Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Seminal Event in My Young Adulthood – The Challenger Disaster 29 Years Ago Yesterday, January 28, 1986

Every generation experiences events during their lifetimes that cause them to stop and pause and forever remember where they were and what they were doing at the time the news was broadcast.

For my grandparents it was the 1929 stock market crash and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. For my parents’ generation it was Alan Shepard as the first American in space, John Glenn as the first to orbit the earth, and the Kennedy assassination that ended the Camelot of post World War II optimism. For the earliest Baby Boomers it was the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Kent State, the shock of the fire that claimed the lives of the Apollo 1 astronauts on January 27, 1967.

For my generation, the last to be born in the 1950’s and the first to brave the world in the 1960’s, it was the landing on the moon in 1969, the world’s collective heartbeat as the Apollo 13 astronauts returned to earth on a wing and a prayer, the Challenger explosion, and 9/11.
For those of us who grew up during the glory years of the American space program when NASA strived to achieve what John F. Kennedy promised on May 25, 1961- put to a man on the moon by then end of the decade – we had an emotional investment. American pride was never higher. We invested in science, discovery, and literally reaching for the moon. Children dreamed of growing up to be astronauts. Astronauts were like rock stars. In an era where most homes with TVs had fewer than 13 channels, families sat glued to the broadcast networks to watch the miracles of manned rocket launches, the landings of the capsules in water, the heroes welcome for those who risked their lives to further discovery. It seemed to culminate with the moon landing. And by the time the space shuttle program was launched, interest in space travel was beginning to wane in the American psyche. It seemed to have become routine. Although how one could ever conceive of being strapped into a capsule and catapulted into space by 2 solid rocket boosters and 3 main engines with an external fuel tank that holds 2 million liters of propellant as routine confounds me.

As I’ve posted on my Face Book page, my memory of the Challenge disaster is till vivid 29 years after it occurred. I recall my sister bursting into the officers of Commercial Union Assurance Companies on West Ohio Street in Indianapolis, Indiana proclaiming in shock that the Challenger had exploded. Time stood still. Everybody was stunned. We were still invested in the miracle of space flight. This was a time before the PC, voice mail, fax machines, mobile phones, CD players, and debit cards. Collectively, we Americans mourned. And we felt comforted by the words of our president Ronald Reagan. No matter one’s political affiliation, his words struck a chord as one of the most inspiring speeches of our time. I’ve included the text below because these words still resonate with me today.

Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library
Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger - January 28, 1986
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.
Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.
For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, ``Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy.'' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.
And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.
I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: ``Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.''
There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, ``He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.'' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ``slipped the surly bonds of earth'' to ``touch the face of God.''

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Skeptic Convinced -My Initial Impression of Shakeology by Beachbody~

My spousal unit and I have begun week 22 of our Tony Horton / Beachbody workouts. We began with the original Power 90 in August and have started week 10 of the new, improved P90 program.

We are both in our mid 50’s and began our journeys in less than ideal physical condition – primarily because we celebrate the delights of food and wine on a daily basis. Wine is a religious beverage and I feel it is my moral responsibility to ensure the fledgling wineries of my home state of Virginia not just survive, but thrive.

But I digress. This episode pertains to the nutrition supplement constantly advertised by Beachbody on every DVD = Shakeology, which is advertised as
a drink that can help one “lose weight, reduce junk food cravings, increase energy, and improve digestion and regularity. “

I’m a skeptic when it comes to nutritional supplements or diet gimmicks. I approach most ads of this ilk with not only skepticism but a modicum of disdain. I don’t believe the hype, swallow the bull-feathers or fall prey to snake-oil salesmen. I’ve never ordered anything from QVC, the Home Shopping Network, RONCO, or an infomercial.  So I scoffed during the Shakeology ads.  But after the initial 12 weeks of Power 90, my husband suggested we give Shakeology a try. We had improved our physical fitness level. However, we still had not adjusted our diets significantly. And we both agreed with Tony Horton’s belief that one cannot exercise one’s way out of a bad diet.

Shakeology is expensive. But we conducted some research and decided to give it a try for one month. We started January 5th. Shakeology is available in several flavors – chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and greenberry with 2 vegan options. My husband got the chocolate and I opted for strawberry. Every morning after our workout we mix up our shakes.  I mix a scoop of the strawberry Shakeology with a bit of POM juice, some frozen fruit, a bit of crushed ice and a banana in the blender. I was shocked! It tasted great. It is filling. My cravings for chocolate, chips, and snacks of any kind have abated. Instead I feel sated with a snack of yogurt or cottage cheese. My energy level has increased.

Have I lost much weight? No. But my muscles are toned. My shape is changed. I look better and feel better. At 55, what more could I desire? And I’ve not given up my vino, the nectar of the gods.

Give it a try!


Friday, January 23, 2015

If I Had A Personal Badge – It Would Be A Phoenix Holding A Book & A Shoe

21st Century personal development consultants recommend that we worker bees establish a personal brand or logo. Instead, I think I would prefer to re-establish that practice of having a personal badge to affix to my letters, laptop case, emails, texts, and personal documents.

Many noble persons of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period chose badges or personal emblems that reflected who they were or aspired to be. Followers would often wear the badges to show support for a particular person, house or royal family. As an example, Anne Boleyn used a crowned falcon holding a scepter.

My badge would include at its center the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes to illustrate my resilience. At the tip of one glorious wing the bird would hold a book. Upon the other wing would perch a sleek leather pump with a kitten heel in a brilliant color such as red patent.

The phoenix is a symbol of the feminine yin, loyalty, honesty, life, and rebirth. To me a badge with the phoenix represents resilience – facing the challenges that life throws in one’s path, getting up, dusting off, and moving forward. I’ve decided that if I ultimately get that smallish tattoo it must have meaning. And a phoenix has significant meaning for me. And it must be colorful – like the golden bird that rose from the ashes to begin its next 500 to 1000 year cycle. Maybe that lengthy life span also intrigues me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fascination With Home Improvement Shows

When DIRECTV, our service with more than 500 channels, disappoints with nary a show to watch, which occurs on a daily basis, my spousal unit and I flip to one of the various home improvement or renovation shows on HGTV or DIY for mindless entertainment.

We’ve become enamored with the shows titled “Rehab Addict”, “Love It or List It”, “House Hunters”. Flip Or Flop”, “Curb Appeal”, and “Fixer Upper”. Our collective favorites these days are “Rehab   Addict” and “Fixer Upper”. The problem with all of these shows, which is no doubt their purpose, it that we homeowners become dissatisfied with our own humbles abodes – no matter how much better they may be than any place one might reside in a third world country.

I’ve become obsessed with renovating our master bathroom and updating our 10 year-old kitchen with every organizational cabinet feature imaginable. I have developed serious urges to knock out walls, add windows, add a sunroom, truck in tons of topsoil to create a luscious Garden of Eden on our rocky ridge and create utopia on inhospitable land in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

My spousal unit expresses concern that any significant home renovations could cause us to extend our working years and put off retirement. But I plan to live to a minimum of 95, so I have at least 40 more years of life left in me. And if I want a gorgeous tiles shower, a free standing tub, and new kitchen cabinets, should I really do without? I think not. When we bought our house, we were just thrilled to have the house. After living in it for 10 years, we’ve come to appreciate the certain modifications could make our haven even more user friendly. So I say, let’s go for it! If we die with debt……um….

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Obsession With Gourmet Kitchen Stores~

Most people who know me would no double believe my shopping passions are limited to shoes, handbags, and apparel. But I can browse through an apparel store like lightning. Within minutes I know if there is any reason to stay.

But put me in Costco, an appliance store or a purveyor of gourmet kitchen accouterments and I can remain interested, mesmerized, fascinated and filled with wonder for hours.  Ultimately, a sweater is just a sweater – even a dreamy cashmere pullover that caresses my skin like a warm tropical breeze. And wonderful shoes, no matter how delicious, are just stunning, butter like bits of leather than envelope my feet in pain free bliss. But a gourmet kitchen store is filled with paraphernalia that enhances the everyday experience of cooking and eating and provides the opportunity to find gadgets, gewgaws, necessities; must-haves that I never knew existed.

This afternoon I ventured to our local gourmet kitchen destination with a purpose – I wanted to purchase two cartridges for our soda stream compatible refrigerator that will dispense sparkling water. I’d done my research and Nibblin’s had the goods. I figured that while I was planning to make the trip, I would also look for the handy dandy Garlic Twist that my friend Gina demonstrated last weekend as the ultimate in garlic preparation. But visits to Nibblin’s can be dangerously expensive. Nibblin’s offers so many temptations to improve convenience in the kitchen.

While I’ve been lusting for years for several pieces of Le Creuset cook wear, I still resist. Is it really so much better than corning? Probably. At the very least it is much more aesthetically appealing. But I was not prepared to indulge in Le Creuset today. So instead, I allowed myself to imagine that I truly needed a cherry/olive pitter. Who doesn’t need a particular tool designed to remove the seeds from olives and cherries? I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it, but it solved my evermore dilemma of having to look for pitted olives on the Mediterranean bar at Wegman’s. My options have now been broadened exponentially! And just to test it out, I bought a pound of cherries at the supermarket this evening. Now I will no longer have to worry about where I will spit my cherry pits!

I also found a super duper pizza stone cleaning brush, the garlic twist I coveted, and a partridge in a pear tree. Really, I replaced the lemon reamer we have misplaced.

I spent an hour perusing every aisle, shelf, bench and rack. The time passed so quickly that it felt as if I’d barely blinked. But that is the beauty of such stores.