Swimming in the Dark

This is a picture of Ellen coming up (or going down) earlier this summer. I thought of it for this post because it's it - it's the place.
This is a picture of Ellen coming up (or going down) earlier this summer. I thought of it for this post because it’s it – it’s the place I describe in this writing..

There is a sink full of warm water and mostly clean dishes in my kitchen. I was washing those same dishes last night when I took a phone call (my older sister Emily calling me back) – talked for an hour – then went off to do a bit of reading before falling asleep. The dishes sat overnight and were added to by breakfast. It wasn’t long into re-washing the dishes that I felt compelled to capture a moment for which I am quite grateful. Sitting down to write this post, I’m looking at washing these dishes for the 3rd time tomorrow.

Mid-week this week I found myself fessing up my honest take on some situations to two of my confidants. In allowing myself to be brutally honest, I realized just how critical I had become. Even though I wasn’t always expressing this sentiment, it was in me. I was humbled by what I looked like: going on and on about how inefficiently people communicate. All of these situations were truly opportunities to show compassion. And truly in all of this, there was a distinct opportunity to show myself that same compassion. I was reminded of a poem by Fleur Adcock (check it: here) and really took a minute to breathe and allow myself to be how I am. I have a bad habit of comparing what I like and find entertaining or noteworthy with what others may like and find entertaining or noteworthy. It felt good to experience some complete whole breaths of self compassion. And thus lay off everybody else who is just being who they are.. interesting concept, right? (I’m laughing – because of how sure I am I have solved this puzzle before and how certain I am I will need to solve it again.)

Thing is – I came across something tonight that I haven’t had before (though I swear I have but I can’t remember) for which I am grateful. Really really grateful. It was like being given a key.

I took my daughters up to the pool at about 4:45pm. For about 2 hours, I did what’s typical: socialized with other moms, read (here’s what I’m currently on my 6th attempt to read..) and answered my children’s inquiry “when are you getting in” with all sorts of creative milestones “when I get to page 93″ – “when my heart is ready” – and (most commonly used) “when I  get hot”.

Around 7:30, when Ellen got out and said she was bored, I pulled out a deck of cards. After a couple of rounds of Go Fish and Rummy, the night sky had completely fallen. The pool lights were on and making the water dazzle like only a summer time pool can on either a humid August night or one of those magical mid vacation nights when you know longer know the date. We both started joking about jumping in with our clothes on and before long, in one quick movement, I dove in and began a completely different experience.

Swimming in the dark with the world lit up below us, I started to feel something really super familiar. I had flashes of feelings from my past but without images or stories.

I felt lucky. I felt really loved. I felt a sense of simplicity. I felt I could go on forever. These feelings were fleeting, but over and over while jumping around and playing nonsense games, I would get them. Flash. flash. flash.

I started out on a lap to the deep end of the pool where I planned to go over to the ladder and climb out to meet my towel. The flashes continued. Without thinking, I found myself stopping at some point in the deep end, keeping my eyes closed, plunging down under the water and letting my knees hit a bend after my feet hit the floor. Pausing. Exhaling. Then coming up for one breath, keeping my eyes closed and going down again. In recalling this, my motions continued as if on auto-pilot.

Over and over again without opening my eyes, I felt this incredible feeling of nothing. I wasn’t an adult but I wasn’t a child. I was only myself. I had no age. Just the feeling of warm water over my whole body then stillness. A part of my inside was laughing at the joy and the freedom. The secret of buoyancy and its power to let you leave the demands of the every day physical reality in which we live. For a parallel, it was nothing like driving: where you’re behind a machine and watching lights, cars, and trying not to text.

My mind started getting busy trying to grab words to describe how happy I was in this and sure enough I lost it. But now I know I have this spot – now I know that there is a familiarity in water that takes me to my inner most place where I am not even “Erin” but I am my soul. My non-critical, very curious, full of wonder, and quite generous soul. 

It’s just draped in lightly freckled skin with eyes that are (at the moment) pretty tired and in a body that has dishes to do.

Fergusauce. My #quicktake on #ferguson #jesus #prayer and #love

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When I opened the doors of the van in the Galleria parking lot (our pit stop for CPK dinner after the last leg of a 3,500 mile jourey to Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado), I was greeted with some seriously bumping rap music from a suped up white chevy cavalier that was driving down an opposite aisle from where I parked. I got out of the car and found myself in my own moment of profiling: the groups of people around me, myself, and my city.

What happened while I was gone? I had seen bits on Facebook but I wasn’t online much while traveling so I didn’t get into it. A few phone calls gave me the basics but the views were different: one friend feeling uncertain to walk at night, one friend feeling it’s all being exaggerated.

I felt similar to how I feel when one of my girls is returning home from a playdate and I have received an informative but non emergency note that they fell and “were upset but it’s ok”.

I wanted to see my city’s scratched up knees.

I called around to some folks I knew had been going to Ferguson to protest, pray or serve to give a head’s up that I was home and encourage them to hit me up if they were headed north. I once improvised a melodic white girl rap tribute at an open mic night about I-170: I know all the exits, I know the beauty of 17 minutes from Brentwood to Florissant, and I know the parts of which I am uncertain and where I do not go alone.

Long story short: I went to the Ferguson Farmer’s Market and then sat at a coffee shop all morning and into the afternoon. I was aware of what it meant to be a spectator versus being present and engaged. I was aware that I was not there for entertainment, but to support the community and ramp up some sort of understanding or connection with the emotions I tasted in the Galleria parking lot.

I ended up coming across a bunch of tomatoes grown at a farm in Ferguson (check it: Earth Dance Farms) and bought a couple of pounds, deciding I’d make a batch of sauce for the week ahead. I picked up a couple of other pieces to throw in the pot and returned home to ignore all of the unpacking I have yet to do, tie on an apron, and cook.

I found myself praying for all of the friends I have who have been so committed to being a precense of Christ’s peace and love this past week. I found myself cutting out the hard top crosses of the tomatoes, from where they connected to the vine, and squeezing them into the pot with such a feeling of wellness.. wellness deep in my soul. I found myself honoring my experience of Ferguson today being one of sampling market fare and witnessing the pride of their community, though I hope to progress to where I can go pray closer to ground zero and serve in some way.

So it occurred to me in all of that that I was indeed making Fergusauce.. and though it’s delicious and I want to eat it all, I plan on delivering it in the morning to a pastor’s family who is fervently working north off the Rock Road and who – when I reached out to find out what they needed – replied along the lines of wanting time at home to snuggle with their babies. I can only hope that the blessings of nourishment that went into the food sustain them as they continue to support the community from which these tomatoes came.

No deep thoughts really, tonight – but I think this is true: we can’t ignore this opportunity to grow as people, to love and to reach out. As my pastor preached tonight from Ephesians: to break down the walls between us and others. It’s really not about where you fall on the controversial aspects to Mike Brown’s death – but about connecting in whatever way you can to others as these opportunities open people’s hearts. A woman was giving away “free hugs” at the market this morning, and after thinking “I personally don’t really need one bc I am not from Ferguson I am not related etc” I still accepted a hug… because why not. I notice Love tends to pour easy in times like these and you might as well join in.

Ellen’s Gemstone: the entertainment of her angst and disappointment and how I taught her to lie.

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Meet “Ellen and Owen”.  They are cousins, born 2 months apart, and are dear friends with one key characteristic about their relationship being that they can be somewhat competitive with eachother.

Owen recently set Ellen off on a mission by mentioning an 18 karat gemstone he bought on Etsy. Ellen was pumped to get “her own gemstone” and rose early one morning to ask, “Mom, may I please use the computer and go on Etsy and get a gemstone?”

Sure.

She begins an extensive search – nearly an hour online –  until she finds a rainbow quartz gemstone deal for $12.99 sold from a merchant in India. She falls in love. She gives me cash and I check out my first ever Etsy purchase and her first ever online purchase.

The next morning, Ellen wakes up and says “I get my gemstone today!!”. ERR… ok – so, I explain she’ll see her gem in “7 – 10 business days”.

Ok. She shrugs.

A week later.. two weeks later.. two weeks and two days later..

“Mom. I’m never going to get this gemstone. It’s just never coming.”

Now I shrug – “It will come” with a 70% confidence level.

That same week, I arrive home from work and am greeted with a pink “Sorry we missed you note”. Surely it’s the gemstone!

How exciting! I call Ellen – she is excited – and we agree she will go with me to the post office (this is technically her errand to run as it was her purchase) and so another week goes by as timing and schedules work out before we can go to the post office (together) on a Friday.

Oh for the love of it all when I realize “Friday” is the 4th of July.

I call Ellen and explain that tomorrow is a holiday, post office is closed, but offer: “I’ll pick you up at 2:00 this afternoon and we can go get your gemstone before you leave for Innsbrook”. She agrees, I arrive on time, honk twice and she comes bouncing out of her dad’s house. Shiny and bright and happy.

Imagine her face when the clerk informs us we are at the wrong post office.

“Mom. I really don’t think I am ever going to get the gemstone”

I reassure her – the Clayton office is about 5 minutes away, let’s go!

We wait in line, we get the package, we are happy – we get in the car, she is surveying the package and she asks for my help opening it up..

I give her my house key and advise her to proceed in the way I have proceeded with many a packages in my lifetime – take the key and press it along the crease in the box to break the tape. She says she can’t. I advise further, looking over a bit, “use the key against where you can tell it is already indented” and I nod towards these dark spots on the package.

“Mom those aren’t indents that is glue”.

?? I am puzzled, she is now moaning. I say, “Honey baby it’s okay, just keep at it while I’m driving.”

“Mom. I have waited so long. It’s been so long. I can’t get this open.”

I pull over.. Hand it over, sweetie pie.. and so she did. The following pictures and captions tell the rest of the story.

I understood the child has waited a long time to finally be at the threshold of her gemstone but I could not understand the anguish I was hearing about opening the package until she handed it over and I see it is wrapped in swaddling cloth, threaded and sealed shut. At this point, I begin laughing.
I understood the child has waited a long time to finally be at the threshold of her gemstone but I could not understand the anguish I was hearing about opening the package until she handed it over and I see it is wrapped in swaddling cloth, threaded and sealed shut. At this point, I begin laughing.

 

I am laughing even now. After breaking the thread and pulling the package out of the cloth (seal remanents flying everywhere during the process) I display to Ellen that what is obviously a tupperware container is wrapped in tape. Please note her expression and body language. The poor thing. She was dying.
I am laughing even now. After breaking the thread and pulling the package out of the cloth (seal remnants flying everywhere during the process) I display to Ellen that what is obviously a tupperware container is wrapped in tape. Please note her expression and body language. The poor thing. She was dying.
At one point while I am eagerly watching her pull back bubble tape to get to the gemstone, she looks over at me and has the kind of face that when somebody looks at you with it you think you have a bubble of blood coming out of your nose or something else repulsive happening with some aspect of your face.. poison ivy on your eye lid, a purging cold sore, "what???" I ask. "You have Indian glue on your neck mom". I am cracking up. See it? lol.. It reallly was going everywhere.
At one point while I am eagerly watching her pull back bubble wrap to get to the gemstone, she looks over at me and has the kind of face that when somebody looks at you with it you think you have a bubble of blood coming out of your nose or something else repulsive happening with some aspect of your face.. poison ivy on your eye lid, a purging cold sore, “what???” I ask. “You have Indian glue on your neck mom”. I am cracking up. See it? lol.. It really was going everywhere.
Ellen was actually initiallyl very disappointed when she opened the case. The gemstone is much different than the picture online and we talked a bit about expectations and how to accept what it is and how if ever you really are disappointed, you can return something or whatever. But in this situation, she really needs to consider everything really cool about this gemstone. It is really pretty! Then I promised her a java chip frappacino and she smiled.
Ellen was actually initially disappointed when she opened the case. The gemstone is much different than the picture online and we talked a bit about expectations and how to accept what it is and how if ever you really are disappointed, you can return something or whatever. But in this situation, she should consider everything really cool about this gemstone. It is really pretty! Then I promised her a java chip frappacino and she smiled.

 

All of this, of course, had us running a bit late for her dad who was headed out to his family’s place to spend the holiday. Yet we were parked in front of a Starbucks which surely woo’d me as I had work to return to and a bonding moment with Ellen to seal forever.

We plotted in the car about how we were going to handle it if her dad was upset that we got Starbucks. I explained the difference between lying about going to Starbucks while hiding the frappacino and saying “I love you daddy we didn’t go to Starbucks” while drinking the frappacino. It’s about being playful. Which – though I could see how this story is about consumerism and bad parenting offering coffee to your 9 yr old – it’s also about some serious good times.

See, my role in all of this was to thread her along the experience of wanting something bc somebody else has it, spending instead of saving, being patient at the mercy of the post office and third parties, using the experience to interact with people, doing what you want while caring about other people’s experience, and working it out when you are disappointed with a purchase. And I found myself really putting her in the driving seat a lot in all of this and – in doing so – I was wildly entertained.

This parenting thing is interesting. You have to be both smart like a parent and free like a child – I don’t think I’m doing it all right, but I’m doing it. And so I share. Have a great weekend..

 

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