Hide

“Are you going to hide them?” My friend asked. 

Well, shit.  

That hadn’t even occurred to me.  

Top of the closet?  Under the bed?

Um, actually, no. 

I have nothing to hide. 

The bottom drawer of my bedside table is full of awesome adult toys and if one or more of my four daughters has the audacity to peek, well then. . . . be careful of what you search for. 

“That’s private.”  I explained to my daughter. 

Case closed. 

But much like when my eldest was no longer content with the minimal basics of procreation, I will never choose to keep my children in the dark. 

We are a home that uses correct terminology. 

Penis.  Vagina.  Breasts.

NOT- wee-wee, hoo-ha, or boobies.

There’s nothing shameful about our anatomy. 

And the sooner we embrace that, the sooner we set ourselves free. 

Fun fact:

After teaching elementary school, I was a Pure Romance Consultant for four years. 

My company’s motto was:  Empower, Educate, Entertain.

And I thrived. 

I walked into a room full of women and quickly thawed the tension with humor. 

I enlightened them with facts I had learned from professors at conferences at Indiana University, the leader in Sexual Health. 

And then I empowered them to own their bodies.  

To ask me questions when we were just one-on-one

And release their fear and shame.

I won’t stop now. 

My daughters will be well-informed.  

Empowered.  Educated.  Entertained (later). 

Nothing to hide.  

Grief

She called it what it is:  

Grief. 

I had never associated that word with what I had been feeling but it all clicked into place. 

Grief can be due to a loss of any kind: a loved one, job, marriage, friendship or a major life change.

What I had been feeling was grief!

I described how desperate I had been to make sense of it all and store it neatly in its box. 

I’m a writer:  I like a good ending.  

And this . . . this just carried on.

I described it as spilled slime.  

Here I was, frantically trying to return the contents to its original container and no matter how hard I tried, it lingered.  

Grief has no blueprint, no timeline.

It’s messy and ugly and nonsensical.

It does not wield to your plans or box. 

It takes its time and you are merely a companion to it.  

Many try to escape its grasp- be it denial, alcohol or busyness.  

Others drown in it. 

And then there’s me- failing to recognize it for what it is. 

Well, hello grief. 

I relinquish my need to control.

I let you take your time. 

I identify you. 

I respect your process. 

And I walk with you 

Until you move along.  

 It is what it is. 

Grief. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

A Life Well Lived

We were born 20 days apart with just 2 houses sitting between our own.  My dad taught him how to swim; his dad taught me how to ride a bike.  

We were always outside, waiting for the tell-tale whistle from his parents at dusk, letting us know it was time to come in for dinner and bed. 

In our early teens, he would climb the tree in front of my house, clamber up the roof and knock.  There was a landing just outside of my window and we would sit there, contemplating life until we were caught.  

His parents had been married just shy of 45 years when his mom succumbed to cancer this past September. 

The funeral was held in late October and just 5 days later, with the fragrance of the funeral flowers still permeating the living room, his dad passed away from sudden cardiac arrest, right into my friend’s arms.  It was two days before their 45th anniversary and we all collectively knew, he had died from a broken heart. 

My mother and I had wept during Mr. White’s eulogy for his wife.  He spoke of their first date- when Mrs. White had invited him to lie underneath a Christmas tree to watch the twinkling lights. 

Mr. White then compared those twinkling lights to the thousands upon thousands of prayers family and friends had sent up to God as cancer ravaged his beloved’s body.

And then, just like that, he was gone, too. 

My friend and I stood in the kitchen where he had administered CPR to his dad, just hours before and we hugged, screamed and sobbed.  At 39 years-old we still felt like children, never ever having been in his parents’ house without them there.  

Shocked and numb, I drove away, contemplating the loss. 

Mr. White’s eulogy had been full of love and awe for his wife and the life they had shared. 

And I wondered, 

“What is a well-lived life?”  

Have I lived one? 

Am I living one?

In this distracted day-in-age, it feels all too easy to lose sight of the most important part of life:

Our connection to others. 

And if that is the meaning of life, 

Then I’ve lived it well.  

Let us all lie under the Christmas tree and watch the twinkling lights. 

The First Step

Have you ever had moments in your life when you feel like time stops?

It’s remarkable. 

It happened once when I was eleven.

And it happened again today when I read a line from an advice column:

“Children of alcoholics are often on high alert trying to anticipate other people’s feelings, so they can try to head off problems or incidents before they become overwhelming.”

The camera of my life came into focus. 

The dots connected. 

And for a moment, time stopped

As my mind rewinded

To the friendships I had ruined by suffocating them with my need to control

And the relationships I had endured because I expected no better.  

My desperate need for security. 

My present-day Type A personality. 

I am a child of an alcoholic. 

And it shows, still today. 

It’s not an excuse. 

But it does help to explain how I came to be. 

And for me, that’s the first step.

Time starts again.

New Leaf Parenting.

Every Day is a Fresh Start.

Original Article: https://www.pilotonline.com/advice/ct-aud-ask-amy-20221215-mgo2iskwwfehneze7tiqqapi6y-story.html

Shine

Recently, I was told that I am “overwhelming” and “exhausting”. 

And the thing is:  it’s not untrue. 

I am 100% both of those things. 

I live life fast and furiously, never wanting to miss a moment or waste a day- including days with zero plans because those often offer the best unplanned fun.  

And I document them!  

Boy, do I document them. 

Because I never want to forget.

But in my hard-life-living, I’ve also experienced personal casualties and wondered, 

“What’s wrong with me?” 

“Am I too much?”

“Am I not enough?”

The doubt creeps in and for a minute I think, “Yes, I should be smaller.”

Then, I remember a poem read to me by a speaker at a conference:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

I *remember* hearing this poem for the first time and the fire that it ignited in me. 

And as a mother of four daughters, 

I’ll be damned if anyone tries to put that out. 

Our girls will not accept mediocrity, if I have anything to do with it. 

They will strive for their best and nothing less.  

And you know why?

Because they are worth it!

Because we all are all worth it!

And because, as the poem says, we are all better when we let our light shine. 

Giving permission for others to shine, too.  

I considered shrinking 

And then I thought better of it.  

Instead, I shine. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Clear

I met him and it was clear, he wasn’t over somebody else. 

I handed him a Dr. Phil book and explained, if you want to be with me, then:

Read and do this. 

It took him a journal and a year, but damn if he didn’t do it.

Afterwards he looked at me and said, “I’ve learned more about myself while I’ve been with you than my entire life.”

Then, years later, I met the girl.

And I fell in love with her, too.

After all, we loved the same man. 

So, it makes sense. 

We started riding the Peloton together- two different states- texting every week to keep each other accountable.  

And in the midst, an unlikely friendship grew.  

Me and my husband’s ex-love.  

Riding, motivating each other to be our very best self.  

After all, we loved the same man.

So, it makes sense. 

I met her and it was clear. 

Growing Pains

“Mommy, it hurts.”  

I wish I could tell her that it stops. 

But it never does. 

Instead, they migrate from the bones to the heart.

From the physical to the emotional. 

These growing pains. 

Just when we think we’re done . . . 

There they are. 

To remind us that we aren’t yet done. 

Growing, that is. 

And when you think of it that way, it makes sense. 

Perhaps instead of dreading 

We should welcome the pains.  

Peel back that layer

And discover what comes next . . .   

Camille Vaughan Photography

Written while listening to Cover Bombs (Odesza Remix) by Nomadic Firs

Listener

Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

We spent K-12 in school learning the basics; 

Yet, somehow they missed informing humans that

They. Are. Not. Done. Growing.

We set a magic number: 

18. 

As if then, we are released to the world, ready to tackle it on our own!

What in the actual world??

Some of us go on to college, graduate or doctorate school. . . .

And some don’t.

Then, what?

We magically become parents who know it all?

No, no, no. 

The trickiest part of parenting for me is the revelation that I am growing right alongside with them. 

Who knew?

We are never done learning. 

There is no final exam. 

Just as they have their epiphanies, I have mine- only wishing I had mine first so that I could have led my children all the wiser.

Is this what they meant when they said ‘Life is not a destination, but a journey.”?

Oh. 

Perhaps, I should have been a better listener. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Fly

Y’all.  

I am in deep. 

These past two months, I have felt like I am trudging through thick, relentless mud.  

I haven’t had a lot to write about lately, simply because I haven’t had a nanosecond of extra time, nor an ounce of inspiration.  

It’s been really hard and really ugly. 

But I am here, writing to celebrate a little crack, a sliver of light that crept through today.

This past March, my youngest, Elizabeth, and I returned to mommy-and-me classes at The Little Gym.  They allowed me to stay alongside with her, even though she was beyond the age three limit.  They understood the impact the pandemic has had on children everywhere and that separating was more difficult than ever.  This Fall, however, it was time for Elizabeth to join the independent three year-old’s class.  

Lord knows, I knew this would be an uphill battle.  With so many health issues, Elizabeth is more dependent on me than most mother-daughter relationships. 

To her, I represent survival. 

For her, I want her to experience the joy of independence.  

We began in September with us sitting outside of class, watching the others play.  Gradually, we made our way into the gym, with her sitting on my lap against the wall.  Later, she would do a forward roll a foot away from me and then with bribery, she would run to an obstacle, complete it and run back to me.  I attempted to leave the room a few times that first month to no avail; instead, biding my time, sitting inside the room, encouraging her to spend more time off my lap.  

Today, for the first time in seven weeks, she completed class with me sitting outside, cheering her on through the picture window.  Fifteen minutes in, I announced to the lobby of parents, “Can we just all take a minute here to celebrate this milestone?!”  And they clapped and cheered right alongside me.  

I have four children and every single one of them has needs, specific to them. 

There were so many days that I wanted to throw in the towel but I am a mother. 

And mothers walk alongside their children.

Nudging, encouraging, lifting.  

Until their children discover the confidence to fly on their own.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Little Things

We moved here seven years ago. 

And there she was with a smile and word of encouragement as she witnessed our family grow from two to three to four daughters, surpassing her own three. 

She reminded me to hold these babies because soon, they would be grown. 

She encouraged me, “You’re doing a great job.”

And when you are a stay-at-home-mom with limited outside exposure, those little words go a long way.  

Once a day, 5-6 days a week, Diane delivered our mail. 

Until today, when I received her handwritten note, announcing the end of an era. 

Her sobs told me she hadn’t expected me to call. 

And I realized maybe she wondered the same thing I did: 

Did I matter to you as much as you did to me?

It’s the little things. 

Human connection. 

That matter.