Lately, I've been researching depression for a close friend of mine who has it, and it made me start to think about the various mental issues that I have.

I started to look back at my high school years and how I felt in social situations. I couldn't talk to anyone, because if I did, I would become extremely embarrassed and blush. Even after I realized that I had nothing to worry about when talking to these people, that I wasn't going to say anything really childish or even if I did, it was no big deal, I would still get anxious about socializing because I was worried about blushing. Now, I don't mean that my cheeks would get a little pink; rather my whole face would turn red as a cherry, I would overheat, sweat, and get a headache.

This affected not only my social life, but also life at school. I couldn't talk to anyone except my friends. However, I really didn't think that I actually had friends. I didn't think that my "acquaintances" cared enough about me to be counted as friends. It's not like there was anything in specific that made me think I wasn't worth friendship; I was intelligent, fairly attractive, a talented writer and violinist. I was also a very kind, nonjudgmental person. I just felt that I wasn't worth the trouble.

If asked a question in class, I would become embarrassed, blush and forget the answer. If asked a personal question by a peer, I would blush and avoid the question. This was a big problem! After each day of school I would be so exhausted from the stress, then I would go to my part-time job and blush some more until closing time (midnight). I worked as a server, and would often blush when taking guests' orders! I can't even talk to a doctor without blushing. And the one time that I actually talked to a doctor about my problem, she told me that I'm lucky ("guys like it when girls blush" was her explanation)!

And in the few occasions that I worked up enough courage to talk to a friend about my anxiety, I was told each time that I was just shy and would grow out of it (which made the problem worse because I felt that I wasn't "grownup" enough, and thus acting childish).

Well, anyways, after researching depression and stumbling across social anxiety, I think that I should seek some sort of help. Not only for myself, but for my son. When he is old enough to learn social skills, I don't want him to develop my social anxiety.

I have become convinced that being a packrat is hereditary, and only the knowledge that I will eventually have to move my stuff has prevented me from collecting more stuff than I have already. Grandma, on the other hand was a women of legendary thrift, having been a farmer's wife through the great depression and World War 2. In her later years was able to save money from a minimal Social Security check. One of her strategies for saving money (at least in her mind, anyway) was to reuse and hoard just about anything that might conceivably have utility.

I am getting ready to move out of my grandmother's old farm house, which is not only holding all of my stuff, but still contains much of the stuff that she collected and saved in the 45 years she spent here in this house. I suspect there is stuff she had in the old house that my grandparents tore down when this house was completed in 1949. Grandma passed away 5 years ago, and hasn't lived here for almost 12 years, but her presence is still felt in many ways. She was born in 1899, when there were no airplanes, no radio, and automobiles were a curiousity. In her youth, she probably knew men who fought in the Civil War. As my days in the old house grow short, the burden of sorting through and disposing of the accumulated stuff has taken on a new urgency. She collected a lot of stuff during her long life, and knew exactly where it was even late into her 90's. Among the things she has saved:

A large drawer full of breadwrappers
At least 2 large cookie tins of buttons
At least a dozen cores from old windowshades
Enough old dishes and pots and pans to outfit at least 3 or 4 households
Large quantities of miscellaneous knick-knacks and dust collectors

In additions to truckloads of household goods, I have also had to determine the fate of more personal things. Among them were boxes of cards sent to her shortly after the death of my grandfather. Most of the people who sent them are probably gone, and I don't really have room to keep them, yet I feel compelled to keep at least some of the contents of that box. Same goes for old photographs. I find photo albums of people I never knew, but also some treasures, such as pictures of my dad just before he shipped out to Korea in 1950, his letters from the front, some baby pictures of myself and my siblings, and my parents as newlyweds. Though much has to be thrown out, much needs to be kept as well. I have to keep this node short, I have to get back to work.

“Now of course I’d love it if the Cubs win, but hey, if they don’t at least maybe Sammy will hit a home run. And if that doesn’t happen, at least it’s a sunny day…”

What!?! FUCK YOU!!” I screamed as I turned the radio dial so that I wouldn’t have to hear any more of this moron’s pontificating on being a Cub fan. That idiot just said the definition of thinking like a loser. Then again, as Cubs fans, that's all some of us know how to do.

You see, things are heating up here on the North Side of Chicago about how things will be going with the Cubs this season. After the heartbreaking loss in last year’s NLCS, everyone’s thoughts quickly turned to February and the start of spring training, hoping that the Cubs and their owners the Tribune Corporation would make the right off-season moves to finally put the team over the hump and into their first World Series since 1945.

And they actually did it! Trading our long-gestating (and somewhat disappointing) young 1B Hee Seop Choi for Marlins hitter Derrek Lee, shoring up our shaky bullpen with LaTroy Hawkins and Kent Mercker, and finally bringing future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux back to Chicago to give us a fifth high-quality starter (Bye bye, Shawn Estes! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!). Cubs GM (and player-trading wizard) Jim Hendry has even stated that the notoriously tightfisted Tribune will allow him to make any deal necessary during the season in order to ensure a playoff berth. Expectations are running high amongst the fans and the baseball pundits, with even the inimitable Peter Gammons stating that the Cubs now have the pitching depth and power to win the World Series. Tickets are being sold at a record pace and people are already making plans for October.

And I’m friggin’ scared.

Every March the Cubs and their fans are seemingly infused with a sense of innocent optimism. “This could be our year!” most of us think and say, but we know it’s not true. Denial ain’t just a river. We know that this year will probably be just like the last 90 years, and it will only end in defeat. We long for the seemingly unattainable .500 mark. We hope that the Pirates or some other poor team will go completely to shit, just to keep us out of last place. When you go in with a mindset like this, it’s not as easy to get hurt. If the team does good, then it’s a wonderful surprise. If they do poorly, well, it’s what you were expecting in the first place.

Now we suddenly have idiots saying things like “Anything less than a World Series for this team would be a failure.” Where have these people been for the last century? Were they watching the same team as I was? Let’s face it, the Cubs got extremely lucky last season, they barely won the NL Central by the skin of their teeth, and if you actually pay attention to Pythagorean winning percentage, the Astros and Cardinals should have killed them.

Yes yes, I know the Cubs should do great. I know we look excellent on paper. Even though I hope that eight months from now I can look back at this and scoff at what a worrywart I was, I can’t help but conjure up nightmare scenarios in my head. What if Wood loses his slider again? What if all the innings Prior has racked up finally catch up with him? What if Sammy loses his modicum of plate discipline and kills his hitting? What if Zambrano stops talking to his glove?

I walked through the streets of Wrigleyville after the loss in Game 6 last year, and it was the most surreal thing I have ever seen in my life. Literally thousands of people shuffling down the middle of Clark Street in stunned silence. Everyone looked totally shell-shocked with some people even weeping openly in the street. I won’t…I can’t see that again.

The Cubs have sucked my entire life. They have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1971-72. They have made the playoffs four times in my lifetime. I have suffered through countless losses, coaching changes, player changes, the slings and arrows of surly White Sox fans, inane curses, and a poor bastard named Steve Bartman. All of this has made me build a box around my heart. I love the Cubs and I am really excited about our chances, but pardon me if I don’t join in the rah-rah parade this early.

Let’s wait and see.

“Daddy, is it ok to laugh in church?”

Ash Wednesday was a couple of days ago and borgette was called upon to give a little speech that her class composed in honor of the occasion in front of the entire student body. Naturally, the teachers were all in attendance too. Now, we as a family don’t profess to be members of any faith and she attends a local Montessori school. The school does however rent their space from the local Catholic Church and in turn the kids are often exposed to things of a religious nature. That really doesn’t bother me all that much since they try and balance that out by exposing the little ones to a variety of faiths ranging from Buddhism to Judaism with a nice mix of everything else in between.

We were in the car on the way home and I could tell something was on her little mind. I knew what she was supposed to do that day and I asked her how things went.

Apparently, either through a case of nerves or the fact that’s she’s only nine, when she was called upon, she got a case of the giggles and laughed and stuttered her way through her speech. Instead of blowing it off, I guess one of her teachers came down on her pretty hard with the usual rhetoric about this being a place of worship and that it was entitled to a certain degree of respect and she had embarrassed both herself and the class in the eyes of the Almighty. I guess it’s not too hard for an adult in a position of authority to make a kid feel like shit and if that was the teachers goal, it was certainly accomplished.

My kid told me about what the teacher had said and how she made her feel and that’s when she popped the question about laughing in church. I thought for a bit and to paraphrase, here’s what I came up with.

“Look honey, I don’t know much about God and most people who say they do don’t know what they’re talking about. I think that in a way, God’s house is just like ours and I’m almost sure that he’d rather hear the sound of children laughing than hearing them cry. I know I would.”

That simple little message seemed to do the trick. Whatever was bothering her about what she had “done” seemed to go away in an instant and life resumed as normal. I didn’t tell her since it would probably upset her but I plan on having a word or two with her teacher next week.

If you were in England (especially in the South) over the last couple of days then you may have got a substantial covering of snowI love snow!! We all left college just after lunch yesterday to find that we were ankle deep in it. Obviously the first thing that happens in this situation is a single snowball gets thrown. Before it hits the ground it seems there are more in the air than you can count, and you’ve managed to get snow right down your back (no matter how tight the top you’re wearing is... trust me!). If I ever get too old for a snowball fight then I’m going to have someone kill me. The fight didn’t last long however... most hadn’t got thick coats and even fewer had gloves! Some of the guys had decided to try and build a snowman (It didn’t look as though it would ever fly however). It was an anatomically correct snowman however, I think they made particularly good use of the materials to hand (Especially the two small stones, and large stick). My hands were going numb, so we decided to meet up at the ‘Reccy’ and about an hour geared up for snow fun! I ran home, grabbed some gloves, a hat and a large tea tray! If you’ve never gone down a snowy hill on a tea tray, then I thoroughly suggest you try it! Hours later we finally went home some of us with bruises in the most awkward places (…and yes I speak from personal experience!). I slept pretty well last night with all the running around!
This morning it had all frozen to that crunchy and very icy snow. This is much less fun, someone tried to make a snowball, but when it hit someone they just got a nasty look. Most of us had trouble walking (it was slippery! No, not because of the bruises!). I guess it was just one of those one day things when you have forget what your plans are and seize the moment. The best snow we’ve had for years!

This evening is the party at Alicia’s! I’m still deciding what to wear. I hope Ryan turns up, not that that’s the only reason I’m going, but it would be a bonus! I’ll report back either tomorrow, or Sunday!!

Two events - both true.

One: a line from a news story from AP (Yahoo news) that would have made Arthur C. Clarke smile:

"a dusty blue sunset at the end of its 20th day on Mars"

It is a short piece about the Mars rover and some photos of a smoggy sunset. Deep in the heart of every science ficiton lover is the love of phrases such as these. Words both other wordly and lyrical. The future is here. And its blue.

Two : today at a mall I saw a teenage girl with a denim purse. Attached to the side of the purse were two small squares of typing paper, about the size of poptarts. On each square was typewritten text. Poetry? prose? song lyrics? I am not sure, because I did not stop her to read the fine print. What interests me is two parts of this image:

1. The words were meant to be read. I know that because the paper was on the side of the purse facing out -that is important.

2. The written word is alive and well. If young people care about written language enough to carry it around (books are dead?)AND flaunt it, I believe that is a happy day for all of us who cherish text. Found poetry? No. Words in motion.

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