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

 

The Calling

It’s that little voice.

You know the one I’m talking about.

The one that won’t leave you alone.

That red flag.

That green light.

That nagging feeling.

That encourager.

The relentless pusher.

Lord, you are so annoyed by it sometimes.

JUST GO AWAY.

I don’t want to try something new and different!

I don’t want to leave what I’ve known!

I’m afraid.

But there it is and here you are.

That new job.  That new relationship.  That child.  That move.

And, so long as it is in the direction of progress, it’s our job to listen.

If only we could trust . . . and listen.

 

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Better Together

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You wanted to fish.

I wanted to paddle board.

We respected each other’s desires and handled dinner and bedtime solo with the knowledge that we were doing it for each other.

I returned earlier than expected one evening and you breathed a sigh of relief.

Because, as much as we need our alone time, you and I both know

We’re Better Together.

Happy ninth wedding anniversary, my darling.

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

The Paver

Over the years, quite a few friends, especially those moving, have asked me how I’ve managed to make new friends.

The answers always results in a chuckle and long-winded story of me racing on my bike, knocking on doors, or running down full-term pregnant women to find a connection.

Any connection.

I’ve since realized my spider-webbed childhood is to thank.

4 half-sisters, 1 half-brother, 1 step-sister and 1 step-brother will do that to you.

Fit in.

Make peace.

Be the connection.

Pave the way.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

When You Can, Do

With a 1, 3, 5 and 7 year-old daughter, it’s a common theme in our house: frustration.

We want to be able to do it all, and yet we are confronted with relentless obstacles.

Siblings, spouses, co-workers.

Physical limitations beyond our control.

Emotional capacities we are incapable of attaining.

Situations we couldn’t have fathomed.

The question is not, which wall we will hit, rather, what will we do with it?

This is the lesson I work to teach myself and my daughters.

When you can, do.

We’ve all heard it: You Cannot Do It All.

And yet, like it or not, that’s the relative goal.

It looks different for each, but it all means the same.

Too much, too soon.

We want it now.  We wanted it yesterday.

We want what is unattainable, and want it anyway.

We want love.  We want things.  We want time.

Our desire is the same but our nature demands:

When you can, do.

Do as much as you can, when you can.

And in the meantime, grant yourself and others, grace.

When you can, do.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Promise

It’s been six-and-a-half years since he passed away in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by his wife of over 50 years and three of his children.  On hospice, we knew death was imminent and arrived in town with our five-month-old Aurora in tow, just days before.

It was the first time I’d seen him not awake or talking and thus, the first time he hadn’t said the words to me he’d always said right before we parted ways. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, as if he had a secret he’d been anxious to share with me, he’d call me over and whisper into my ear:  “Take care of my boy.”

In the same way my father gave me away to Emmett on our wedding day, Emmett’s dad entrusted his son to me.  For rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, until death parted us, as it did for him that May day.

So, before the nurses took him away for good, I held his hand, leaned over his face one last time and whispered, “Don’t worry, Bill.  I’ll take care of your boy.”

I always will.

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Where We Belong

I’m the youngest of eight children.

Let’s allow that to sink in for a bit before I explain that I am from a “blended” family.

I’ll never forget, at 6 years-old, when my teacher asked me to draw a family tree.  I looked at her with a blank stare and no idea of where to begin.

How do you explain that you are the illegitimate, love-child of an affair?  Of a mother that already had one and a father that had four?  How do you draw the two-step siblings you later acquired when you were just three-years old?

It was tough to draw but never tough for me to explain.  I always knew my step-dad was my “dad” and my real dad was my “father”.

But not once, not ever, did I know where I belonged.

My childhood was all about trying to find my place.

Where did I fit in?

In elementary school, I attended the meeting for children of divorced parents- but mine had not yet separated.

At home, I found solace in our nucleus of  2+2, until my mom and step-dad divorced when I turned 18 and off to college I went.

My mom sold the house. My step-dad remarried into a family with two new sons and ceased contact with me.

I felt completely lost.

Thanksgiving was no longer spent with the two step-siblings I had called my brother and sister.  Christmas with my half-sister was shared with her father.  And holidays spent with my father’s four children had never been done.

Where did I belong?

I searched.  For many years, I looked for his face, his warmth and the security of his embrace.

And finally, I found him.

My husband.

And together, we created where I’ve belonged, all along.

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Recognition

“I just want you to know, I see how hard you’re working.  I appreciate you, babe.  We need you.”  He said to me as I plopped down on the couch, after a second failed attempt to put the baby to bed.

And it occurred to me, that’s all anyone ever needs.

To be seen.  To be heard.  To be understood.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve never once exchanged a gift on our wedding anniversary.  It doesn’t matter that we haven’t been on a date in many months.

What matters is that we recognize one another.  Through words. Through a quick rub of the shoulders during dinner preparations.  With a brief glance and smile in acknowledgment.

It’s a simple thing, really.  With the huge payout of an everlasting love.

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Dee Akright Photography

Stolen Moments

15 minutes here, 5 minutes there. A survival technique, part of our evolution as a growing family, these stolen moments sustain and fulfill us.

It began with an infatuation.  Absorbing one another like the Vitamin D saturating our skin on those endless beach days.  The dust settled in my apartment as my toothbrush claimed precious real estate on his bathroom sink.  His place became ours.

Time passed, my belly grew.  Date nights peppered our calendar, gradually lessening in frequency as my belly grew, grew and grew again. We treasured time together on the couch if we managed to get all of them asleep before we turned in, ourselves. If not, a quick kiss or a lingering hug sufficed.

Time with mommy became time with sissies. Mommy & Me music class turned into a dance party after breakfast, time at the salon to painting nails on our bathroom floor. Time with mommy became precious.

Not as long, no.  Not what it used to be.

Instead, richer, full of more hearts, sharing the beat of the same bloodline.

Stolen moments layering the patchwork of our years.

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Camille Vaughan Photography