Just Like That

This one’s for all of my Empty Nesters out there. 

You think you’re ready. 

Joke as you “count down the days”.

And then, 

Just like that, 

They’re gone. 

Mine aren’t off to college

But the youngest is off to preschool this fall. 

And it’s been 10 years (and 199 days but who’s counting?)

Since I’ve been home alone. 

Let me repeat that. 

It’s been 10 and-a-half years since I’ve been home alone. 

I imagine that I will begin that first day crying and then laughing hysterically while eating ice cream in broad daylight watching inappropriate shows on Netflix. 

And on the second day . . . .

On that second day I am throwing myself a celebratory brunch because you know what?

I’ve earned it. 

And so have you. 

Take time to cry and then upon realizing that they will be just fine, 

Celebrate. 

Just like that.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Carry On

I walked in and explained that I’d held on to this gift certificate since Christmas. That I was in the midst of a family trauma and that I was here to relax and let some of that go.

What I didn’t expect was to burst into tears 45 minutes through, as my massage therapist pulled the energy from my muscles and flicked it away. As she summoned my breath and thanked me for feeling safe enough to let it go in that room, with her, a stranger.

But there we were. 2 strangers united at 9 AM. She, not knowing the trauma and still, meeting me there. Helping me to release.

We hugged, afterwards. After all, after weeping, what else is one to do?

And then we carried on. Her next client. My day with my daughters.

We release and we carry on.

Apples

It’s been 15 years. 

And *tonight* he says, 

“I thought I knew, but I’m just now understanding.”

How about them apples?

You marry someone because your heart sees theirs. 

But it has taken until now for him to realize what those vows meant to me. 

The kind of forever I’d never had. 

The moment I’d always been waiting for. 

Permanence.

When you’ve lived with, it’s difficult to imagine life without. 

It’s been 15 years. 

Dee Akright Photography

Show Up

Here’s the thing about mental health: 

No one knows what to do. 

Instead, everyone waits for someone else to solve it. 

Because it’s ugly. 

There is no straightforward “treatment plan”.  

When someone is in crisis, it’s scary. 

What do I say?  What do I not say?

How should I act?  

And so we freeze and wait for someone else to solve it.

But when it’s between life and death, 

What then?

Someone has to step up. 

That’s what. 

When everybody else waits, what are you going to do?

Are you going to wait?

Or are you going to show up?  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Witness

Not for you.

Not in place of you. 

With you. 

My eldest is entering her tween years and as much as I want to save her from the harrows that lie ahead, 

I recognize,

It’s her journey

I’ve already lived mine.  

I wish I could change the hands of some times, 

But they’ve led me to this moment, right now. 

The time I let go and witness. 

Not for me. 

Not in place of me.

With me.

Us. 

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

Choose Well

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, a holiday dedicated to declaring love. 

And what I want my girls to know

Is that love doesn’t come easy. 

Their father and I make it look like it does, 

But that is because we chose well.  

We both had opportunities to choose otherwise; 

But we waited. 

We waited to find one another. 

And they are the product of our love. 

What I want my girls to know 

Is that love SHOULD feel easy

Because when you choose well 

It is.  

Choose well. 

Minutes after he proposed at Tahoe!

Equality

It’s one of those moments in life where you realize . . . 

Maybe they were listening after all.

At the dinner table, our third-borne was lamenting about the unfairness of it all when our second-borne calmly, and matter-of-factly, repeated my exact words:

“Emma, it’s not equal at the same time.  It’s equal over time.”  

I smiled at her.  

Yes. 

Yesssssss. 

That’s what I’ve been saying, all along. 

When you have multiple children, they are always concerned about equality.  

She gets this, so I should get it, too. 

An impossible task, day-to-day. 

Instead, it’s not equal today, child. 

But in time, it all levels out. 

Not equal at the same time.

Equal over time. 

Equal over time.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Our Way

I’m not sure if it was the package of Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans or the recent memory of Halloween, but when one of my daughters asked our youngest if she wanted to try a questionable jelly-bean and I hesitated, not knowing the allergens involved, I saw, for the first time, our youngest change. 

She understood and was affected. 

Rather than ignore, I followed her into her bedroom and quietly conversed, “Hey, how are you?”

Forlornly, she looked at me and I knew the jig was up.  

There was no more fooling this three “and-a-half” year-old.  

I decided to meet her where she was.

“Are you sad because you aren’t able to eat the same things as your sisters?”

It was a first admission of mine. The terrible truth almost always substituted or downright avoided. 

Instead of answering, she buried her head into my shoulder and wept.  

What is a mother to do?

Pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, waffles, even popsicles I can substitute.  

But jellybeans on the fly?  I’m out of my realm.  

She’s too old to fool. 

Instead, I meet her. 

Yes, this sucks. 

No, this isn’t fair.  

Yes, you can be sad and angry.  

And together, we will find your way, child.  

We are more than the worst thing that has ever happened to us. 

We will find our way.