Friday, March 30, 2012

List Twelve - a few more things about Mary George

What a week this has been - you have been amazing companions on this journey, and I am thankful for your support and interest.  It is fun to consider that Mom can make this much splash after twenty one years!  As I've said this week, one of Mom's best gifts was her ability to teach us all through story; so I guess it is no surprise that her voice is still alive.

I've heard from so many folks this week, from distant family members to old friends to Mom's former students.  You've remembered the stories with me, and that means so much.  I hope Mom knows about all of our remembering and laughing - I bet she does.

I couldn't tell it all in just five posts - that's not possible.  There is much to tell; there are wonderful stories and hard times, unforgettable moments and moments of sadness.  Mom's life was like ours, a terrific mixture of so much.  She struggled and laughed and worked and cried and loved and learned like us all.  That's a picture too large to paint with just the words on a blog, but it has been a wonderful gift to attempt to describe her, to give you the essence of who she was.

There are still many stories left to tell, and I believe I will tell them.  I'll keep searching and remembering, and from time to time, I'll let Mom speak again on this blog.  I'm convinced she still has much to tell and to teach.  Fridays are 'list days' on Press Pause, so today's list will be a few things that I didn't get to tell you about my mother.

  1. Mom's interesting name was actually quiet common when she was a child in South Georgia.  It was a custom to be called by a combination of your mother and father's first names.  She WAS NOT the only Mary George in her little town of Douglas, Georgia.  She told me once that she and the others with the same name instituted the Mary George Club, and it came as no surprise that she was the president of the club!  
  2. Mom tried everything in her growing up years.  My grandfather used to tell me that Mom took lessons on everything, looking for her niche.  She tried it all, from horseback riding to trumpet playing and everything in between!  She was interested in politics from her beginning and specialized in 'oratory.'  During the Sibley Commission that toured the state of Georgia (aiming to keep schools segregated, but offering both sides to speak their minds), Mom was a speaker on behalf of integrating the public schools.  That was the start of life to be filled with speaking out for equal rights for everyone, an ideal she held always.  Mom was not afraid to speak her mind, and she continued to feel that it was her duty to use her talents, her voice and her story-telling to help make things right.
  3. There are many times I've been proud of my mother; one of those occasions was when she quit her teaching job of years in Jackson County, Georgia when there was a large book-banning policy implemented.  In my opinion, the letter she wrote in defense of her decisions and the need to have systems in place to allow qualified professionals the autonomy to make decisions on behalf of their students, was among her best writing.  She felt it was wrong for anyone to let fear keep them from speaking out for the right thing.  
  4. I didn't get to tell you about the time that Mom tried to display her penchant for the dramatic in a play production at LaGrange College - she described it so well, using her voice to foreshadow her impending doom . . . she took to the stage, reciting her lines and she felt that a dramatic leap towards stage front would mark her place in the play.  I will interject here that dance was not among Mom's best talents.  She ran towards the audience, neared the stage edge and did her best, most athletic and beautiful leap with all that she had.  Unfortunately, she soared into the air and then off the stage, into the laps of the unassuming folks in the front row.  I wish you could hear her tell about the number of people who tried to help to force her legs back together.  It was her best 'split' ever, and she finally had to be awkwardly belted into a wheel chair, and rolled away to the infirmary, one leg still forcefully pointing towards the heavens!  Like other moments, she would always laugh the loudest as she recounted her doomed performance!
  5. I did not get to tell you about how her two favorite classes to teach were the very highest level students and the very lowest level ones or about how she set up systems to bring the two together.  I'd like for you to hear the parents of her students describing how they, too, read the assigned books and had their children (Mom's students) explain what Ms. Murphy had revealed in the class discussion that day.  
  6. I didn't have the time to tell you about the nights she spent at her sewing machine, making costumes for our ballets, the likes of which you cannot imagine.  When Mom heard about what needed to be made, she didn't spend any time explaining what she didn't know how to do - she just got busy, inventing, creating, learning how to do what was required.   She often seemed like a bit of a magician, just like she described her grandmother Jones.  She could take ten random items and use them to create a costume that was then used by the Atlanta Ballet in The Nutcracker!
  7. You read about her sense of adventure and her need to search for the answers; but I didn't get to tell you about the time she tip-toed alone through a pasture in the hills of England, suddenly to realize that she was being chased by a humongous black bull!  And I didn't get to share about a crazy search she set out on in Saint Simon's Island, where she poked through weeds and debris, searching for answers to historical questions - she loved to tell about how she quietly plodded along, nearing a dilapidated old slave cabin, concentrating on what she was searching for, when suddenly she startled a large, antlered deer who chased her back to her car at the edge of the brush.  Guess what?  She waited for a bit to catch her breath and for the deer to find another interest and then she got back to the adventure at hand and went back on her hunt!
  8. You might not know about Mom's move to Saint Simon's Island; a move that marked a re-starting of her life.  She rediscovered herself there, spent time with folks she loved and began to make her mark on a new group of people.  I always felt that buying her new house there, the house that was just hers, was a wonderful beginning for her.  She had dreamed of living on the island, and she loved her time there.  During her first summer, Mom decided to use her preparation time completing a research paper, an exercise that she would share with her new students to walk them along the steps of constructing the perfect paper.  She opted to research the history of the area where she lived, to look deeper into the lives and stories of the people who had resided there years before.  She loved the investigation and found herself contacting descendants of early islanders and digging up old stories that needed to be told.  At one point, a friend read her 'paper' and exclaimed that she thought that Mom just might know more about that area of the island than anyone else ever had.  The friend took Mom's work to acclaimed writer, Eugenia Price, who agreed.  Mom struck up a relationship with Ms. Price and many other area authors, and they put her in contact with Mildred Huie, a well-loved artist and historian of the area.  Mildred asked Mom to write the last book of a series she had begun years before with a friend who had passed away.  The duo had written books on each of the main plantations of the island and had only the Kelvin Grove area to write.  It was the perfect match!  Mom and Mildred combined their efforts and published a book about Kelvin Grove, the East Beach and King and Prince area of the island.  It was an amazing experience for Mom and for all of us.  I still have some copies from the last publishing of the book - if you'd like one, let me know.  I'd be happy to send you one, compliments of Mom.
  9. And I didn't tell you about the other sides of her life; those other sides we all have.  I didn't describe her struggles, the times she didn't feel she measured up.  She was human, like the rest of us, and she had the same dark times that the rest of us do.  She suffered with depression during parts of her adult life and she and I spent years arguing with one another, screaming out our anger at each other and saying things I know we both regretted later.   She came out on the other side of her bitterness and sadness felt during her middle years and, together, the two of us came out of our arguing and got to be real friends in her last years.  We had always had fun together; but in the last few years of her life, we were able to truly enjoy each other, to notice the good in each other and to ignore the ways that we had hurt each other in the times we did not get along.  I thank God for that.  I remember looking out the plane window on the trip to England in l99l and realizing that my Mom and I truly appreciated each other, that we were adults who respected the other, who adored each other.  I am eternally grateful.
  10. Mom died on a trip to England in 1991.  I accompanied her on the trip, along with fifteen or so of her past students.  Mom had spent the previous summer in the Cambridge College summer program and had been invited back to serve as a tutor in the program.  Many of her former students, hearing that Mom would be there, registered for the program to share the experience with Mom, and we all traveled there for the summer.  Mom had some health problems and had been urged by her doctor not to make the trip.  Her doctors were puzzled about what was wrong with her, and they wanted the summer to try to make a diagnosis.  Mom wouldn't hear of cancelling the trip.  We wondered, all of us, in the months leading up to our departure, why she was so insistent that the trip take place.  We urged her to change her mind and assured her that we could do the entire experience the following year.  She was insistent that we go along with our plans.                                                                                                                                     We set out for England, for our summer adventure, with that marvelous group of young people.  We laughed often with Mom, about how giddy she seemed about the whole thing.  To her, experiencing her promised land with one of her daughters and all of those precious students was a life-changing event.  She reveled in every day, every adventure and every moment that she sparked the imagination of one of her students.  It was an unbelievably special time.  During the week, we lived in a dorm on the campus, pretending that we were in college in England!  Each weekend we took trips by train or car to areas that Mom had investigated and wanted us to see.  She took us to each of the areas in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets (except for the one in the states) and we followed behind her, laughing when she did something crazy and listening intently when she read to us the words she loved so much.                                         Mid-way through the trip, Mom and I and two others headed out to spend the weekend in a cottage tucked away in the Cotswalds, a particular cabin she knew to be important in the literary genius of Britain.                                                                                                              On Mom's last day on this earth, we experienced magic unlike any other on the trip.  Mom co-piloted directions as I drove us to Little Gidding, a community of Anglican prayer which sheltered the king during the war, fifteen miles from Cambridge.  Looking back through the very book that Mom read from on the day - the book that still has the pressed rose given to her by a student on our day at East Coker, another of the four quartets in Eliot's final published poem - I can see clearly now how the many pieces of Mom's life culminated there, in that place, on that day.                                                                                                                     Though my mother lived and thrived in many places on this earth, that day we stood in a place that contained so much of what she believed about her earthly life and Mom told us the stories and read the words that she felt best described life's meaning.  She was connected to that space in a way I cannot understand, in a way I cannot explain, and I have no doubt that there was a reason we visited there on that day.  As I write this, I feel thankful to be telling another part of her story.  It is sad, to be sure, but today I feel a vast sense of awe about it all.  Today I am thankful.  I'm holding Mom's tattered copy of Eliot's book, and I am glad I'm telling this story.  It's one of the stories of Mom and one of the stories about me and one of the stories of all of the other people who have read the same words, prayed the same prayers.                                     On my mother's last afternoon, she led her three fledgling ducklings into the chapel at Little Gidding and to a grave stone just down the lane,  a space where she had never worshiped and a place where she had always worshiped, and she read us these words . . .                                
You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid.  And prayer is more than an order of words, the conscious occupation of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.  And what the dead had no speech for, when living, they can tell you, being dead:  the communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. . .        

. . . and that is where we start.  We die with the dying:  See, they depart, and we go with them.  We are born with the dead:  See, they return, and bring us with them.  The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree are of equal duration.  

. . . We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.  Through the unknown, remembered gate when the last of earth left to discover is that which was the beginning; at the source of the longest river the voice of the hidden waterfall.  

. . . And all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well when the tongues of flame are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire and the fire and the rose are one.  

We left Little Gidding on our way to the Cotwalds and detoured a bit for a visit to Coventry, a place my Mom and I had always wanted to visit.  Much of the efforts of Mom's life were for peace, for her great hope that this world's different people would one day live together in a loving way.  Coventry was the perfect illustration of those beliefs, a town with an active cathedral which has become known the world-over for it's peace and reconciliation efforts.

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe.  The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction.  Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. 

Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross.  He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words 'Father Forgive' inscribed on the Sanctuary wall.

In this space of horrid destruction, the scene is now one of complete peace.  The altar area of that bombed cathedral still stands and you move through that area to enter the new worship area.  It is moving beyond words.   That Friday afternoon we arrived there, laughing and enjoying our time together.  Our jovial celebration quickly turned to a silent time of prayer when we entered that amazing place.  We no longer talked and each of us quietly spoke inside ourselves.  I remember watching Mom as she made her way to that great sanctuary of reconcile, that moving testament to forgiveness.  She walked slowly, and I actually felt all the times of her life when she had preached and spoke and written the ways of peace - I could see her teaching her students lessons far past any that they would face on an AP test, I could imagine her marching for the rights of her sisters and brothers of a different color, I could even hear her telling my sister and me her quiet disappointment when she heard others, in public or in her own family, speak of other of God's children in a derogatory way.  I could see in her eyes, in her slow movements, the many pieces, the struggles and the victories that had pieced together to create her life.  It was another gift of quiet magic in that day.

No one can look at that crooked "Father Forgive" sign, site of all of those prayers, and ever be the same.  I won't forget it and I won't forget being fortunate enough to be there with my Mom.  

My Mom left this world soon after that.  We had a delightful dinner, where we talked and laughed and marveled at what we had seen just in that short afternoon.  We knew then that we would never forget that time.  We didn't know everything then, but we knew we were living moments that would be at the forefront of the rest of our being.

My Mom died in a head-on collision on a small, country road in the literary haven that she so loved.  After stopping to get our final mile of directions to the cottage, I apparently re-entered that road on the wrong side of the road (the right side) and the last I remember of our time together was laughing.  I had entered a pub in the middle of Hereford County to ask for directions.  The pub was loud and bustling and the moment I opened my southern-born mouth, the whole place stopped what they were doing and looked my way.  They gave me the simple directions and I went back to the car, all of us laughing about my breaking into that average evening at the country pub.

I am thankful for the sound that I still hear - the sound of my Mom laughing.  I don't know why we had to have the accident.  I don't know why my mother decided not to put on her seatbelt.  I don't know why that was the only time in my adult life that I saw her oversight and didn't ask her to buckle up, though I do remember thinking that the day was just too wonderful.  I didn't want to break in with any reality - didn't want to take even a moment to rain on her parade.  And so I didn't and my Mom was the only person lost in the accident.

I will not claim that it has been easy, because it hasn't been.  I spent years in a guilty haze, a place I know now that I'm a mother myself, that my mother would not have wanted me to be.  I thank God and my amazing family and friends and a few years of life-changing therapy that I came out on the other side.

I would give anything to see my mother again, to watch her looking at my children and laughing with Tim.  I would like to talk to her about my new creative life.  I would like to laugh with her about all of the ways that I just know that Molly is so very like Mary George Dean of Douglas, Ga.  I would love to be witness to Mom and Emma as they worked on a project together, sharing their love of wondering and creating.  I would relish in watching my Mom and Harry laughing and dancing, as he attempted to teach her how to do the latest moves.  And I can actually envision Tim and Mom, lingering around the dinner table, beating each other with smart, sarcastic retorts or in a gentle and quiet conversation about their most intimate beliefs.

Those moments would be wonderful, they would, but they are not part of this life.  That is not to say that Mom is absent here.  She is in my house when someone in my family says something that could only have originated with her or when I study hard to figure out the meaning of a story or when Emma stares off in thought and looks exactly like my Mom and her 'people.'  She is here and I know she laughs with us.  She is still alive in the stories, and she helps me remember why telling them is so vital to our existence.

I plan to keep looking for the stories and I appreciate those of you who come along on the journey.  This week has meant more to me than I could have imagined on Sunday night, just five days ago.  I had no idea what I was attempting, but I am thankful that we've done it.  I've spent the week with Mom, and I thank God for that.

I don't know why things happen the way they do instead of the way they don't - I just know that we are supposed to keep telling the stories and that is what I intend to do.  I plan to tell you about my unbelievable father, too, and I promise I'll do that while he is here to read it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Mom, Post 4 - Please officer . . .

If you knew Mom you might be thinking that some of her humor has been left out of these posts.  Have a seat.  I've got some today.

Mom was funny.  Sometimes she meant to be funny and sometimes she didn't.  One of the things I loved the most about her was that she had an uncanny ability to laugh at herself.  In fact, I think laughing at herself was one of her best story topics!  She would admit to things that some of the rest of us just might leave untold.  To her, they were good fodder for her tales.

She laughed a lot about crazy things she had said, and a few years before she died, an old friend shared with her about something she had said in elementary school.  At a reunion, the old friend told Mom that he had always thought she was the bravest person he had ever known.  Of course she loved hearing that but she wasn't quite sure what bravery he had seen.  He described what he remembered . .
Way back in the second or third grade, they were studying about hygiene in class.  The teacher had spent a long time one class period discussing the need for bathing regularly and all that was involved in keeping one's self clean and healthy.  He said the next day the teacher explained that she was going to do something very important; she was going to find out, for sure, who had truly learned from her lessons.  She walked around the quiet room, up and down each row and stood, looking down at each student.  And then she looked into their eyes and asked them, "Did you take a bath last night?" 

The students were nervous as she walked among them and sounded scared as they reported, one by one, that "yes, they had taken a bath."  Mom's friend told her he couldn't remember when he had taken his last bath, but he looked up and proudly said, "yes, ma'am"!  And then it was Mary George's turn.  This is how Mom's friend described it to her - "That teacher came to you and looked at you all smiley, like she was already so proud of you, and then you went and did the bravest thing I'd ever seen - you looked right up into her eyes and told her you just hadn't been able to take a bath the night before and you were real sorry but you knew for sure you'd take one tonight."  Mom loved that story!

The story you must hear, though, is not quite as G-rated.   If you know this one, you must be wondering if I was going to tell it.  If you don't, you're in for a treat.  Today's post might not be the most tasteful, but it is just too good to gloss over.  You must hear this.  After my parents divorced in the early eighties, Mom began attending get-togethers with a group called Parents without Partners (PWP as we affectionately grew to call it).  That turned out to be such a positive experience, and the friends she made in this group were among her best.  She made unbelievable memories and shared good times (and bad) with an amazing group of people.  There was one gang of women who were exceptionally close and they began to spend more and more time together.  Mom and her friends eventually became known as "The War Council" as they always seemed to be scheming about one thing or another.

The man who gave The War Council their name became a great friend of Mom's, too, and the two of them had some awesome adventures together.  The best, though, was near the beginning of their friendship.  From time to time, PWP would have dances or special parties and they were lots of fun.  Jodi and I were happy to see Mom enjoying things and loved to hear her tales of each event.  At one particular dance, Mom's friend felt like he had had a bit too much to drink and he asked Mom if she would drive.  She explained that she was happy to drive but she wasn't too good at a stick shift.  I need to interject here - Mom saying she was not too good with a stick shift is a bit of an understatement.  She was BAD with a stick shift and wasn't terribly good at driving of any kind.  In her youth, she once borrowed her father's car to drive her cousins around on her aunt and uncle's farm.  She told the younger kids to watch as she planned to maneuver the car expertly between two poles.  The car was wider than the poles, unfortunately, but that wasn't the most unfortunate part.  The worst part was that she proceeded to continue driving the car through the poles, denting both sides,  until she had gotten to the other side, rather than backing out of the damage.  I digress.

Back to the trip home from the dance.  Mom assured her friend that she could do it if he could just help her as they went.  They got into the car, and the bouncing, jerking, convulsing began.  I only wish you could hear Mom's friend tell the story.  Each time I heard him explain it, the jerky movements of the car got worse!  He said he'd never sat through anything quite that bad.   It was not a pretty ride.  He began to believe that his driving the car would be much, much safer.

And then it happened, a blue light began twirling behind them.   Mom panicked, but her friend panicked more.  He explained later that he was terrified that Mom would say something crazy.  As she worked to fitfully get the car to the side of the road, he reminded her not to say too much.  "I'll handle the whole thing.  You just give him your license and stay real quiet.  It won't be a problem."

The officer came to the car and bent down to look.  Mom looked up at him.  Mom's friend stared straight ahead, praying she wouldn't mess up.  The cop asked Mom if she had any idea why he had pulled her over - no, she didn't know of any reason he would have pulled her over.  The officer went into great detail about how she was swerving from side to side and jerking to and fro.  He asked her if she had had anything to drink and she said no.  He looked at her license and did whatever it is that they do when they go back and forth from car to car.  Mom got really nervous.  It would be just horrible if she got in trouble with the law - how would she explain something like this?  She tried to stay quiet.  Really, she did.  But she just couldn't.

When the policeman leaned back down to look into the car, Mom nervously shouted, "Please officer - oh, please - don't give me an I.U.D.!"

After that, after they all stopped laughing, things were all right.  The officer did not give her an IUD or a DUI, but he did decide he'd feel better if he followed her home.  And in the telling and re-telling, Mom laughed the hardest of all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Mom, Post 3 . . . with love and squalor

These photos were taken on a student trip to the British Isles in the late eighties.

Mom was always teaching.  Always.  If she is to be known as a storyteller, she must also be remembered for being a teacher - the two were interchangeable with her.  She was a master teacher and a consummate  storyteller and she moved seamlessly between the two consistently through her life.  If she had been robbed of her ability to weave stories, she could not have taught; and I suspect that if she had been unable to teach, she would not have told stories.  

Mary George Dean Murphy did not 'take on' the role of teacher;  she was 'in part' at all times.  She was never not teaching; it's what she did.  We joked with her about it all of the time.  My sister and I would pretend to be mad, and exclaim again and again, "we are not your students - this is not school!"  At the time, we didn't know how wrong we were . . . we were her students and we were in school.   We had her lessons, free for the taking, whenever we wanted them.  I guess everyone everywhere is guilty at one time or another of missing out on something that is there for the taking; and at this point in my life, I would give anything to be 'back at school.'

Early in my life, we lived in Milledgeville, Georgia where my Dad was doing an internship at the state hospital.  I was born there; and though I once thought that was somewhat embarrassing (because of the oft-told jokes about the mental hospital) I have grown to appreciate it.  I have come to appreciate that I was born in the hospital where Flannery O'Connor had died just days before.  Mom had appreciated the writer's residence there, too, and she did her first graduate thesis about O'Connor.  In preparing these posts, I found an old letter, revealing something I had never known - Mom was actually the first ever student to be admitted into the graduate studies program at Georgia College.  

After you've read Mom's story below you'll realize why I'm sharing her relationship with Milledgeville - it's crazy how  parts of one's life can all come together in startling ways. 

Today I share with you another gift from Mom.  This is a piece that she wrote years ago mid-way through her teaching career.  It illustrates how very much she cared about her students and how she touched them in ways that stayed with them forever.  It grew to mean so much to my mother and she gave it to her graduating seniors each spring.  

I was at the football game that my Mom refers to in this story.  I knew nothing of the pain of the boy in the story.  To me, he was a hilarious 'streaker' at the time that 'streaking' was sweeping the nation and making us all laugh.  I had no idea what my mother knew.  I had no idea the work she was doing with one hurting life.  When she shared the story with us years later, I was not at all surprised at her dedication, but I've spent a lot of time making sense of how hard it must have been to be present as a mother at the same time that she was being present with a suffering student.  That was a struggle Mom knew a lot about.  

I trust that you'll enjoy another story written by my mother and that it will give you a deeper sense of her dedication.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Mom, Post 2 . . . do you know an artist named Patrick Heron?

My mother was an adventurer.  I cannot imagine anything that she wouldn't have tried.  And she was brave.  To my knowledge, the only thing she was scared of was heights.  (There are stories of her and her cousin letting a stranger drive them over a tall, old bridge while they got down in the floorboard of the car, awaiting the safe landing on the other side.)  Other than heights, though, I don't think anything scared her.  Mom wanted to find answers, she wanted to push limits and she was constantly seeking.

She would do anything, I believe, whether it was to have fun or to fulfill a life-long dream.  I remember a group of kids on a trip to the British Isles once daring her to try to moonwalk on a busy subway platform at rush hour, and she wasted no time turning around, slanting her head down just a bit and doing the worst impersonation of Michael Jackson's moonwalk anyone has ever seen.  Her students were in stitches and lots of strangers clapped and yelled.

If she needed to know something, Mom would stop at nothing to get the answer.  And she needed to know a lot about British authors - a lot!  She devoured English Lit and never stopped wanting to fit the puzzle pieces together on a historical literary figure.  She could tell you where the Bronte sisters liked to write, what direction T. S. Eliot was facing when he wrote which line, and the very room where an author stayed at any home we might pass on a trip.  She could make even the least inquisitive become enthralled in why a novel was written or what the author was trying to say.  If I have a regret in regards to my mother it's that I didn't ask her enough questions.  I didn't try to find out all that she had taught to her students, didn't glean enough from her vast knowledge of such interesting subjects.

Many times, when I was with her and a group of students (I accompanied her to Europe a couple of times) we would follow her like a group of eager ducklings behind their mother.  She would have her dog-eared book opened, reading aloud with no regard for the strangers who wondered what we were doing, and we would trail her, completely entranced in what she was reading.  I recall many times when an information desk clerk or tour guide would come up short on answering Mom's questions.  "Hmmm, I haven't run into anyone who knows this much about this particular subject," they would say, and then they would laugh later when they had to say it again!

Mom told me about a trip she took just a year before she died.  She was using her weekends off from a summer program at Cambridge to delve into English Lit a little further, and she would grab a taxi and start with the questions.  She recalled that once she got a taxi driver that knew very little about the authors she was studying, but he began to be intrigued by her questions, her queries and her stories.  She arranged to meet up with him on another weekend, and the next weekend, he asked if he could walk with her on her hunt and listen to her read.  She immediately thought he was looking for an easy way to work the day away with the meter ticking along, when he assured her that he wouldn't dream of charging her - he was looking at as furthering his education.  And so the two of them spent the day together; he drove and she read.  It worked out nicely.

Mom was like that.  She could talk to anyone.  Really.  And, not only could she talk to them, but she would ask them anything and she would quite happily relay for them a story!

On this same summer trip, on a weekend off from Cambridge, Mom took the train down to the Cornwall area to visit St. Ives.  St. Ives is a storied village, with a lure to fishermen and artists and has been known to be the vacation spot for many writers.  Mom knew that Virginia Woolf had had a home there and that one summer, T. S. Eliot, one of her favorites, had stayed there to write.  To no one's surprise, Mom wanted to see the very house.  She needed to see it, to see where it sat, to see what the authors would have seen in the afternoon, out their back window and at the close of the day.

Arriving in St. Ives, she wasted no time beginning her search for the house; and in her usual manner, she was not put off by insufficient answers.  If she didn't get the answer she needed, she would just have to think of some other way to ask the question.  And so she did, and she finally learned that Woolf's house was up on a high hill from town near a spot called Eagle's Nest, but that it was nearly impossible to get there without knowing someone who lived in that area.  I assume that you know by now that she was not to stop there.

Mom asked someone to point in the direction of this hill up from town, found a bus that seemed to be going in that direction and jumped on it.  She found a seat near the front and then proceeded to explain to the driver that she needed to depart at Eagle's Nest.  He quickly informed her that there was no stop there, no public buildings there, no where for her to go.  She explained that she needed to get off there.  He explained that he wouldn't be able to let her off, that she would be stranded.  None of this bothered her apparently, because she forced the driver to stop the bus when she saw the little sign that said Eagle's Nest.

In retelling the story, Mom told me that the driver seemed to be a good fellow and did not feel right about leaving her.  She eventually instructed him that she would be fine and he slowly pulled off, making sure she knew the bus schedule just in case.  At this point in the story, I stopped Mom to ask what she saw when she got off of the bus.  "Not one thing," she said.

In true Mary Murphy form, she just began to walk.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the terrain was spectacular.  She didn't have a plan, but it didn't seem to matter.  The bus had hardly gotten out of her sight when she spotted a man near the side of the road, weeding an area of wildflowers and such.  She told me that he looked a little surprised to see someone out walking on this road and asked how she was doing.  When she answered in her very heavy Southern drawl, he was really surprised!

They struck up a conversation.  She told him about being an English teacher from Georgia in the United States and he told her that he had lived there for years and dabbled some in painting and writing.  I'm sure it didn't take long for her to ask him if he knew where the house in question was, and the man began to laugh out loud.  "That house is just down from mine, here, just down the hill by the water."  As you must know by now, the man invited Mom to come down to his house and see the view of the water and see the house where the authors had alternately lived and wrote.  My mother was delighted - another piece of the puzzled snapped into place.  What a great story she would have for next year's classes, she thought to herself.

She spent a couple of hours there with the man, and they found more and more that they had in common.  My mother was fascinated by the human mind and how it was portrayed in written word and he was interested in the same thing.  He also told her about his work in fine art, showed her some of his paintings and talked to her of his work as an art critic.  They were both writers, both appreciated true beauty and talent and both wanted to keep uncovering the mysteries that fascinated them.  It was apparently a delightful conversation.

As the sun began to get low on the horizon, Mom needed to start her trip back to the town.  She laughed as she recalled the man's laughter at how she planned on getting back to town.  He explained that it would take a long time to reach St. Ives on foot, the bus didn't run by there anymore until tomorrow and he chuckled when he asked her if she had thought of that.  By that time, he knew that her quest was about something bigger and arriving back at the B and B on time was of little concern.  As luck might have it only for Mom, the man explained that he was headed into town and would be happy to drive her there himself.

That was that.  The day had been wonderful and a story had been born, for sure.  Mom thanked him for the ride and for the delightful day and they exchanged addresses to correspond later.  She was tickled with herself and wandered through town, poking in and out of little shops, full of art and trinkets from the area.  She began to think that it would be nice to have a memento of the day and decided to look to see if she could find a small painting done by her new friend, Patrick.  She had already thought of hanging it in her classroom and telling the story of this afternoon to her new students.  They would laugh, she thought.

She found an art gallery that looked nice enough and seemed to have a bit of everything, specializing in the art of the area - art of the sea and the cliffs and the hills of Cornwall.  She entered and began to casually look for a piece by her friend.  The proprietor quickly found her and asked if she could help.  "Yes, would you happen to have anything by a man named Patrick Heron?" asked my Mom.  (And here is where I really wish she could tell you the story!)

Mom explained that she doesn't ever remember being moved anywhere as fast as she was whisked to the back room, made comfortable and asked about whether or not she would like something to drink or a refreshment.  She wasn't sure what was happening and tried to ask the woman why she was sitting in the small room with the table.  The woman explained that she didn't have any Patrick Herons in the shop but her assistant was making some calls.  I guess it was at this point that Mom came clean and explained she had absolutely no idea what was going on.  Quickly, the three of them were laughing hysterically.  The two shopkeepers were laughing that Mom didn't know who Patrick Heron was and Mom was laughing because they thought she was a rich art purchaser from New York!

Suffice it to say that she didn't purchase any pieces that day.  But, she sure did have a story to tell.  Patrick Heron, they explained was the foremost abstract painter in Britain and they told her tale after tale and showed her books and magazines which showcased his work.  She wouldn't be leaving the village with any Heron's!  The ladies were amazed that Mr. Heron had spent the afternoon with Mom, as he was 'somewhat of a hermit and wasn't one for socializing much.'

Mom left the shop, having added new layers to this new story, and with information about the best places in London to see Heron's work.  At this point, it cannot be a surprise that one of his most famous works is at the famed National Portrait Gallery in London, and it is a portrait Heron did of T.S. Eliot.

Patrick Heron and Mom corresponded a lot in the coming year, and she had him promise that when he came to America in a couple of years, he would come and speak to her classes.  She said he had gotten intrigued with the idea of 'the Golden Isles' and seemed very interested in meeting with the kids.  I have no doubt that had Mom lived until the time of his trip, he would have been a most distinguished guest at Glynn Academy!

The following year, I accompanied Mom and many of her former students back to England.  Mom was to be a tutor for the Cambridge Summer Session, so her former students decided to enroll.  I can't blame them for going after such a rich adventure.  Attending Cambridge for summer school with Mary Murphy as your guide wasn't a bad rap!  I got in on the trip too late to enroll myself, so I went along just for the adventure.  Each day was something new, and I reveled in seeing all that I could see.  I rented a bike for the summer and rode it all over, onto the train to visit neighboring towns, and anywhere else I could go.  It was a wonderful adventure.

Upon our arrival in England, Mr. Heron had arranged for us to be met by a gallery owner and 'shown around' one of the places that showed his work.  What an experience!  We were met by a most distinguished fellow who treated us as if we were the preeminent art collectors from the US, and our motley crew of tourists, all of us in sweat shirts and multi-colored mismatches were spoken to as if we were royalty.  A young docent spoke to us about Mr. Heron's works, about what had made him famous and took us into a room where he allowed us to peruse different pieces from each of his 'periods.'  (And it wasn't lost on us that there were two names on the front window of the gallery:  Patrick Heron and Pablo Picasso.) 

On one of our weekend jaunts out from the university, we traveled to St. Ives.  If I have ever seen my mother prouder, I can't remember - she was close to giddy on the morning that we boarded the bus to head up the hill to Eagle's Nest.  She was proud to be showing her students and me what she had found and she was proud to show Patrick Heron 'her kids.'  It was an unforgettable day.  He showed us all around his house, we toured his studio, touched his works and marveled at his beautiful gardens.  He seemed delighted to have us and was intrigued by the level of questioning of the students.  After a couple of hours, the students left to board the bus back down into the village and my mother and I were invited to stay for coffee.  (Coffee was not his usual, he said, but he thought the Americans would like it.)

It was an unforgettable day.  It sounds corny to say that the sun was shining in the sky and the sky was blue, but it really was!  Mr. Heron was fascinating and I most loved being in his studio.  He showed me where he had what he was working on now, and he even showed us some drawings and paintings that he had done as a small child.  He and my mother had lengthy conversations about the arts and about literature and about the world.  Much of the time, I enjoyed just listening to these two amazing people talk with one another.  I felt a bit like we were about to be on a documentary about a couple of hillbillies from Georgia who stumble upon a world famous artist and strike up a friendship.  It had a good storyline!

Heron took us to the corner window of his house to see the best view of the place that Eliot had rented that summer long ago, and he regaled us with stories about his experiences with painting the portrait.  I can't remember a more intriguing afternoon in my life.

When it was nearing time to leave, he told us about a 'delightful' way to mosey back to the village, by way of a few sheep fields, beside the roaring waters and ending up behind a church built long, long ago.  Mom and I were like little kids on Christmas morning when we left, both of us sated with the thrill of adventure, and we found ourselves giggling the whole walk.

 Mom and I along the walk back to the bus.

We caught the bus at our new 'delightful' spot, and I couldn't help wishing that the bus would pull up with that original driver who had dropped Mom at Eagle's Nest the summer before - I would love to have witnessed Mom explaining it all to that worried bus driver!

We arrived back in town and laughed about 'not going to purchase' any Heron works and ambled around for a bit before dinner.  As we made our way towards our B and B, a car honked at us while we crossed the last street.  We looked in the direction of the horn and saw none other than Heron.  He 'had thought of a couple more places we might like to try and he just wanted to tell us.'  He quickly handed my Mom a piece of paper where he had scribbled the names of two restaurants, shyly nodded and then drove off.

That was the last either of us saw of him, though I wrote to him when my mother died.  He wrote back with the nicest note and told of how much he had enjoyed meeting her.  He died peacefully in his home in 1997.  When I got word that he had died, I felt like I had lost a friend and another little interesting piece of my adventurous mother.

It would be hard for me to explain how proud I am that she was crazy enough to get off that bus on top of the hill. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Mary George

I'm forgoing the usual 'Monday Morning What is it?' because this is a special week - this week I've decided to use the whole week to highlight an incredible person I've known.

On Saturday I woke up and realized that it was my Mother's birthday.  Of course I had known that before that morning, but the busy week had let it slip from my mind.  When it came back to me, I took a few moments to just think about her.  I spent a little more time than usual to consider how old she would be if she were still alive and what she might be doing.  I guess I've done that before, but maybe I've not given myself the time to really let it sink in.  On Saturday I did.  I thought about how it had been twenty one years since I last saw my Mom and I thanked God that most days I can still hear her laugh in my head.  Twenty one years is a long time.  A long time when you consider all that happens in lifetimes in twenty one years.

I did the math and realized that my mother would have been seventy three on Saturday and thought about how different that is from fifty two.  It was a lot to think about.  My sister and I, and all of my Mom's friends and family, have done a lot of things since we've seen her.  A lot has happened.  Of course I've kept her posted and I have a strong sense that she knows the good stuff, the way we all are doing.

I thought about devoting the blog this week to her and I instantly liked the idea.  And then I had a little laugh - my Mom never knew about blogs.   She was such a writer, I'm sure she would have one today if she were still here!  I can just imagine all of the stories she would tell, all of the ways that she would have us all en-rapt and laughing and crying and thinking.

Maybe her story-telling is what I'll tell you most about.  There is lots to say about Mary George Dean Murphy; but if I had to describe her in one word, there is no doubt that the word would be storyteller. 
I have a sense that those of you who knew her are nodding your heads right about now.

This week I want to tell you some of her stories, and let her tell you some.  I want to tell you about how hilarious she was, what a devoted and life-changing teacher she was and I want to tell you about her bravery.  I don't want to make her perfect.   That would not be fair.  I won't tell you that we got along perfectly in all of our twenty seven years together or that my Mom's life was full of bliss.  No one's life is perfect and that wouldn't do justice to the many layers that were her life.  I remember a conversation I had with my good friend and priest, Martha, just after Mom died.  Martha gave me insight about remembering my Mom and she urged me not to do the 'easy thing' and make her perfect in death.  That was good advice.  Lives are too full of too many different things, and sweeping the hard stuff under the table seems too much like erasing part of the life.  My Mom's life was wonderful and hard and complex and interesting and rich and so much more.  I can't tell that story in one week, but it will be fun to try.  Thanks for coming along on the ride.

I've read that blog posts should be short and concise - excuse me, as I ignore that rule.  Today I want to let my Mom tell a story.  I want you to meet her (or reunite with her) with her as narrator.    Narrator was a role she liked!

Like me, my mother had close relationships with both of her grandmothers and they meant a great deal to her.  She often told me about all that she learned from each of them, different things that made her life richer and wiser.  Mama Jones, her mother's mother lived in the country and Mama Dean, her father's mother, lived in the city.  They couldn't have been any more different.

 Mama Dean (the town grandmother) and Mama Jones (the country grandmother)

I knew Mama Dean (the one from the city) and loved her.  If I could do her justice, I would write a book about her.  She was larger than life and left us with boocoos (did you get that flashback to an earlier post?) of stories.  Mom never got to write her story about Mama Dean, and she wanted to.  She told me often that she was attempting to come up with the right story, the one that would paint a picture of Mama Dean.  She had figured out how to illustrate Mama Jones, but she was working on what to say about her other grandmother.

So, this story is about Mama Jones, her country grandmother.  When I came into the picture, Mama Jones was a tiny woman, quiet and very old.  My mother could make me see what she had been in life, but I did not witness it myself.  My mother told me some of her magic, and I've always been grateful to have this story.

It's long, but I hope you'll find time to read it.  I think you'll enjoy it.  I imagine that it can be a fun respite from this world to take a few moments and read about another time.  Maybe you can wonder about some of the folks in your family who lived before.

Enjoy this gift from my Mom . . .

Friday, March 23, 2012

List Eleven - Five things I didn't mean to say!

Something happened last night while I was sleeping . . . when I woke up this morning, I came to the blog and noticed something amazing . . .

Press Pause went over 5,000 hits last night, and I want to thank you!  This blog has become such a valuable experience for me; it has helped me to formulate my thoughts and remember how very much I have to appreciate.  I am humbled by your support, and I am touched that you are following.  I realize that there is more to do in a day than there is time to do it.  Your adding a couple of minutes a day for this blog means a lot!

Obviously, people who write want people who will read.  Sharing our stories is important and laughing and crying together is what sets apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  I am delighting in sharing my stories and in hearing yours.  Thank you for following along, for feeling the joy and the sadness in the everyday along with this fellow traveler and for passing along the blog.  You all are the best!

And now for today's list . . .

Remember worrying that Big Brother was watching?  Well, now we have to worry about what AUTOCORRECT is writing for us!

Autocorrect, that oh so helpful application that spells what it wants us to say instead of what WE want to say!  Below are five things that I DID NOT WANT TO SAY!

Beware . . . autocorrect is editing you!

1.  If I want to party, I don't want to pry!!!

2.  If I want to ask someone to be quiet, I don't need an 'agh'!

3.  When I want to say, "Awwwww" as in "Awwww Man,"  I have no need for the sewer.

4.  Seriously, people.  I mean, "oooooo," as in "ooooooo weeeeee -way to go."  There is absolutley no mention about poop!

5.  And, last but not least, I want to thank you for supporting Press Pause /
Deana Graham Photography - I'm certainly not talking about gravy!!!

What are your best autocorrect moments?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stillness . . .

Sometimes things get crazy.  Well, most of the time things are crazy.  I thought maybe today was a good day for the gift of stillness.  This is the best illustration I have to offer . . . my best shot of stillness.

This photo helps me find center and take a moment to breathe and slow down.  I hope it will do that for you, too.

I can transport myself back to this moment easily - can remember it well.  This photo was sort of my own little bitty miracle to witness all by myself.  We were at a fun spot in North Carolina, and by day this lake is busy and bustling with the laughter and splashes of people of literally all ages.  This is a family retreat spot, a place that has seen decades upon decades of multi-generational groups and place where three year old swimmers laugh and splash with their eighty three year old uncles.  It's a magical spot.

The magic of this moment, though, was that I came upon the lake just after the last of the lifeguards had tidied up and left the dock, just after the last straggling family had gathered their towels and such and headed up the hill.  There was almost a  deafening quiet.  I liked it.  I stayed around for just a few moments, listening and watching.  Slowly, I began to hear the birds, the waterfowl whose calls had been muted by the happy yelps of swimming kids.  I began to notice the turtles on the old logs popping their heads back up and returning to their sunning spots.  I watched the water, lazily lapping up onto the rowboats and canoes, felt the gentle breeze and enjoyed my time there.  I could hear the occasional yell from up the hill, as folks hurried for dinner.  I could hear a laugh or bits of a far away conversation and then soon . . . I noticed could hear nothing but the lake sounds.  I could only hear the birds or the slight splash of a tiny fish.  It was wondrously quiet.  It was.

And then I noticed this.  I noticed that as far as my eyes could see, there was absolutely no movement atop the water.  There were no ripples.  There were no splashes.  Nothing was blowing.  Everything was quiet, resting, being still.  I remember vowing at that moment that I wouldn't forget this special scene, that I wouldn't forget how it felt - how it felt when I witnessed this awesome quiet, this awesome stillness.  It was my own little silent miracle and I loved it.

I wasn't sure I could take a photograph that would accurately describe the moment, but I snapped a few in hopes.  And then I found a weathered rocking chair at the base of the deck and I just sat.  I sat.  I listened.  I watched.

And, happily, I can look at the photo above and transport myself back there.  I wish I could go there now.  Wish I could have a tiny taste of that moment in each day.  For now, I'll take the photo.  Hope it helps you, too.  Enjoy this little gift of stillness in the craziness that is our days.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Listen up!

As I looked at this yesterday afternoon . . .

I remembered the four, yes four, times that the nice man at Carmax asked me if I needed to get anything else from my car.  

It went down as follows:

I drive into the bay for my car repair.  I scan the car to get all of the things I need.  I will be leaving it for a few days.  I grab a few items.  I do not think about, nor do I grab, the 'clicker' for the garage that lets me into my home or my house key.

I go into the office.  The nice many says, "Mrs. Graham, do you need to get anything out of your car?"
I think about it.  'No, thanks, I've got it all.'  That's number 1.

I complete some paper work.  The nice man asks me about my insurance information since I will be getting a 'loaner' car.  I need to go to the car to find my card.  The nice man says,  "You can have another check to see if there is anything in there that you need to grab."  I go to the car to fetch the insurance information.  I find it easily.  I look around.  I do not think about, nor do I grab, the 'clicker' for the garage that lets me into my home or my house key.  That's number 2.

We finish up the paperwork.  Another nice man is washing the loaner car.  The first nice man says, "I'll go bring your car around to the repair area.  Is there anything else you want to get out before I leave with it?"  'No, I'm good.  Thanks.'  I do not remember, nor do I grab, the 'clicker' for the garage that lets me into my home or my house key.  That's number 3.

The second nice man comes to tell me that my loaner car is washed and ready to go.  I laugh and say, "The car you're giving me is a lot cleaner than the car I'm giving you!"  'Oh, no problem, ma'm.  Speaking of your car, is there anything you need to get out of there before you leave?  "No, thanks, though.  I've got everything."  I do not think about, nor do I grab, the 'clicker' for the garage that lets me into my home or my house key.  That's number 4.

And so today, my friends, from inside my home (that my children helped me break into) I consider this . . . are there times that God, the universe, luck, providence, and fate are all working desperately to get me to notice something?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blow-up Boppers and other road blocks . . .

Sometime over Christmas Break, I took four happy kids to Dave and Buster's.  (I was happy, too.)  We spent more than I want to recall, but we had a great time.  We completely immersed ourselves in the craziness, the bright lights, the excitement - we were perfect 'dave and buster-ites.'  My children were a bit more embarrassed about my need to spend so much time in the 'trivia corner', but life was good there - I was only playing against myself and I was really smart!

As is the usual outcome after a few hours in an arcade, the kids were heavy laden with 'tickets' which they could exchange for beautiful, finely made, plastic eccentricities of one kind of another.  (This means that they could trade in $50 worth of silly, fun video games for playthings valued at about 3 cents.) Does it get any better?  Really?  They were overjoyed.

Every single 'prize' we left with that day has disappeared, probably somewhere into the large trash bins at the self-serve carwash.  Every plastic item is gone and forgotten, except for one.  Only one remains . . . the blue and orange, blow-up bopper attained just the moment before we left the arcade.  The bopper was an after thought, one itty bitty object of fun that was traded for at the last minute, with the few remaining tickets.

This bopper (I've named it that for want of any better name) has outlasted all of the others, and (many times) this precious bopper has just about led me to admit my own self into a place where people would make decisions for me, dress me in drab clothes and speak softly to me.  This bopper has become an object of distress, if only for me.  This bopper has proved to be a weapon of mass destruction that is too wonderful to put down for EVERY SINGLE male human who has entered our home since this blue and orange 'prize' came home to live with us.

The bopper, soon forgotten by the children who brought it home, is a bigger attraction that I could have ever imagined - it has its own magnetic pull that lures otherwise peaceful little people to grab it, handle it with strength and set in to beating the very life of whatever or whoever is closest.  The bopper transforms those who hold it into war mongers, evil people, with only distress and destruction as their vision.

Otherwise nice young men turn into pesky little killers when they wrap their sweet little baby hands around the puffy blue handle of THE BOPPER.  Their voice changes, the innocent look on their face transforms into THE HULK, the blood vessels in their necks bulge with anger and they set out to destructively BOP - they set out to BOP everything in their wake.  They mean to hurt, to maim, to beat the very life out of the people they called friends just seconds before.

If there is no human around to BOP, they BOP the closest object, the one that when BOPPED will make the loudest, most inhumane sound; and they continue to BOP this object until even neighbors we haven't yet met are yelling for the BOPPING to cease.  The BOPPING is loud, the BOPPING is aggravating, the BOPPING can transform a bright, sunny day into something that warrants a visit from THE WEATHER CHANNEL.  The BOPPING is bad.  The BOPPING does not stop.  The BOPPER, a sweet little boy moments before, can no longer be reached with simple soft voice commands - can only be stopped with force.  The mother of the house, just a gentle soul herself seconds before, must lunge with strength and ferocity, wrap her mighty HULK hands around the BOPPER and pull with every bit of might she has.  The mother must put forth effort never before called upon, she must exhibit olympic strength in a war she has never waged before.  She MUST prevail - she MUST take back the BOPPER and hide it again.

The mother WINS - the BOPPER is hers and she must run off to find yet another hiding place for this innocent looking, inflatable instrument of doom.  It must be hidden, again and again and again.

Without the BOPPER, the young visitor returns, he takes back the innocent look of boyhood, his sweet scratchy voice comes back, his blood vessels quietly do their work without protruding from the precious little neck and the child again goes about an afternoon of boy in youth, running free and happy in the grass.  Without the BOPPER, life is good again.  Without the BOPPER, all is well.  It is.

This is hard to recount, to relive, and it has been a part of my family's life since that fated visit to the arcade.  Life was good before the game-filled visit and it was good during the visit.  But after, after our happy jaunt to never never land, this peaceful life has been intermittently possessed by a force so evil that even my priest husband can't pray the spirits away.  The BOPPER is bigger than us.  The BOPPER brings about behaviors I wasn't trained for, behaviors I fear, behaviors that I cannot continue to fight in my daily life.  Life can be hard, and one does not need the added interference of the BOPPER to make it harder.

And so, you are surely now asking, why in the blankedy blank blank blankedyness haven't I rid my self, my home, my family from this foreign invader?  Why has it remained in our otherwise dandy domicile?

GOOD QUESTION!  Why has it?  Why have I left that plastic monstrosity within reach of sweet visitors to our happy home?  I don't know.  I don't know.  But today . . . today it all changes.  Today, as I write this post, I am rising superior to this 'made in China' destructor.  Today things change.

I will publish this post and then I will do what should have been done months ago.  I will release the little plastic stopper and let the trapped air free, and I will revel in watching the instrument of torture shrivel in my hands.  The once brilliant orange and blue perfection will cease to exist as I squeeze the very life from it's BOPPERNESS and it will be a memory.  The cause of so much angst will melt away and the sun will rise again on Azalea Court.

We may return to Dave and Buster's, but we will NEVER leave its loud, kid-filled doors with a blow-up object again.  NEVER.  The children who visit my home will never be tempted to leave the familiar bounds of boyhood to visit the crazed hallucinations of a BOPPER.  It's all over.  It's all over.  We are free.

Goodye Bop

My experiences with the BOPPER and all of the wackiness it brought to life has had me thinking.  Has me thinking about other stuff I might hold on to that isn't helping, isn't aiding us in our quest for a happy life.  Hmmmm.  Something to consider.

Are you holding onto anything that isn't helping you?

Now, here are the results from yesterday's MONDAY MORNING WHAT IS IT?

The photo looked like this . . .

and it was part of this . . . 

Ten folks guessed correctly and the winner (chosen at random using was Jami B.!  Congratulations, Jami, you just won a free photo session to be used within a month!  Contact me and we'll get it scheduled!  

Thanks for playing and following the blog.  I'll post another mystery photo next Monday morning!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning WHAT IS IT? 3-19-12

Welcome to a new week, friends!  Hopefully, everyone had a nice weekend.

I think I've come up with a good one for today.  I'm having to get very clever for you all!

You know the deal . . . make sure you've 'liked' the Deana Graham Photography page on facebook. Then check out the photo.   What do you think it is?  Make your guess by emailing me at or message me (privately) on facebook.  Have fun and get your friends to play!  Just take a guess - who knows?

I'll randomly select the winner from correct answers (on Tuesday morning) and announce the winner on the blog.  The winner receives a free photography session (up to two hours, up to five people, $150 value) to be used within one month.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

List Ten - Why I'd like to be like Erma Bombeck

The resemblance is amazing.  I know.  Can you believe it?  

Do you ever hold onto a compliment?  Ever hear what someone says and think to yourself, "I'm going to remember this for a long time"?  I do.  Sometimes we have to draw on some of those moments when things are tough or when we're trying to remember why we work hard or what makes the effort worth it.  

Recently - since the start of 'Press Pause' - I got a compliment that just about had me shouting.  The mother of a friend (well, actually she's my friend, too) said "Deana could be the next Erma Bombeck." 

Yaaaaaahoooooooo!  I was thrilled!  Don't get your panties in a wad, I know that's not really what will happen, but please do not blame me for being excited.  I have loved Erma Bombeck since I was a child.  I can vividly recall getting ready to go to school, while Erma was on 'Good Morning, America.'  I remember that even then, even when I was a little girl, I noticed  that she made me laugh.  She laughed at herself.  She seemed to use her humor to help make things a little better and I liked that.  

Now, just a few short years later, I'm in my young adult-hood.  OKAY, SO IT HASN'T BEEN A FEW SHORT YEARS AND I'M NOT IN MY YOUNG ADULT-HOOD!  These years later, in my adult-hood I know more about Erma Bombeck.  I know that I appreciate so much more than I knew about way back then.  

I'm no Erma Bombeck, but she's not a bad person to aspire to emulate.  I wish she was still here.  I do.  I wish I could hear her quips about life in 2012.  I think I can imagine a few things that might be fodder for her tales, and it would be great fun to get her views on facetime, facebook, apps and such.  Can't you imagine her explaining her own snafus with texting?  It would be fun to hear her again.  

When I think about Erma I laugh or smile and it's usually about something completely normal.   She was good at helping us laugh about the everyday, the ordinary, the boring.  Somehow, her stories helped propel the normal into something a little more sacred, and she did it all with a sarcastic twist.  There is not much about housekeeping that I enjoy; but you better believe that if Erma could come to visit while I'm folding clothes, I would do a much better job!  I really would.

So, here, my friends, is this Friday's list.  Here are just ten of the many reasons that I'd like to be like Erma Bombeck:

  1. Because she said stuff like "Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage off the carousel doesn't belong to anyone?"
  2. And also stuff like this . . . "Children make your life important."
  3. She wrote books with titles like, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to go Home,  Everything I Know about Animal Behavior I Learned in the Loehman's Dressing Room, Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, and A Marriage Made in Heaven (or Too Tired for an Affair).
  4. And she wrote things that helped us laugh while we were crying, like I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to go to Boise, I Want to Grow Up:  Children Surviving Cancer.
  5. She depended on her faith and loved her church.
  6. She laughed about her struggles with motherhood in the fifties, writing things like:                   My solution was to bury myself in typical fifties housewifely pursuits. I crocheted Santa Claus doorknob covers, stuck contact paper on everything that didn't move and decorated Bill's dinners with miniature roses sculpted from zucchini. It didn't help.
  7. How about this one?  I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.
  8. And this . . . I haven't trusted polls since I read one that said that 62% of women had had affairs on their lunch hours.  I haven't met a woman yet who would give up lunch for sex!
  9. She fought for ERA and wished to wage the battle with regular women, in regular cities, towns and suburbs.
  10. And, because she said this - and unlike we are often led to believe, she said it 17 years before she died, not when she was terminally ill.  She was busy living and wondering and learning and she said:
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.  

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.  

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn't show soil/guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later.  Now, go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more I love yous . . . more I'm sorrys . . . more I'm listenings . . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it . . . look at it and really see it . . . try it on . . . live it . . . exhaust it and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.

Thanks, Erma, for making us laugh and see life's holiness in the same moment and thanks, Sena, for saying I could be like her!  

Enjoy a little flashback . . . 

What's your favorite thing about Erma Bombeck?  Who makes you laugh?

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