Reach

I was screaming.

Lying on the dance studio floor, lights out, next to a dozen other students, screaming as loud as my lungs would allow for my lost mother, father, sister and brother.

It was my sophomore year of high school and my best friend Harper had talked me into my first-ever audition for the Fall dramatic play, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”, based on a little girl’s experience at the concentration camp in Terezin.  To the surprise of many, and yet mostly myself, I landed the lead role:  Raja Englanderova.

It became a defining moment in my life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a hypersensitive heart.

Long ago, when it rained, I used to tape plastic containers over the top of the ant hills that formed along the walkway to our house.  I didn’t want them to drown.

And when another experienced a loss, it felt like my own.  I mourned, as if I had known them well, too.

I felt deeply but was mocked, shamed and criticized for it.

They thought I wanted attention, when all I ever really wanted was to lend my oversized heart.

To reach.

I ended up leading two more plays in high school and when it came time to graduate, I asked my drama teacher to write me a parting note.

And what he said has never left me:

“Give to the world your deeply felt heart.”

Well, World, here it is!

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Do. The. Things.

OMG y’all.

Is it just me or are you also wondering what in the world has happened in the last 2 months?

Like, wait. . . what??

Life, as we knew it stopped. Dead.  In its tracks.

Forced to adapt and left to wonder, what have we left undone?

I spend half of my parenting life wondering if I am doing too much to entertain my children and the other half anxious for them to age enough to take them to the big places  I really want us all to go- National parks, once-in-a-lifetime shows, international landmarks, etc.

I revel in the tender moments of playing matchbox cars on the IKEA shag bath mat that has become my 4 year-old’s holy grail.  Seriously, there is no other place she’d rather wrap herself up in and/or park her 50 hot wheels inside the folds.  Weird and yet still, oddly endearing.

10 minutes later, I’m dreaming of our entire crew camping, mountainside. Ready to hike, ready to roast, ready to inhale that incomparable fresh air.

As I reflect on life before Covid-19, I realize, I don’t have much to regret.  The family adventures I dragged my homebound husband on that our kids still talk about.  The garden at home he’s helped them to cultivate.  They are all part of our story up until this point.

I suppose Covid-19 is our wakeup call.

How do we really want to spend our unspecified time?

When are we going to stop waiting to do-the-things?

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These Days

I do not have a plan.
 
Let’s let that sink in for a minute.
 
Tomorrow is Monday.  I am a previous elementary school teacher with a Masters in Pk-6 education and a doctorate in perfection and I have no idea what I am doing tomorrow.
 
I do not have a beautiful color-coded schedule from 8-5 of what the heck my kids will be doing tomorrow.
 
In fact, as I type, my 1 year-old is completing losing her mind on the baby monitor because she is smack-dab in the middle of a nap and overall-sleep-for-the-greater-good-of-human-kind strike.
 
I’ve vaguely discussed the lack of school for the next month with my kids. I entertained the idea of me becoming “Mrs. Carawan” to the point that they want me to dress the part.
 
Yes, I know from experience that kids thrive on schedules.
 
But life with 4 kids?
 
Is anything but.
 
If I am being completely honest, schedules and expectations let me down these days.
 
Best to make loose plans and adjust as needed.
 
In fact, isn’t that what the world needs most now?
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Camille Vaughan Photography

But What Do We Do With It?

Today, millions are mourning the death of the passengers aboard the helicopter carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13 year-old daughter.

The response seems right in line with any shocking news: Life. Is. Short. Live each day to its fullest.  Tell those you love that you love them.  Apologize before it’s too late. Don’t take today for granted.

But what does that truly look like for people around the world?

The thoughts are moving but the reality of taking my dream vacation today is unreachable.

So, now what?

I crawled into my attic to retrieve the mementos I’ve saved in my lifetime, curious as to what I considered important.

And, you know what I found?

Pages.

Pages and pages of what I’ve written since I could write.

And photographs.

Thousands of prints.

My treasures.

Meaningless to few others than myself, but invaluable to me.

It begs the questions:

What do you treasure?

What are you going to do with it?

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Waves

It’s a little window of time.

Filled with excitement, mixed with worry, mixed with wonder.

Waiting at the airport.

Waiting for the call.

Waiting for the kiss.

Waiting for the letter.

Waiting for the pass.

Waiting for the decision.

Waiting for the ring.

Waiting for Santa.

Waiting for the next contraction.

Waiting for the fish.

Waiting to begin the journey.

Waiting.

Anticipation.

And then . . .

and then. . . .

it’s over.

Until the waiting begins again.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Buried Relics

 

The holidays are here and with it a storm of emotions.

Joy, anticipation, dread, and resentment all in the same room mixed with a warm and fuzzy expectation.

For some, it is a time to celebrate.

For others, sadness and anger dominates.

And yet, regardless of our buried relics, this season demands a cease fire.

Patience in the face of indignation.

Understanding in place of incredulity.

Kindness over judgement.

Because on Christmas of 1914, even the Germans and the British ascended their trenches to sing Christmas carols.

And if they can, so can we.

 

 

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Camille Vaughan

 

Small Things

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You see a small girl in big, white boots and I see so much more.

I see the discarded shoes belonging to her three sisters and the slippers belonging to her granny.

I see the matchbox car parked next to the princess toys that define my third-born.

I see my husband’s favorite sweatshirt hanging from the coat rack.  We have no idea how we acquired this sweatshirt.  It just appeared in our house one day and has yet to leave his side.

The nightlight represents the light that chases away my daughters’ fear of the dark.

And that white Tupperware from the 70s belonging to my mother-in-law and filled with flour is temporarily sitting on the bench to make room for all of the Thanksgiving sides in the refrigerator.

A picture is a thousand words.

So look closely at yours.

Because the small things aren’t worth missing.

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