Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Wednesday Pop - Vol. 3 . . . these things I KNOW.

I'm not sure of much.  The events of last Friday, bunched up with all of the other confusing events in this complicated world, have left me sad and confused and wondering about what I KNOW.  I've wanted to be able to give my children some sense of calm, as we discuss the good things we know about God, this world and the people inhabiting it.  I've been grasping at the people and thoughts and things that I know are good.  I've found myself whispering prayers that I know, have known for a long time, and wanting to laugh and visit with the ones who create a sense of comfort in me.  

As sad as things feel right now, I'm noticing that working to remember what's good, decent, interesting, meaningful and loving brings us some much needed comfort.  Dad has always been one who does that for me, so today's essay jumped in front of me.  As I began to put these words in place, it seemed almost obvious that what I need (what I'd like to write about) is what I know.  And I may not know much about many things, but I know A LOT about this guy named Pop.

So here, my friends, are some things I KNOW.  Just thinking about them is making me smile, and smiling is bringing me some comfort.

I KNOW that as long as I live on this earth, I will not have a warm sweater or jacket in a cold restaurant if my father is with me.  I've come to terms with this.  I know it to be true.  He spent the first half of my life, urging me to 'bring along a jacket in case it gets cold' and for reasons I can't explain, I know that he will continue to catch me without said warmth.

I KNOW that there is such a thing as a happy medium (and I KNOW that I don't find it often).  I know because of Pop.   My Dad has a hold on moderation unlike anyone I've ever known.  He get's it!  I'm amazed by his understanding of the happy medium, keeping things in perspective and moderation!  I want his ability to find this perch between too much and not enough.  For my 48 years, though, I've just watched in amazement.  

He can take a nap that is just the right length.  It makes him feel better!  He doesn't stay asleep for four hours, waking up in misery, or rest nervously, only to get agitated.  He can eat a sinful dessert, just enjoying enough to get the taste and not so much he feels like he needs to be rolled away with the rest of us.  He can read a great book, but put it down when it's time to get some sleep.  What's that like?  I can't imagine, but I KNOW it's possible, as I've watched it in action all of my life.  

I KNOW that at any point, in any place, during any event, with any circumstances, my father would find me and meet me where I am.  I've always known it.  Pretty wonderful, huh?  I write this as a serious point, and I'm a different person for knowing this down in my soul, but we have laughed many times about the ways that Dad can find us in any situation.

There are 92,746 seats in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.  It's a big place.  Please believe me when I tell you that once, at a UGA game, my father sat on one side of that giant arena and found me on the other side, in the middle of 92 other thousands of people!  He had no idea where I was, but was sure I was at the game, and he found me!  He's like that.  He is like a mother bear in that way.  He know's where his kids are, physically and emotionally, and he gets there when we need him.

I KNOW that truly listening and hearing people is a gift.  I've been heard, and I know this is true.  My Dad hears the people around him.  He listens and he hears us.  I can think of no greater gift, and I will forever try to be the listener he is.  Most of us are busy.  Life is complicated.  We hear too much chatter; too much distraction.  It's hard to really listen and difficult to really hear the ones we love.  It's hard to know people.

My Dad knows people, and all of my life, I have watched the gift that his listening has brought to the people in his life.  He is who I watch to learn how to listen . . . how to hear . . . and how to really know folks.  I'm working on it, and probably will be for a long time to come, but I've got the best teacher ever.  Listening is a gift and I know that my Dad gives it freely wherever he goes.  This I know.

The world is crazy.  Things are hard to understand.  I don't know a lot.

These are some things I know, though, to be sure.  It makes me feel better to think about them.

What do you know?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Wednesday Pop - Vol. 2 We'll start at the Fox . . .

Don't think I haven't driven my brain crazy trying to decide where to start with The Wednesday Pop.  I have.  There is much to tell, as I told you last week in The Wednesday Pop - Vol. 1 .  Where to begin, I pondered a million times since last week.  A couple of nights ago, though, I found my answer on the tv, of all places.  

We found a show on PBS devoted to the the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.  It was wonderful; part history, part legends, part documentary.  I enjoyed it, and it served as a trip down memory lane through so many awesome adventures in my childhood.  About twenty minutes into the show, I realized I would start my Pop stories at the Fox.  It makes good sense.  

I'll explain.  My Dad (often known as Pop, his grandfather name) is grand with grand celebrations.  (I realize I just used the same word twice - it was intentional.)  He can magically turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into something special, the occasion into an event.  And so many times, he did that while he introduced my sister and I to a great, big, interesting world - often at a performance.  Many times, as you might imagine, the Fox came into play.  If you don't live in the Atlanta area, please click on the link above and investigate this fine theatre.  If you live near here, and you've never been there - you must remedy that immediately.  That is your homework.  Period.

As a child, I had no idea that every kid I knew didn't make frequent trips to the Fox.  I assumed that everyone went to see Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, whether or not they were into ballet.  I thought all kids saw The Royal Ballet of Everyplace, and for a while, I took it for granted.  When the Fox was in danger of being demolished, I figured all children were kept abreast of all that was happening and that most other kids had their own "Save the Fox" t-shirt, like I did.  

Didn't most families go to see Chinese Acrobats and the Atlanta Symphony?  Surely other kids knew the story about the Russian ballet couple who had been held captive in one room when they tried to defect, but practiced their ballet in the small space they had.  Surely others, like me, got to see them at the Fox, on their first tour in America.  Surely other parents told their children about this couple's story, shared the tales of their determination and cried alongside their daughters when the couple took to the stage.  Surely, they did.

I assumed most folks saw the first running of A Chorus Line and Phantom of the Opera.  I figured that most folks took their kids to see Gospel singers bring down the house on a regular basis.  (As a side note . . . if you are a singer who is female, a bit past middle-age, African American and a tad on the puffy side, my father will find you and hear you sing.)  I just knew that other kids heard boys' choirs from everywhere, rarely missed the Alvin Ailey Dancers and sometimes sat through plays and performances whose names they could barely pronounce.  I thought that was the way everybody did it.  

Eventually, I got a clearer picture.  I noticed that other kids my age didn't talk about their experiences at the Fox, or any one of Atlanta's other performance venues.  I began to see that my parents were different, that we did things that lots of other folks weren't doing.  And though I'll never know all that went into planning these events and pulling them off without the finances to provide for such, I did start to see that my Dad was different.  My eyes opened up a bit more, and I realized that he was consistently affording Jodi and me chances to see tiny glimpses of all that awaited us on this interesting place called Earth.  

When we were learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. at school, our family went to his church for a service and saw his home and roamed around his neighborhood.  When we reveled in the successes of the U.S. figure skaters, we were there at the Omni to see them in person.  When Jodi started taking gymnastics, we started seeing the famous gymnasts live.  I took note . . . my parents weren't steering us in the direction of their own lives, exactly, they were providing for us a summary of the many things the world has to offer.  We heard authors, listened to choirs, saw circuses, went to concerts, ballets, folk performances, plays and comedies.  We went to football games and swim meets and saw the visiting tours of anyone and anything that came through Athens, Ga.

I don't list these things to brag.  I list them now, as a thankful daughter and a learning parent.  I marvel at the experiences that my folks gave me on a limited budget and on the many ways that they put aside their particular interests to introduce us to the gifts of the world.  It's amazing to me, still.

In March, I wrote about the many ways that my mother touched this world, but I write this to begin to tell you the myriad ways that my Dad is changing this place.

Luckily, I wasn't grown when I began to notice all that he did to stretch our minds, our experiences or views of the world.   Thankfully, I realized at least some of what he did while I was still young and under his full time tutelage.  I remember when I first wondered about 'where Dad came from.'  How did a man who grew up poor in Griffin and Forest Park, Georgia learn about all of this?  How did he know that all of these things went on in the world, when the adventures weren't part of his daily life?  

He grew up with two amazing and loving parents, who adored their three sons.  They were poor; and though they brought themselves out of poverty and achieved so much, the majority of my Dad's childhood was filled with hardships.  It was filled with love, too.  And humor, and appreciation and church and singing and laughing and family.  I guess it was filled with enough of all of that good stuff, that he was instilled with a deep appreciation for the individual.  He learned about the many parts that make up a whole person.  I guess he came to know, maybe earlier than most, how important it was to know folks' stories.  I am thankful that he continues to pass that down.

I remember once trying to come up with a way to ask Dad how he came to know about the great, big, wide, interesting world.  I was frustrated, thinking I might not have the words to explain exactly what I was asking.  He got it, though, and he told me straight out.  I hope I remember his words correctly.  . .

He said everything opened up for him on a school field trip.  He said he remembers being brought on a bus from Forest Park to Atlanta to Symphony Hall with his classmates.  He remembers looking around.  He remembers noticing the building's architecture, the careful ways the space was created to carry sound and he remembers seeing the people of all sorts who were there to hear the musicians.  He recalls marveling at the talent of all of the orchestra members and the conductor and the people in the audience who seemed to understand it all.  He explained that he made a choice, right there - he decided that he would know that world, those things.  He decided that he would learn what they knew and visit that building again.  He would check out this big, wide world.

And he is doing just that, and taking the rest of us along on the journey.  Thanks be to God, that he is my Dad, that he dreamt up all that he did and that he introduced me to all that I saw.  I KNOW NOW that what I had wasn't the norm.  I know now that I was part of something extraordinary.  Today, I marvel at how he pulled it off.  I wonder how he made it happen, where he got the energy, came up with the money, had the tenacity to keep it going.  How could one person introduce that many different things to two little kids from Georgia?

I just hope I remember to take advantage of the 'Save the Fox' t-shirt moments with my own kids.  I hope I remember to stay awake enough to see all that happens in this bright, beautiful world and share it with them.

I am learning from the master, maestro, conductor, tour guide, choreographer, artistic director, coach, and mentor that is my Dad.   I am learning from the best.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Feeling the love . . .

You know I love what I do, and shooting photos of people who are enjoying life is the best.  I adored photographing this awesome duo and their sweet dog, Phoebe, as they prepare for the blessings on the way - a little boy AND a little girl.

Phoebe was a rockstar and these two were game for anything, as we worked on illustrating their story.

Clearly, this trio will be ready and able to shower those lucky twins with all of the love they need!

Photography is fun when people are natural and comfortable in their own skin, and these guys were amazing.  

You can feel the love when you see these images . . . I dig that.  Great smiles and happy hearts.

Cheers to you!  I can't wait to meet the kids!

You can see the whole session at Robin, Paul and Phoebe

Friday, December 7, 2012

List 37 - Keeping it in perspective?

A couple of days ago I walked out my front door and I looked up and saw this . . .

Amazing, huh?  I love it when I look somewhere 'regular' and see something irregular - something spectacular, something unbelievable and extraordinary.  This scene struck me as EXTRAordinary.  As I headed out to walk Sadie (or for Sadie to walk me) I continued to ponder on the amazing-ness and beauty that surrounds us when we take a moment to look.  I uttered an audible thank you to Sadie for forcing me out, where I could look up and be amazed at God's handiwork, even for a split second.  

This image is SOOTC (straight out of the camera).  These are the colors that were there.  The clouds were in that fun formation.  The leaves were that gold and the sky was that blue.  Wow, I thought.  

Then I began to think about how my feelings contribute to what I see.  And then I did what I'm good at . . . I took it all over the place and started having some fun.  What would I see if I looked up on a day that I was worried or a day when I was sad.  What would it look like if I was feeling relieved, light and airy?  What would I see when I'm excited, anticipating something wonderful?  

So that, my friends, had to be the list for this week.  Let's look at the same scene with different eyes, from other perspectives.  Add your own moods and consider the part our perspective plays in our perceptions.  I enjoyed it.  Hope you will, too.

1.  Here's what I see when I'm on cloud nine, when the stars align and I'm feeling great.

2.  I see this when I'm feeling a little blue, when I'm consumed with worry.

3.  I love the scene when I'm relieved, when something worked out just the way I had hoped. . . 

4.  And when I am in a remembering mood, considering things I'm thankful for, appreciating what I have and where I've been . . . 

5.  Sometimes I'm stuck somewhere and it's time to move on.  This might be what I see . . . 

6.  What about when I'm feeling excited?

7.  In a dreamy mood?

We can go anywhere we want with this. 

WAIT . . .
we can go anywhere we want?  Hmmmmm.

Keeping it in perspective, looking at it from one side or another, ours or another's, from the bright side or the gloomy side, with air or under water - it's our prerogative.


Very interesting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Wednesday Pop - Vol. I

Seventy four years ago today the world changed.  It really did.  You may not know the significance, so I'll explain.  When I first explain, you may think I'm exaggerating, but I plan to spend the next year explaining how the world changed for the better for all of us.

On this day in December in 1938, a little baby was born at home to the beautiful young Lorena Butler Murphy.  He was named Donald Clarence Murphy.  He would do great things, but they didn't know that then.  They just knew he was a blessing and he was precious and he was healthy.

Last spring when I wrote about my amazing mother, I made a promise (mostly to myself) that I would write about my father and I would do it while he was here to read it.  I intend to make good on that promise.

I've been thinking for a while about how I'd like to tell you about little Donnie who grew up to be Donald C. Murphy, Ph.D.  I've been wondering about the best format, the clearest way to tell you about him.  I think I've got my plan.

I have a lot to say, to write and to remember about this man.  It's hard to sum him up without some time.  I intend to give it just that.  I've decided that I'll spread out my memories and stories about him over this next year, on the blog, in a segment called The Wednesday Pop - Wednesdays because that's the day and Pop because it's his grandfather name and because it sounds really cool.

Prepare to be moved.  Prepare to learn and to listen and to join me as I recount just some of why I am so fortunate.  I cannot imagine how the stars aligned and Jodi and I got picked to be Dad's daughters, but I thank God every single day.  It has been a journey that continues now.  The rest of you seem to be making it, but I'm not sure how you're doing without a Dad like mine.

I have many things to tell you, so it will  take some time.  I'll tell you things he taught me about people, God, the world and feelings.  I'll tell you about my memories of growing up with a Dad like Dad.  I'll tell you about quiet times and times full of laughter.  I'll tell you touching things that you won't believe. As a parent, sometimes I look back on my father during my childhood and use it as a guidebook and other times I look back and just feel amazed.  My childhood wasn't perfect.  I won't say that.  No one's is, and that would be a dishonest waste of time.  My childhood was real and wonderful and hard and exciting and frustrating and scary and loving, just like most.  But I went through it with someone I want you to know better and I can't wait to tell the stories.

I hope you'll enjoy them with me.  I hope you'll think back on your own memories, remember the dear ones who make your journey worthwhile.  I'll love this romp through the past and this closer look at the present.  I hope you will, too.

I love you, Dad.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Joy . . .

That was the word that kept popping in my head as I shot photos of this precious trio.  JOY.  This little fellow emanated joy.  He couldn't stop smiling, and ran from shot to shot with a happiness that I loved!  

It was freezing cold the morning we met, but you would never have known.  The smiles were rampant, and this awesome family was up to anything.  Such fun!

When I emailed to let them know that the images were up on the site to view, I told Jen that I kept thinking 'joy' as I photographed them and again as I edited the photos.   I loved hearing the surprise in her answer, when she let me know that 'joy' had been in the forefront of her mind on her wedding day and the idea for each day in their home.  I think it's working!

joy * joy * joy

I'm quite sure that I could watch this little guy happily run all day!

And, yes, I could look into these eyes all day, as well.

Here's to joy and to another family that makes me know I've found the perfect (a)vocation.
Thanks, friends!

Friday, November 30, 2012

List 36 - a few things I've learned this week . . .

Here are a few of the things I've learned this week:

  1. I learned that sometimes if you tell your eight year old son not to forget to put his belt on, he might consider putting the belt 'on' the bed was good enough.
  2. I learned that even when everything is set up perfectly - you ate at your favorite pizza place, you saved a great big slice for the next day's lunch, you retrieve your go-to pizza stone, you sing the right songs, you're rocking this thing called life - you might get so carried away with your greatness that you forget the slice in the oven.           

     3.  I learned that you never know what you might look down and see on the sidewalk in front of 
          your house.

     4.  I learned that even on the grayest of days, one still finds stuff like this, doing its thing . . . 

      5.   I learned that sometimes when I'm at my most angry about all of the negativity on the internet, I 
           end up finding something so good, like this:
    There are only two days of the year when nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.  Dalai Lama
  6.  I learned that when you find this in your porch railing, it means that yesterday your kids were 
          finished with the snack and they put it away.

     7.  And I learned that a gingko storm is every bit as beautiful as a snow storm, and you don't even    
         have to stock up on bread and milk.

                                             What did you learn this week?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Loving Jack . . .

A week ago something tragic happened.  I know tragic things happen everyday, maybe every second, somewhere in the world.  We all know that; we just don't usually have that fact on the forefront of our minds.  And then something tragic happens to someone you know.  Or to you.  Then it's different . . . you know what I mean.

A week ago the house of my friends burned to the ground.  No one knows how it happened or why it happened.  The very different thing is that I watched it.  I watched it along with many others, including the three friends who lived in the house.  The friends who were losing all of the material things they owned.  And other friends who owned the house and whose grandmother had lived for years in the house.  We watched.  We all watched as the firefighters worked and worked and worked and worked.  We watched as materials that had withstood the test of time failed the test of fire.  We watched and watched and wondered what in the world to do. 

That's what I wanted to tell you about.  That's the part I want you to know.  What people did is part of what I'll remember.  Watching your house burn down is not graceful, but what people did in that moment was grace-filled, to be sure.  

I can see all of the people now.  I can see them in my mind's eye.  I can see my three friends, a daughter home from college and Jack, their dog on a leash.  I can see them - their eyes wet with tears and thankfulness for their lives and lit up from the flames that wouldn't burn out.  I can see them now.

News travels fast, and word of the fire moved swiftly through many folks in our church.  You might imagine that most people would be safely tucked in their warm homes on the night before Thanksgiving.  They were.  But you should have seen the folks who left those warm homes on the night before Thanksgiving to come out and stand with their friends as they watched the fire destroy all that was inside.  There was nothing to do.  So we watched.  

And more folks came and they stood beside the folks watching what they knew go up in flames.  Some folks said things.  Some folks cried.  Some friends hugged.  Some folks said nothing at all, but stood in support, as if by standing alongside they were serving to hold up those whose home was being demolished by a force too strong for humans to outsmart.  Some folks called others from the scene.  Some folks went to the store to purchase toothbrushes for the moment that would surely come and it was time for them to go to sleep, somewhere, sometime.   Some friends left to go the ATM to get money that they would come back to put into the hands of the ones who had nothing.  People made plans about how to get what they would need.  People planned where they could live.  People planned what they would eat.  Friends loved in all of the ways we knew to love when there isn't anything we know to say.   

The fire raged on, as if to show us all that it was powered by something stronger than we understood.  We stood, we watched, we planned, we hugged, we wondered what in the world we were supposed to do.  We wondered what to say.  We wondered how to look while we stood shoulder to shoulder with loved ones as they watched the unreal happen.  We wished we could think of something to say, to do, something to help.  We wondered what we would want, what we would need.  The fire just kept burning, kept raging - sometimes growing calmer and then surprising us all with force as it roared to life again.  And then we stood some more, wondered some more.  Didn't know what to do some more.

There were people everywhere.  Sometimes the scene was so surreal that you had to remind yourself that it was actually happening.  I'm sure that Greg and Jan and Michelle and Elin felt that way.  I'm sure they had to continue to internally remind themselves that this wasn't a bad dream, that this was really happening.  And there was Jack, the sweet Jack Russell dog, on a leash, confused and wondering.  I remember that I often saw Greg bend down from standing, grab hold of Jack's sweet head and hold it - loving him, giving the confused dog some sense of certainty even though he had none himself.  I'll always remember that.

Hours went by.  The fire raged on.  It was almost surprising that something burning that hot, that fiercely, could burn for that long.  We kept standing.  We kept wondering.  What do we do?  What do we say?

And then I saw something I'll never forget.  I saw three people I didn't know just sitting right in the middle of the commotion.  As throngs of wonderers and watchers and wishers and prayers stood and walked and hugged and wondered, these three people - a married couple and their son - sat down on the ground.  I couldn't help but wonder what they were doing.  Why were they just sitting there?  They seemed so intent on being in a circle, on roping off the reality from their little party.  I couldn't understand.

I walked closer to them and saw them there in a circle, as if the terrifying scene lighting up our eyes and our faces wasn't really happening.  I got closer and closer.  I wondered who they were.  Why were they there?  Why weren't they trying to figure out what to do?  Why weren't they standing alongside those who were watching what they thought was sturdy fall to the flames?

And then I saw Jack.  There was Jack, the sweet dog, right in the middle of the circle.  That's what they were doing.  They weren't doing nothing.  They had found something they could do, and they were doing it.  If I had taken their photo and could crop the horrors of the background away, you would think they could be nestled together in a warm cabin somewhere, enjoying their family pet.

They were active.  They weren't just wondering.  They were doing.  Acting.  Walking the walk.  They whispered to Jack and petted him softly.  They took turns calmly holding him, caressing him and using all that they had to give him peace.  They didn't know what to do either, didn't know how to help or what to say, so they found something they knew they could do and did it.

I won't forget them.  I won't forget what it looked like to see them in the midst of the terrifying night.  There was horror that night.  There was disbelief, shock and sadness.

But there was grace, too.  There were friends and strangers giving all they knew to give, saying what they could or just standing in support.  And there were three people who did something totally different - a little band of angels that quietly walked up, found a job and made a difference.  I won't forget them.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Squeezing in some Special Smiles . . .

Recently I got to squeeze in a session with some special folks . . . people more like family we finally met than new friends.  We moved to a new town and landed right next door to these fine folks, right where we were supposed to be!

                    We spent the day at the Steeplechase and got a head start on some photos . . .

Later we got the family back together, as the light was waining on a wonderful day, but we wound up with some of the sweetest smiles.  I love these sneaky, sparkly eyes and the personality that shows through these grins.

You won't have any trouble feeling the love among this gang.  It just shows and it's wonderful to be able to capture it with the press of the shutter.

                                           Here's to a special family and great memories!
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