Tuesday, December 25, 2007


12:21 AM.
It is, officially, Christmas.
I cannot sleep.
This is not the anticipatory sleeplessness I remember.
But it is sleeplessness.
This is the first Christmas of the new season of our lives.
Right now, Kat is in my mom's bed upstairs.
Olivia, Abby, and a broken-limbed Mama are downstairs on mattresses on the floor.
Zoe, Molly, and Henry are in their crates.
Arthur just got done trying to climb up the chimney.
Dad left about two hours ago.

The presents are under the tree already, but I have no desire to peek.
I fell asleep on the couch earlier, by a pile of dryer-warm clothes, listening to Sarah McLachlan.
But it is quiet now.
Except for the ticking of the clock.
It is Christmas again.

Another year has gone by.
So much has happened.
We've all grown so much.
Sitting here in the silence, I find my heart at peace.

Still, my heart is crying for progress.
For growth.
To take your hand and move forward.
I came to the realization long ago that I could not do this alone.
Happiness is to be shared with others.
Even though life may change, and Christmases from here on out may never look the same, my heart is at peace with that.

And we will wake up in the morning.
Five Vaughan women.
Three dogs and a cat.
We'll brew coffee, wrap up in blankets, and watch bits and pieces of Christmas movies.
Until Larry walks through the door.

I still can't sleep.
But it is Christmas.
So, Merry Christmas to all.
My heart is with you, especially, tonight.

Christmas Love

We had Christmas with our "little family" last Monday.
An experience I won't even attempt to put into words.
As we all got ready to leave, putting on scarves and pulling out keys, Kat grabbed me and hugged me.
"Life is good," she whispered in my ear.
Life is good.
And I left the basement that night, with the deep feeling and realization, that I may have just spent Christmas with the people I'd spend the rest of my life with. A family of seven. My heart goes out to you.
I am afraid I don't express my joy enough. That I don't let those I love know just how much I actually do love them. I feel like I should apologize for my picking and my sarcasm and my complaining. I appreciate you all more than I've ever let you know. I need you more than I would ever admit. I want to keep you.I've already had a beautiful Christmas. Between tea and ring pops and pictures and Charlie Brown and the mistletoe that is sitting on my microwave...
And then walking into my new apartment on Thursday with wrapping paper in my arms, opening the door to a hyper kitten, the smell of chicken, and the sound of Alison Krauss playing in the CD player. Coming home.
I am full of joy. I want you to know I love you. My family, my friends. You are what has made my Christmas beautiful.
Merry Christmas.


This Christmas season has been one I will never forget.
I will probably not tell this story well. Nor will I do the actions and character of other's justice. I'm in a hurry. And the dogs are running around like crazy. And voices are being raised. Someone just asked the 100th question of the night... and I am tired.
But I need to do this.
So here it goes.
Christmas was going to be weird this year anyway. We had set ourselves up for that. Planning for Christmas morning without Dad in bed next to Mom.
I tried to weasle my way out of spending Christmas Eve night in Winchester.
I am not a good weasle.
We had made plans to go to Eastern Kentucky and maybe even Northern Kentucky the weekend before Christmas. Maternal grandparents. Curvy roads. Dark living rooms and cigarette smoke and lots of greasy food. I would be moving on the 15th of December. My car had just broken down (hitting the dashboard no longer worked its magic). Finals in the midst of it all.
And then on Sunday, December 9th, things got a little weirder.

Kat and I had just finished with Togethership. It was raining. We were wet, frustrated, having emptied my bank account on gas for a car that was not mine (a gas hog oldsmobile). So Kat and I had changed into comfortable clothes and we playing with Arthur in her basement when we got a phone call.
My mother had fallen at my grandparents house. Decided it was a good idea to suck up the pain, get in the car, and drive from Nicholasville Road to Todds Road with her left foot. But she would need our help getting from the car to the basement.
So we waited.
Surely she was overreacting. No.
She got to the house and her ankle was swollen like someone had slipped a softball under her sock. Abby freaked out. Olivia and Kat helped Mom down the stairs while I kept Henry (the puppy) from eating Arthur (the cat). We got the insurance card, made my mother calm down, put a call in to my dad, made Abby stop crying, argued with my mom some more, swapped car keys...
And we took my Mom to the ER.
A broken fibula. Cast for three months. No driving. Lots of drugs. Wheelchair for a while. Then a walking boot and crutches.
We could handle that.
We'd put my mom on some calcium, get her better tennis shoes (with more tread), and draw to our heart's content on her cast.
So we thought.
Until Thursday.
As Howard left my house I got a call from my sister. Mom's fallen.
"I think you need to come to Winchester."
"You fell? How?"
"Using my crutches. I think it's broken."
"What is?"
"My wrist."
So I got in my car and drove to Winchester. On the way, I called Caleb. I need patience, I told him. I need grace. We talk a lot about grace. But how often do I act on it? How often do I show it? Now, with my mother completely incapacitated, could I be gracious? Patient? He prayed for me over the phone as I drove down US 60.
I came into the house on Long Avenue and my stomach hurt. Her wrist looked like a ping pong had risen under the skin. But I wouldn't take her to the ER again. Not again. So we put ice on it. And we sat in the living room and cried. And I played with her hair. And I made fun of her for not having any balance. And we dealt with the real issue...
I would later find out that it was Olivia who picked my mother up off the floor. Stooped down, put her forearms under my mother's shoulders and lifted her up off the floor. Fourteen years old, she was there to do what had to be done.
So on Friday I took Olivia and Mom to the doctor's. Found out her arm was broken. And would require surgery.
Saturday I moved into a new apartment. I moved Arthur in on Sunday. Found out on Monday that it only takes me 7 minutes to get to work.
And last night, I spent Christmas with my best family... seven of us, needing and wanting each other, eating cookies and opening stockings and watching Charlie Brown and listening to James Taylor and taking silly polaroids. I received one of the best Christmas gifts last night... wrapped in a yellow envelope. A ring pop.
All I want for Christmas?
I want to be like my little sisters. And I want to be the best woman I can be... loving with all my heart, opening up again.
And I want to see my dad.
Even as I say that, I feel the tears coming.
More than anything I'd love to wake up too early on Christmas morning and stare longingly at the clock and wait until a reasonable hour and run downstairs and tickle Dad's feet until he rolled over, licked his lips, and told us he'd be up in a minute. Instead of running to the Christmas tree, however, this time I would just curl up in bed beside him. Let him sleep. Because that would be enough.
He'd be there.
Presents would wait.


I feel like I haven't had good words in ages.
This happens every now and then; my well dries up and I am left, parched and seeking refreshment.
It's not always a bad thing: this want, this dehydration. It slows me down. It makes me reach, stretch my creative arm, causing me to seek, knock, ask.
Why do I not have words?
What is it I am dying to say... but cannot?
Today I am thinking about a lot of things. My finite mind is trying to wrap around this life, all that is happening, all that is going to happen... I am consumed by thoughts of deadlines, office hours, jingle bells, kitty litter, cardboard boxes, and Christmas parties.
I just finished taking my first final of the semester. I turned in a photography portfolio last night. Monday is my comprehensive bio final, Tuesday is a comprehensive nutrition final along with a nutrition project that had some technical difficulties. Wednesday is a 100 question exam with 5 journals due. And then... then I am done. With school. For now.
Two days after that I will be moving. In that small window of time I will pack up fourteen months worth of stuff and I will leave Hays Boulevard. I want to get out and sit on my roof one more time. Light one more fire in the fireplace. Play with the garage door for a while, so I don't forget how one works. I know the day I leave, I will stand in my empty room and say goodbye. For the third time in eighteen months.
I am a gypsy.
I have no home.
There will be indentions in the carpet from my bed and bookshelf. The room will smell like me. Like vanilla candles and nag champa incense and gap body mist and sandalwood body lotion. The room will echo... I remember this feeling. I will take a mental picture. Shut the door. And I will leave.
And I will drive downtown in a car full of stuff. I will park outside a new apartment complex and I will use a new key to unlock a new door and walk into a new, empty space. This room will echo too. It will smell like cleaning agents and paint, and the musty heat pump will generate warm air. This new space will start to awaken.
Along with this new space, with the end of the semester, comes a new family member. Arthur is a 10 week old kitten who stole my heart last Saturday night. He's the color of my coat, with faint stripes and spots. He's rambunctious and energetic and loud... he likes to cuddle and play with Hershey kisses under the dining room table. He runs headlong into walls and collapses, belly up, on the couch when he's tired. He's staying at Katherine's until I move to my new space. But he will go home with me in nine days... When we will start a new life.
Soon the new empty space will be filled with smells of food, of perfume, of laundry detergent. Beds will be made, books put on shelves, art hung on the walls, dishes put away in the cupboards. We will start new traditions and get used to driving down Tates Creek Road to get home. There will be new mailboxes and new bathroom sinks. This will become my landing spot. I will make this new place my home.
Life will start to look different.
Life continues to change.
Christmas is coming and it will not be like any Christmas we've ever had before. Three of the Vaughans will have to travel to Winchester to celebrate the holiday; displaced from their own beds so that the six of us can be there on Christmas morning to eat cinnamon rolls and open stockings. There will be a new dog, my new cat, and another year of experience to be accounted for. We are looking for new traditions, new hope, new laughter. Such things are not as easy to purchase as Christmas lights or gingerbread. The process will sting a little, pull a bit at the tendons of our hearts, and stretch the muscles of our consciousness. Until we come to realize that Christmas is just another day. Christmas, just like life, continues to change. Some things will stay the same. Bulbs will go out in the string of lights, and we will have to replace them. Ornaments will break. We'll fill the holes in the Christmas tree under my mother's careful, obsessive supervision. I'm clinging to a Charlie Brown sort of hope... It may seem like I'm counting the chickens before they hatch.
But then Christmas will come and go.
My prayer is we will remember who we are again. When mistletoe will not be what guarantees kisses, once we have stowed away the excess wrapping paper, untangled the Christmas lights. Holiday spirit all exhausted, folded up, packed away. The New Year will be here. School will start again. My kitten will grow up. The world will shut down. Slipping into the gray hibernation of January and February.
All the while I will be praying. Praying for grace. That as January comes, my spirit would grow to be giving, patient, wise, and selfless; that I would embrace such change and custom and fervor, knowing that all things change.
And the dam will break.
And the water will come rushing in, quenching thirst.
And perhaps, then, words will come.
Come and stay.


There is a family I know... a family I've never been particularly fond of, had any deep connection with, or had any ties to. They know my mother and my sisters (her boys used to clog with Kat, her daughter dances with Olivia). They were just that family who only listened to Bach, conservative activist republicans (not that there is anything with being conservative, an activist, a republican, or listening to Bach. It's just a bad combo.).A couple of months ago I heard that this family had decided to adopt. They have three children of their own, but they were wanting to take in a few children from Liberia. I thought it was a joke. A fleeting idea they had...Until the day I came home to Winchester and heard that the family had just picked up their new family additions. Come to find out... they've adopted at least five children from Liberia. My heart hurt. I wanted to hug the mother. I wanted to thank her for bringing these beautiful children into our world... these children who dont know their real age, who have walked across countries to get to orphanages, who live in dangerous proximity to LRA. Their skin is black as coal, their accents thick, their eyes dark and exotic...I watched the oldest daughter dance in the last ballet performance. SHe danced to a song called "Cathedral". I saw her lift her eyes and I wondered how she much feel... in this world of technology and luxury and love... does she feel like she lays her head down in a cathedral every night?And then I found out that the mother and father had given each of the children a new name. I was upset at first... wondering why you would rename a teenage girl or boy... until my own mother told me why. Told me that these children from Liberia had gone to their adoptive parents and asked for new names. "Real parents name their children. We want you to name us. You are our parents now."And I thought of the verse in Revelations, where it says we will be given a new name... of Jesus renaming Saul and Simon and Abram.

Father God, real parents name their children. Name us. Give us new names, written on white stone. So that we may be yours.