Notice

Have you noticed?

I do not consider myself a “current’ person but if you are on any kind of social media these days you have witnessed Ryan Reynlod’s reaction to his wife Blake Lively’s dress transformation. 

It’s straight out of one of his movies. 

Moving.  What dreams are made of. 

The moment was magnificent.  They are both extraordinarily beautiful, stunning people.

But what about the rest of us?

I vacuumed out my disgusting van while also prepping lunches, dinner and teacher gifts.  

He mowed the lawn, took out the trash and fixed Harper’s fan.

And yet I did not stop dead in my tracks to ogle him. 

Welcome to reality. 

It’s not extraordinary or sexy. 

It’s so completely normal that I am literally closing the stinky trash-can lid as I type.  

But the fantasy has us. 

And what’s wrong with that?

Because without fantasy, what have you?

Reality. 

It’s easier to dream than live. 

Have you noticed? 

Camille Vaughan Photography

40

I started and stopped. 

Some things are just too complicated to try and explain. 

But he looked at me and said, “Talk to me.” 

So, I told him. 

I explained how I had spent a lifetime trying to make sense of who I am today, based on my upbringing. 

I grew up dead-center-middle of a fractured family and as a result, I had built a life of trying to prove myself.  

I did this by being whatever the other person needed me to be. 

In other words, I had never found myself because I was too busy trying to be what anyone else needed. 

And this carried on through adulthood. Through friendships.  Through motherhood.  Through marriage. 

Oh, how easy it is to get lost in being whatever your children need.  Why else would there be an “empty nest syndrome”? 

But it was the marriage that had me, at the current moment. 

“What do you love about me?” I point-blank asked him. “Aside from the fact that we have similar interests and I don’t complain about you fishing . . . “

I asked him not to respond right away because I wanted a genuine answer. 

Do you love me because I am who you need me to be?

Or do you love me because of who I am?

In other words, do you see me?

Even when I can’t?

I’m soon celebrating the Eve of 40- an age I cannot *wait* to reach because finally, you just don’t give a damn anymore.  

And I. am. so. ready. 

To stop trying and to start just being. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Forever Learning

I remember thinking, “No one taught me this.”

It began with the simplicity of taking notes.

I was a brand-new student at a Maryland boarding school.

We’d been asked to “take notes” on a couple of chapters. 

I looked like a fish-out-of-water when an experienced junior came to my rescue and offered to teach me.  

Her name was Pauli and she taught me how to highlight and write. 

Fast-forward to meeting my future-husband and his mother, Betty. 

She’d made a career as a homemaker. 

I’d never known one.

I started taking notes. 

How to cook, how to make a home feel like home. 

Four children later, I’m still taking notes. 

How to listen, how to heal. 

No one taught me this.

But I’m forever learning.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Catching Up

She wouldn’t respond. 

Instead, she seemed to crawl as far into her shell (me) as physically possible. 

“What’s your name?”  “What’s your favorite color?” “Can I get a high-five?” 

All met with the same response. 

Eventually, I faced her and explained, “When someone asks you your name, you say, ‘My name is Elizabeth.’  When they ask you your favorite color, you tell them.”

A light-bulb went off- for both of us. 

Elizabeth’s entire life has been permission-based.  She does not try a new food, unless explained-by-me that it is safe for her to eat.  

And as the youngest of four sisters, she has always looked to others to lead the way. 

So it finally made sense, why she had never responded before: she had never been told to.

And it finally made sense to her, that is was ok to respond. 

She was simply catching up. 

I shared this revelation with a friend of mine  and her response, more-or-less was, 

“Well, yeah.”  

We dove into a conversation about our childhoods, how they’ve shaped us and ultimately how different they were. 

Her military-based family traveled. 

But her mother was always there and my friend always felt seen, supported and loved.

My mother traveled and always asked if I knew how much she loved me, for her own reassurance.

I realized, no one ever taught me, like they taught my friend. 

I’ve always just figured it out, on my own. 

I left home at 15 for boarding school, never to return home. 

I married at 27, had a child by 29

Making my own sense.

Exploding lightbulbs.

Catching up. 

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. 

Get Back Up

Ever feel like it’s too much?

Do you feel like you’re not enough

When you feel like it’s gonna take forever?

Yeah, I swear I know what it’s like

To feel alone at the end of the night

Maybe you don’t know it, but it gets better

It’s gonna be alright

I’m never gonna leave your side

It’s gonna be alright

Everybody falls down, all the way down

You just gotta hold on tight

You gotta get up, gotta get up

Gonna make it through this time

-“Falls” by Odesza

Recently, our family has faced some very trying challenges, leaving my husband and I to throw our hands up and wonder how we can possibly get back up and keep going. 

It’s been a minute since I’ve ridden my Peloton bike but today, motivated by a friend, I got back on.  When this song played, I burst into tears and rode through them, letting the music and lyrics wash over me and plant its wisdom deep within my soul. 

Feeling like an outsider? 

It’s gonna be alright.

Feeling overwhelmed?

You just gotta hold on tight. 

Feel like giving up?

You gotta get up because you’re going to make it through this time. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Back

Her name was Linda Houghten but I called her “Linda Hoe” because I hated her with a passion.

My mom was inherently a saver. As a child, we lived on bare minimums so that my mom could put enough away for a better future. She was the CEO of a software company- a black sheep in a male-dominated industry. She was inspirational. A badass. When business was struggling, she and my step-dad went without paychecks to keep the company afloat but her savings stayed put.

Her scrimping paid off- the business became extremely successful and so was she- a sought-after keynote speaker across the country. So, when she finally had saved enough to redecorate our 80K house, she hired the best.

Enter Linda Houghten.

The woman who wanted to change everything.

Generally, I’m not a vindictive or hateful person. I think carrying hate is more exhausting for the bearer than the target. But if I were to see Linda in person right now, I can’t say I’d give her a hug.

And it’s all because she made our house more beautiful.

My mom’s bedroom looked like a hotel room, so did our living room.

Patterns, slip-covers, window-treatments- the whole works.

I hated it all because it was change.

I’m the kid that cried when our area code changed from 804 to 757. I’m the kid that used to tape plastic containers over the ant hills when it rained because I couldn’t bear to witness their hard word ruined in a flash.

Consistency felt safe. Change felt terrifying.

So when it came to my piano bench? I stood my ground.

She wanted to cover it with a floral material.

Hell-to-the-no.

My mom could see the hair rising on my back and knew when to fold.

No, the piano that my father had gifted me would not be touched.

And I’mmatellyallwhat-

Victory was mine.

I’d lost the rest of the house, but I’d won what deeply mattered to me:

My mom had my back.

Life Speaks

Studio City, CA.

A job as a scriptwriter with Dreamworks Entertainment. 

That is where I was headed the Summer of 2005. 

I had the roommate, the apartment and the moving van ready to go. 

And then I pulled the plug two weeks before I was due to leave. 

Was it the boy from Jersey that I was in love with?

Was it cold feet?

Or was it intuition?

They say hindsight is 20/20. 

But here’s what I know. 

I ended up moving in with a family of four children. 

I enjoyed helping the first grader learn how to read and after moving back to my hometown, decided to shadow a teacher to see if it would be a good fit for me. 

I ended up getting a Masters in Elementary Education Pk-6 and later, using it to homeschool my own children. 

And lookie-here.  

I’m still writing. 

Maybe not moving to Cali was a mistake. 

Maybe I’d be rich and famous! 

But I’d like to think that I’ve always had a keen sense of self. 

The ability to get quiet and listen. 

And what I heard back then was, “Don’t go.”

As a result, I met my husband.  I had these four beautiful daughters.  I became a teacher and remained a writer. 

Perhaps the best stories in life aren’t fiction, but our very own.  

Life speaks. 

Me as “Sissy” in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean , 2000

Lucky

Here’s a funny thing about being a piano player. 

Whenever you rest your hands, they are perpetually “in position”. 

I started to play when I was three, got my first piano at nine years old and still play to this day, as do my four daughters. 

I’ll never forget the moment I asked my piano teacher, Ms. Brooks, “How did you get those veins?”. 

She laughed but the truth was, I wanted those veins.  I wanted those wrinkles.  

They represented age and experience, two things I, the youngest of eight children, yearned for. 

This weekend I will turn 38 years young. 

I look down at my hands and notice the telltale signs of aging and honest-to-God, I feel so lucky.

I’ve lived this many years and if I’m lucky enough, I’ll live just as many more!

To me, wrinkles are beautiful and should be worn as a badge of honor. 

Not everyone is so lucky. 

And at 38, more than anything else, that is what I feel: lucky. 

How did she get those wrinkles?

By living that long. 

If only we could all be so lucky.

Today

Want to hear the best thing ever?

There’s no right way. 

That’s it!

That’s all!

We are all going to die. 

Some of us sooner than others, 

So you know what?

Let’s LIVE IT. 

Let’s stop waiting for then. 

The right time. 

Because for some of us, 

It’s never going to come. 

Instead, here we are, so why wait?

There’s no time to lose. 

There’s no time to wait. 

Carpe Diem! 

There’s no right way. 

But there is today. 

Camille Vaughan Photography