The teacher asked us to take notes.

I had no idea what she meant by that. 

Pauli saw the panic. 

She met me where I was. 

She calmed me down and step-by-step, taught me how.

I will never, ever forget her kindness. 

“Look for the helpers.”  Mr. Rogers said. 

I did. 

And I still am.  

In fact, I’ve become one. 

Camille Vaughan Photography


My car broke down. 

My dusty, musty, rusty ole’ van that has seen 10 years of abuse by children. 

Her rugs are crusted with smashed applesauce. 

Dead bugs lie unreachable on the dashboard but close enough to the windshield that I’ve had the privilege of watching them decay for years. 

And let’s not forget that my youngest proudly carved the first four letters of her name into the side of it at the ripe age of four.  

When faced with the choice of dumping five grand into a vehicle on her final wheels or starting anew, we felt torn. 

Ultimately, finances forced our hand, so to the repair shop our trusty van went, and in our driveway, a brand new loaner car, while we waited. 

So. Many. Buttons. 

The girls had to push them all.  Their eyes twinkled with excitement.

And, I admit.  It was fun while it lasted. 

The new car smell (similar to the allure of a new puppy!).  The magnetic phone charger (game changer). 

But I was annoyed when my car told on my speed so that my children called me out.  I needed my speedometer back.  

And I didn’t need my car to lower my side mirror to see the road when I reversed, thank you very much.  

I lived in a city and can parallel park in my sleep. 

Days went by and as the newness wore off, I realized I missed the familiarity of my old van. 

In the age of “House Hunters” in which we are encouraged to update to keep up with the Joneses, I found myself, instead, revering all that I already have. 

I walked into rooms in my house that I’d previously seen through a critical eye and I smiled.  Grateful for the memories made in each.  

I relaxed. 

No need to trade in.  

No need to keep up.  

Time to maintain.  


“Just pick up fast food!”

My husband was out of town.

Gosh, if only it were that easy.

I feel like I’ve spent adulthood explaining this notion of “privilege” without realizing I’ve even done so. 

Fast food?

That’s privilege, at least for my family. 

We have a child with severe food allergies so “fast food” is not an option.  

Instead, we have to plan painstakingly ahead. 

“You were meant to be her mother.”

Was I, really?

What did I do in my past life to deserve this honor?

That’s what I would like to know. 

It’s not her fault and it’s not mine either, or maybe it is- I don’t even know anymore. 

What I DO know is that giving grace to any and everyone is the very best thing we can ever do. 

Because, how otherwise, could we ever truly know their story?

We cannot. 

So, we give grace. 

Always, we give grace. 

Camille Vaughan Photography


Dear Daughter,

As your grandfather reaches the end of his life, I find myself craving more. 

More time.  More information.  What was his life really like?  How did he come to be who he is today?

So, I figured I’d make it a little easier on you. 

I was born in the early 1980s, when TVs still had antennas, or as we liked to call them: rabbit ears.

If the show was fuzzy, I had to get up and move the rabbit ears to try and get the station back in tune.  

There was no remote. Instead, I had to get up and turn the knob for the very few channels available to us.  

There was no choosing what we wanted to watch.  We watched what the stations offered.

Sometime in the 1990s, we got a tv with a remote and cable which offered a lot more channels.  Still, we found out what was playing by reading the newspaper, The Virginian Pilot, which printed a schedule of shows by the hour.  

I vividly remember channel 99 because we didn’t “subscribe” to that channel but there was a lot of moaning and an occasional boob or two amidst the fuzziness- chaotic, zig-zag lines that perpetually moved down the screen so you couldn’t get a clear view.  I was equally confused and fascinated, wondering what these people were doing. 

Yikes. Now, I know. 

My grandmother had a rotary phone- one where the numbers were displayed in a circle formation and you rotated the dial on the front for each number.  I loved it when someone had a nine in their number because I got to move the dial almost a full 360 degrees!  

We had a phone with a very long cord so that my teenage sisters could walk into another room from the kitchen and close the door to have their private conversations.  

Sometime in the 1990s, the “sneaker phone” was all the rage and boy, you know I had one, too!  It looked like a shoe but was actually a phone (with a cord of course)!  That was the bees knees.  

When I heard a song on the radio that I loved, I had to quickly find a blank cassette tape to record the song if I wanted to be able to hear it again.  Cassette tapes were four inch long plastic cases that held magnetic recording tape.  Sometimes, I accidentally recorded over another song that I loved and there was no going back.  Once it was replaced, it was gone.  

I lost many a tragic recordings to this oversight. 

I also eventually got a boombox that had TWO cassette tape players, which meant I could copy one tape to the other, making “mix tapes” for my friends.  I would create a playlist of my favorite songs, decorate the plastic cover, paper insert and plastic case and give it to them as a  sign of my love and friendship.  It took a long time, so it was a gift from the heart.  

The same went for movies.  We had VHS tapes, not DVDs.  If you wanted to jump to a certain part of the movie, you had to fast-forward.  If you wanted to go back and re-watch, you had to rewind.  It wasn’t as easy as choosing a “scene”, so you really had to want it to make the effort. 

I think that’s what I’m learning from my dad. 

He was born in 1931. 

Everything took more effort, then. 

And even in the 1980s, things took more time. 

Now, it’s faster. 

And yet, I frequently feel the need to slow down. 

Your dad, born in the 1970s, really works hard to keep you all grounded. 

To keep you playing outside.  

Often shoeless. 

So, when things feel too fast.  

Cast off those shoes. 

Head outside. 

Remember where you came from.  

And slow down.  

Dear Daughter,

Stay grounded.  


“This is my dad,”

I introduce my step-dad to my boarding school Headmistress.

“And this is my Dick.”

I introduce my biological father. 

We all inwardly and outwardly cringe.

“I mean, this is Dick.  My father.  Dick Parise.”

Crawl in a hole. Die. I’m 15. Please, just let me go ahead and die.  

Here they both are- a rare moment- both of my fathers.

The one who created me and the one who raised me.

A chuckle. A laugh.  An inward mortification. We move on to pleasantries.  

But then came my wedding less than a decade a later. 

I’d always imagined both of them on each arm. 

But then he said, after their divorce, “You know that would be hard for me.”

I paused and reconsidered the definition of “dad”. 

And then, I walked down the aisle with my father. 


It’s been a lifetime of regret

For a crime I never committed. 

I was born. 

The illegitimate of a love affair. 

Forever, a child, apologizing for my existence. 

I’m so sorry.

And yet, Here I Am.

You’ve welcomed and accepted me, 

Flaws, painful memories and all. 

I’m so sorry. 

I was born. 

It’s been a lifetime. 

But, here I am.

Here I am.

Camille Vaughan Photography


Don’t get me wrong.

I definitely have those pangs.

The weird desire to smell just inside the crevice of their neck, cheek-to-cheek. 

*Inhale* their sweetness.  

Feel their entire fist upon my finger . . . 

But miss those days?

Count me out.  

With four daughters, all I’ve heard is warnings of teenage days to come.

My oldest is only eleven and I’ve had to put my foot in my parental mouth more times than I care to count so I dare not assume I know better than my foremothers.  

But, I admit. . . 

I look forward to the future more than I look longingly backward to their baby days. 

Perhaps it is because I had the opportunity to experience babyhood four separate times.

My friends with twins remind me that although they were awarded double the experience at the same time, they wished they’d had the opportunity over time.  

Lord knows, I got that time- I was pregnant and/or nursing for nine years in a row.

Instead, I revel in witnessing my daughters grow into young women- their passions, insecurities and questions.

I walk alongside, offering assistance as needed and hopping in bed to cuddle when requested.

I have such faith that they will continue to shine

So, forget the mirror.

Hand me my shades.

Here come my suns.

Camille Vaughan Photography


“Have you eaten breakfast?”

I stared at him, confused. 

Milliseconds passed as I wondered what on Earth had prompted my misinterpretation of this question.

Surely he had asked something else. 

I was in the Apple store, after all. 

He must have seen the perplexed look on my face when he followed with, 

“I just know that when we are under stress, we forget to eat.”

I wanted to bawl cry into his arms.

This simple act of human kindness had reduced me to near tears. 

I was there on business. 

My phone battery was dying mid-day, every day and had been for months and now, as I sat by it, waiting for important calls from doctors, it felt more dire than ever. 

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back- the reason I’d finally relented to replace my battery. 

And now I found myself in front of this young man, asking if I had remembered to eat breakfast. 

“Yes.”  I managed.  “I don’t normally, but today, I ate.”

He smiled.

And I left with the reminder that, life or death, humanity perseveres. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

The Golden Door

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

– Emma Lazarus

My father is first generation American. 

Italian, born and bred. 

So, when I graduated high school I asked for proof. 

In other words, bring me to them. 

My relatives.  

We traveled first to Rome. 

A hotel, he’d booked online.

We’d spent exactly two nights ever together in a lifetime and suddenly, 

we were residing in a closet.

On to Naples, Pompeii and Calabria: the place of my grandfather’s birth. 

Rich with olive trees, oil and seven-layer fresh lasagna. 

Here, I bonded with my foreign relatives as I screamed “Aye! Aye! Aye!” on motorbike 

through winding streets, experiencing food like it was the first time.  

Eating “al fresca”, pretending I followed their animated conversation. 

Next, to Sicily where we knocked on many a neighbor door 

until we stood in the room my grandmother was born in 1898.  

I looked around and wondered, “how?”. 

And here I am.

Standing in my father’s hospital room wondering, “how?”

If there was ever a man to give to the tired, the poor, 

Those that needed to breathe and required refuge, 

He’s right here. 

Beside the golden door.

And here I am. 

Standing in my father’s hospital room wondering, “how?”.