Big Picture

I felt the familiar pull.  The downward spiral. The fall. The loss of control. The pieces of my life that remained in the wake of my breakdown.

Too much, too soon.

I wanted it all and I was tired of waiting so I forged ahead at a breakneck pace, shattering ceilings along the way.

I gave up my career as a teacher to stay home with our first daughter but picked up a part-time sales consulting job when she was just 6 months.  I was successful and I felt driven, until it was more than our family could handle.  I gave it up when my third daughter was 6 months.

Three years passed and I felt restless, eager to grab an opportunity to work as a consultant for a publisher of children’s books that I adored.  I reassured myself and my husband that I could manage it all,  but I failed to consider my innate drive to share my passion, gaining business and momentum along the way until it became more than we could manage.

That’s when I plummeted.

Feeling trapped.  Unable to explore my professional potential.  And guilty for feeling that my children were getting in the way.

Until I remembered that moment in our kitchen when we chose to try for our fourth baby.

I realized that in that choice, I was choosing her.  I was choosing my family.  That I’ve had control all along.

I just needed to see the big picture.

These days feel long but the years are short.

I didn’t give up my profession.  I chose one: Mothering.

And how lucky I am to be able to make that choice.

Big Picture.

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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

Hurricane

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Like, seriously.  What in the actual $*&% am I supposed to do.

A real hurricane is headed our way and yet, I already feel like I am in one.

How many fires a day can one firefighter endure before she needs a break?

So many little personalities, so many big needs.

The demands seem insurmountable.

Until I remember where I’ve been.

And how much more challenging it truly can be.

So, I cry.  I mourn my inability to juggle it all.  To feel like a “good” mom.

And I focus, instead, on what I do have.

A family.  A free country. Health. Resources.

I exhale.

And I begin again.

All Was Well

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20 months apart, it appeared nothing could separate them.

Until our third arrived.

The eldest went to school, leaving the middle to be a big sister on her own for the very first time.

She took it lovingly and ever-so-seriously, out of which an unbreakable bond was formed.

The Middles.

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#2 and #3, inseparable, especially when #1 returned from school.

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So, we had # 4 . . .

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and all was well, again.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Dreams

You wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom.

I reassured, you were no safer than your comfortable bed.

Shaking and sobbing, you wouldn’t believe me until I explained:

It’s not my job to hold your fears.

Rather,

It’s my responsibility to cheer you on.

To remind you that your courage comes not from me, but from within.

That there, is where you discover your dreams.

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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

 

Learning to Live with Gratitude

I had a “Come to Jesus” moment with my eldest daughter today.

I had just picked her up from a surprise playdate at her best friend’s house and was immediately met with discontent and complaint after complaint.  In less than five minutes, she had racked up six grievances.

I hit my limit.

This “ungrateful heart” is nothing new with our privileged child.  The majority of the time, she is sweet, imaginative and fun. She plays outside more than in, reads more books than she watches a screen, and is a stranger to none.  She has always been the teacher’s favorite- kind and a rule-follower.

But when she gets home, she lets herself go.

Upon entering the house, I listed the six things she had managed to complain about in the 90 second ride from our neighbor’s house in one column, and sat down to have her list what she could have and excuse me, should have said instead.

I drew a picture of a half-full glass of lemonade and discussed its meaning in detail.

It’s difficult for a child that has so much to understand what it means to be disappointed. But it does not excuse her from living with an ungrateful heart.

I vow to do more community service with her.  If she is always fed, at least she can help serve meals to those who are not.  If she is always under a warm roof, at least she can hand a blanket to someone who isn’t.

In the meantime, as long as she is under this roof, she will recognize her actions and strive to do better.  To say thank you often– to the cashier, the mailman, the janitor, the nurse, the teacher, her friends and her family.  To be aware that although yes, the glass is half-empty, to focus on the half that is full.  To live with a grateful heart.

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