Discovering Your Voice

It amazes me how much we take for granted on a daily basis.  It isn’t until we injure our toe that we recognize how much we failed to appreciate it fully-functioning.  The same could be said for a heater in winter or a dependable car.  But perhaps the thing we take for granted most is our voice.

Recently, my girls and I visited a children’s play place.  I typically only frequent these madhouses during “off” times- anyone interested in a 3 PM dinner?  See you at Chick-Fil-A.  My strategy is part small-talk avoidance combined with reduced noise level and chaos for my 2, 4 and 6 year-old girls to navigate.  Nonetheless, there’s no way to totally avoid socialization unless we stay home and since I’m not trying to raise my daughters in a bubble, I embrace these encounters for what they are: learning opportunities.

So when an 18 month-old recently took particular interest in my social-anxiety-ridden 4-year-old, I prepared my lesson.  To any outsider, it was adorable.  A little blue-eyed, towheaded boy recognized himself in our Harper’s similar features and grabbed a hold of her hand.  To her credit, Harper attempted to roll with it until he refused to let go and followed her no matter how far she ran.  With pleading eyes, she looked to me for help.

A few weeks later, in a different establishment, I was alarmed to hear my two-year old crying for the third time in twenty minutes.  Since the play place was three stories tall with covered tube slides too small for my 9 month-pregnant butt to crawl into, I couldn’t figure out what had happened during the first two instances, but at the third outburst, the sibling of a child explained her sister had pinched my little Emma, for no apparent reason.  Later, in the car, after discussing it with my older two girls, it was revealed that this same child had hit my four and six year old on the head at the bottom of the slide.

I asked what they did in response and they said they ignored her and kept on playing.

Although I’m proud my girls aren’t tattle-tales who cry over the smallest infraction, I immediately thought of the #metoo movement and recognized how imperative it was for me to ensure my girls knew that it is OK and IMPORTANT for them to use their voice.

I could see it in Harper’s face- she didn’t want to hurt the little boy’s feelings by asking him to stop holding her hand.  And I knew my eldest didn’t want to disrupt the balance of play by complaining about the head-hitting but isn’t this what the #metoo movement is all about?  Women afraid to speak up because of the potential repercussions?

I recognized right then and there that being encouraged to use their voice was something that had to be explicitly taught at a very young age.  I was struck at the realization that I had assumed my girls would know what to do in those situations and cringed at the thought of ever telling them to “ignore” or “get over it” and keep playing.

I looked at my girls square in the face and explained, “Your body is YOUR body.  It belongs to you.  If someone ever hits you or touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you must use your VOICE to tell that person to stop.”

I continued with an example.

“When that little girl hit you, you had every right to say, ‘That hurt me.  Do not do that again.  If you do, I will not play with you.'”

Simple. And yet why does it feel so hard to stand up for ourselves?  I explained that if the girl or hand-holding little boy continued, then my girls should find an adult to help, just as a woman in a workplace should seek the assistance of her boss.

These things we take for granted must not be overlooked any longer.  I feel so fortunate that my daughters are growing up in the midst of the #metoo movement, when women are empowered to come forward after years of silence.  The fact of the matter is, though, many of these women did go to their bosses and were punished as a result, taught to remain silent.

No more.  No longer.  We will teach our children to use their voice so that silent acquiescence becomes the thing of generations past.

“Another thing,” I told them.  “We are a family and we stick together.  If you ever see your sister in trouble, you stand by her and help.  You are not alone.”  With this, my 6 year-old’s precious lips turned upward into a knowing smile.  Empowered.

We have a voice.  And together, we will stand.

YR8A5144-cvaughan.jpg
Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

 

 

A Man Misunderstood: Part II

11951562_10207725100465148_8047173292127991026_o

The water is wide
I cannot cross o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
build me a boat that can carry two
and both shall row my child and I

I’ve been singing this lullaby, from the “Triangle Collection” by Music Together, to my two-year-old for weeks now.  It’s a beautiful tune, but the meaning of the words didn’t resonate with me until I sang it to my middle daughter last week, consoling her over the loss of her beloved pacifier.

She’s four, two years older than I swore I would ever allow a child of mine to use a pacifier.  We’ve gradually diminished its presence – from the stroller, car, and now only to be used at night.  She desperately wanted to nap this past week, but found herself unable to without it.  I, currently 7 months pregnant, wanted to sleep, too and yet found myself lain beside her in her twin bed singing the song over and over.

The wide water represents sleep without her comfort object.  I, acting as her boat, was helping her to cross.  I reminded her that she was not alone in her journey, that I would walk beside her to overcome her attachment.

And that reminded me of the poem, Footprints in the Sand, in which author Mary Stevenson suggests that Jesus carries us through our most difficult times.

Last year, I would have been resistant to such a notion- allowing Jesus Christ to carry me.  Always questioning, suspicious and doubtful, never fully trusting his intentions or the doctrines describing his life and purpose.  Skepticism and all, I trudged forward, watching sermons from Trinity Church online and reading books such as Jesus CallingRelax, It’s Just GodThe God Girl Journey, and Mere Christianity.

The Sicilian, Taurean, stubborn part-of-me constantly challenges every word I read or hear, but the more I learn, the more I find myself reconsidering my staunch resistance.  Whereas “softening” used to be synonymous with “weakening”, I now feel the strength that comes from opening my heart and mind to allowing Jesus to lead.

I was always searching for someone to explain to me how to get there.  Surrounded by believers, church was too intimidating.  The bible, too overwhelming.  It seemed you were either a believer or you weren’t and I felt lost in the middle.

Randy Singer’s sermons and these books became my boat, leading me across the great distance that separated me from Christianity.  Like most things in life, they did not fall into my lap.  Amidst all of my doubt, I continued to search and seek, gaining courage along the way.

I realize now that this journey will last my lifetime but oh, how much richer my life already feels.  I have so much more truth to uncover and to expose my children to but finally, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” Philippians 4:7 is mine to behold.

Jesus once was a man I misunderstood, but has gradually become the man I seek to carry me across the great divide.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

Camille Vaughan Photography

See Also A Man Misunderstood: Part I

 

 

Lemonade

lemon_PNG25200.png

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

14715429_10103333464607079_7055404337243618775_o.jpg

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!

62091_829193168159_1166235_n.jpg
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.

YR8A6466-cvaughan.jpg

Pruning

13502134_10103049610088809_1890814083196956111_n.jpg

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.

YR8A4950-cvaughan.jpg
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.

YR8A5583-cvaughan 4.15.51 PM.jpg

 

Camille Vaughan Photography