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For various reasons, I've become more and more depressed lately. I guess I should issue a disclaimer saying how this isn't clinical depression...yada, yada, yada. (Please forgive my lack of "p.c." but I'm sick of people discounting my emotions because I'm not clinically depressed, and basically giving me a guilt trip for expressing said emotions.)

But wait, this is a happy node...you'll see!

Anyways, the more unhappy I became, the more I started to think about myself and less about others.
Get to the point, what is this all about? you say.
I am happy to report that my spunk is returning to me! Yay! Why? Someone's homenode reminded me of why I was happy to begin with. It wasn't because of those around me. No, I don't think being called worthless, stuck-up, etc. etc. by my parents on almost a daily basis quite made me chipper. It wasn't pride in my accomplishments, as I was raised to believe that feelings of self-worth are sinful (though I don't believe this now, old habits die hard). Even if that wasn't the case, a worthless person seldom thinks that what she does is good enough (I remember crying the first time my then-fiance called me a wonderful person. I felt guilty for misleading him). I was happy because I loved. Yes, that's right. I loved. It didn't matter whom, or why, I just tried to spread the love. No, I'm not a wonderful person. I failed many times. I didn't stick up for the outcasts. I wasn't a caring older sister. I didn't help out my mother. Etc. etc. But the love I managed to give out made life feel live-able.Give everything you can to everyone you know

I was twenty-six years old when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. My wife was terribly pregnant with our first child. She saw it happen on live TV. The soap opera she was watching was preempted for the launch, as they were in those days. The countdown proceeded as normal. The shuttle lifted off and exploded some seventy seconds later.

Nobody had ever seen a shuttle explode before so when it did, the cameras just kept rolling and the TV announcers weren't quite sure what to say, because they didn't know what they'd just seen.

The baby started kicking, and my wife was afraid her water might break. She got up to call me at work at RCA, but I was out at lunch sitting in the parking lot of a restaurant called The Boardroom in Somerville, N.J. listening to the replay of the launch with Howard and Lou and Mike and we heard the words, "Obviously a major malfunction," and sat glued to WCBS AM 880 New York all news.

Howard said, "What was that?"

None of us knew for sure what they meant by "major malfunction", but it was damn easy to guess. In general, rockets don't generate the aura of "malfunction". Malfunction is what your refrigerator freezer does when it fails to keep a temperature gradient and the frozen burgers go bad. Malfunction is when a spark plug misfires and your car makes noise at highway speed.

In the case of 1986 NASA, "malfunction" meant "catastrophic explosion killing everyone aboard", which strangely enough, we all knew even though we were staring at a red plastic line behind some numbers on a car radio.

When I got back to the office there was no message for me from my wife, because we didn't have voice mail and the admin didn't answer anyone's phone except for my boss's. But it wouldn't have mattered because I was standing in a crowd of people four deep in front of a bank of televisions in the RCA employee store watching the shuttle explode over and over, and listening to newscasters hypothesize about the crew's chances for survival, which we all knew then, and know now, were zero.

When I got home that night, my wife told me how she'd watched the shuttle and at the moment of the explosion the baby started kicking hard, and then harder. So she called me thinking it might be time for us to get ready to go to the hospital. But then the baby calmed down, and she watched the shuttle coverage for the rest of the day, because that was all that was on.

The shuttle exploding was the most horrible thing I could imagine, and even now, eighteen years later, it still bothers me. The space program was the single reason I loved science as much as I did. I idolized astronauts, even as an adult. How could a shuttle explode? What must it have been like for those poor astronauts?

My daughter was born two weeks later, which in juxtaposition, provided some bizzare contrast to my life which was to continue, pretty much forever.


About three years later I'd moved my family to California and was working at Intel and Howard came over to visit with his friend, Glenn, who Howard introduced as his "partner". I was still living a life shrouded in engineering and had no idea that "partner" was not a business term, so at dinner Howard had to spell it out for me that he was gay, which somehow my wife had always known but had never said anything about because she knew I'd tell her she was crazy. I'd tell her that Howard couldn't be gay because I'd surely have known it having worked so closely with him for seven years, who did she think she was kidding?

But then Howard told me and we toasted he and Glenn's having decided to tell all their family and friends and co workers. And I was happy he told me and happy for him and Glenn, and very disturbed that I knew so little of the people around me.

"Remember when the space shuttle blew up when we were at lunch that day?" I asked him after our toast, mostly because even though I'd known him for almost ten years, I couldn't think of what to say to him next.

"That was the worst thing that ever happened," he said, or something like it.

It was one of those things that we were always going to remember where we were when it happened, and I would remember sitting in the car with Howard and Lou and Mike listening to the radio. It seemed life was like that--measured in peak events of tragedy or happiness. I will always remember the shuttle exploding, like I will always remember 9/11 and how my mother came to the front door to call us inside from playing when Robert Kennedy was shot.

Then between these time-defining events my wife had a baby and Howard had to figure out how to tell us he was gay and Lou decided not to get on flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and Mike went off to be Mike and something else happened that became the rest of our lives.


I was thinking about love today and for some reason it reminded me about the space shuttle Challenger. Sure, we just had another shuttle disaster. Columbia this time. It came apart in flames over the southern United States.

I was 44 when that one went, and so my whole outlook was different than the 1986 incident. Back then, my friend Rich had ordered a copy of the presidental report. It cost him $25, which was mostly for shipping, because it was big. Turned out, the book was "free" to all citizens of the United States, you just had to pay the $25 shipping, which was a whole lot of money for a book, and I could barely afford breakfast cereal, so I didn't buy a copy of the free book.

There were lots of pictures in the book. Rich loaned it to me one weekend and I went through it reading the whole issue with frozen o-rings and all.

There was a picture in the book I can't get out of my head. By now everyone on earth has seen the shot looking upward, the single brilliant white column of rocket exhaust terminating in an orangish ball of chemical propellants, the twisted arcs of the two stray solid rocket boosters curling outward in the distance, and a rain of debris trailing streamers of blue-white.

In one presidential report picture, one of the many blown-up pieces of space craft shrapnel arcing downward to the sea is quite clearly the crew compartment of the shuttle, intact, looking like someone simply hacked the rear of the craft off the nose.

I've always wanted to know what it was like for them, falling to the sea with no engines or control surfaces to glide. Just falling, probably alive, trying to make things work that weren't going to. Two and a half minutes, feeling a normal 1G gravity, hanging face down from the straps watching the sea get closer.

Would they think it was worth it, having become astronauts? Would they be scared or would they be calculating escape routes?

Two an a half minutes is a long time. I tried to hold my breath for that long. I couldn't do it.


When I went to Antarctica this year, I thought of myself as an astronaut. Helicoptering around the desolate continent was as close to an astronaut as I'd ever become. At one point a helo I was in hit a bunch of turbulence and the pilot made some sudden maneuvers that made my stomach sink into my heels. I nearly got sick.

It scared me. Indeed. And it made me wonder about crashing, because just last year a helo crashed near where we were and everyone remembered it. Our hearts were pounding. The pilot was calm,but the first words out of his mouth were, "See that brown sludge on Lake Fryxell? That's jet-A."

I decided it didn't make me any less happy to an Antarctic explorer. It wasn't going to stop me. When I remembered that incident I knew why thinking about love made me think about the shuttle and all the things surrounding it. Funny how the mind works.


I bet if those shuttle astronauts had survived, and you gave them the chance to try it again, if you said, "OK, this one WON'T explode. I promise on a stack of bibles," they be begging you to get back on.

Because life is empty if nothing here is worth it.

Something in your life, has to be worth your life, to make you want to live. Your family. Your friends. Taking the risk of having your friends accept what you really are. Having a child. Your planet. The future. Love.

That's why those defining moment in time are so important.

Riding the space shuttle, orbiting the earth, touching the infinite--yes, indeed--that is worth your life.


So I bet that at least one shuttle astronaut of Challenger or Columbia, as it was coming apart around him or her, must have been thinking, "I hope this doesn't disqualify me for the next launch."

In the house I live in at the moment we have recently been cursed with a minor infestation of ants. These things get everywhere - in your bed, your food, your toothpaste...
Needless to say, I was getting quite pissed off with these critters after a couple of weeks, especially because it seemed that all the ants were born to do was to annoy and inconvenience humans. What do they actually bring to this party that they call Earth? Apart from being amazingly efficient at vexing us, absolutely nothing.

Compare this to other creatures, I thought. Bees, for example, hurt and annoy us sometimes, but at least they honour us with a hari-kiri ceremony, plus pollinate flowers in their spare time for the greater good of the ecosystem. Even flies; seeming useless, infuriating little things, help Mother Earth out by producing maggots which aid decomposition.

Then I turned my attention to human beings. There's a lot to be said for our race; we have a developed culture, we have settled on pretty much every continent, we have explored space, etc. However, if Homo sapiens had never existed, would the world be a better or worse place?

The thing is that no matter how pointless and extraneous ants might appear to me at the moment, this is in some ways their saving grace. They don't cut down forests, pollute oceans and the air or threaten to end all life on earth in a nuclear holocaust. They exist in harmony with their surroundings, neither improving nor degrading the world they live in.

An obvious retort would be that ants and other life forms aren't developed enough to pose a threat to the planet, they simply don't have the ability to make an impact on the world. If they did, they would surely be behaving as we are. Clearly, this is true, but if we're so developed and superior, shouldn't we realise what we're doing, see the big picture and change our ways?

At the moment, humanity seems to be going through a species' teenage years. We've got the ability, and in some ways the desire, to fuck it all up, but we haven't yet got the intelligence to realise it's in our own interests not to. If it's taken us 400 millenia to reach that point, humankind should turning twenty in about another 216,000 years. I doubt we'll make it.

Someday, I hope I can sing the perfect song....

The bunch of us were sitting around our in our usual stomping grounds shooting the breeze and downing a couple of drinks and commenting on whatever was on the television. Nothing special mind you. The usual daily mix of sports, news and the latest bar gossip about who was hooking with who and who wasn't hooking up with anybody at all and blah blah blah. It all somehow seemed too....familiar.

I think there's a line in song out there that makes reference to a jukebox that plays the same old songs. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the tune but as my mind drifted away from whatever was going on amongst my friends I began to think about that. I realized that it ain't the jukebox playing the songs, it's the people.

Don't get me wrong. I cherish my friends but somehow my little ritual gatherings are getting stale. I don't know if they feel it too but if they are, they aren't telling. They seem content to do what they do. Maybe it's their form of release after a long day or maybe they find a degree of comfort in doing something that just seems to come natural. Maybe we've formed some sort of bond over the years and take some solace at the sight of a familiar face in a world full of strangers. I dunno what it is that brings people of different back rounds together and causes them to share life's little details. Are people looking for a sense of camaraderie or it just one of those instances where they're looking to bring their shared experience's to the table? Maybe it just seems that way because winter drove us inside and we see more of each other than we really need to.

All I know is I gotta take a little break. My kid is back with me tonight and'll be here for the next week. That should be plenty of incentive for me to go home and forget the daily goings on in my watering hole. I’m hoping I can make it the entire week without making a pit stop. We’ll see. In the meantime…

I hope the weather is nice so we can go outside, I hope spring is early, I hope she's ok, I hope we get to barbecue, I hope we get to go to the park, I hope she wants to play cribbage early on Sunday morning, I hope we can have a picnic, I hope my plants start making their way through the frozen ground, I hope we listen to the Beatles, I hope she writes a poem or a story, I hope she tells me about school, I hope she tells me a secret, I hope she giggles and makes lots of noise, I hope I don't get mad at anything, I hope she doesn’t either, I hope she doesn’t have a nightmare, I hope we can go roller skating, I hope she rides her bicycle, I hope either of don't get sick, I hope it lasts a lifetime.

Yeah, I know, it's an awful lot to hope for but so is hoping to sing the perfect song.

She was alive two days ago. She was talking and emailing and happy. She was being released from a terrible marriage and finally free to pursue the man who loved her and whom she loved. She was going to be in a new place, with her children. She'd just recovered from surgery and was glad to be back among us.

Then yesterday she was dead. Gone. Found hours after she'd died, limp in a bathtub. It's true, no matter what you do, you die alone. Her kids don't know yet. Their mommy is 'sick and resting'. Her kids will never think of that day the same way again. Her kids will have to tell people, oh, my mother passed away.

I'm so sorry...

It's ok, it happened when I was five

.

I didn't even know her that well. I chatted with her online, shared with her via livejournal, met her at some get togethers, read along as she suffered and rejoiced. And still I'm sad. I'm mourning. Empathy, I think. I'm mourning for her children and what that must feel like. For the man who loves her still and now is alone...suddenly, being forced to tell everyone how he feels and thanking them for their prayers and condolences. What if my husband were to disappear, to die alone, without me holding his hand like I imagine our old age will be?

Why are you so sad? You didn't even know her, someone said.

Is it inappropriate to be sad for someone you don't know? To mourn the death of someone outside your family, your circle, your tribe? Wouldn't we all be better off if we mourned the deaths of strangers like we mourn the deaths of friends? Wouldn't the world be more compassionate?

I can't believe all the shit I complained about yesterday. Eternally stupid shit. And I'll probably do the same today. Odd.

This is just a short note to tell Chiisuta about the strange ins and outs of creating an easter basket.

Tessie and I went to the big Nugget grocery in town last night, because she was jonesing for some fruit roll-ups, and I needed more veggies, being on the world's most boring anti-allergy diet. They had a big spiffy display of easter stuff, some of it quite fancy.

I thought about getting baskets, but I'm honestly kind of a cheapskate about these things, and I wanted it to be a surprise for Tess. So I decided to wait, and get baskets at someplace cheaper, like Woodruff's. However, among all the little bunny chocolates, they had small boxes of petit fours, which I ADORE. Always reminds me of having high tea at the Plaza, in New York, with my mom.

So I got home, and Tessie and I are digging into our various treats. I thought, the hell with no sugar, I'm going to have a petit four.

I took the beautiful oval pink one out of the box, and started to take a bite. As soon as my teeth touch the outside, brain says, wait, texture is ALL WRONG.

Wax. Candles. Little cute imitation petit four candles.

It always pays to read the fine print.

So, Chiisuta, don't be surprised if there are some petit four candles in your easter basket.

For Chii, and Lometa, because she made me laugh. Love, Shirlee.

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About two and a half years ago, Edward came to work at NetLojix.

Half a year later, having transferred into my department, he became my officemate. In that time, I made a new friend.

Since then, he's become my best friend, and I fell in love with him. He declared us soulmates.

And now he's packing up his desk, it being his last day here. There goes the banana holder I got him. Oooof, there goes the monitor arm I got him. Last to go, the Zen garden I got him for his birthday in 2002. At this day, some pictures of his designs can be seen on our office wall in my home node picture.

And now, he's gone. Even though we'll remain best friends for life, I've become very used to seeing him virtually every day for the last two years. It's going to be quite a change.

/me is sad.

Ah...the bright lights glare annoyingly outside the dorm window. There is some satisfaction, however, as a case of beer and a pack of cigarettes keep me content.

Is depression so bad? Solitude should be embraced, not shunned. I am thoroughly enjoying myself drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and listening to depressing music. It's not that I have to do this...on the contrary. I could be out with friends as we speak, but I prefer strictly myself right now.

Is that so wrong?

So what if I sit and think about past relationships. I'm sure many people do the same. Telling myself that "it could be worse" just isn't working anymore. Ha! Even as I type it, it brings a smile to my face.

Time for a beer...

Time for a smoke...

I wish I could explain this emotion right now. :) doesn't quite do it justice. It's as if everything is right now. It's like a puzzle with all the pieces put together...but there are holes in the puzzle...and the other pieces are nowhere to be found.

Time just seems to stand still. I'm not thinking about school, or football practices...I'm just trying to capture this feeling that is slipping away.

I told John that I would be down to the party in a half-hour. That's it! Listen to any Billy Joel song right now, and that is what I'm feeling. One less piece of the puzzle...

Is alcohol and nicotine my only comfort now? Yes...but they are fleeting.

I didn't mean for this node to be depressing...I think it came across as exactly that though. Oh well, there's always tommorow's Daylog...

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