Tag Archives: parenting

Innocence, 30 Years Later

Thirty years ago, I was in second grade. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my last year at the elementary school that I attended and  lots of change would be coming over the next several years for me. Thirty years ago, I was young and didn’t believe that bad things could happen to me, to anyone I knew, or to my country. Thirty years ago, I had my innocence and it was a great state to be in.

On January 28, 1986, I was playing on the playground during morning recess and a friend came up to me and said, “the space shuttle exploded.” My first response was sheer incredulity, that he was testing me, to see if I would react… I said, “No, it didn’t, the Space Shuttle CAN’T explode.” I didn’t believe that such a thing could even happen. Space travel was routine, with the first shuttle launch just after my third birthday and the 25th scheduled for that morning. My friend replied, “yes it did, as it was launching this morning.” I still didn’t believe him. I couldn’t grasp that an event such as this was even possible.

From there, in my memory, that day becomes a big blur. The next thing I remember is being at a different friend’s house in the evening working on homework. The adults were in a different room, doing adult things. The room we were in had a TV, which was tuned to the news. They were showing Challenger’s 73 second flight over and over and over again. I’m sure that there were talking heads interspersed between the replays, but all I remember are the replays, over and over again. Looking back now, that was the beginning of the end of my innocence. The end of the belief that bad things couldn’t happen.

Every year, in mid-January, I post four pictures on my office door. The first is the Apollo 1 Crew, the second is the STS 51-L (Challenger) Crew, the third is the STS-107 (Columbia) Crew, and the final is a Red and Rover cartoon by Brian Bassett commemorating the aforementioned crews that all lost their lives in service of exploration.  I picked these pictures of the three crews because I think they represent the potential of the missions. Each crew is in their space suits, seemingly ready for launch, ready to being their exploration. I post these cartoons no later than January 16th, my birthday, which is the day that Columbia and her crew launched on their final mission in 2003. It’s also the day that the damage that caused Columbia’s demise occurred, though it would not happen for another fifteen days.

Last night I watched a wonderful documentary about the Challenger accident. The documentary focused not on the technical details of the accident, but on the reactions that people had to it. I was particularly taken by the audio of a reporter from Concord, New Hampshire, who was at KSC reporting on the flight because of its most famous crew member Christa McAuliffe. His station played several minutes of his spontaneous reactions to the incident, and at one point, he basically says, “I can’t talk any more. I’m in shock, I need to process this…” at which point I can imagine his dropping the phone he’s been talking in to and walking away. This struck me because it’s how I’ve been feeling since I posted those four photos on my office door.

Today, in 2016, my son is in second grade. He attends the same school that I did on that fateful day in January 1986, and though it’s been rebuilt, he plays on the same playground that I was playing on thirty years ago when I learned the news of the Challenger disaster. For some reason, this parallel, this coincidence that came about because he was born in my thirtieth year and started kindergarten when he did, has been bothering me this week. Ever since I put up those photos a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about my experience on the playground thirty years ago. I’ve been thinking about the beginning of the loss of my innocence and the changes that would occur in my life. I feel like spaceflight, to most people is again routine and the fact that there have been astronauts in space for nearly twice my son’s lifetime is taken for granted (if it’s even known) by most people. I feel like so much of the technology that we use on a daily basis, most of which was developed directly or indirectly as a part of the space program, is taken for granted.

My son is fully ensconced in his innocence and I work hard to protect that for him. I wonder what he will look back upon some day as the beginning of the end of his innocence. I hope that it will not be for a long time. I hope that I won’t be a cause of the beginning of this change in him. This year and ever year, I choose to remember the crews of Apollo 1, STS 51-L, and STS-107 in their flight suits, looking like they’re headed to the pad to launch into space and explore our universe.

I choose to look at them with the innocence of a child, knowing that it is not possible for anything to go wrong. I know that this is not true, I know that complacency and apathy will create problems for my country and my world. I just hope that my son won’t realize this for a long, long, time. I want to remember him like this, full of promise, full of innocence, and full of potential. I want all kids to have a look like on their face like my friend Shannon Moore‘s daughter Sara does in this picture.

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Dinner and a Show

We were treated to a show with diner tonight. After a great game of mini-golf, we headed to Val’s for dinner. for those who don’t know, Val’s is a great burger joint on the border of Hayward and Castro Valley. Val’s is the kind of place you go when you want an old school burger at a reasonable price. Nothing fancy, just excellent burgers and fries. The restaurant is frequented by sports teams (to the point where they have a “No Cleets” sign above the door) as well as police officers. I’ve been to Val’s at least a hundred times over more than a decade and tonight was a first for me.

About half way through dinner, a police officer came in to have his dinner. Shortly thereafter, a gentleman sat down near us and commented on my daughter, saying that he had a daughter of similar age. I thought nothing of either of these events, but they would become intertwined. Shortly after we finished and paid for dinner, there was a loud crash and the sound of plates and glass breaking. I looked over and saw the guy who complimented my daughter and another guy engaged in an altercation. I jumped up to put myself between the fight and my kids. The police officer was immediately on his feet, separating the two participants in the fight and ordering them to the floor.

The officer had the two men handcuffed and was calling for backup before anyone really knew what was going on. Karin had pulled my daughter behind the bench seat we had been sitting on and I picked my son up and put him beside the bench as well. Our friends grabbed their kid and did the same. I’ve seen altercations in public before and generally they have ramped up from talk to yelling to physical contact, but this one was different. It started and stopped in what seemed like an instant. One of the participants was bleeding and an ambulance showed up to tend to him. It was very surreal…

The other thing that amazed me about the whole thing was that nobody in the restaurant panicked. Everyone was calm and basically backed away from the part of the restaurant where the two guys were. Shortly after the officer had the two guys handcuffed and on the floor, people were sitting back down and getting back to their dinner. One couple switched tables to get further away from where the police were doing their work. We had paid, so I followed my family out the door and we headed to our cars.

It was weird and surreal, raised our adrenaline and was over before we knew was was going on. We’re very thankful that the officer was there to keep things in hand. As he was leaving, my friend Drew Perttula took this photo of some of the police officers standing outside the restaurant.


I talked to my son about it once we got home, and he said he thought that two guys had “crashed into each other and made a mess.” I’ll be really interested to see if he wants to go back there after our next golf adventure. So, tonight we had dinner and a show. If we get a show next time, I hope that it’s a comedy rather than a drama.


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The End of the End Begins

Tomorrow morning, the end of the end will begin for the Space Shuttle Discovery. Discovery will take her final flight, not as a spacecraft, but as cargo on Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, leaving Florida for the last time, headed to the National Air and Space Museum.

One of my SpaceTweep friends @msengupta, posted last week on her twitter feed, “Just got an E-mail that started w/ “On April 17, 2012 space shuttle Discovery departs KSC for the last time.” Hit me like a ton of bricks.” It’s funny how different people get hit by different things. I was really hit when they powered Discovery down for the last time. Though they had stopped making the external tanks that she needed to fly to orbit years ago, shutting down her systems for the final time when it really hit me. The end of the Space Shuttle program has been coming for a while. President Bush announced its cancellation in 2004, but for subsequent seven years there were flight. It somehow felt like ti wasn’t really over. On Sunday morning, Discovery was loaded on the SCA for her flight. Tomorrow morning, the SCA will take off, do a low slow flyby of the launch facilities at KSC and Discovery will never visit Florida again.

My son and I were playing with our Space Shuttles last week and I was talking about how the Shuttles were meant to fly. In his three-year old desire to assert his independence, he said that the shuttles were not meant to fly, they were meant to be on the ground. He was laughing and playing as he said this, not knowing that the truth of his words was eating me up inside. When the Shuttles were built, they were meant to fly. They were meant to transport people and cargo from earth to orbit. Their purpose was to physically go to the heavens and show us what could be done when we put our minds to it. They were the manifestation of the ‘You Put an X Anywhere in the Universe” spirit that the American people dearly believed.

Now, their purpose has changed. No longer will they physically take a small number of people to the heavens, rather they will serve as a beacon and example of what people can do. My son was right, the Space Shuttles are not meant to fly themselves any more, they are meant to help us fly ourselves. Their purpose is to inspire the rest of us to fly in our own way.

It’s true, tomorrow marks the start of the end of the end, but I hope it can be a beginning. I hope that the four orbiters, who will together be seen up close and in person by millions of people each year, will help humanity fly.

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Space Related Birth Announcements

So I’m trying to come up with something space related that we could tweak into a birth announcement for our daughter. What comes to mind first is @saroy’s pumpkin pie recipe in the style of a Rendezvous timeline, but I don’t know what would be appropriate. I’d love something like a MCC Checklist or timeline, but I’m open to anything else as well. I don’t know if this will work, but am hoping that my spacetweeps will be able to help!

The standard fields that would need to be included are:

  • Name
  • Date & Time
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Location

Obviously, these fields can (and should) be renamed to something more spacey (i.e. Date and time would be launch date, launch time), but I don’t know the way to go. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Comment here or ping me on Twitter if you have ideas.



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The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson

The incident in Tucson that took place on Saturday was a tragic, senseless, needless event. The fact that it happened besmirches the reputation of our nation and should bring the lack of civility in political discourse into sharp relief. In watching my twitter feed on Saturday as the details were becoming clear, I heard people blaming the right, specifically Mrs. Palin and her crosshairs map. I heard other blaming the “liberal media” for putting the blame on the right. Even with the aforementioned debate, the largest chorus of voices I heard were a concern for the families of those killed and injured in the tragic event that took place in a Safeway parking lot.

Regardless of political persuasion or belief, what we should be focusing on after an event like this are the needs of the families affected by this horrendous event.

I titled this entry, “The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson” because Saturday’s tragedy took place at a the intersection of several of my worlds and is affecting me much more deeply that I expected it to. First, I am a former legislative staffer and have dealt with the hate and anger that can accompany political discourse. Second, have met the husband of one of the shooting victims. Third, I’m a parent and the loss of a 9 year old child in an event like this makes it even more of a tragedy.

As a former legislative staffer, this event affects me tremendously. I’ve worked numerous events such as this one, directly interacting with constituents. The point of these events was to make the legislator accessible to members of the public, so there was never any security present. I never felt vulnerable at any of these events, but I doubt Rep. Giffords felt vulnerable at this event. In my position as legislative staff, I dealt with my share of crazies, some threatening, some not. Thankfully, I only ever felt threatened twice in five years and I very quickly reported these threats to the authorities, who investigated them. I also spent most of my year working in a district office by myself or with one or two staffers for different legislators. There was no second exit from my office, so if someone had come in the door with bad intent, we would have been at their mercy. When I was in the Capitol, I felt much more secure, but I spent only a quarter to a third of the time there.

The Washington State Legislature, where I worked, prides itself in being close to the people. So close, in fact that legislators only work part time at their legislative jobs. Each legislator is given one, or in rare cases, two staffers. When the capitol was re-opened in 2004 after several years of revonations, there were metal detectors, but they were removed after the first year because of inconvenience they posed to the people, elected officials, and staff.

The second intersection came about because of my love of space. In May 2010, I participated in a #NASATweetup at Johnson Space Center in Houston. After the official event concluded, many of the participants went out for drinks and dinner. At the dinner we were joined by several astronauts, including Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the target of Saturday’s shooting. I spent some time talking to Mr. Kelly and really enjoyed our conversation. I even took a picture with him and his brother (Mark Kelly is on the right). Capt. Kelly is a gracious man and I really feel for him and his family, in addition to those other families who suffered a loss as a result of this tragic event.

The third intersection has to do with the 9 year old girl who lost her life. As I understand it, she came to the event to tell the Congresswoman that she had recently been elected to her school’s student council, a fact about which she was justifiably proud. I can imagine doing the exact same thing with my child if they were in the same position. As a parent, I would justifiably proud of my child for being elected to student council and would let my child know of it. If they wanted to tell their Member of Congress about getting elected, I would make it happen. It’s a shame that someone so young lost their life because of an accomplishment such as this.

On a side note, I work in government and one of my aims is to make the government agency that I work in more accessible to members of the public. I especially work hard to work with children and answer their questions and help them understand government. I hope that Rep. Giffords and her staff would have done the same.

While the events in Tucson have indirectly affected me, the direct effect they’ve had on the people involved and their families is what needs to be focused upon. We need to come together, regardless of our political allegiance or persuasion, and support those who are feeling the direct effects. Capt. Kelly posted a statement on Rep. Giffords web site, summing up the family’s thanks to all supporting them. It’s worth a read, not only because it is well written, but because Capt. Kelly takes time to remember those wo were lost and those who worked to help them. If Capt. Kelly can remember others in his time of need, we should be able to as well.


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#reverb10 – December 24th – Everything’s OK

the #reverb10 prompt for December 24th was: Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)

The moment in 2010 that served at proof that everything is going to be ok occurred in June while my wife was away on a 10 day trip overseas. I was taking care of our then almost two year old son. I’ve blogged about it before, so I won’t go over the excruciating detail in this post, but I’ll give the highlights.

I was feeding my son breakfast, he said he was done and I wanted him to eat more because he hadn’t eaten much. It turned in to a battle of wills, with both of us firm in our positions and not moving. Suddenly, I realized that my desire for him to eat more had changed from a healthy parental thought to an, “I want him to eat more because I’m the parent and I said so” thought. Realizing this, I backed down from the fight and comforted my son. At the time, I didn’t look at this moment as an “Everything’s OK” moment, I looked at it as an “I’m a messed up father” moment. However, as time has passed, I’ve realized that it was the moment in 2010 when I grew the most and proved to myself that everything IS OK.

After I realized what was happening and backed down, I started beating myself up for being a bad father. I had engaged in a war of wills with an almost two year old for mo good reason. I wanted him to eat and he didn’t want to and I had to win because I am the parent. That’s not how parents should act. Parents are there to help protect and nurture their kids, but fight them for the sake of fighting. How could I have done such a thing?

With the benefit of time, I now look back and see not the war of wills, but my willingness to drop my arms and do the right thing. I backed down because I realized that I was in the battle for the wrong reasons. I stopped the war because I wanted to be the nurturing parent, not the irrational one. I ended the fight because I knew better and I was willing to admit that. Putting my child’s needs in front of mine is being a good parent. It’s helping nurture my son and teach him to grow into a caring person.

When I realized that the backing down from the fight was the important thing, I knew that everything is OK. I knew that I had made the right decision for me as a person and for me as a parent. I knew that I had a decent head on my shoulders and was, in all honesty, proud of myself for realizing this fact!

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#reverb10 – December 15 – 5 Minutes

The #reverb10 prompt for December 15th was: Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

The things I want to remember the most about 2010 all have to do with family and community. I want to remember how my family has grown together in the last year. How my wife and I have grown as a couple and how we communicate so much better than we have in the past. How we have helped our son keep growing into a brave, strong boy.

I want to remember the my wife and son’s smiles. Their laughs, the look in their eyes when they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re being mischievous, basically I want to remember their eyes. I want to remember the feel of their skin, their face, their hair, all of the things that make them unique. I want to remember their sense of humor and their love of learning.

I want to remember my experiences at the STS-131 launch and the STS-132 #NASATweetup. I want to remember the Space Tweep community that I’ve joined.

There’s 5 minutes!

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