December 4, 2015

On Making the Season Count

2015 has been a really rough year, you guys.  How rough?  Well, not Syrian Refugee rough, but for my squishy first world existence, pretty rough.  Dad passed in late August, my best friend was diagnosed for the SIXTH time with cancer, my other best friend had a kidney transplant, my dog required $2000 stomach surgery, I’m completely buried under advanced math and science courses, and I’m being laid off from my job come the beginning of next year.  Soooo yeah, kind of a stress-laden last few months, just in my own little world.  This doesn’t even cover all the mess of bombings, shootings, and screaming politically-motivated hatred surrounding all of us.

With all of the above, festive celebration is a little bit strained.  Thanksgiving was not as bad as I thought it would be, I think because I was surrounded by family and we stayed busy all day.  The following day, however, the usual bombardment of Christmas carols started up, and my hermit level suddenly jumped to 9000.

Let me try to explain.  I’m usually pretty good in loud, noisy sorts of environments.  I deal well with crowds of people and lines, etc…until I don’t.  Usually I have a distinct point where I am just done with humanity and need to go hide in my cave.  My brother calls me “the most outgoing introvert” he knows.  Since my Dad passed away, my time span to tolerate all that shortened to a frightening degree.

The first week after he died, every public place felt like it was attacking me.  Too many people, too much noise, and all of my filters and coping mechanisms completely stripped away.  I was exhausted, overwhelmed by every task and interaction, just wanting to escape and go hide in the quiet again.  It has gotten better over time, but I’m still nowhere near where I was (even Thanksgiving had a incident of me hiding in an actual closet for about 20 minutes), and I don’t know how long it will take to get back to my savvy crowd-surfing state.  Hopefully not never.

Enter the Christmas crowds.  There’s a phenomenon in the exponential growth of people shopping between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, on any given day.  I don’t do Black Friday, and this year I absolutely didn’t go anywhere near anyplace retail that Friday morning.  Saturday, Sunday, and the whole following week is not that much better, and my fridge gets bare after a few days of no shopping.  My dogs will insist on their kibble, whether I’m willing to brave the crowded store or not.

The population in any retail space grows at least three-fold, and they are not the missile-strike style of shoppers.  They *linger*, and meander, and generally clog every space they enter with a minimum of efficiency.  Layered on top of this madness is a feed of painfully cheerful caroling which cranks the dissonance up to 11.

I like Christmas carols.  I really do.  Singing is one of my favorite pastimes, whether people want to hear me or not, and carols are the no-brainer easy-skim finds in my memory banks for when I just wanna let loose in the car or shower.  They wear out fast through repetition and overplay, though, and by Christmas Day I’m usually so burned out I want as far away from them as I can get.  Knowing this about normal me, I have been trying to be extra careful this year.  I am rationing my holiday cheer, and I have discovered something horrible.

My Dad loved singing carols.  He loved sitting around the lit-up tree, playing all his favorites.  All the best versions of carols, Mannheim Steamroller, John Williams, and the usual Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra classics.  I can’t hear these versions without seizing up.  I can’t sing along or I start to cry.  The same thing happens when I listen to regular music my Dad loved, and it’s stripped a chunk away from my music library.

I’m not sure how to fix this, and I need to fix it. I need my music, especially the good stuff (Why, Dad, did you have to like the good stuff?).  I need the holiday cheer, or I know that Christmas will be desolate.  I need this Christmas to count, more than any I’ve had in the past.  To balance out the bad, to give me the boost I need to help friends through their bad stuff, to do well in school, to find that new job so I can continue to keep my dogs in the style they think they deserve.

So I’ve turned all strategic in my holiday planning, like a general over a battlefield.  YES, I will go to that concert Friday night, but I will temper it by doing no social stuff on Saturday morning, and possibly all of Sunday.  Yes, I will do the holiday movie thing, but one and done each time, with tissues and comfort food.  I hearby give myself permission to walk away from anything that starts feeling overwhelming or bad, and I’m giving the rest of my family the same pass.  I will block out the time to do the giving things for me and others, because they make me happy.

And by golly, I will sing when I want, and I will escape the music when I need to.

Happy Holidays to you all, and may the New Year bring the world better things.

October 2, 2015

On Rocking Your Cares Away

What do you do when you’re sitting in a meeting, compelled to quiet unmotion for hours at a time? Do you jiggle your leg? Do you bob your head or shift from side to side? Do you correct your sitting position over and over, moving your chair around as you do? Do you fiddle with a pen or paper, trying very hard to keep from clicking or crinkling? I have done all of these things and more to get through a meeting. Some people are compulsive movers, almost never sitting still. This has been linked to OCD and autism, but I have neither of those things. I just have to rock.

Not the way you’re thinking, the leather-wearing, head-banging kind of rock (although I have done both of those things on occasion). As soon as I was old enough to sit up, I started to rock myself forward to back. At the age of one or two, there is photographic evidence that I did this to put myself to sleep, folding up on the sofa like a wet noodle, boneless as only the very young are.

I come by this trait honestly. My uncle and my father were both wigglers. My uncle even rocked much the same way that I do. My older brother rocks even heavier than I do, but I think because he gives in to the compulsion less than I do, and so builds up to it. I make sure my need has an outlet. The back on my work and home office chairs are both unlocked, the better to gently rock myself through the day.  I keep both chairs well oiled so I don’t drive anyone nearby to squeak-induced madness.

It’s not considered a normal adult behavior. In that vein, I make certain that my rocking is always an easy motion, never wild or fast. But I have to do it, like I have to blink every so often (You all just blinked, and will be self-conscious about it for the next few minutes. You’re welcome). If I’m standing, I start to sway from side to side, shifting from foot to foot. I do all of this more when I’m stressed, and it starts unconsciously.

So last week, I started college classes again after the long summer break. My Dad’s death sort of sapped all the stress relief from the vacation, I admit, so I started my sophomore year somewhat more frazzled than I had hoped.

I also woke up the first day of classes with the kind of upper respiratory plague during which most people have the good sense to stay home and recuperate. Not me.

Let me explain before you condemn me as Typhoid Mary. In college classes, there is the main list of students with a guaranteed spot, and the wild-eyed waitlist people, desperate to steal one. The first day of class, when every seat is filled and some people stand along the walls, the professor always takes attendance. If your name is called, and there is no answer, hope springs eternal for one vulture-like desperado, and you are dropped from the roster. The general rule of thumb is: Show up to class on day one, even if you’re in a hazmat suit.

So there I am, crammed into a corner of a city bus packed to the racks with other students, trying to wheeze as shallowly as possible. I am utterly still, laser-focused on breathing deeply enough to get oxygen but shallowly enough to not drip snot on my backpack. I cannot reach for a tissue, as that would break the one inch plague barrier I’ve built around me that all the other passengers are strictly maintaining. I am a stone Buddha, roundly curved around my possessions, sniffling pathetically. None of my muscles unflex for the entire 45 minute ride.

The bus was late because of road construction, so once arrived, I was forced to sprint to my first class. Naturally, this class was on the uphill side of campus. I arrived two minutes late, taking an extra minute in the hall to de-snot and stop hacking. The only seat left was at the front of the room. As I claimed it, the people on either side of me leaned visibly away, the rictus of “Oh no oh no not the PLAGUE” written all over them. I hunched down in my seat, once again a stone, trying not to breathe. I stayed that way for two hours, shallowly blowing my nose a few times to stop the worst of the flow.

Class ends. I stagger from that class to the next one, five blocks away with stops for nose-blowing and water-chugging. I med up for the second time that day. It is less than helpful.

The whole day passes like this, ten hours of classes and no room to wiggle at all, before I snap at the end of lab when my tissue runs out. Two packs were insufficient to stem the slimy tide, and I am exhausted, dehydrated and just SICK. With one hour to go in lab, I stand up, hand my notes to the TA, and announce I have had done with the whole of humanity for this day. He excuses me early. I believe his exact words were, “Yes, please. Go. Far, far away from me, and take your sick with you.”

I missed the first bus going home. I saw it as it passed, packed to the racks. The second bus 30 minutes later was better, and I got a seat in the far back corner. I was tense and tired, energy all wrung out. The whole ride passes in a blur, I’m not sure if I bumped anyone or wheezed or infected the whole busload of commuters. I hope I didn’t.

On my walk home from the bus stop, there is a playground. It’s a tiny little park, rarely used with a little play structure, a bench, and a set of swings. I redirect when I see the park is empty and make a beeline for the swings, dropping my bag against the posts.

It takes a while for swings to do anything. You have to build up momentum, expending a lot of energy at the outset before your inertia makes maintenance easy. But once you get going, it takes almost nothing to keep going for as long as you want.

And as I go back and forth, back and forth in slow, stomach-tipping, pendulous arcs, all the tension bleeds out of me. The air is racing past my face, and my sinuses open up for the first time all day. My mind unclenches along with the rest of me, and I look up. There are stars out, a fat moon, and no clouds. The sky is endless, and I stretch out my fingers to it as I’m swinging, swinging, swinging.

Hours after my Dad died, I walked to the playground by my parent’s house. It was 2:00 a.m. and cloudy and cool. I needed to swing, even though it was late. My sister-in-law went with me, both for safety’s sake and I think just to make sure I wasn’t going to crack like an egg. I swung for thirty minutes or more, I’m not sure. We talked for that time, about my dad, about nothing at all, about the moon in the clouds and the bright stars. Somehow, I slid back from the horrible edge and into equanimity again. The peace was brief (grief is like a sledgehammer and it strikes like a mugger in the night), but at the time I really needed it, it was very real, and very solid.

There is a catharsis to swinging that goes bone deep for me. I don’t have to think about anything, or do anything. I can just be me, in that moment, defying little bits of gravity for microseconds at a time. Everything in those moments is okay, and I’m swept clean again, emptied out of all the bad feelings in the world.

I think rocking is a lesser version of this, one I can spread out for long periods of time to unbind the stress in me. I went to my second day of classes yesterday, considerably less ill, and considerably more relaxed. The chairs in the auditorium I have two classes in had backs that moved, just a little. So I used them, to make four hours pass more easily.  I move, therefore I don’t explode.  I guess that’s just how I am.

Rock on, kids.

September 15, 2015

On Losing My Father

It could be said that people are shaped and changed by a thousand tiny things a day, from getting a paper cut to running out of half and half for your morning tea. If you ask someone the things that shaped them, they can usually point out several major life events that are milestones. I think, though, if you asked someone what irreversibly changed them, most people would point out those few deep-seated holes in our hearts we all gain along our journeys.

When I look back at my life, these wounds are shockingly few. I have been a spoiled middle-class child for most of my life, and I know it. I am also still young, only on the back end of my third decade. Nonetheless, I was changed by my emotional punctures as much as anyone is, with no returning to what I was before.

The first one I remember is when my family lost our house. My mother told us there would not be a Christmas that year, and then she cried for the first time in my memory. I had always before been a child of a house, with solid walls and a yard to play in. Thereafter, I took a step down to apartment living, and discovered the change in status that brought to my tiny social sphere. I was treated like a transient, shunned for the first time in my short life. I broke a little, staggering through the mire of a friendless existence, crying an awful lot, was bullied many times, and somehow bumbled my way out the other side a bit more hardened. It left me sore and less trusting of the world around me, guarded against those whose voices came my way on a daily basis.

The second time was, ironically, when my family gained a house again. The problem was, it was on the other side of town. Even though my social circle had changed in recent years, it was still people I had been acquainted with all my young life. When we moved, my whole world shifted. I was quieter then, and didn’t know how to make new friends. I’d never really had to try and search them out, in my old world they had mostly come to me. The classes were arranged differently than I was used to. I began to fail at things, in class, in society, in self. It took me the rest of high school to come out the other end of that one, and I graduated drifting, struggling to find a place in the world where I belonged.

The third time was the day I lost my sweet little dog. Peaches (she came with that name, no fault of mine) had been mine since the day my parents brought her home, claimed in a strident seven-year-old voice that gets most of what it wants and knows it. For thirteen years we ambled along together, me stepping into the first flush of adulthood while she grew more stooped and frail. Sixteen is very old for a dog, and she had several visits to the emergency vet as seizures began to grip her. Finally, in the dark of one early morning, she cried and began to seize violently. This time when we went to the emergency vet, they couldn’t do anything but offer to ease her passing. Her kidneys had failed; we were out of second chances. I held her while she died, then carried her tiny, cooling body home to be buried. The pain was a physical thing, eating at my insides and clawing for a way out. I picked up a pen and a notebook and wrote and wrote and wrote. For two days straight without sleep I wrote, ranting at the world about the loss of my pet, and the horrible unfairness of the world. Weeks passed before I could stick a bandage over the rawness of the hurt. Even though she was old, even though it was her time, I could not reconcile myself with the inevitability of her death and loss. I learned that some hurts never heal, but take small pieces of us with them when they go.

The fourth time was self-imposed. I joined the military after several years of relatively low-wage jobs in an attempt to find a real career and do something that mattered in the world. There is a frozen moment in my mind, where my family was all packed into my parent’s car, pulling out of the driveway to drop me off at the hotel where I would leave for Basic Training. I realized, looking at that receding garage door, that I would never come home again, not really. A piece of my life was done with forever, and I recognized it as the door closed. My family took me for a steak dinner, a rare treat. I could hardly eat a bite. I gained so many things from the time I served in uniform, but each time I went back to my parent’s for a visit, I knew the difference. It was no longer home. When I moved back permanently, the place seemed changed, but it wasn’t. I was. I mourned the loss of home, trying to rebuild my own small sanctuaries where I could, but it wasn’t the same. It’s a painful truth: you can never go home again.

A few weeks ago, I fell into my fifth and deepest hole. My father has been very ill. Part of the reason I moved back to Portland was to help take care of him. It started over a decade ago with a failing heart, proceeding naturally into a bad heart attack and a stroke, leaving him seriously in need of care for the last six years, and steeply declining for the last two as his kidneys and liver decided to fail as well. All this is to say, his loss was not unexpected. We had planned for it, prepared ourselves as much as possible, and suffered wretchedly with him as he suffered and wore away bit by bit like a stone in a riverbed. The father I knew was only there for minutes out of every day, replaced most times by a sickly, exhausted, vacant stranger.

My father was no saint, especially in his last few years. He and I frequently battled over many things which I won’t chronicle here, suffice to say I spent a great deal of time very angry at him, and had to move out of their house to regain enough distance and perspective to love him again. Even then, we still sparred occasionally about his bad habits, and there were days enough where I didn’t talk to him much when I did visit, nearly every week.

I camped out beside him in his last few weeks, when he became too sick to continue dialysis and made the decision to stop. I spearheaded gathering the family around him to say farewells, granted his few last bucket list items, and dosed him heavily with his pain medications. I sat death watch beside him, alone but for my sister-in-law in the deep of night, when his wet, gurgling breathing suddenly stopped. We ran for my mother and siblings, and my mother listened for my father’s heartbeat, then lay her head down on his chest and began to cry.

Nothing in the world prepared me for what happened inside me then. A piece of me was wrenched out, shattered and bleeding and jagged. A hole opened up, depth and breadth immeasurable, and I fell into it. I did cry, but the crying didn’t do anything. I usually see crying as a boon, a burst dam that fills up whatever hole you fell into to boost you out again. Usually there is relief at the end of the tears. This time, there was nothing but a tiny voice screaming why why Why WHY? Bring him back, bring him back, I don’t care that he was sick and suffering and ornery and manipulative. I don’t care what he was, he was my Daddy and I love him. Bring him back, oh please, bring him back.

There is nothing so irrevocable as death, and the world after is full of too lates. When they came to take away my father’s body, I kissed him goodbye on a forehead that was already cold, and I felt unalterably broken. I still do. I can’t go anywhere in my mind that bears the slightest reminder of him without the pain blossoming anew.

My father loved music. He sang and talked with the kind of deep, smooth voice that announcers and club singers envy. He schmoozed his way through the world, laying compliments fast and thick, and meaning all of them just enough that people warmed and melted toward him. He was bright and booming and energetic. He told my mother, my sister and me regularly that we were the most beautiful women he knew, and I always rolled my eyes. He always wanted hugs, and gave the best kind: deep, squishy bear hugs that left you warm and softened to the hardness of the world. He always told me he was proud of me, that he thought I was smart and talented and wonderful in a hundred small ways.

I had a hundred different nicknames to him. I was his sweetie pickle, his angel face, his dumpling, his precious princess, and his dolly one time. I will never be any of those things to anyone else, and it hurts so much I want to cut my heart out and burn it to ashes.

I have heard a dozen times that we should be happy at least that his suffering is over. I know this should be a relieving thing, but it isn’t. Not now, and I don’t know if it ever will be. No logical reasoned argument will sway my insides against this pain. I want him back for a day, for an hour, without it mattering what we do or what we say, so long as he is there. I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife. I used to think since this is all we get, making the most of it will leave me with few regrets. I’ve come to the harsh realization that for the best things, the most important ones, there can never, and will never be enough. Not the best lived, most blessed existence will have enough of the people we love to let them go without harm, without holes too deep to climb out of.

It’s been three weeks, and none of this eases. This is the first time I’ve been able to write anything, and it’s like pulling a rusted metal sliver from an infected fingertip. I have been empty and gaping, full of feeling but no words. I know I will eventually come to a new normal, where I don’t cry every day, where things around me will matter again, where I will find more joy than sorrow in the world. Maybe. Maybe this is the new normal, and I will simply learn to live around the pain, this missing chunk of me, rather than the pinholes I had been used to.

I miss you, Daddy. Miss you so, so much. I love you, and I’m sorry. It will never be enough.

August 5, 2015

On Techno-Nerds and a Smooth Dude

Most authors will tell you that while they have vast inner worlds built where they observe people’s behavior with laser focus, this skill can be somewhat lacking in the real world. This sometimes leads to surprising human interactions.

I ride the bus to my pays-the-bills job (ironically, for the bus company). Like most transit commuters, I pass the time with technology, most often with an eBook. My current vice is a rereading of Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series (a biannual tradition), and I tend to get pretty deep into books that I like. So deep that I don’t pay attention to what’s going on around me. Thieves take note…steal from me only while I’m squished as small as possible into the window seat and buried in Tortall. Forget the backpack, you could probably even get my shoes at that point.

While thus buried, a man across from me asked a pointed question. Coming up from that deep dive is like a sliver buried in your fingertip, irritating with the high potential for pain. In spite of this, years of customer service training makes me polite, so while not a smiling bucket of bouncy joy, I was civil.

It turns out he was interested in my eBook, which was smart of him. Technojoy is something I will wax loquacious on any day of the week. We spent several minutes talking about the storage specs, the color range, screen glare and web-browsing capability. After that brief spate, I figured the conversation was over, and the throbbing-infected-splinter draw of a book interrupted was calling. Just as I bowed my head to dive in again, this dude piped up asking how it compared to tablet computers.

Politeness won out a second time, so I responded, less enthused. After all, maybe he was thinking of getting an eBook of his own, which made him a potential reader of my kind of stories. He didn’t look like a voracious consumer of young adult fantasy, but who am I to judge who reads what stuff? After all, Bronies exist, so any kind of material is on the table for anyone. And anybody that loves to read anything at all gets a gold star in my book. So I explained that it didn’t hold up when compared to tablets, since it was kind of a one trick pony, and not even the newest model, at that.

He managed to keep the conversation going, very politely on both our sides, for ten more minutes. Then his stop came up, and I did a tiny inner jig of relief, ready to get back to my book. As he passed me on his way out the door, he handed me a tiny slip of paper, saying, “I’d like to talk more about your device”, and stepped off the bus. I looked at the paper in my hands. It was his phone number.

Keep in mind, he’d had this in his hands the entire conversation. Which meant that the entire conversation was not about the eBook in my hand at all, but about finding a way to hand me his phone number. Not once in the entire time we talked did I suspect he was hitting on me. Not once.

As a female of middling looks and a bountiful serving of height, I get my share of dudes making passes (generally more skeevy than not, sadly), but this was a first. Never has anyone passed me his digits so very subtly and with so few red flags. I had not actually looked at the guy, really, until that moment. He looked to be in his middle thirties to early forties, and I found myself impressed in spite of myself. Very smooth, sir. You get a golf clap. You found a point of shared interest with a female you found attractive, talked for a time with the intention of getting to know her, and made your interest to speak to her further known without coming off as a threat.

Am I going to call him?  Probably not. That’s not really about him, honestly, though I confess to feeling a bit cheated about his interest in the eBook and the loss of reading time. Seriously, dudes everywhere, wait for the end of a chapter or something. Your success rate will grow 1000%.

July 27, 2015

On Space Nerds and Becoming Your Mother

My basic internal leaning is in the nerd direction. I think even if I had grown up with jock or preppy parents, I would have still eventually found my people. As it was, some of my earliest memories (the kind that scar) are of the kind of sci-fi films that young, impressionable children should probably avoid.

Speaking of which, can I get a shout out from anyone traumatized early in life by that dang ear bug in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? I can’t watch that movie even now as an adult, but imagine a toddler, camped out in the back of a station wagon in her Barbie sleeping bag. My family only had one car, and my dad worked a late night bus run, so my mom would park at the drive-in movie lot next to the bus yard to wait for him, kids bundled in the back and presumably too tired to really watch said movies.

I should note my mom is a massive space nerd. She grew up in the Mercury-Apollo era of space missions, eagerly watched Neil Armstrong take one small step for man, and was convinced that her turn in space was coming. In the halcyon starry-eyed days of the early 80’s, when anything was possible, that dream hadn’t left her. Since she was a stay-at-home mom with three kids in tow, she assuaged that urge by watching as many sci-fi movies as she could.

So there I am, laid out in the back of the station wagon, dramatic tinny sci-fi Theremin booming through the little speaker box. And of *course* I’m watching the movie through the gap in the front seats, because I have always been an insomniac and there was nothing better to do. At the tender age of three or four, the greater plot points were obviously lost on me. I knew that there were spaceships, that there was a bad guy, and he had done bad things to the good guys (who I recognized from their regular appearance on our daytime television lineup). Nothing I had seen, though, prepared me for the ear trauma.

If none of you are old people the way I am old people, you may not have been exposed to the urban myth of earwigs. We’d hiss to each other on the playground that if you weren’t careful when you slept, or didn’t clean your ears, an earwig would crawl into your ear and eat your brain. This was considered the inevitable fate of some children, and everyone knew someone third or fourthhand that had to go to the ER to have one removed, howling in pain the whole time. When you flipped over a rock or a stick on the playground and an earwig crawled out, you ran the hell away. If you were a socially-minded individual, you shouted warnings to the other kids, but if it was nearby, it was every kid for themselves.

Thus prepared by playground old wives tales, seeing that gigantic-pinchered monstrosity crawl out of the crewman’s bloody ears had me paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t even scream, I was so scared, so I’m fairly certain I just silently cried into my sleeping bag until I fell asleep. That scene is permanently burned into my memory, even though I remember almost nothing else about that movie. I think I slept with one ear pressed firmly to the pillow and one hand clamped firmly over the exposed ear for the better part of five years.

And that wasn’t even the worst movie we watched, you guys.

Here’s a list of just the movies that I remember, and their associated ridiculous fears:

  • Aliens (would not walk around blind corners in a dark hallway until I was 12)
  • ET (assumed that something weird and brown was going to waddle out of my closet and get me)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (lived in terror of car lights out my window until in my late teens…still irrationally afraid of being abducted by aliens even today (I don’t even believe in alien abduction, you guys…well, not until 3 am alone in bed, anyway))
  • The Thing (anything or anyone I didn’t know, or possibly people I knew, were going to morph into a monster and eat my face)
  • The Last Starfighter (the clone melting into the bed…GUH, I just…HNGH)

This is not even delving into the constant barrage of B movies that ran on daytime television, and Doctor Who’s monster-of-the-week (and just a teensy bit Tom Baker’s goggly eyes). It was coming from all sides, and I was more or less convinced I was doomed to an eventual monster-related demise.

Funnily enough, my mom woke us up early to watch Space Shuttle launches in my childhood, which means I had a live view of Challenger blowing up on the news at the tender age of seven. Oddly, seeing real people blow up on live television didn’t scar me, though to be fair it was just a tiny speck of fire on our TV screen, and my tiny human brain didn’t grasp the importance of that (not enough scary monsters or slime, I’d wager).

I should mention that I am basically a coward (surprise, right?). They say there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that want to fly the spaceship, and those that want to talk to the spaceship from mission control. My mom falls squarely into the first category. Content to watch from mission control, or look at the pretty pictures the probes sent back, I fall into the latter. But space travel, and space technology, it was always there, humming in the background radiation of my world.

I’m not sure when exactly the switch flipped in my own mind. Possibly during one of the many planetarium laser light shows I saw at The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Possibly in the constant bombardment of educational TV as produced by every big name science nerd from Carl Sagan to Mister Wizard to Bill Nye. I knew I was already gone when I worked one freeway exit away from Goddard Space Flight Center and looked at it longingly every time I drove past. Looking at the cool technology the engineers at NASA were building online, seeing the resurgence of public interest in space flight, I came to the realization.

I am my mother’s daughter. My first real novel was a science fiction piece about rogue stars that could think. If given the opportunity to build something for NASA, I would jump at it. I started learning computer engineering with the idea that I want to build even better cool things that the current cool things I see. I backed the Smithsonian’s Kickstarter to preserve and display Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit for display at the National Air and Space Museum (and Alan Shepard’s if they reach their stretch goal). My favorite books are sci-fi and fantasy. I gobble up the new Cosmos and every new show and documentary I can find.

My enthusiasm for the information pouring from New Horizons was unmatched by even my mother. I text my family with excitement when things like Kepler 452b are found, wondering if there’s anything worth finding there. I dream of stories and technologies that could let us peek just that much closer to another world like ours…or one completely different. So, I guess I’m a little thankful for horrific scarring space earwigs. They definitely dug into me and planted ideas.

I’m sending my family’s names up on the Lightsail solar sail satellite launching next year, including all my nieces and nephews. May the space bugs bite them lightly, and infect them with the joy of untold discovery.

”I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Neil Armstrong on looking back at the Earth from the Moon in July 1969.