Thursday, January 26, 2006

Where Were You When You Heard That the Challenger Exploded?

"Twenty years ago, space shuttle Challenger blew apart into jets of fire and plumes of smoke, a terrifying sight witnessed by the families of the seven astronauts and by those who came to watch the historic launch of the first teacher in space." -- Associated Press

Where were you when you heard that the Challenger exploded?

I was 34 years old, a divorced mother for three years and working as a CPA auditor for a large downtown Los Angeles firm. It was another year until I would meet Ron, and more than five years before Andrea would be born.

I heard about the space shuttle explosion while eating lunch with two colleagues at the Sports Deli in Century City. The Sports Deli's many televisions played the explosion (shown above left) over and over and over. CBS, NBC and ABC played it endlessly, day and night.

I was mesmerized by the awfulness of it, and couldn't quite grasp the enormity of the tragedy. Not just the horrible sadness of seven astronauts dead, including the celebrated teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe with her pretty smile and warm enthusiasm.

It deeply shocked me that the US could fail. That NASA could fail. That American Success could fail. I had never before imagined that possibility.

Mass violence and terrorism were not yet part of our national lives, and the US was still unhardened to heartbreaking tragedy. Our nation was a beacon of morality and success for the rest of the world. NASA and the US space program were internationally admired and emulated. American innovation and technical expertise set the world standard.

That all changed on January 26, 1986. Our nation lost its collective naivete that mournful day.

Where were you when you heard that the Challenger exploded?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Diagnosing the Family Car - Knowledge vs. Intuition

Ron, a 30-year engineer with a University of California degree in mechanical engineering, is astonished at my uncanny ability to diagnose family car problems. And more than a little infuriated.

You see...I have no mechanical aptitude or education. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

We bought a used car last week, and I drove it around town yesterday for various and sundry errands and motherly shuttle chores. When Ron got home from work last night, I told him that the car has a faulty hose, and is about to burst...that he needs to take care of it ASAP. He knows that I haven't opened the hood.

Tired from his workday, he protested that I must wrong, and that....well, he, an engineer, would have noticed something like that when he looked at the engine last week.

Nope, I said. It doesn't smell right, and it's running a tad hotter than it should, albeit still in the normal range. And once, when I was stopped at a traffic light, I thought I saw wisps of steam rising from under the hood on the driver's side. Sure, it could've been exhaust from the Ford Explorer in front of me, but I don't think so.

Ron sighed, "I'll look at it over the weekend."

I insisted. Please look at it after dinner. He agreed, but only to appease me.....not because because he felt the car needed his professional attention.

So after dinner and after helping Andrea with her math homework, my beloved husband spent a half-hour foraging under the car's hood.

I have a mild flu, so I bundled up, went early to bed with a book, and awaited his mechanical verdict. He shuffled in, sat on the edge of our rumpled bed, and said in a resigned, oddly deep voice, "You were right. There's a small hole in the main hose....on the driver's side of the engine."
As I've explained to him a thousand times, my mind is blissfully freed from any understanding of how a car engine works.....and am therefore open to diagnose it intuitively, using my senses (smell, hearing, sight, touch...not taste), my pragmatic, analytical skills and my 30 years of driving cars.

He thinks his way through diagnosing mechanical problems....relies on his considerable knowledge, checks manuals out from the library, uses the internet to research known engine problems. Ron has been a quality assurance engineer for manufacturers for more than 20 years. He just can't conceive of intuitive mechanical reasoning.

But almost always, I'm the one to initially detect family car problems.

Poor guy! ;>)

(P.S. He bought a replacement hose, and stayed up until 1 AM, fixing it for Andrea and me to be safe today. He's wonderful, even if he doesn't grasp the power of womens' intution in all matters. )

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Annual Accountability Moment

My annual accountability moment is here..............(drumroll please)

Total stationary bike miles in 2005 - 564.5 miles

Total stationary bike miles in 2004 - 562 miles

My goal for 2005 was 600 miles. I lapsed off in August during vacation, and for reasons I can no longer recall, June was an embarrassing exercise bust.

As I say every year, what the heck would my weight be if I hadn't exercised??? :>)

Mileage goal for 2006: 600 miles
I'm hooked on exercise, and not a year too soon. If I don't ride this bike, my mother's arthritis flares up within days, and I feel slow and a bit cranky. It's now a continuous necessity for me and my inherited knees.

My primary new year's resolutions are to move more, eat more fruit and veggies, and pray more.

Wish me luck. This new grandmother wants to live and thrive for many more decades.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Second Place

My blog at US Liberals at was nominated last month by fellow guides as one of the top five (of about 528 sites) blogs. The category was "Best in Joining the Discussion." The 500 guides vote on these awards, plus presumably, corporate staff. is now a top-15 destination website in the US, and is part of the New York Times. (In fact, in 2005, it's the most profitable part of the Times.) The reward is nice but minimal.....$500 plus $500 reimbursement for attendance the next regional meeting.

My blog's nomination is quite an honor, although not a huge surprise.....I've worked long, hard and creatively to be part of the blogosphere discussion, with a good degree of success at generating traffic and incoming links.

I found out this afternoon that my blog came in second by a narrow margin, and that the other three nominees were far behind us in vote tallies.

I'm flattered. It's quite an accolade and great recognition.. And the winning site is truly excellent....although I like mine better. (And so do 82 other guides.) I graciously congratulated the winner, and I meant it.

It's just that.............I hate coming in second place in anything.....

Monday, January 02, 2006

Abundant Grace

"Where the Holy Spirit reigns, however, there is abundant grace, and its splendor far exceeds that of the law."

--- from Our Daily Bread: A Daily Devotional, for January 2, 2006

Frozen Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

Gray-sky rain drizzles on our windows and roof as cold winds scatter the last autumn leaves on our front lawn. Ron and I snuggle under blankets, the outside world forgotten in our cozy bed. Andrea watches the Rose Parade in front of a fire.

Celebrations have ended, and family and friends have left. Presents are opened and put away. Festive family cooking and feasting is done. Our Christmas tree is faded and drooping with ornaments, too dry to plug in twinkling white lights. Bright ribbons and package wrapping that were strewn in our family room are now in the trash.

The laughter and love of Christmas and New Years Eve are gone, and yet, since today is a Monday holiday, the juicy promise of new opportunities, new frontiers, new treasures of the New Year wait until tomorrow.

Our small world is dressed in pajamas today....frozen between yesterday and tomorrow. Luxuriating in a rare day for reading, puttering and puzzle-playing. And just the three of us, sitting down soon to a late breakfast of blueberry pancakes, fresh fruit and apple cider.

Happy New Year tomorrow. Not today.