Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger, 25 years

Most people my age, the number that shall not be named, remember the day the space shuttle Challenger fell to pieces. I went to school in Florida a mere 30 miles from Cape Canaveral. We routinely filed outside to watch the launch of each shuttle. Something you don't know if you don't think about it or have never experienced it, the watching of a launch is the perfect way to teach the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. When you watch the orb go into the sky and disappear you still have yet to hear the rumble of the engines. As you walk back to your classroom, event over, suddenly you hear a rumble, a pop, and the ground shakes. Pretty hands on stuff for a fifth grader.

My Dad would tell you my "dream" of being an astronaut never made sense. I am a people person. I am not an introverted scientist who can shut out the rest of the world. Somehow I thought my desire to be a pilot might steer me around the "boring" stuff, but the reality of joining the military, the structure, commitment, yada, always hate to admit your parents are right. It didn't stop me from going to space camp, though. Now maybe I had a few pipe dreams of Kelly Preston and Lea Thompson accidentally launching themselves into space, thank you "Space Camp" (the movie) but even staying on the ground we had a blast.

Spending a week walking through and studying what everyone at NASA works on was amazing. Playing on lunar rovers, practicing weightlessness and learning about scientific experiments kept us entertained. That is not to say I didn't turn it into my typical social hour. I made fast friends with a group of girls some of whom I stayed in touch with after the fact. A much bigger to-do in 1988 (two years after Challenger) as you actually had to write letters. Of course, now I just spent 15 minutes on Facebook trying to figure out if I could find her, but I digress.

The most amazing part of our timing was the lead in to the first launch since Challenger. I could go on endlessly about how Challenger changed my life view: made me hate reporters, think less of my teachers, become scared for my parents' mortality...things like that. But instead of focusing on the negatives, Space Camp brought me face to face with a feeling of hope and rebirth like I had never felt before. We were there in the summer of 1988 and the first shuttle post-Challenger, Discovery, was set to launch in September of that year on mission STS-26. We got to see it loaded onto the giant rolling machine that makes the epic roll out to the launch pad. Back in the day I could have told you exactly how long that journey is but I know the machine travels at a snail's pace and it took multiple days, maybe even weeks to get it from the assembly building to the launch pad. Seeing a shuttle in person, ready to go, amongst a group of people so excited was touching. Here was a program that had lost something so large and the people were not scared, they were excited to work and rebuild. They believed in a program that was bigger than them, bigger than Earth. It was in that moment I truly witnessed what thinking beyond your boundaries was and how it changed the scope.

Many believe to this day the space program was and is a giant waste of money. I choose to believe the government contracts run more costly than they should but we as a race are well served by thinking beyond our limitations. I wish I could jump on a rocket and float around space. I wish there was a colony on the moon, then maybe Facebook would be necessary. We create these terrific fantasies via movies, computer games, and television...but isn't that just a giant waste of money? Some of it is art, but most of it is not. Why aren't we exploring? There is more to see. Yes, it's dangerous. Yes, it's hard. But doing the hard things is what evolves us. Maybe if we spent a bit more time dreaming we would spend a bit less time blowing each other up.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What is Clutter?


My Neat

Chris's Neat

I never thought such a simple question could turn into an exestential conversation about the reality of our world and the things we choose to fill our lives with, but the simple word "clutter" can strike fear in the hearts of the OCD and questions in those who are sentimental. Unlike many couples, my husband and I are slightly reverse. I must say, I count myself hugely lucky that Chris likes to keep things neat and tidy as I have seen the other side with other men and it can be ugly. That being said, I need a place where I can be messy. I need a place where I can keep one or two pieces of paper out without being scolded. More importantly I need those things to stay where I leave them because what seems disorganized is logged in my head. But my personal filing system is an entirely different issue for which I should probably seek counseling.

I do not like lots of nick-nacks that must be dusted and cleaned, so I feel like this is a good thing. Those would be considered "clutter" in my mind. That being said, if someone has given me something, such as a ring holder, shot glass, or random decoration, I do sometimes have a hard time getting rid of it. I don't want to offend anyone, plus it means something to me. I have purged many such items in a desire to rid myself of things I do not need. I feel as though I am down to the bare minimum of such "cluttery" things, but Chris would beg to differ. He feels like any of these things are too many, with the exception of candles, anything that sits on a surface is clutter.

Many might agree with the assessment but I now reach out to other fellow readers. In Chris's mind, books are clutter. I'm sorry what? I have boxed up, sold or stored two bookshelves worth of books and only have one left. If he had his way the entire thing would be given to charity. I have tried to keep out only my list of books I must read, cook books, and the favorites you turn to when you just need some fluff. Apparently, still clutter. We agree to disagree and I put my one allowed bookshelf in the corner of the living room. On top of that, I try to keep all my "clutter" items on the same book shelf so he does not have to deal with it. It now simply elicits a sigh as he walks to our bedroom and must pass the dusty objects ranging as reminders of family, friends, and random events in my life.

Now we are onto the table and the counter. Things are not to be left in either place. I can accept this. I put out a "mail basket" where I place the mail I have not had time to deal with yet and I use my desk for storage of anything else. BUT, in typical hypocritical fashion, there has been a Sirus Satellite Radio manual on our counter for a week. Chris needs to call and find out why it isn't working. His work schedule is also on the counter. Oh, and he left out a small stack of DVDs that he wants to watch as well as a kite manual he wants to look through. All of these things have been out for multiple days because they are reminders for HIM. Had I left any such thing on the counter it would have been moved and when I asked where to he may or may not remember where he put it "away." If clutter is a reminder, how come I can't have reminders too? Why is my stuff "clutter" and "mess" and his stuff "reminders?" And the most important question, if you put it away and you can't remember where "away" is so you have to re-purchase things, how good is "away?" Sure it is out of sight, but it can no longer be used...what good is that to anyone?

Final sidebar...just because a piece of paper is left out does not make it a coaster. Anything that can remotely absorb water is apparently for use with a glass whether it destroys the thing or not. I personally think this is his own little way to keep me from leaving important papers out as he will use everything from a note to our marriage license as a place to put a glass. Somehow cup rings on our certificate of marriage are less offensive than on a table. I guess I am just too sentimental.