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. 

What I Want You to Know

What I Want You to Know

Is that in spite of my stubbornness, I am good and kind. 

That I am worthy of your love. 

That the reason I acted out is because I adored you and wanted your attention. 

That even as a mother of four, I still need my mommy. 

That I don’t want to fight. 

That no one can hurt me like you can because I care about what you think the most. 

That you built me to be strong in the face of adversity. 

And here I am. 

Take me as I am. 

Love me as I am. 

I am yours. 

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Love and Loss

“Unable are the loved to die.

For love is immortality.”

-Emily Dickinson

Looking around, questioning the validity of everything I sense.  What it must feel to walk on the moon. Like I’m floating out of this world.  Not really here, but watching from the outside in.  This is how it feels to live after loss.

And the more I realize I’m actually here, and she’s not, the more painful the reality becomes. Words like unfair.  Too soon. And Why plague my mind.

The phrase “Be Kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”  takes on a new meaning.

Suddenly, that asshole on the road is just another poor bastard doing the best he can.

And my child’s fit, is just that: a fit that will pass.

Love and Loss like spaghetti and meatballs, peanut butter and jelly- one not without the other.

And for a time, Kelly and Lauren.  Best friends forever.

Rest In Peace my sweet friend.  You are loved.

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Catch and Release

Crumbling teeth.

That which has been haunting my dreams, lately.

A feeling so visceral, I wake up in disbelief that my tongue meets more than gum.

Later to learn these dreams are associated with the loss of control.

Ha!  Tell me about it.

I endured a childhood in the backseat and, as a result, made a career of being the only driver.

Until I wasn’t.

Until it wasn’t my car and I watched at the mercy of others.

Desperate to regain control, I reach.

Options. Opportunities.  Possibilities.

Catch and, in time, release.

Catch, Lauren.

Then, Release.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Here I Am

The fourth was supposed to be so easy I wouldn’t even notice her.

Except she demanded recognition at 15 weeks in utero- small. Too small. For good reason.

She was a sick baby and required monitoring the entire pregnancy.

I foolishly believed things would improve once she arrived earth-side, but they only got more complicated and she never wanted to leave my side: ever.

I had never had a newborn that would not sleep in a cot. She had to be touching. It was always this way.

Fast-forward two years- sick babe, exasperated mom, lost older siblings.

I lie face to her face- I touch her cheek and she, mine.

We smile.

An understanding.

A need met.

Although I feel like I have nothing left to give, I find my reserves and

Here.

I.

Am.

Here I am, Child.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

The Ghana Chronicles: Reflection

August 8, 2020

Dear Journal,

It’s been 20 years since I spent a month in Ghana, Africa.

Life has never been the same.

How could it be?

In honor of my time there, I chose to share my reflections but if I may be candid, I cringe.

What a new 17-year-old I was! Naive. Privileged.

But you know what?

What a BRAVE girl. What a KIND girl. You GO, girl.

Enough of this.

Here’s the real story:

When I was three years old, my step-dad moved in. He had lived in Africa for almost 7 years and so, our walls were surrounded with the most beautiful African paintings that captured my heart.

I had to go. There was no choice. My heart spoke.

And I listened.

I longed for Kenya but Ghana was as close as I could get at the time so I took it and ran.

Honestly, when that lady showed up and presented her opportunity to live with a host family in Ghana, I would have left the same day.

Instead, I applied with photos and answered questions of my dedication and good intentions.

I arrived in New York and met 27 other strangers who shared the same random dream.

We learned a few new words and set off on a plane to meet our new families.

The reality of arriving on a separate continent hit me hard, but in time, I learned.

I learned lessons I’m not sure I could ever teach my children without encouraging them to take a similar trip.

STEP, child.

TRY, child.

You, were meant for more.

Look inside.

Discover.

Recognize and Realize.

Live and Share.

What a BRAVE girl. What a KIND girl. You GO, girl.

Love,
Lauren

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Camille Vaughan Photography

The Ghana Chronicles: 15 The Finale

July 29, 2000

Dear Journal,

I’m on the plane right now and it’s 4:30 A.M.  The sun is rising outside my window and the moon is still clear and is hovered over top of the light spectrum.  The sky is red nearest the ground, the mountains, then a blackish cloud layer, then orange, then yellow and green then five different shades of blue- the darkest holding the moon in its place.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen something quite as magnificent and extraordinary as this.

I can’t believe Africa is to our south and that I’m headed home.

Soon I’ll be sitting on my porch swing recalling a dream of one that once became a reality for a small amount of time.

I dunno what I’ll act or be like when I get home and just sit on the couch or hang out with friends.  I think deep inside I’ll always think of Africa- comparing it to my everyday life here in America.

I would’ve done it over and over again if I had the chance.  As hard as the transition was, it was worth all the while.  It was worth learning all about myself.  It was worth learning more about the world, it was worth all the awesome friends I have now made and it was worth all the tears, all the laughter, all the fun times.

Love always,

Lauren

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The Ghana Chronicles: 14

July 27, 2000

Dear Journal,

This is my last night in Africa.

I can’t believe a month has gone by and it’s time for me to return home.

British Airways just had a crash over France- I’m so nervous about the plane ride over.  I can just see it now.  We finally get finished and we crash on our way back home.

How much would that suck?

Well, at least if I died, I would’ve fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to Africa.

That in itself is just awesome.

Megan and I went back to the orphanage today to make one last visit with the kids.  It was awesome.  I can see all their faces so clearly right now- I hope I never forget them.

I hope I never ever forget this trip.  It has been the most rewarding experience ever.  The most challenging thing but it taught me more about myself than I would’ve ever dreamed of!  I feel so much happier and confident to do anything.

Love,

Lauren

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The Ghana Chronicles: 13

July 20, 2000

Dear Journal,

Well, well, well, the days just keep getting better and better!  I wish they would’ve been this great from the get-go.  I think it will still be nice to go back home.  Before, I was doubtful that I would cry when I had to leave here, but now I can easily see myself balling.

I have been to Africa.  I have travelled across the Great Atlantic, swam its seas and lived some form of their life . . . and how good it felt that I am able to say that!

I’m so glad that I’ve had this last week to kind of process all that I have been through this past month.  Now I can look back and truly appreciate it all.

It’s amazing how much I have learned and how I can laugh at how petrified I was of dying at the very beginning of my trip.

One of the students is leaving the team to go home.  It doesn’t make any sense . . . she’s leaving eight days or less before we’re scheduled to leave and she’s leaving right before the best part of our trip!

I feel sorry for her.  She doesn’t seem to know who she is.  She’s trying to figure it out but it’s taking her a lot of pain and tears to get there.  I have faith that maybe one day she’ll know who she is, what she truly at heart stands for and she’ll be proud of who she is.

As for now, as right as it may feel to leave, I think she may, not regret, but wonder whether the remainder of the trip was worth the wait or not.  Bummer.

It’s funny.  Now that my spirits are up, truly, I am able to see the better sides of Ghana.

Before, I focused on the poverty and pollution and while I acknowledged the fun cultural things like religion and the people, I didn’t/haven’t appreciated it, until now . . . starting now.

It’s amazing to me. . . how happy and nice Ghanaians are- poverty stricken or not, they LOVE JESUS!! While it is fun to watch them in action at a charismatic church and even funnier to act out, I definitely have gained a certain amount of respect for these people.

Their life relies on their faith.  In my host father’s sermon, he talked about not relying on any people- no matter who they are, somehow they will betray you, so you shouldn’t rely on them.

You should only rely on Jesus.  He alone is enough to get you through life.  Giving is better than receiving.  This is another point that was made.  It should feel better to give than to receive.

Overall, Ghanians are friendly people who put their trust, their life into the hands of God. . . and in their eyes, some get lucky and some don’t.  But God has a plan for each one of us.

I can’t wait to write up my presentation.  I can’t wait to tell everyone about this awesome trip.

They’ll never understand fully, unless they make this journey and even for them it may be a completely different experience.

Now. . . if only I could fall asleep. . .

Love,

Lauren

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Me and my host parents July 2000

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