The Road Not Taken

Los Angeles. Studio City, to be precise. 

That’s where I was headed in 2005, with a roommate I’d spoken with for months over AOL but had never actually met in person. We had the lease to our apartment and I had a lead to a job as a script-writer with Dreamworks Studio. 

Instead, I pulled the plug two weeks before I was set to move.

It remains to be, the road not taken for me.

In place of California. I lingered on the East Coast taking a room with a family of 6. In exchange for room and board, I provided care for the kids.  As the youngest of 8, I had never had 4 younger “siblings” before and was terrified.  Quickly, I adapted, finding myself taking particular interest in that first grader mastering reading.  

I read the book What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles and shockingly wondered if he could be right- were the childhood games I played as a teacher my destiny?  Had I known and denied all along? 

I moved back to my hometown in my own blissful, 1-bedroom apartment,  and volunteered in the fourth grade classroom at my tiny, private elementary school, just to see if it was worth pursuing.  

And, oh, it was. 

I. Came. Alive. 

Yes, this is where I was meant to be all along. 

Until I had my own four children and stayed home to care for them. I quit my job as teacher and became Mama.

 I started my own blog to continue my pursuit of writing.  

Then a Pandemic hit and again, I became teacher. 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost
Camille Vaughan Photography

Necessity

Let me guess,

You didn’t want to, right?

But you had to.

Out of necessity.

Yea, I get it.

I’m that advocate, too.

And, likely, over half of those poor bastards you interact with on a daily basis are in the same spot.

Stuck, but still caring.

Trapped, but still loving.

Cornered, but still exploring options.

Always, continuously, every day.

Caring. Loving. Advocating.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Tired, but Repeat.

Exhausted, but Repeat.

No other options so, Repeat.

Yea, we’re tired.

But you know what else?

We’re resilient as hell.

We can see others differently, in spite of.

We can empathize.

We can offer a hand.

We can endure,

Out of necessity.

Camille Vaughan Photography

Appreciate

He said, “I appreciate you, babe. I see you, and I appreciate you.”

After a long day, hell, a long 8 years, there’s nothing that man could have said that would have felt better to hear than that.

It was just the right thing to say.

He wants to be able to take more of the load off of me, but the fact of the matter is, I’m the momma.

I’m the teacher.

I’m the one they want in the middle of the night and, honestly, all day.

No, he can’t be me.

But he sure as hell can see and appreciate me.

And that’s all I need.

Dee Akright Photography

The Ghana Chronicles: 1

“I can’t believe Africa is to our south and that I’m headed home. Soon I will be sitting on my porch swing recalling a dream of mine that once became a reality for a small amount of time.” – July 29, 2000

20 years ago today, I boarded a plane that took me to Ghana, Africa for a month with the American Field Service. I took some time to pull out my memory box and revel in the memories of a defining moment in my life.

What I’ve written in the journal I kept every day is something that I realize now should be shared further. Not everyone has the privilege to live with a host family and experience a new culture in that way. So here’s the first of many to come!

 

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Rain

And then the people said,

Rain! Rain!

What we need is more rain.

After pandemics, murder hornets and riots,

What we need is more rain.

Rain to trap us inside.

Rain to make us feel sad.

Rain to flood our streets.

Rain to remember what we once had.

Rain! Rain!

What we need is more rain.

Rain to grow our flowers.

Rain to make us think.

Rain to wash it away

Rain to begin again.

For when the sun shines once more

We will soak in its sweet rays

Remembering what we’ve endured.

Appreciating what we’ve gained.

Let it rain. Let it rain.  Let it rain.

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Character Flaw

Oh, my!

The labels.

The reasons.

The excuses why we aren’t already who we aren’t meant to be.

What does it take?

Truly.

What is it going to take?

To be true.  To be real about who. we. are?

When will our “character flaw” stop becoming our excuse?

When will our excuse stop being our character flaw?

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Stories

101.

The age of my Aunt Mary who passed away just yesterday.

She was the first-born child of my grandmother, born in 1897 in the town of Licodia Eubia, a part of Catalia, Sicily.

In 2001, I stood in the house my grandmother was born and remember how my dad and I found the very spot: word-of-mouth.

I had just graduated high school and wanted more than anything else to know where I had come from.

We arrived in Rome, traveled through Naples and over east to Calabria where we feasted on my grandfather’s olive tree farms.  He was born in 1884.

There, I experienced authentic, homemade lasagna laid upon a table set for over a dozen relatives who spoke nothing but Italian.  The roads elevated and bumpy so much so that when a cousin took me on a fast-paced moped ride, I learned to scream “Ayyyy-ya!!!”

My dad, who spoke broken Italian at the time, did his best to gather contact information and on we went to Sicily.

It was there that we were robbed.

We had read about the risk, ahead of time, and our blue Mercedes Benz rental (an economic option there) didn’t help our cause.

We were lost in an alley in Sicily when a man on a moped jackknifed in front of our car, stopping us dead while a man on foot opened our back doors and grabbed my book bag and my father’s brief case.

They gained nothing aside from my diary, my camera (and nine rolls of film), and the notebook of my family’s contact information, as my passport and my dad’s wallet were safely in the front seats with us.

In other words, they stole our recorded history.

But on we ventured.

We spoke to locals in Catalia, sharing names and dates until finally, we had arrived:  The room my grandmother who later would give birth to my aunt entered this world.

I don’t have photographs but I have stories.

Stories that should be told.

And don’t we all?

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Comfort

Could you get any closer?

That is what I wonder aloud to my almost 2 year-old.

We have been home for 30 days straight.

No gym. No school. No dance. No book club.

So why, when I walk out of the room, does she run after me like I’m leaving for Africa?

As much as I’ve wanted to, I haven’t left!

Today, I heard her calling, “Where are you, Mommy?”

“In my bedroom!” I replied.

She arrived face forlorn, until she saw me.

And then, she came running, a broad grin enveloping her face.

 

Who knew you could ever be so loved?

Who knew you could be the calm amidst the storm ?

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Camille Vaughan Photography