical.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Hold my hand.

Recognize it.

Name it.

Stop it.

You are reason enough.

Camille Vaughan Photography