Happy 8th Anniversary to my sweetheart ūüíó

New Leaf Parenting

You.  IMG_0069.jpg

This is you after spending hours cracked out in the tiny half-bath in our Nags Head home, replacing the flooring.  Breaking your back, sweating, and yet still smiling and proud of the work you completed.  This is you.  Hardworking.  Sincere.  Authentic.  My One. True. Love.


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This is you with your very first harvest of tomatoes in 2012.  You were so proud and it shows in the picture.  So does your incredible body at 40 years old.  You work hard, Emmett, and I am so proud to call you my husband.



This is you with all three of our daughters.  Little do they realize, they hit the jackpot when it comes to daddies.   You were literally born to do this.  To be a model father.  You sacrifice on their behalf.  You spend quality time with them Every. Single. Day.  Picking the garden, swinging, building sand castles…

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Romance Redefined

Dee Akright Photography 2009

Long gone are the box of chocolates and roses.  That was a decade ago.  In its place are emptied dishwashers and trashcans.  This is now.  Romance Redefined.

I quit teaching fourth graders as soon as I had my first born, but I continued teaching, women, shortly thereafter when I became a Pure Romance Consultant. ¬†It was a job I wasn’t looking for but that I was surprisingly successful at for the next four years. ¬†The parties were loads of fun, but the most rewarding part of my job was getting to chat with women one-on-one about their very personal, intimate lives- things they hadn’t shared with anyone else. ¬†These women had¬†questions and looked to me for answers.

Many had questions about the products I was promoting but more had questions about how to keep the romance alive in their marriage.  My answer changed depending on who I was talking to.  I asked questions about the status of their relationship and the preferences of each individual.  More often than not, my recommendation was not to purchase half of the items on their wishlist, rather it was to communicate with their other half.  It was the encouragement I gave the woman to tell her partner what she wanted and to be open to reciprocation.

Often, women teased that my husband must “love” my job, assuming we had a passionate intimate life. ¬†I didn’t want to burst their bubble, but I tried to explain that although there were certainly perks to my profession, there are also “seasons” in life. ¬†Marriage is intended for a lifetime and with that comes the changing seasons. ¬†So when a sleep-deprived, first-time mother looked to me with hopeful eyes of how to get the romance back, I placed my hand on hers and gave her the permission she needed to know that it didn’t have to happen immediately. ¬†I explained, romance evolves.

So often, we cling to our previous lives. ¬†We move cities, change jobs, or have children and suddenly, we want back what we¬†used to have. ¬†For romance, that may mean less post-it notes on the steering wheel, candle-lit baths, and late-night dates. ¬†Instead, the peace of your partner’s hand resting on yours after a long day, knowing that is the same hand you to hope to be lucky enough to continue to hold for the rest of your life. ¬†It’s when your wife or your husband rubs your shoulders unexpectedly because they know you could use a little TLC after a long day.

And although the time between passionate moments lengthens over the years, the fire still burns; a reminder of how it all began. ¬†It’s not how it was, no. ¬†It never will be because now is not then. ¬†As we grow and change, so does the romance. It’s still there, it’s just redefined.

Camille Vaughan Photography 2016


Written one year ago today, this is one of my very favorites. Only the beginning of the article is about childbirth- the rest is about letting go . . .

New Leaf Parenting

It took three attempts for me to succeed in having an unmedicated childbirth.  I attended nearly 70 hours of childbirth classes before my first baby, read countless books, and spent many-a-night role-playing labor with my husband before falling asleep to my hypnobirthing CDs.  The message was clear:  LET GO.  Succumb to the pain instead of fighting it.  Relax even when your body instinctually clenches.  Unless you have been in labor, you have absolutely no idea how impossible that seems when you are experiencing gut-wrenching pain.  By the third labor, I knew what to do and my unmedicated birth was everything I had hoped it would be: raw emotion that cannot be imitated.

Unmedicated childbirth isn‚Äôt just about ‚Äúproving you can do it.‚ÄĚ ¬†Sure, you feel proud, just as a marathon runner does after her grueling race, but at its core, unmedicated childbirth inherently embraces FAITH. ¬†Faith in our bodies to do what‚Ķ

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Secret Garden

Waiting until the last sliver of light hits the horizon against the ocean. Sleeping in on Saturdays. Literally dancing in the moonlight on the dock of a bay.

Why on Earth would we give these things up to have children?

They don’t sleep, they cry, we lose ourselves.

We have them because they are our Secret Garden.

Sure, no one tells you how difficult nursing is when you are so focused on the birth.¬†You tune out the laments of “teething”, “twos” and “teens”.

You focus on that tiny baby in your arms. Who grows and challenges you and rules your schedule.

Sometimes you daydream of life before children.

But then you remember your heart.

You’ve never known a love like this before. ¬†It’s unlike any other.

And then you see your mother for the first time.

It’s like an awakening.

A Secret Garden.

My husband, Emmett.

Slow it Down.

Museums, Aquariums, Zoos, Trails, Beaches, Farms and Libraries. ¬†For the past 4 years, I’ve exposed my daughters to a plethora of stimulating experiences. ¬†They’ve seen more in their short years than many children have in their lifetime. ¬†And while that is great and something they will see in our family photos for years to come, deep down I know that is not what they will remember.

On any random day, my eldest Aurora will say, “Remember that time when I crawled in your bed and you pretended your hand was an alligator and mine was a crab?” ¬†Yes, I remember it but only because she reminds me of it all of the time. ¬†It was so insignificant; at least it was to me. ¬†But that is what she craves. ¬†That is what she treasures- an intimate moment, unplanned, unremarkable to anyone else’s standards but something just between the two of us.

I realized, recently, how much I have depended on using external stimuli to parent my child. ¬†This is hard to admit, but it is the truth. ¬†I used to marvel as I watched my Mother-in-Law capture Aurora’s attention by slipping pine straw through the cracks in our deck. ¬†Aurora was in complete awe and wonder for 30 minutes. ¬†No toys. ¬†No music. ¬†No playmates. ¬†Just whatever was around. ¬†I envied my Mother-in-Law¬†and didn’t believe I could do the same so I looked everywhere else to replace the one thing my daughter wanted most: ¬†me.

You can find zoos, aquariums and parks anywhere in the world but you can’t find another Momma quite like your own. ¬†So for the past two weeks, I have stayed-put at home. ¬† We’ve colored, crafted, swam in kiddie pools, read books, and role-played. ¬†I’ve never felt so close to my children before and yet I’ve been “home” with them since they were born.

I’ve recognized, there is a difference between being physically present and actively engaged. ¬†I used to be around to supervise my children having fun at or with XYZ but now I’m having fun¬†with them. ¬†And in such a short time you can¬†feel¬†the difference. ¬†The length of Harper’s hugs when I say goodnight and the meaning behind her “I love you mom.” She means it. ¬†She always has but recently, she’s really feeling it. ¬†And so am I.

I’ve listened to my elders warn me that this phase passes quickly, that one day I will yearn for these exhausting days to return. ¬†So I’m slowing it down. ¬†I’m soaking it in. ¬†I’m giving my girls what they’ve wanted all along- ¬†My love. ¬†My attention. ¬†My precious time. ¬†Me.

Camille Vaughan Photography


It’s not me, it’s you.

Have you ever been in an argument with someone who you know has done wrong but won’t admit it? ¬†You provide a variety of examples to “make them see” to no avail. ¬†You usually part ways frustrated, exasperated- wondering why they won’t take responsibility. ¬†In the end, sometimes you even apologize for bringing it up, simply because you hate to live in conflict. ¬†How do we reckon with this?

We are¬†unable to force someone else to be self-aware or apologize for their wrongdoings. ¬†Many people suffer from low self-esteem and choose to find faults in others in order to make themselves feel better. ¬†Often, they don’t even realize they are doing it.

They criticize the way you look because inwardly, they hate their own body.  They resort to physical violence because you made them feel weak with your words.  They question your career choices because they never reached their full potential and regret it.  They insult your parenting style because deep down, they are defending theirs.  They provide a thousand different reasons for why they are unable to commit, all-the-while the true reason lies buried deep underneath.

Ultimately, it is not our responsibility to “make them see”. ¬†When faced with these difficult confrontations, it is best¬†to first validate their feelings. ¬† “I’m sorry I/this job/decision/outfit makes you uncomfortable. ¬†It was never my intention.” ¬†By using this statement we are not apologizing for who we are or what we believe in, rather, for the fact that it makes¬†them¬†uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry breastfeeding my baby makes you uncomfortable. ¬†It was never my intention.”¬†¬† I will not apologize for feeding my child but I am happy to express sympathy that it makes you¬†uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry you do not like my hair/tattoo/new job/diet/boyfriend/wife. ¬†It was never my intention.” ¬†I will not apologize for my choice but I am sorry you do not agree.

Sometimes, we also need to recognize our part.  Is there any truth to their accusations?  Certainly it is tough to convince someone else to see their faults if we are not first able to see our own.

“You’re right. ¬†I haven’t been exercising enough.” ¬†“You’re right, this is not the job I thought I would have.” ¬†“You’re right. ¬†I am taking the hard road.”

By addressing their concern rather than arguing against it, you have taken away some of their ammo. At this point, they may find something else to argue about but before that, perhaps you can offer an opportunity of self-reflection by asking a question: ¬†“Can you tell me why that bothers you?”

“I’m sorry you do not like _______. ¬†It was never my intention. ¬†Can you tell me why that bothers you?”

If we can approach these conflicts as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and each other rather than to vehemently defend, we may walk away all the wiser. ¬†Or, we may just walk away knowing, “It’s not me. ¬†It’s you.”

Your discomfort of my choice is not mine to behold.  It is not mine to have to defend.  It is yours to live with and my hope is that by asking you why it bothers you, I have planted a seed for you to consider; an opportunity for self-reflection.

My choice to avoid ” trying to make you see” frees me; for your life is yours to live just as my life is mine. ¬†And my hope is that you will respect mine, as I respect yours and that in time, we will recognize and take responsibility for our own faults. ¬†That we will show¬†gratitude when we have been made aware of something we had not previously recognized. ¬†That we will practice¬†empathy in difficult situations and that we may find peace when it is not our burden to bear.









Reality Check

I feel like a fraud and I’ve got to address it. ¬†So far, my blog, for the most part, appears as if I am shitting rainbows and butterflies. ¬†While it is true that I grew up stuck in the back seat of a car on long road trips listening to motivational speaker Tony Robbins on tape (thanks Mom) and as a result, strive to find the silver lining in any situation, the reality is . . .I feel super overwhelmed at some point every single day. ¬†Then I feel guilty for feeling this way because I do not have an immediate family member with a chronic illness, I live in America, I am a white, upper-middle class female with a supportive family, I have a great education and am healthy. ¬†What the hell do I have to feel overwhelmed about?

I remind myself that it is all relative. ¬†I remind myself of my time in Africa- when I did not know how to return to America and live this life I have been given when I knew how others were living thousands of miles away (let alone a few blocks away). ¬†I remind myself to continue to be self-reflective. ¬†To evaluate my weaknesses and develop plans of how I will improve. ¬†To pat myself on the back for my successes. ¬†To be humble. ¬†To be empathetic. ¬†To feel everything because what the hell else are we doing here on Earth but to “feel it all” as Feist sang?

I lose my Sicilian temper, I yell at my kids and feel bad.  I wish I could runaway sometimes or trade places with someone else I see pictures of on Facebook.  I feel guilt and regret and disappointment at my self-pity.

Pictures are worth a thousand words but we never see the full picture, do we?

So I offer you my words. ¬†My truth. ¬†My reality. ¬†It’s not all rainbows and butterflies but sometimes it is, and those sure are pretty.

Orphanage in Accra, Ghana 2000



Love to You

Swinging, strolling, playing, nursing.  None of it has worked.  It is 9 PM and you should have been asleep two hours ago.  Instead, you are awake and crying when placed in your crib.  What is a mom, to do?

You had me up at midnight and 5 a.m. ¬†Your sisters, collectively, woke me at 1, 2 and 4 a.m. ¬†I haven’t slept in years.

After all of the trying, the rocking, the swaying, it dawns on me just what you need. ¬†It’s so simple, why didn’t I think of it all along?

My energy changes.  I lay you on your tummy.  You fight.  I place my gentle hands upon your back.  Your head.  You settle.

I caress the soft skin on your sweet, little chubby arm and you lift it begging me to continue.  So I do.  I channel all the love I have for you through the end of my fingertips.  I calm and so do you.

We’ve been connected since the beginning and we always will be.

I set aside my exhaustion, my frustration and I send my love to you.

I slowly stop moving, resting my full palm upon your body.  A fingertip.  Hovering.

I’ve waited all of this time for you to sleep and yet I pause to marvel at your perfection before shutting your door, leaving my energy safely enclosed so that you feel safe. ¬†Secure.

All my love, to you.


Achilles Heel

We all have one.  A weakness, an Achilles heel.  For some, it is more obvious- perhaps a physical disability or chronic illness.  For others, it is an internal battle- a mental illness, an insecurity, invisible.

In today’s age, where friendships are formed over the internet and text messages, it is easy to hide these shortcomings- using photographs and witty quips as a facade for what lies beneath. ¬†But the weakness remains and with it its ability to fester and silently crumble¬†our confidence.

Some of us are more aware of our flaws than others, perhaps even too aware- obsessing over our failures; punishing ourselves as if that fixes the problem- while others choose to avoid confronting our demons, sweeping them under the proverbial rug where they grow and grow, only showing face during unrelated arguments.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” ¬†I could not agree more. ¬†Looking back, my saddest¬†moments were when I 1) ¬†blamed others for my unhappiness ¬†2) knew the root of a¬†problem but refused to face it and 3) exhausted myself in an attempt to force someone else to recognize and fix their own problems.

Now, when my life feels imbalanced, I first look within.  I try to break through the several smaller issues that easily distract me from the true root of the problem.  Once identified, I take responsibility for my part- how did I contribute positively/negatively and what can I do now to improve it?

It is at this point that my achilles heel rears its ugly head- my inability to control the way others perceive me.  I care way too much about the way other people feel about me.  I envy strong-natured souls, unafraid to publicly announce their biased opinion, regardless of how it ostracizes them.  Instead, I play the middle-ground, always empathizing with the other party in an attempt to understand their point-of-view, wanting to appear fair and considerate.

It has taken a lot of thought for me to understand why I am this way and, as is the case for many insecurities, it stems from my childhood. ¬†I am one of eight children; however, they are all half or step-siblings. ¬†To me, they have never been anything but “siblings” because they all entered my life by the time I was three years old, but to them, I was an addition- the youngest and in some cases, unexpected child. ¬†¬†In¬†an effort to “fit in” to three different families, I forced myself to be malleable, afraid that if I was deemed to have a difficult personality, I would be overlooked or avoided. ¬†Fast forward thirty years later and here I am: ¬†paralyzed when I have done everything I can to be easy-going and yet still sometimes misunderstood, powerless to change the other person’s perspective.

Once we recognize our weakness, it is up to us to either live with it or deal with it. ¬†I don’t want to live this way any longer so I am determined to deal with it. ¬†I don’t have a perfect answer but I know I can focus on what I DO HAVE: ¬†The nuclear family I am creating- the fact that my daughters won’t feel as misplaced as I felt growing up. ¬†I focus on my health- my gratitude for my healthy body and mind. ¬†And I focus on my strengths- what I am doing well, giving myself credit for what I have overcome to get to where I am today.

The truth is, Achille had only one weakness but in the end, it was the weakness that killed him. ¬†And I’ll be damned to allow this weakness to be my demise. ¬†I will take all the necessary time “To find yourself, think for yourself”, as Socrates said best. ¬†And I challenge you to do the same.

Emma Jane Carawan-Emma Jane Carawan-0037.jpg