Never Forgotten

What about the ones who never were?

Who would they have been?

What if it feels like they were already here?

When we first learned of their existence.

Sure they never were born of this Earth, 

But for a time, they were alive.  

And for many, it will always be this way. 

Mourning the loss of what-if.  

Who would they have become?

Years pass, 

And yet, they are still there.  

Always with us. 

Never forgotten. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Lesson Learned

We are all a product of our collective experiences.  

It is easy for me to wish away the sad things that have happened in my life.  

But if it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

This, as Oprah says, I know for sure.  

But I’m-a-tell-y’all-what. 

Divorce is a terribly, sad thing.  

Particularly when children are involved.  

I was on my way to visit colleges with my step-dad, whom I had called “Dad” since I was two years-old when he announced, “Your mother and I are getting separated.”

Is it just me, or do you never ever forget that moment?

It’s like the world stops turning. 

Sure, maybe I had known it was coming in some sick and twisted way, but did I ever want it to truly be?  

No.

And yet, there it was.  

Worse, they were in business together and weren’t going to announce it to the very close-knit family company until January so now, I had a secret to keep. 

That Last Christmas, we rented a house in nearby Sandbridge Virginia Beach, Virginia, decorating the tree one last time, only to grab our individual boxes to keep the ornaments we each wanted when the week was over. 

It was the one of the saddest moments of my life. 

Fast forward 20 years later and now, who are we?

If you were my dad from age 2-18, does that mean you are my dad for life?

If we were step-sisters and brothers then, are we still?

Time passes, parents re-marry. 

Who are we now?

Collateral damage.  

Oh, but not me.  

Because I have my own future to tell. 

Divorce, my children will not know. 

Because we chose carefully. 

We waited until we met one another to make that kind of commitment. 

To be together until death do us part. 

To raise our babies with love and joy. 

To choose them. 

To choose us. 

Forever and ever.

Collateral Damage No More. 

Instead, lesson learned. 

This kind of love is forever.

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

Lucky Us

In my dreams, I saw him all along.

He was kind and funny.

Simple and interesting.

He wasn’t intimidated by me; he could hold his own.

He was cultured but open.

Athletically competitive, but not to a fault.

He would make the best daddy ever and I knew it immediately.

His name was Emmett Carawan and he’s who I had been looking for all along.

Someone who would love me wholly.

Someone whom I could adore.

Someone I could live forever with and for.

His name is Emmett Carawan and today, we celebrate just 10 years of a lifetime of marriage together.

Lucky us.

Lucky them.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

I am Worthy

In my lifetime, I have been abandoned four times.

The first, by my stepfather after he and my mother divorced.

The second, in my early twenties by a best friend.

The third in my thirties by another close friend.

And recently by another lifelong friend.

Each time I racked my brain for answers.  What had I done?  How was I responsible?

If you know me at all, you know that I love learning.  I am an open book and daily, I shine the light on myself and all of my imperfections.

As a sought-after keynote speaker, my mother frequently listened to motivational leaders on our family road trips, long before TVs or phones in a car.  So, I listened to them too.

And what was drilled into me then has never left me:  Only I am responsible for my actions.  In each and every decision, I have a choice on how I will respond.  If I am wrong, when I make a mistake, it is up to me to figure out what happened and how I can learn from it so that I can grow into the best version of myself.  Growth cannot happen without mistakes and mistakes aren’t mistakes unless I didn’t learn from them.  They are lessons!

I remember so clearly the pain I felt the first three times.  I felt misunderstood and desperately wanted to defend myself.

After this last time, I asked my husband and other friends, “Please, tell me.  What is wrong with me?  If this has happened this many times in twenty years, surely this is on me.  What do I need to do to fix myself?  To be a better daughter, friend or version of myself?”

And then, without them saying, I knew.

I knew exactly what was wrong with me.

I realized how wrong I had been to take responsibility for something and someone I was not. responsible. for.

That these people are human, too.  That they make mistakes and it is their responsibility to learn from their own, not mine to try and fix the damage of the abandonment by proving myself worthy.

My mistake is my lack of self-confidence in knowing that I am already worthy.  I am loved by God, my husband, my children and the rest of my family and friends.

And for those who choose to inexplicably check out of our relationship, well, they can keep on walking.

Because I am worthy.

And it’s their. damn. loss.

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Dee Akright Photography

 

 

Release

“There is no fix.”

That is what I told him after our last argument.

This is not a fixable issue.

This is just the way it is.

Him, working home full time surrounded by me and our four young daughters.

Me, overwhelmed with the rearing and education of our daughters on top of the insurmountable housework.

Our fuses are short. Lit quickly by the tiniest flame.

And right now?  During a pandemic with stay-at-home orders?  There’s no out.

No, there’s no way to fix that.

But we can talk.

We can argue and let. it. out.

“Keep talking.” I told him.  “And I will, too.”

No, we can’t fix it.  But we can talk.

And that’s our release.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Better Together

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You wanted to fish.

I wanted to paddle board.

We respected each other’s desires and handled dinner and bedtime solo with the knowledge that we were doing it for each other.

I returned earlier than expected one evening and you breathed a sigh of relief.

Because, as much as we need our alone time, you and I both know

We’re Better Together.

Happy ninth wedding anniversary, my darling.

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Promise

It’s been six-and-a-half years since he passed away in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by his wife of over 50 years and three of his children.  On hospice, we knew death was imminent and arrived in town with our five-month-old Aurora in tow, just days before.

It was the first time I’d seen him not awake or talking and thus, the first time he hadn’t said the words to me he’d always said right before we parted ways. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, as if he had a secret he’d been anxious to share with me, he’d call me over and whisper into my ear:  “Take care of my boy.”

In the same way my father gave me away to Emmett on our wedding day, Emmett’s dad entrusted his son to me.  For rich or for poor, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, until death parted us, as it did for him that May day.

So, before the nurses took him away for good, I held his hand, leaned over his face one last time and whispered, “Don’t worry, Bill.  I’ll take care of your boy.”

I always will.

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