Cinderella Shoes

My first year of teaching, he entered my fourth grade classroom on a first grade reading level and yet, by far, the biggest and oldest child in the class. 

His physical presence dominated but his smile and warmth melted anyone’s heart. 

Through services, he received free breakfast and lunch and it bothered him. 

I took to him like kindle to a fire and he, to me. 

There was a trust and bond that endured. 

So when a child who had nothing presented me with clear slippers three sizes too small for Christmas, I accepted them with gratitude. 

A child who saw me as his real-life Cinderella. 

A reminder that we are much more to others than we may ever realize.

If only we can continue to give with our hearts.

A gift I will always treasure. And never forget.


Live & Let Go

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t burn a bridge.’?

Well, I have. And in my history, it has meant a lot.

But at what point does holding onto burning embers do more harm than good?

Imagine it.

Cutting them loose.

Sad, but free.

And yet . . . always wondering . . .

What if they were still there?

Camille Vaughan Photography

Live

First, it’s a bump.  A setback. A hinderance. 

Then, quite suddenly, a demand for attention. 

We explore options.  We’re optimistic. 

Sure, we stumble, but who doesn’t? 

And then, 

it’s different. 

It’s not a challenge to overcome anymore. 

It’s a new way of life. 

One we never asked for, nor wanted. 

We’re faced with a Dead End. 

Or, are we?

We stop.  We cry.  We lament. 

Then we retrace our steps and get our asses back on the 

Right. Damn. Track. 

Because when faced with a dead end, 

Other than dying, 

What are we supposed to do?

Live. 

We live. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

The Road Not Taken

Los Angeles. Studio City, to be precise. 

That’s where I was headed in 2005, with a roommate I’d spoken with for months over AOL but had never actually met in person. We had the lease to our apartment and I had a lead to a job as a script-writer with Dreamworks Studio. 

Instead, I pulled the plug two weeks before I was set to move.

It remains to be, the road not taken for me.

In place of California. I lingered on the East Coast taking a room with a family of 6. In exchange for room and board, I provided care for the kids.  As the youngest of 8, I had never had 4 younger “siblings” before and was terrified.  Quickly, I adapted, finding myself taking particular interest in that first grader mastering reading.  

I read the book What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles and shockingly wondered if he could be right- were the childhood games I played as a teacher my destiny?  Had I known and denied all along? 

I moved back to my hometown in my own blissful, 1-bedroom apartment,  and volunteered in the fourth grade classroom at my tiny, private elementary school, just to see if it was worth pursuing.  

And, oh, it was. 

I. Came. Alive. 

Yes, this is where I was meant to be all along. 

Until I had my own four children and stayed home to care for them. I quit my job as teacher and became Mama.

 I started my own blog to continue my pursuit of writing.  

Then a Pandemic hit and again, I became teacher. 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost
Camille Vaughan Photography

Necessity

Let me guess,

You didn’t want to, right?

But you had to.

Out of necessity.

Yea, I get it.

I’m that advocate, too.

And, likely, over half of those poor bastards you interact with on a daily basis are in the same spot.

Stuck, but still caring.

Trapped, but still loving.

Cornered, but still exploring options.

Always, continuously, every day.

Caring. Loving. Advocating.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Tired, but Repeat.

Exhausted, but Repeat.

No other options so, Repeat.

Yea, we’re tired.

But you know what else?

We’re resilient as hell.

We can see others differently, in spite of.

We can empathize.

We can offer a hand.

We can endure,

Out of necessity.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Meet Me Halfway

It’s that moment no one wants to admit. 

The one where you know you wanted it more than them. 

I could argue I spent my entire childhood in this state. 

The one where I was the bastard child, and they were the full-blood. 

The one where I was lucky he wanted to keep in touch with me. 

Yes, in my child’s mind,  I had to be worthy. 

And it never left me. 

I’ve lived a life proving myself worthy. 

And you know what?

I’m tired. 

I’m too tired. 

I. am. worthy. 

If you want me, then meet me halfway.  

I’m worthy. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Forced Meditation

Here I am. 

Lying on the floor. 

Next to my daughter’s bed. 

A reminder of my failure to get her to sleep on her own like her three big sisters. 

Have I become a statistic?  The youngest gets whatever they want?

Or perhaps I am just too tired to fight. 

Ha- let’s not play ignorance- they are likely one in the same. 

I am tired and she was born to fight out of necessity. 

So, here we are. 

Prisoners in our own way. 

Dependent on one another. 

I remember convincing him that if he agreed to the fourth, she would be “mine”. 

I took full responsibility, although he would never agree to anything but equal, which made me love him even more. 

And yet, here I am.  Lying next to her bed and as much as he has literally and physically attempted to take my place, there is no substitute for her of me. 

I lie next to her and think, how I can make the most of this quiet time?

Unfortunately, it is forced, which is not a lovely place to be when you are trying to meditate. 

So some days, I sleep.  Others, I seethe in resentment of being on my 16th hour of parenting while he lounges on the couch.  

And sometimes, I think, one day, I’ll miss this. 

They won’t let me in their room. 

Their room won’t be here. 

I lie and wait.  For that heavy breathing. 

I leave, relieved, both for that she breathes and that I have the chance to catch my own. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Appreciate

He said, “I appreciate you, babe. I see you, and I appreciate you.”

After a long day, hell, a long 8 years, there’s nothing that man could have said that would have felt better to hear than that.

It was just the right thing to say.

He wants to be able to take more of the load off of me, but the fact of the matter is, I’m the momma.

I’m the teacher.

I’m the one they want in the middle of the night and, honestly, all day.

No, he can’t be me.

But he sure as hell can see and appreciate me.

And that’s all I need.

Dee Akright Photography

Push.

Here she is.  My eldest.  Refusing to look at me as I encourage her to put the book down and get back in the ocean.  The ocean with yes, fish.  The fish she fishes for.  The fish she eats.  The fish she sees at the aquarium.  The fish she has become suddenly fearful from touching her.  

I get it.  It’s unusual.  It’s unique.  But it’s not a reason to sit on the sidelines. 

So, I push. 

No treats the rest of the day unless you get back in. 

You don’t have to go for long, but you have to get back in. 

Tears. Exasperation. Begging. 

In she goes. 

You can’t see me having fun, she says.

Oh, but I can. For the next five hours straight.  FIVE HOURS in the ocean. 

No one prepares you for that in parenting. When to push, when to hold.  

My husband didn’t want to make a fuss, but I wanted to make a point. 

Our fears are not the end. 

Yes, we must listen, but we also must know when to overcome. 

And boy, did she overcome. 

In spite of my insecurity – was I being too hard?- I realized, yes, I listened to my instinct and momma knows best. 

This was a time to Push.