<![CDATA[Musings from the edge of whelmed - Edge of Whelmed]]>Sun, 25 Mar 2018 08:47:06 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[March For Our Lives]]>Sun, 25 Mar 2018 15:19:52 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/march-for-our-livesFor all my admiration of the kids from Parkland, Florida, I found myself reluctant to join the march yesterday.  I had it on my calendar, and I had every intention of going, but when Saturday dawned I found the thought of being in a huge press of people frightening on many levels.  I was depressed and anxious and I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and take a nap.  I was surprised at myself, and disappointed.

Himself, who had no plans of going in the first place, suggested that I go to the rally on the Boston Common if not to the March itself.  Still I wouldn't budge.  Then he announced that HE was going and I could either come with him or pick him up at the subway station when he returned.  So I went.

It was not, as I feared, a violent crowd confronting the NRA supporters. It was energized, but peaceful.  There were young children carrying signs which I would probably not have let my children carry, but these kids are facing threats which were rare when my sons were their age.  Still I was shaken, clutching his arm, and panicking at not being able to see anything from my towering height of five-feet-nothing and shrinking.  Then I saw her, the woman in her mid to late seventies sitting in a wheelchair in the midst of that throng, and I was so ashamed.

The people there had no fear, or if they did they pushed it down.  It was a very different feeling from the Women's March the day after the Inauguration of "He Who Shall Not Be Named".  It was more focused and a little more frantic.  The energy was palpable.

A few days ago I was listening to the news and thought, "Thank God my kids are safely out of high school," and I was horrified when I stopped to realize the actual meaning of that thought.  Adults should not be safer than children.  That's just wrong.

On Facebook last night I watched the speech given by Emma Gonzalez and I was floored.  After her impassioned words came six minutes and twenty uncomfortable seconds.  We wondered whether she was overcome by emotion, or suddenly paralyzed by stage fright.  But she looked so calm.  Supporters in the crowd started chanting and applauding to encourage her, yet there she stood, perfectly still for what seemed like an eternity.  The crowd was more silent than I could have imagined any collection of that size being.  At the end of the six minutes and twenty seconds she announced that that was the amount of time it took the shooter to kill seventeen people.  It seemed like such a horrendously long time, just waiting for her to speak again.  I wonder how long it felt to teenagers and teachers who were listening to gunfire and thinking they could be next to die.

My hopes for the future had been flickering for the last year of this despicable administration's display of disdain and disrespect for humanity.  Thank you, Emma, and all your friends, and all the people who showed up all over the world to shout "ENOUGH!"  Next time I promise I will slay my demons and march with you.  And someday I hope to be able to vote for you.]]>
<![CDATA[Ash Valentines Day]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 14:07:15 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/ash-valentines-day
I will acknowledge that Catholics have some interesting customs.  Celibate clergy.  Handing out dead leaves once a year. And let's not forget smearing one's forehead with ashes to wear all day to announce the start of Lent.  My Protestant friends don't get it.  I have a small pool with friends to see how long it will take before someone calls to one's attention the embarrassing "dirt" which we must have missed in our ablutions.  How, exactly, do they figure that one happened?  Fell face first into the fireplace on the way out and forgot to check the mirror afterwards?

Anyway, although Lent is not as trendy as it used to be, it's still another chance to reflect and renew for those of us who have already blown our New Year's Resolutions.  It's supposedly the 40 days leading up to Easter during which one makes sacrifices, large or small.  Giving up something like wine or candy or desserts or swearing are popular disciplines.  I like a positive spin, myself.  More Masses during the week.  More spiritual reading.  More quiet time without cell phones or laptops, to just sit quietly and hear what's really going on.  Now for those of you who can count, you will soon figure out that Lent is NOT 40 days.  It's 47 days, and although Easter falls on April Fool's Day this year, that is not a joke.  Here's the secret that many Catholics don't figure out unless they have a friend who happens to be a Canon Lawyer....Sundays don't count.  The Resurrection is such a really big deal, that one celebrates Sundays no matter what.  Which is as it should be, of course.  It's the ultimate trump card (Please pardon that expression.  I'm trying to eradicate it from my vocabulary.)

In all seriousness, we all need a Lent.  We need a reminder that there is more to life than Words With Friends or Godiva Chocolates.  Or even political affiliations.  There is compassion and forgiveness.  There is grace.  And there is love.  Above all there is love.  And that's our job.  To stop and feel the love God sends to us and to turn it around and love others.  So maybe it's very appropriate that Ash Wednesday coincides with  Saint Valentine's Day this year.  And I'm tickled by the fact that Easter will be on April Fool's Day, because Jesus pulled off the biggest joke of all in proving that death is not the end after all, in spite of what people might think!

Enjoy your thoughtful journey.
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<![CDATA[Fe-blah-ary]]>Fri, 09 Feb 2018 16:25:11 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/fe-blah-ary
November has Thanksgiving.  December has Christmas.  January has the odd left-over winter party and a holiday celebrating Doctor King right in the middle.   And then there's February.

I once heard it defined as "The six-month long depression between January and March. Suicide month."  I get it.  February makes my soul weary and my heart stop believing that spring will ever get here.  I am having crocus-envy.  The weather has been mindbogglingly cold and disgustingly gray, but not really sufficiently miserable to justify my complete disgust with this stupid month.  It's just old.  Gloves and hats are becoming pilled and annoying.  Scarves are a pain.  And I know there are people who would be very grateful to have warm hats and gloves and scarves, and I do my best to share.  But I'm still sick of needing them.  I need more sunlight than I am getting.  A lot more.  Coming home in the dark makes me feel I have missed the whole day.

Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday at best, even though I've had the same fabulous Valentine for over a quarter of a century.  If I were a teacher I'm sure I'd be counting the moments until the vacation week.  But I'm not a teacher.  And I'm counting the moments until March.
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<![CDATA[The Changing Face of Benches]]>Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:11:36 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/the-changing-face-of-benchesOn the banks of the Fort Point Channel in Boston there is a row of benches.  I've mentioned them before and made friends with a few people who either start there days there after the Pine Street Inn sends them out the door, or who call those benches home.  The faces have changed over time.  Valerie is no longer there.  We used to greet each other with a hug and an occasional sandwich or a couple of bucks passed from me to her.  Then one day she wasn't there.  There is no one to ask what happened, and if there were, I'm not sure I'd want to know.

Now there is a man who has apparently been living on the same bench for over a month.  He sleeps in a sleeping bag on the edge of the waterside, the railing keeping him from falling into the cold and murky water below, sort of like a baby's crib, but a whole lot less cozy.  He is surrounded by bags of trash containing empty food boxes, empty bottles, bits of paper, and I don't know what else because I try not to look too closely, partly out of respect for his privacy, and partly because of my squeamishness.  Sometimes he is out of his bag and shaking his head endlessly from side to side.  He has a white beard and the remains of his long white hair are pulled back from his balding brown  forehead into a ponytail.  We've never exchanged a word.  I've never seen him talk to anyone except possibly to the people only he can see.  Seeing him makes me sad, so sometimes I confess I will walk the other way.

But winter is coming, and today there are torrential rains pouring down at the end of a ridiculously warm October.  I tried calling him to the attention of the Mayor's Office last week. I was told to call 911.  So I did.  Other cardboard beds and cushions from discarded lawn furniture disappeared, but my bearded friend and his bags remained untouched.  

I guess my next move is to bring a breakfast sandwich once in a while and leave it on his bench.  But what kind of society have we become when this is not a shocking situation?  When after a month (or is it two?) nothing has been done and people are so used to seeing him that they don't really see him any more?  And this is just on my little walk to the office.  Whom do you see on yours?  And what on earth are we going to do?
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<![CDATA[Auditions]]>Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:53:54 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/auditionsPicture
Auditions are fascinating.  I have a resume of roles I've played, and a pretty decent black and white head-shot to go with it.  Nine times out of ten these are at home in some box (I have no idea which one, but I'll find them when I clean) and I have to scribble something on a piece of paper and wrack my brain for what year I did which play.  In spite of the fact that I do this quite often, you'd be amazed at how elusive those dates can be.

In any event, last night I inhaled some hummus and pita so I wouldn't starve, lovingly prepared by Himself, and I set off for another audition.  There are not all that many good roles for women "of a certain age" as the French so charmingly put it, so when one arises there is a gathering of the same talented women, eager to learn if they still have enough brain power to memorize a two hour script, and longing for that curtain call at the end of the performance.  We love one another, enjoy one another, respect one another as people and as actors, and we are delighted and distressed to find we are all up for the same part.  So we greet one another with a hug and a genuine "Wonderful to see you!" but somewhere in our head a quiet evil voice is whispering, "Oh, s#*t.  She's here.  I haven't got a prayer!" and that was the beginning of the OSC, or the "Oh, S#* Club".  I've told them all about it and they all know exactly what I mean.  We laugh about the "board meetings" we have whenever we gather. I'm the President because, hey, it was my idea.

No one wants to go first.  It's horrible to go first.  By the time you've watched three or four people read the same lines you begin to think, "I wouldn't do it that way.  I'd pause here and wait for the laugh.  I'd sit on this word and then get up and walk on that one."  We don't get to choose who goes first.  The director calls our names, one by one, and up we get, script in hand, trying to read and interact at the same time.  It's tricky.  No one knows what the director's "vision" for the part is.  Even the director doesn't really know it until s/he sees it up there on the stage.  The best actor in the world won't get cast if the director has a different image of the role.

I wasn't first.  I wasn't last.  I was somewhere in the middle.  There were a few laughs from the "audience" which didn't seem like pity, so I guess it was not my worst outing.  The director asked me to crawl across the stage on my hands and knees as if I were in pain.  "Sure.  That's why I wore a dress," I replied as I dropped to all fours and dusted the boards with my summer frock.  I got another laugh on that line.

There's another audition for the same play tonight.  I won't go. I don't want to look desperate.  And then the waiting begins.  When will I hear?  Will I hear?  Some directors only contact the people they want in the show.  That's so rude.  I always appreciate the liars who say, "We ADORED your reading, but we've decided to go in a slightly different direction. But we hope to work with you again!"  It's just the elongated version of , "No" but it is easier on the ego.  Not getting a part means a day or two of doubting myself.  I usually vow to lose twenty pounds, partly because I assume that was the problem, and partly because I am reminded of what it's like to see pictures of a production when I don't bother to lose twenty pounds.  Not good for the ego.  I hate cameras.

So soon I may be in a cranky mood, but it will only last a day or two.  Or, there is always the possibility that I'll get the part, and then I'll have something to keep me busy two nights a week for the next couple of months.  It's like summer camp for grownups.  Well, we're not really grownups.  We're actors. 

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<![CDATA[Rapid Transit Gloria Mundi]]>Wed, 14 Jun 2017 13:52:50 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/rapid-transit-gloria-mundiPicture
If I retire (and God knows I'm getting old enough) this will be the reason.  Getting up at 5:15 in the morning is not a problem for me.  The mornings have always been my favorite time of day.  Having a reason to get dressed and out of the house is a good and healthy thing.  My job (now that I have kissed my "career" goodbye) is cute.  There is little pressure, and when I close the door at the end of the day I don't give it another thought until I turn on the lights in the morning.  But the commute is going to kill me.
The ride in is usually tolerable.  Three days a week Himself and I ride together.  We are far enough down the line so we generally get a seat (critical!) and he likes to do the daily crossword puzzle together which could one day mean the end of a marriage which has lasted 26 years so far, but whatever.  Then we read our books.  Two days a week I commute on my own as Himself leaves our home at around 6:00 AM and RUNS to work.  It's ten miles and he's become a bit of a legend in the office because of it.  In the winter he is lit up like a Christmas tree, because it's dark out there, but from now until sometime in October he leaves in the light, heads to his sports club and takes a shower and dons the outfit he has left in the locker the day before.  

And then there's the commute home.  I have been known to travel 6 stations in the wrong direction in order to get a seat for the ride home. Getting a seat makes a world of difference.  Eye contact must be avoided at all costs.  If I can dive into a mystery or some other  amusing book I become oblivious to the world around me.  But when I look around it strikes me how like a bad Sci-Fi movie the world has become.  Everyone is plugged in.  Babies in strollers are playing with Mommy's iPad.  Music is leaking out of earphones, which makes me wonder what it sounds like from the inside, and my personal favorite is the loud one-sided inane telephone call which could REALLY have waited.    Most of the time, however, I do manage a seat.  The gray hair works for me.  And my look of death, which, if I do say so myself, I have pretty much perfected.  If someone offers me a a seat I never say no.  That behavior is to be encouraged.  Himself sometimes gets cranky because if there is one seat I always get it. Well, I'm older.  And I'm short.  And I'm fast as greased lightning and weave my way like a football player through the crowd until I score!

But the thrill of the chase is losing its edge.  The broken air conditioning, the times when I'm stuck nose to nose (or nose to armpit in my case), the language, the complete lack of civility is just getting to me.  Not that I'm about to drive into town every day, which would present its own problems in the areas of civility and expense.  Maybe I'm just turning into that cranky old lady who gets into fights in the T parking lots with people who insist on going against the arrows in the rows (God, I hate that!).  Maybe it's time for me to sit on my front porch and yell at the people who insist on blowing through that damn "STOP" sign.  Nah.  Not yet.  But I can smell it from here.

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<![CDATA[In celebration of a happily ever after]]>Thu, 11 May 2017 15:03:32 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/in-celebration-of-a-happily-ever-after
Twenty-six years ago today, surrounded by the scent of lilacs on the altar, I married my best friend.  We didn't know what we were getting into.  Oh, we made the standard promises and had the usual party.....well, we actually had Chinese food, and our going away outfits were Mickey and Minnie Mouse tee shirts over new jeans, but you get the picture.  

Fast forward a quarter of a century plus change.  We added two young men to the world who are so brilliant and wonderful that they raise the national IQ average.  We survived the passing of friends and family members.  He became a runner and I got further into community theater than I had been.  I gave up a career and stayed home for fifteen years to be the chauffeuse to soccer, baseball, basketball, karate, and music lessons.  Oh, and I passed on the acting gene, so there were lots of rehearsals for school plays.

Since we have been married, I have learned to read music, I learned to play piano, and I'm currently taking guitar lessons.  I meant to take guitar lessons in 1968 but I forgot.  I just finished a basic course in ASL, sign language for the deaf.  He studies new computer languages and history and we try not to cry over the political situation together.  We give each other space because we know we can.  He encourages me to write and I encourage him to run.  He's done eight Boston Marathons and two Bay State Marathons.  I've done two 5K races and I think I'm done.

As Sister Miriam would say, we are like "chalk and cheese."  It hard to picture two people who are less alike.  He's tall and thin and I'm short and ...well, not so much.  He's athletic. I sit and meditate.  He loves the music of Phillip Glass and I would rather eat glass than listen to that.  He's all rock and roll from the 60's and I'm more folk music.  And that's good.  The  basic values of honesty and faithfulness, kindness and generosity are there.  I had no idea when we married what an incredible father he would be.  

So pardon my mush, and yes, I really do realize how incredibly blessed I am (we both are).  I'm not sure how I fell into such a happy place, but I'll take it, and try to spread the joy around a little.

Happy Anniversary to my other half.  I don't know what I did to deserve you (in fact, I probably don't deserve you) but I am grateful that I got you anyway.   
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<![CDATA[Another hole in the tapestry.  ]]>Fri, 03 Mar 2017 23:04:08 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/another-hole-in-the-tapestryPicture
Sister Miriam

I met her in church when my kids were just babies.  She would bustle through before or after Mass, always stopping to talk to the line of people who needed a prayer or a hug.  I could never remember her name.  Then when the boys were a little older (3 and 4 or so) we decided to try a one mile version of The Walk for Hunger to get them thinking about how lucky they were and to realize that not everyone was.  But they were sturdy wee men and made it to mile five before Mommy pulled the plug and flagged the "Toe Truck" to take us all back to the Common to catch the T.  And there she was, apologetic for quitting so soon, but she had such a bad back, and twenty years ago she was only a sweet young thing of 68.  We drove her home from the subway and Sister Miriam Patrice McKeon entered our lives.

When the boys went to school and I became a stay-at-home Mom, I often went to Daily Mass and, of course, she was pretty much always there.  So we started chatting.  Then we started having breakfast most days at a little diner in town, and I started to learn all sorts of things about her. She loved to sing, and to dance.  I was her partner for more than one polka at a party.  She had been cured of breast cancer the night before her surgery.  Really.  They couldn't find anything to operate on the next day.  And she began to cure others with her prayers and her joy and her love.

She could speak in tongues, and every so often she would grab me by the hand after Mass and say, "I got a Word for you from the Lord."  Then she would tell me what He wanted me to know.

She taught Bible studies at a home for unwed mothers and once a week I would babysit for the children who had already been born so their mothers wouldn't be distracted. Her faith was amazing to watch, and it was contagious.

She had a brilliant mind.  She led retreats and marches and sat on Boards of Directors for groups that helped the poor.  She was a highly coveted speaker and she cast spells with her kindness and her bright, burning love of God.

Then she had a fall and broke her hip and her arm, and she had to go to the Mother House in Wellesley to recover.  But she was getting older and frailer and her falls came more often, so she stayed there.  It was only  half an hour drive from my house, but I didn't make as many trips as I should have.  I started working full time in downtown and pretty much collapsed when I came home.  Last week one of the Sisters told me she wasn't doing well and I went to visit her.  She reached out her hand and took mine, calling me "Honey" and telling me how good I was to come.  She told me I was a "holy woman of God."  I was very moved by that until her funeral today when I found out she had said that to almost every one of the Sisters present.  But maybe she was right.  Maybe we all are "holy women of God."  It takes one to know one.

She was tired and couldn't hang on any longer.  Today I saw her for the last time, I listened to people tell of how much she had changed their lives.  And how much she was loved. I felt what I had always known in my heart.  I knew a saint, and we were all so privileged to have the opportunity to "walk her Home."  I will miss you, Mimsy, but I expect to see you again.  Meanwhile I will pray for you and to you, because if anyone can get it done, Sweetie, it will always be you. 
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<![CDATA[Women United]]>Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:09:57 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/january-22nd-2017I hate crowds.  I don't do the Fourth of July on the Esplanade in Boston.  I don't go to the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston.  I don't do First Night.  And yet, I could not stay away from the Women's March which gathered on Boston Common yesterday.  They had planned for a crowd of 20,000.  The estimated attendance was somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000.  We couldn't move.  We stood for hours listening to the speakers and then trying to get out of the crowd and onto the streets to march.  I never actually did "march", but I heard every speech.  I saw nothing because if I were any shorter my hair would smell like feet (I stole that line, but it's a good one).

So there I was looking at a lot of pink hats and a lot of creative signs and a lot of extraordinarily pleasant people, largely female, but there was a fair representation of men and some children there, too.  There were many rainbow flags.  There were Muslim women in full dress.  There were immigrants, with and without papers.  Everyone showed up.  And the mood was not at all what I expected.

My reluctance to participate initially was largely due to my abhorrence of what large crowds have been known to descend into.  Violence terrifies me whether it's directed at me or not.  I thought the crowd might be looking for Trump's blood.  I thought there would be angry, shouting people shaking fists and turning red in the face.  Well, Trump was certainly unpopular with the crowd, but most of them weren't wishing him any physical harm.  What they made loud and clear was that they would not let him take away rights, or mistreat minorities, or take away healthcare coverage, or turn this country into a sea of hate without a fight.

But it was women.  We do things differently. People were offering total strangers snacks.  We were singing and laughing and talking to total strangers as though we had arrived together by plan.  My favorite sign was "Kind is the new sexy."  Do not mistake me.  We were all dead serious and joyful in a strange way.  We looked around and saw that we have power.  Everyone was astounded by the turnout, by the tone, and by the dedication to keeping America civilized.
There was not one arrest.  The Police Commissioner issued a press release thanking the crowd for their behavior.  

The marches in other cities, including the one my son was attending in Washington,
D.C., were no surprise.  When I later saw the accounts of supportive gatherings all around the world, however, I was moved to tears.   And for the first time in a very long time I felt hope.  And power.  And the world will be very surprised at what the power of women united can do.
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<![CDATA[Permanent Scars]]>Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:32:39 GMThttp://edgeofwhelmed.com/edge-of-whelmed/permanent-scars50 years ago today my childhood ended at 6:30 in the morning when the doorbell rang.  My brother, Wayne, 22 years old and eight months back from Viet Nam, had died in a car crash going back to his base in Louisiana.  Nothing has been the same since.

You'd think that after 50 years I might have mastered the art of handling this information, that it would be an old scar never thought about.  You'd be wrong.  I called a priest friend in Wales this morning to ask him to remember Wayne in his prayers today.  My voice broke and the old pain surged up like a giant Jersey Shore wave that knocked me over and left me sputtering.  

Wayne would be 72, which I cannot picture at all.  Would he be gray?  Bald?  Would he be married and have kids?  What would life be like to still have a big brother as I approach 65?  It's the missing tooth that you forever seek with your tongue.  You poke and prod and constantly seek out that space, and although it has become part of who you are, it's never totally accepted, never comfortable.

There have been a great many deaths of people I've loved, and still love, since then.  Family and friends (who have been more "Family By Choice" or "FBC" as I call them).  I've gone through the stages of shock and the physical heaviness that grief brings, wearing it like a coat of lead.  I've gone through the guilt of having happy days without them.  I've learned that learning how to have happy days is exactly what we're supposed to do.  Still every now and then a song, a smell, a date on the calendar, will rip off the old scab and set the wound bleeding again.  And that's OK.  That means these people are still with me, still in my heart, still matter, are still loved.  

I guess I don't want to stop hurting.  I can't, won't and don't want to forget any of them and how they have been threads in the tapestry that is my life.  And if there are bare patches where these threads are missing, I guess that gives me an opportunity to glimpse what is on the other side.

Rest in peace, Wayne, but more than that, rest in joy.  Until we meet up again. 


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