Lemonade

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You know the saying, “When life hands you lemons . . . ”  It’s a saying that was branded into every fiber of my body at a very young age; a side effect of having a mother who traveled the country as a motivational speaker.  Growing up, no setback was too high for me to overcome.  “No one can make you feel a certain way.  You choose how you allow others to impact you.”

It’s great advice, most of the time.  But sometimes . .  sometimes. . . life hands you lemons and they are sour and bitter and no amount of sugar can turn them into lemonade.

As someone who has been raised to always find the silver linings, this realization doesn’t sit well with me.  I constantly search for the good in any crappy situation, even if it takes years to discover it.

But what do you do when you are rendered helpless in situations that are completely out of your control?  Cancer. Car accidents. Infidelity. Violent crimes. Natural disasters. Infertility. PTSD. Abandonment. Mean people. Death.

As much as you try to focus on all of the good that you have to be thankful for in your life, sometimes, a terrible situation is just that and there’s no pot of gold to be found.

It’s a tough pill to swallow- this notion that it’s not going to get better.  That it’s not going to work out the way you thought it would.  And that this bad thing is not going to politely go away so you can drink your lemonade and move on with your life.

Instead, it becomes one of “the things we carry”.  Unable to place it in a box and set it on the top shelf of our closet, it is with us wherever we go, like a meddlesome pebble caught in our shoe.

If we focused on it all of the time, we literally would be rendered helpless.  So we trudge onward, painfully recognizing it when something triggers a reminder.

I used to believe my mother, that nothing was beyond our capacity to overcome.  But now, I realize that some things are not made to be good.  Like the bad spot on a banana, you can eat around it, but it’s not going to make it go away.  A bad spot is a bad spot is a bad spot.

And it’s good and healthy to call it what it is as opposed to forcing yourself to drink lemonade when you fucking hate lemonade.

It’s a lemon. It’s sour. And bitter. And sad.  And we carry them wherever we go.

 

No Regrets

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It’s too painful to imagine, so usually, we don’t.  And yet, by the time it happens, we wish we had spent a little more time thinking about it because if so, perhaps we would have done things a little differently.

We would have slowed down.  We would have cherished the moments and days.  We wouldn’t have sweated the small stuff so much.

So why do we wait?

I had a surprising situation happen to me at a party last night.  Someone I never would have expected, told me they read my blog and love it.  It meant the world to me.  I don’t write for the money (I don’t make any) or for the praise.  I write to understand and I share so that someone else out there may feel that they aren’t alone.

But it dawned on me- what if this person had never told me they read my work?  What if I suddenly passed away, like a friend of mine did recently?  Would they have regretted not telling me that my words touched them?  Why do we live with these regrets?

Perhaps it is because we are, indeed, too busy.  There’s simply no way to do it all.  And it would be depressing to think about death all of the time.  But there are small things we can do.

One of which, is to frequently and emphatically tell people what they mean to us.  A phone call, a text, a written letter.  Just one person a week.

It felt amazing to be given a compliment and has inspired me to pay it forward.  To begin 2018 with praise and without regret.  That’s one resolution, I intend on keeping.  Cheers to that.  Cheers to you.  Keep reading.  I’ll keep writing. Happy, Happy New Year 🙂

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

‘Tis the Season

Pine straw.

That’s all it took to absorb our 20 month-old daughter’s attention for one whole hour.

We had a house full of the newest, brightest and loudest toys that occupied Aurora for a few minutes a piece, and yet here was my mother-in-law on our back porch, helping her slide pine straw through the cracks of our deck.

My husband and I watched from the window in disbelief and almost irritation.  How could it be so simple?

The holidays are here and with it, the catalogs in the mail and the ads on the internet and tv. “Hurry, before it’s too late!” they warn.  “Limited Edition”, “Hot Toys”, “Sale Ends Soon!”.

Buy, Buy, Buy.  More, More. More.

Some people are even going so far as to buy out entire stocks of a store, only to turn around weeks later and sell them at a profit to desperate parents.

Is this really what this season is about?

We are certainly pressured into thinking so.

We are programmed to believe we must have this item for our loved one to be happy.

Pardon me, but what a load of crap!

Ask a survivor of a terrible house fire, and they will tell you that if their family and pets survived, then, aside from heirlooms and keepsake memories, they feel “lucky”.

Ask someone on their deathbed what they would wish for if they could have anything at all.

The answer would be time.

Not the flashy gadget inside the house, instead, the time it takes to slowly weave pine straw through the cracks.

The personal connection, the conversation, the one thing that we we cannot store- time.

‘Tis the season of giving.

As you find yourself sucked into the rush of the holidays, take a moment to slow down and recognize that so long as we have those we cherish, we already have enough.

And when you go to the store and find that “hot item” sold out, replace it with the gift that cannot be bought or sold- time, spent with you.

 

 

Day Off

It’s 5 P.M. and I have decided I’m taking the day off, today.  Between the Kindergartener crying before school, the toddler’s epic battle at nap time and the almost 4 year-old locking us all out of the bathroom, I’m declaring myself done for the day.

My patience level is at a negative zero and I’m tired of expecting myself to somehow dig out another ounce.  Today, I just want to go back to being me before children.  It’s impossible I know, and not something I’m going to want once I see them all sleeping peacefully on the baby monitor later, but right now, I just want to pretend that I don’t have to always think about my actions all of the time.

I don’t want to set any more examples today of how to keep your cool when you really want to blow your lid.  I don’t want to care about many bites of healthy food they eat, how much screen time they are getting, or the size of their poop in the potty.

I’m dreaming of binge-watching my favorite TV shows, of long, uninterrupted phone conversations, and eating junk food without having to hide it.  I’m going to imagine myself sleeping until it gets boring, reading until I get a headache, and shopping in a speciality boutique store just because I can.

Tomorrow, I’ll grab my coffee and get back on the parent horse- making sure my kids eat their protein for breakfast, clean up after themselves, and behave like good citizens.  But today, I’m giving myself a break.  I’ll go through the motions tonight to feed them and get them to bed, but if all hell breaks loose, I. don’t. care. because. I’m. done. today.  Join Me!

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Pre-Baby Days

My Children, My Teachers

“Honour thy father and thy mother.” One of the 10 Commandments. Most of us were raised to regard our parents as our superiors.  “Because I said so” is an oh-so familiar phrase in most households. We consider our children OURS. They belong to us. It is our job to guide them.

But what if we, instead, regard our children as our teachers?

I’ve been reading a great deal of parenting books this summer: The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family both by Dr. Shefali, The Whole Brain Child by Drs. Siegel and Bryson are just a few. Very honestly, I typically feel resistant to pick them up and read them. I fight a feeling of eye-rolling, as if to say “Don’t I do enough, already? I hardly have time to read as it is, do I really want to spend my time thinking more about my children?” And yet, I am left with a sense of clarity after every page. A tiny shift in perspective that feels like a fresh breath of air.

Instead of only focusing on the wisdom we have to bestow on our offspring, what if we opened our heart to the lessons they are teaching us every day? For instance, patience. Slowing down so they can keep up when we walk, slowing down our speech so they can understand, slowing down our schedules so that we have time to marvel at their magnificence. Slowing down when we rush them to get their shoes, jackets and seatbelt on. Witnessing them learn. Viewing the wonder of the world from their eyes.

Or how about our capacity to love? Our hearts have never experienced a love this fierce. We love them so much that when they disappoint us we feel it personally within our own hearts, as if it is a reflection of us. Perhaps it is. Perhaps rather than focusing our anger on them, we could open our hearts to the lesson it has taught us on how to be a better parent. Perhaps we could learn to love ourselves as much as we love them.

Forgiveness. Murderers have parents who still love them, in spite of their evildoings. Maybe we can learn to forgive others or even ourselves with the grace we give our own children.

When we start to witness our children as our teachers, we release the pressure of parenting perfectly. We wait, we watch, we consider and we enjoy.  We grow as they grow and love them not only for who they are, but also for all they have taught us.

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Pruning

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Pruning- “Trim by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.”*

Pruning is a task that is not fun to do and yet is so fun to watch the effect of having done so. A flowering bush once weighed down with too many blossoms, some way past their prime, returns to its glory with new buds, intoxicating the surrounding air with its fresh fragrance.

We know this to be true of plants, so why is it so hard for us to prune the rest of our life?

Old relationships that we’ve dragged along, just because we’ve always done so.

Extra-curriculars that helped us at one time but now seem to be an extra burden.

We add and add to our plate without ever taking-away and we find ourselves drowning.

Perhaps it is because we are afraid.  What if we need that dead blossom one day?  What will our life look like without it?

We will never know until we let go.

We must take the chance of channeling our energy into that which is thriving- new buds, new life that bring with it the sweetest of fragrances and the relief that we are truly focusing on that which is growing, not that which is past its time.

Grab your shears.  Take a look at your life as a whole.  Where do you want to focus your energy and growth?  What do you need to let go of?

Make the cut and feel the sweet relief of pruning.

 

*Oxford University Press. The Oxford American College Dictionary. Published G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002.

 

Harmony

Is it just me or is your mind running?

Can’t sleep, can’t stop thinking about that thing that keeps you tossing and turning.

What to do?  What to say?  How to react?

I don’t know about you, but for me, I’m always seeking peace and harmony.

And what I’ve learned is that you *cannot* control the other person or party.

You have power in your words and actions.

So I send love, peace and harmony.

And expect nothing in return.

Because it’s not about that.  It’s about what I have to give.

And at the end of the day, I choose what I receive.

Love, Peace, and Harmony.

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Camille Vaughan Photography 

 

 

Hibernation

It happens, often following a tumultuous period. The retreat. The silence and solace in solitude. Time to hide and heal. Time to regroup and regain strength. Time to hibernate.

Time passes and slowly, we peek our heads out from our shells. Testing the waters, finding our groove.

Timid at first but eventually, we find the energy to overcome and return.

To the sunlight. The fresh air. The breeze. The journey.

Take your time, unapologetically, and in time, you will resurface.  Born again.

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Camille Vaughan Photography 

The Comfort of Wrinkles

I wish my mind could draw a picture for you, of the hand that is so familiar to me.  It’s feminine, thin, elderly, bony.

I asked her if my hands would look like that if I kept playing the piano and she laughed.  But here’s the secret:  I wanted them.

Those hands represented practice.  They represented wisdom.  They sounded like soulful music and felt like velvet.

Mary Brooke taught me piano for 5 years but her wisdom endures.

Age is beauty.  It is fortune.  It is wealth.

Mature hands represent years lived.  Years practiced.

Wrinkles are beautiful.  Wrinkles are comfortable.

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My inspiration, my dad! 

The Includer

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An outsider.  A wannabe.  A poser.  Me, ages 8-15.  A tattletale.  A teacher’s pet.  A follower.

They called me “mosquito bites” for my budding breasts and wrote L.D. on my shoes before I even knew what “learning disabled” meant.

I befriended some of the bullies in later years and they asked why I always brought up the past- I didn’t have an answer then but now I know.  While my past does not define me today, it shaped the person I have become: an includer.

It’s understandable why someone might rather forget the painful things that happened to them in the past; however, it is by working through these memories, we are better able to understand the lessons they have taught us.  If we focus solely on our anger, regret, or sadness, we miss the phoenix that rose from the ashes- we fail to recognize ourselves as survivors with the ability to overcome and become better because of it.

But not all of us do- it is only by conscious choice.  By remembering.  By observing our behaviors since.  How did those things affect the way we speak and act now, even subconsciously?

I didn’t have an answer for the person who teased me, then, but I have an answer now.

I bring up those painful memories because I realize that the loneliness I felt when I was in middle school is something I never want anyone else to ever feel.  I relive the tears spilled in an effort to empathize with the blackest sheep in the room.  I find some way to welcome them- some common ground.  I want them to know they are not ignored, they are noticed and they matter.  They are important to someone.

Five years out of teaching, I can now say I think that is why my students loved me.   Because I loved them.  I met them where they were and I celebrated them for who they were and wanted to become, regardless of how vastly it differed from me.

And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it hadn’t been for my miserable formative years.

I am no longer an outsider.

I am an includer.