When baseballs and rockets collide

>> 10.28.2011

Would've, could've, should've. Normally I avoid such awkward contractions in my writings, but last night they kept running through my brain. At the end of September, I had to make a decision that affected what I'd be doing this week: potentially work a World Series game or head to California to watch a rocket launch.

(As an aside, I will say that I'm very blessed to be in a position where this is my toughest decision.)

Would've: If the Milwaukee Brewers would've taken just two more games from the Cardinals, I would've been working on the scoreboard production crew at Miller Park this week for a World Series game or two (assuming the Series would not have ended before Game 6).

Could've: On the heels of a successful and fun Space Camp Tweetup adventure in June and the close of the space shuttle program in July, I've been keeping up with the well-run social media endeavors of NASA. To that end, I've been applying for a coveted spot at a NASA Tweetup.

In late September I learned that I was one of 25 people selected for NASA's first West Coast Tweetup, to be held at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Awesome! California, here I come!

Wait a second, that Delta II rocket is scheduled to launch when? The week of the World Series? Oh, boy. And I had to let NASA know if I was attending the event before the Brewers had played in a single post-season game.

Fortunately, the kind folks at NASA were quite understanding when I declined. Rockets will be launched again, more Tweetups will be held, but chances to work post-season baseball games are never guaranteed. Clearly, with 16 seasons invested in my seasonal part-time job, the Brewers were my #1 priority in October. 

Should've: So how did it all pan out? I worked six great playoff games before the fun ended in mid-October.

As for launch night, I watched on television as the Cardinals forced a Game 7 in the World Series. I followed the NASA Tweetup attendees from my laptop in Milwaukee (and stared with a twinge of jealousy at their group photo), then headed to bed, sleeping through the launch of the NPP satellite aboard a Delta II rocket.

No real regrets, no second-guessing. I'd made the decision that I should've made. As we say at the end of each baseball season, maybe next year.


Mission accomplished

>> 6.24.2011

The previously canceled inaugural Space Camp Tweetup (#SCTweetup) was rescheduled for June 2-3, and I wasn't going to miss it. Surprisingly, the husband who dislikes being in the car decided to make the road trip again, so we took the child out of school and retraced our path down bumpy I-65.

Having been given the opportunity to take the "same" trip for the second time in five weeks, we took full advantage. Stops included Columbus, Indiana (we ventured into town this time); Franklin, Tennessee; our primary destination of Huntsville, Alabama; and a quick 24 hours in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The child earned her Civil War Junior Ranger badge, the spouse decided Chattanooga was a place in which he'd like to spend more time, and I had dinner with astronaut Hoot Gibson.

We also were reminded of why our Huntsville visit originally was canceled as we rounded a curve near Madison, Alabama, and crossed what had been the path of an April tornado. Some houses were still covered in blue tarps; others were untouched. A warehouse across the highway was flattened.

My detailed notes from the Tweetup (which included an awesome visit to the NASA-Marshall Space Flight Center) haven't made it into blog form yet. But for now, please enjoy a little slideshow of my Space Camp adventure:



>> 5.07.2011

Space Camp, here I come? That was my last post.

Our road trip began after work on Wednesday, April 27. You may recall the end of April was experiencing more than its fair share of tornadoes. The last batch of storms was moving through that night, far south of us. We'd miss driving in it, and the weather forecast was great in Huntsville.

We drove as far as southern Indiana, with plans to make the final push to Space Came in time for my late afternoon check-in. I logged on to the iPad late that night, checking on the progress of my fellow Tweeps as we descended on Huntsville. There, in black and white on Twitter, were words like epic and super. But they were accompanied by words like outbreak, tornado, power outages, death, and disaster.

What had happened? Not wanting to believe the Twitter-verse at a time like this, I asked my husband to turn on the Weather Channel. Jim Cantore would never lie to me. But there it was. Reports coming in about a super outbreak that rivaled any in recent memory. We were safely ensconced in a La Quinta in Columbus, Indiana, very fortunate not to have driven straight through the night to Huntsville as we'd considered doing.

We got some sleep and contemplated our options in the morning.
  1. Turn around and head home (though the Tweetup hadn't been totally canceled at that point).
  2. Hang out in Indiana until we knew more.
  3. Drive south (just in case) and visit all those places I'd researched but didn't think we'd have time to see.

In the end, after talking during breakfast with military personnel who had Alabama connections, and seeing the devastation being shown on television, we opted for #3, cancelling our hotel in Huntsville and extending an existing reservation in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

We visited Louisville Slugger and Lincoln's birthplace, explored Nashville, watched a minor-league baseball game, toured Mammoth Cave and the Tennessee Capitol, and ended up with a great weekend trip.

But the disaster was never far from our minds as we passed convoys of power-company trucks and insurance companies' disaster recovery units on the interstate.

We met people in the hotel in Murfreesboro who had come up from Alabama because they either had no power or their homes had been damaged. One man from London by way of Huntsville checked in mainly to watch the Royal Wedding (he was happy to see hot food as well).

What Twitter gives, Twitter takes away. I had been given a chance via Twitter to do something out of my comfort zone, to road-trip south and meet complete strangers at Space Camp. But via Twitter, I learned of people who would never return to their comfort zones, their homes, and in some cases, their families.

I was able to get valuable information from these complete strangers, as we bonded over our lost opportunity and realized that in the grand scheme, it wasn't that important.

Our family's trip worked out just fine; the skies were blue and the extra AAA travel books I'd grabbed just in case worked like a charm.

I'll get another chance to live the multi-axis trainer dream, date and time TBD.


Why Space Camp?

>> 4.26.2011

So I got to go to camp several times while growing up, but I never did attend Space Camp. When you're one of three kids in a Midwestern family in the mid-1980s, as the country is recovering from a recession, you can't just pack your bags for Alabama and start driving south.

I don't remember how I first heard of Space Camp in those pre-website days, but my knowledge of its existence definitely predated the movie of the same name. (Note: As a former junior camp counselor, I can safely say I never launched, nor contemplated launching, my charges into space.)

Why would I have any interest in space or NASA? The first shuttle launch occurred when I was first starting to pay attention to world news. Just weeks prior to the launch of Columbia, I remember sitting by the television after school, taking notes about the shooting of President Reagan.

I was born after those milestone events of Kennedy being assassinated and man's first steps on the moon, but I remember where I was when Reagan was shot and when Challenger exploded. (I wrote in my journal about that event too, when I couldn't get my arms around the scope of that tragedy.) I even remember worrying about where Skylab would crash to earth in 1979.

No, I never really wanted to be an astronaut. There, I've said it. But I've always taken an interest in a wide range of subjects, especially transportation-related. I was raised to appreciate several forms of "transportation," as my father has written about auto racing and photographed trains from his childhood on. Now, as part of a family of non-pilot EAA members, I can discuss, admire, and appreciate what I see at Airventure each year, though I can't control an aircraft.

So I don't want to actually fly, but I do want the Space Camp experience. Huntsville, here I come!


Why camp?

>> 4.25.2011

I've been fascinated with camp since age 6. I remember poring over a brochure for the camp I ultimately would attend: "3 days and 2 nights for 6-8 year olds." Not sure how it started, but given that most camps have beaches, golf carts, clipboards, and walkie-talkies, well, let's just say my obsessions have be consistent for decades.

Side note: To be clear, we are not talking about camping; we are talking about camps. Camps, where you eat indoors, bunk in cabins, and don't have to dig a hole when nature calls. If it involves tents and bear-proofing your food, I want no part of it. I remember searching the library for non-fiction books about going to camp, packing for camp, anything. Nope. Just how to start a campfire with twigs and the hiker's guide to poisonous critters. No thanks.

But in the world of fiction, more specifically, in my dad's classroom library, I discovered the classic tome Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp. Sal's adventures at Camp Lenoloc made me yearn for my own camp experience. Yes, I captured the book before it was weeded from the shelves and am reading it to my own daughter, who has not expressed any interest in heading to the land of s'mores.

So were all my camp adventures rosy? Not so much, but I still look back on them fondly, and I even returned during high school to the camp of my childhood to be a junior counselor for a couple weeks. My first "3-day, 2-night" camp weekend was postponed when my friend got chicken pox right before we were scheduled to leave. My first full week of camp involved a friend who thought the camp (two hours away) was too far away. (She has since lived in South Africa and London. I think I'll take partial credit for making her leave home.) That week was marked by an ill-fated night in a tent (see... always a bad idea), when the severe thunderstorm hit and flooded us into a van back to camp.

At some point we'll send the child to camp, but it won't be the one I attended, which closed just last year. Guess I need to research mother/daughter camp adventures.


Space Camp!

>> 4.24.2011

It was April 14, 2011, and I was checking my email at lunchtime. What I read shocked me: "Congratulations on being selected for our first ever Space Camp Tweetup event on April 28th and 29th! We have a lot of great events planned and are excited you will get to be a part of it."

What? Seriously? I get to go to Space Camp?

Wait, I'm taking a trip in two weeks? Me, Miss "Start Planning Vacations a Year in Advance"?

Um, you mean I have to tell my husband I signed up (and was one of 16 people selected) for a Tweetup - in Alabama?

Deep breaths.

Step 1: Decide there's no way I can pull this off. The easiest course of action is to decline.

Step 2: Change my mind. I'm nearing a milestone birthday, and I'm being handed something from my bucket list on a silver platter. Live a little. Be spontaneous. Go.

Step 3: Spend three days trying to figure out how to execute the logistics of being spontaneous. Spend the same three days deciding the best way to inform the husband of this adventure.

Step 4: Learn that the husband wants to come along and visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and bring the child. Yes, he just signed on for a road trip twice as long as we've ever attempted. And he hates riding in the car. Okay, then.

Step 5: Clear my schedule, explain the event to my boss, make reservations, and find activities for the two non-Space Campers.

Step 6: Decide there's some work-related value in the trip. Make the necessary contacts and arrangements (how many pieces of technology - and charging cords - can I bring?).

More deep breaths. This is going to be a whirlwind week. Can't wait!

Next: The story behind my childhood obsession with camp - including Space Camp.


Found: beaches and golf carts

>> 2.16.2011

February often is my least favorite month of the year, and I have been known to use this blog to vent about that. But not so in 2011 (yet). Despite an early February blizzard that canceled Groundhog Day in these parts, I'm hanging in there because of a dose of San Diego's glorious blue skies and warm weather in late January.

There must be reasons why people don't live in San Diego, but my sunglasses nicely obscured the negatives during a five-day escape from Wisconsin. It helped that the traffic jams always were in the opposite direction.

Let's review. There are beaches. There are golf carts. There are hiking trails. It is warm. People were friendly to me (I bonded with the regulars at the natural/organic food store).

The child had tons of activities. The child was perfectly happy to run barefoot on a beach shell-seeking for hours. There was a playground on the beach.

Hmmm, a golf course map with an arrow pointing toward the ocean. Perfect. Golf cart: check.

If one were to somehow get bored in this fine city, one could get on a cruise ship, hop a train (aptly named "Surfliner") or stare at palm trees, all visible in this photo.

No need to discuss the pros and cons of living in Southern California. Let's just end with this sunset over the ocean. It should be a pleasant enough memory to get me through February.

Beaches make me happy.


Welcome back

>> 11.02.2010

Welcome back to me, that is. Where have I been?

Well, I drove a golf cart.

Then I sat on a beach in Paradise.

End of blog, right? I found the beach and golf cart I'd been seeking.

Sorry. You can't get rid of me that easily.

I'll offer a list of possible reasons for my nine-month disappearance in the form of True/False statements.

1. I took a sabbatical to research the microbrewing industry in the Maldives.

False. I'm a staff member at a college, not faculty. No sabbatical for me.

2. Nine months? Just gave birth to triplets. Have my hands full.

False! God's sense of humor hasn't gone there.

3. Helped nurse a 10-year-old, DOS-based scoreboard through its last season at my part-time seasonal gig.


4. Rediscovered my library. Abandoned computers.

Partially true. I did enjoy all 560 pages of The Lost Girls, plus a few other books.

5. Took on the job description of a departed coworker. With responsibility for a college's websites, social media, and blogs, the last thing I wanted to do was blog for myself.

Pretty much true.

6. Road construction prevented me from leaving my house all summer.

False. It did make for an interesting five months as our 40-year-old water mains and curbs were replaced. When will they tear up our road? When will they remove our mailboxes? What goo will they unearth with the water mains? Will flooding rains wash away the gravel? When will they pour curbs so we can't we park in our driveway for six days? It all ended yesterday, with me making a quick escape mere feet in front of the dump truck containing the final coat of asphalt. Now we have a beautifully smooth road. Just in time for the snowplows.

7. I hit a milestone birthday and decided to pursue a career in surfing.

False. We'll save that one for 2011.

I read in an article that you shouldn't say, "I don't have time." You really mean, "It's not a priority."

While this blog should have been a priority (for my own sanity, if nothing else), you can only have so many priorities in 24 hours, and this didn't fit. Work, family, and random weekend trips to Minnesota, Michigan, and around Badgerland took precedence.


But I did come back.



>> 2.27.2010

February. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.

It's not my favorite month, mainly due to my being done with winter at this point, and this year it's been the longest month e-v-e-r. Thank goodness it doesn't have more days, like 30.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. Samantha Bee eloquently stated her distaste for our calendar's second month in this morning's Wall Street Journal. I already had this post written in my head, and reading her article reinforced my need to get it off my chest.

I'm carb-loading this month, as shown by the results of a recent trip to the store. The child is no longer amused by the ever-growing snow piles that line the driveway. She has outgrown her winter clothes by this point, and of course the spring lines have appeared in every store, though we can't really switch to our warm-weather wardrobes until about May in these parts. The car is coated in salt. The shovel is broken, and again, only lawn mowers are available at the hardware store. My skin is dried out; even makeup can't give my face any color. My only "escape" from the cold has been to places like this: indoor gardens under a big glass dome. Woo-hoo.

On that note, I'll leave you with my one positive from February (which comes from a negative of course).

Here are flowers I received. Not for Valentine's Day, you silly person. That is not celebrated in this household. No, they're from my mother-in-law, who felt badly that I had to take not one but two trips to the airport in a one-hour period because someone she gave birth to forgot something at her house.

At least the stargazer lilies make my kitchen smell like my wedding bouquet. The wedding was in August, when it's warm. The reception was by a lake. Which has a beach.


Best food I've ever eaten

I'm watching a show on a channel that talks about food a lot (and I don't mean the Travel Channel). People famous for cooking on television shows discuss the best foods they've ever eaten, in various categories.

Someone just was discussing the best cupcakes he's ever eaten. They were from New York City I believe, not Oklahoma City (from whence these originated).

Now these OKC cupcakes were good and are well-known in the area. But I wouldn't make a special trip or go on television to discuss them. And the more I thought about it, I couldn't come up with any must-have, must-go-eat-it-again restaurant dish.

I had a lobster roll in Maine once that was really good, from a dive I read about in my AAA book. But I think the fact that I ate it oceanside (basically, on a rocky beach) mainly contributed to it being memorable.

I'm not sure if it's sad that I can't remember eating anything "that good," or if it's a positive thing that my travel memories are not based on eating out, or on any particular food for that matter.


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