essays+reflections

Nana with Sunflowers

Posing with my Nana in her backyard in the mid-90’s. 

.  .  .  .  .

Some days it’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since I held my Nana’s hand for the last time.

Other days it feels like a lifetime and I think,

Has it really only been a year since I last heard her joyful belly laugh?

In the past year, I have had moments of beautiful, lucid connection with her, where I feel as though we are conversing in a sweet new love language.

(I’ve written about this previously: seeing songbirds // is it a sign?)

Nana and Linda

Nana snuggling with my Auntie Linda in 2015.

.  .  .  .  .

Other times, the pain of grief literally takes my breath away.

Like the time last fall when I was leaving a meeting in my grandparents’ town.

It was a bright sunny day, my windows were open and my radio was on. I was stopped at a red light about to cross the street to get on the highway towards home when my brain innocently said:

Wait! It’s only 2 o’clock. You don’t have to pick up the kids today. This is a perfect time to visit Nana.

I reached down and clicked on my left blinker with the most peaceful feeling in my heart.

And then, as I sat there with a smile on my face, waiting for the light to change, reality punched me in the gut.

Oh my God. How could you forget? She’s not there, Erin. She’s gone.

And tears that required me to pull over, knowing it wasn’t safe to drive, poured out.

Nana - bw

My Nana in 1944.

.  .  .  .  .

There was another time, not too long ago, when a customer named Thelma marched into the cafe where I work and I could barely keep myself composed.

Thelma was full of joy and life and chatted enthusiastically with everyone in line and then with me when she arrived at my register.

As I took her order and listened to her stories, my eyes welled up with tears.

Oh my goodness, what a spitfire, I thought.

Which immediately took me back to the long days and nights in multiple hospitals and nursing homes as my vibrant, spunky, beloved Nana — who fell and hit her head while getting her newspaper one morning — went from living independently, driving, and doing her own grocery shopping to being on Hospice Care in a matter of months.

Even towards the end when my Nana’s body had started to shut down, the doctors and nurses were amazed by her positive attitude, quick wit and ability to deliver a perfectly timed joke.

Rev. Erin Goodman - Rhode Island - Nana

Reading prayers and singing church hymns to my Nana, April, 2016.

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My grandmother wore many hats in her lifetime. She was a slight woman, barely 100 pounds soaking wet, we often said, but always — right up until the end — she was a spitfire.

And she is deeply missed by all on this earth who were blessed to be loved by her.

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Why I go to church (this week)

by eringoodman on March 9, 2014

in essays+reflections

This morning I attended my beloved Unitarian Universalist church.

This may not seem significant, or blog-worthy, except that it’s been well over a year since I have attended Sunday services and so today I found myself reflecting on what I love about being part of a UU church community.

I love the energy of gathering.

Today, despite “losing an hour” of sleep, I arrived early and sat in the center of the gathering energy — the welcoming committee at the door greeting each arrival, the choir rehearsing one last time before service starts, friends hugging and catching up. It’s such a beautiful energy of excitement and anticipation.

I love the ritual.

Our church service begins with the sounding of a singing bowl. I love that the bustle of gathering instantly quiets as the bowl is sounded, the energy of gathering giving way to the energy of settling and being present. Without words, information is conveyed that it is now time to begin our worship service.

I love the community.

Announcements at the beginning of service, flyers hanging on the bulletin board in the community room. I love the people and their interests and all of the magical events and gatherings that spin out of this vibrant community.

I love the choir.

Whether I’m singing in the choir or sitting back in the audience, tapping my toes and taking in the beautiful music, I love how the presence of a choir elevates the mood and invites sacred transcendence into the room.

I love the religious education program.

I love that the RE program is a place for children and youth to be seen and celebrated for who they are and that they are exposed to the world’s major religions and spiritual thinkers while being encouraged to follow their own path.

I love that all are welcome.

I love being part of a UU church where all are welcome. I love the huge rainbow flag that hangs by the front door and all it represents as well as the fact that everyone who gathers together is encouraged to follow (and share about) his or her own personal spiritual path.

I love coming home.

People often refer to our church community as family and for me the experience is much the same. I love that our church is a place of eternal welcome, where I can slide away for a few weeks (or several months) and always be welcomed back with open arms and a warm embrace.

* * *

All of this is true, my friends. And yet, I still wander and go for long stretches without attending services.

Why?

Because sometimes I don’t feel like going to church. Sometimes I’d rather take a hike or attend a yoga class or snuggle up on the couch with my children. Sometimes life gets crazy and getting to church becomes one more thing that has to be done, one more day that an alarm must be set, and I find other ways to nurture my spirituality.

I find ritual in making a pot of tea and transcendence in the way the light hits the floor and community in a Sunday afternoon potluck.

For me the important thing is not how I nurture my spirituality (and that of my children) but that I do make space to nurture our spirituality — at home, in nature, or with our church community.

How about you, my friends? Do you go to church (temple or synagogue) regularly, occasionally or not at all? How is this working for you and your family? Please share and inspire us with your words.

 

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My take on the LEGO movie

by eringoodman on February 9, 2014

in essays+reflections, mixed media

 

On Friday night, with our obligatory $5 bag of popcorn in hand, we settled into the back row of the theater, which my seven-year-old thinks are the very best seats.

We were there — along with the rest of the packed theater — to see the LEGO Movie.

Prior to going, I had watched the trailer and had heard from my son how very awesome the movie was going to be. I was excited to be there with him on opening night and had an  open mind about the movie, which I’ll admit would not be one I would see if it weren’t for the gentle prodding of my son for weeks leading up to the release.

Over the years, my beloved son has helped me to stretch out of my comfort zone with his love for video games and all things “shooting.” A couple of weeks ago, while visiting Dave and Buster’s, I even joined him for a few rounds of a zombie shooting game, which previously I would have not allowed.

(We started with a “no shooting games” rule, which was later adapted to “no shooting humans” so a game that involves shooting ghost-like skeletons or animated robots is now on the approved list.)

Remaining conscious of the impact of violence, even animated violence, while at the same time respecting our son and his interest in being part of pop culture is a fine line – one that we are walking with great care.

And so there we were, on opening night, at the LEGO  Movie and when the theater darkened and the no cell phones reminders came on, the excitement was palpable.

Everything was great. The movie was hilarious and the children’s laughter in the theater was a balm to the soul. And then about 15 minutes in, the “bad guy” entered and things got a little, shall we say, intense.

I am a Highly Sensitive Person and I realize that I experience on screen violence in a way that is more intense than the average person, but still the basic story line of the movie is Armageddon in LEGO land.

It was animated. It was LEGOs. But still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the movie had to be so violent.

Are we not yet making the connection between the diet of increasingly violent images that we are feeding our children and our distraught over the increase of violent actions taken by teenagers and young adults?

* * *

So what was my son’s take on the violence in the movie?

The next morning, I initiated a conversation about it to see how he had been affected by the hundreds of explosions  and all the shooting throughout the movie.

Me:

“I was a little surprised by how violent the movie was. There was a lot of  ‘blowing up’ that happened. What did you think of that?”

His response:

“Seriously, mama? It’s LEGOs. If you blow them up you just put them back together again. No big deal.”

The truth — as it often does — probably lies somewhere in the middle of “no big deal” and “way too violent” and each family will have to make a decision that is right for them, but I do think this is a conversation worth having.

Your turn. Did you see the LEGO movie this weekend? What do you think?


{ 8 comments }

What if you just ask?

by eringoodman on October 28, 2013

in essays+reflections

enamel top table

* * *

I left the appointment and realized I had an hour before I needed to be somewhere else. Remembering that it was half-price day at the thrift store, I pointed my car in that direction and began to mentally list the specific items of clothes that I would be delighted to find.

At a red light I noticed the truck in front of me with a beautiful enamel top table, the exact kind of table that I have been hoping to have as a writing desk for years.

As I drove my thoughts wandered. 

I wonder where they are going. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they were on their way to the thrift store too?

So you can imagine my delight when I saw the truck’s turn signal and realized that they were going to the same place I was!

* * *

And then I did what I have a tendency to do. I pulled into the parking lot and started to talk myself out of anything that had to do with the table.

They probably have to take all the items to the main headquarters and then ship them out to stores. What are the chances that it will end up back at this store? Or that it will last more than a few seconds in whatever store it does end up in? I might as well just stick with the plan of clothes shopping and forget about the table.

And then very clearly I felt a surge of confidence, a moment that invited me to do things differently than I usually do and just. go. ask.

* * *

As I walked over I could see an employee talking to the two men with the table.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I was driving behind them and admiring this table and I was just wondering what the process is and how I could go about purchasing it.

The man in the blue smock smiled.

“I just rejected it. We don’t take furniture with chipped paint.”

I quickly turned my attention to one of then men who was tying the table back on the truck.

“Do you really want to get rid of this table? Because I absolutely love it and would love to have it. I’ve been looking for one like this for years.”

As we moved our conversation off the thrift store property and worked out the details of how to get the table from the truck to my house, he told me a bit of the table’s history. It belonged to his former wife and he first laid eyes on it in 1978 in New Orleans. It came to his wife and him via family in Chicago and he had skipped work one day in 1979 to repaint the legs.

(The same legs that were now chipped and caused the table to be rejected by the thrift store and loved even more by me.)

I stood there beaming.

“You just made my day, my week even,” I told the man. And a few days later I nestled the table into the sunniest spot in the house and set it up as my writing desk.

All because I decided to take a deep breath, stretch out of my comfort zone, and just ask.

* * * * *

How about you? Is there some way you could stretch out of your comfort zone and “just ask” this week?

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Taking a break from my unplanned but deeply needed blog break to share some thoughts on fall foliage, Google and the importance of human connection . . .

As I rode my bike around in the late afternoon sunlight, flickers of red kept catching my eye. Vines weaving and meandering their way up the trees, looking beautiful and festive as they climbed.

“What are these beauties?” I thought as I rode.

Eventually I was so enchanted that I decided to pause my ride and take a photo and as I did, I inspected the blazing red foliage a little more closely.

Three leaves. Huh.

Wrapping around a tree. Hmm.

Could this beautiful vine be poison ivy?

I paused for a moment knowing I could easily Google “Does poison ivy turn red in the fall?” on my iPhone, which I had just used as a camera, and have an answer in a matter of seconds.

But then I thought of my friends Jayne and Jeanine, my cousin Dan, my Auntie Linda and Uncle Bill and others who I knew would know the answer to my question and I realized that I didn’t want to Google it.

I wanted to ask someone. And have an actual conversation about poison ivy and beautiful fall foliage and the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having here in Southern New England — ideally over a glass of wine or a cup of tea.

I wanted connection as much (or more!) than I wanted a quick answer to my question.

It’s so easy to get information and fast answers in our world. Genuine human connection, on the other hand, seems to be harder and harder to find.

Realizing clearly that I wanted the latter much more than the former, I decided to wait and got back on my bike to ride home.

* * *

A few days later I was in the car with my mom when again the bright red leaves caught my attention.

“Oh yay! Here’s my chance,” I thought, posing the question to her.

“Hey, do you happen to know if poison ivy turns bright red in the fall?”

She pursed her lips and thought for a second.

“You know I’m not sure,” she responded, reaching for her iPad, “but I can Google it.”

And this time, while sharing time and space with someone I love deeply, who read to me from wikiHow that yes, in fact poison ivy does turn a beautiful shade of red in the fall, it felt just right.

* * * * *

Thank you very much for your kind notes and Facebook messages. I apologize that I have not been able to respond to everyone individually. I did not intend to be away from my blog for so long, but as I said above, I truly needed the time offline. I’m happy to be dipping my toes  back in online, while still staying conscious of the needs I have in the here and now. (In other words, I’ll pop in here when I can, and write from my heart when I am inspired and have the space to do so.) Happy fall, friends. XO ~Erin

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