Remembering the Challenger – 30 Years Later

As I drove to work this morning, the incessantly chatty people on the morning radio station asked what happened 30 years ago. “We’ll be back in a minute to tell you,” they said.

I didn’t need them to tell me. I knew. Thirty years ago I was a senior in high school — no, you don’t need to do the math — and we were actually out of school because there was ice on the ground. It had all melted by mid-morning, and I drove to the shoe store to look for shoes. Why I needed shoes in January in 1986, I don’t know, but it is a very clear memory. On the way home, I heard on the radio about the explosion, and there was nothing on television the rest of the day except accounts of the disaster.

Yes, there was cable, but we lived out in the middle of nowhere, and we only had antenna television. My grandparents would have been horrified to pay a monthly bill for television. It comes through the air! It’s free! Why on earth would you pay? Now thirty years later people are trending backwards and cutting the cable again as they choose adhoc television services. (We still give the cable company a big chunk of change primarily for live sports.)

But I digress. Thirty years ago I was buying shoes and the world changed on a dime. We were promised that regular citizens would go into space. Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher, died that morning, along with seven astronauts.

If you were of age then, you still remember. The New York Times has a great article today, and here is a quote from the husband she left behind:

“The passage of 30 years since the Challenger accident is not of great personal significance to our family,” Mr. McAuliffe said in a statement to The Associated Press. “For us, Challenger will always be an event that occurred just recently. Our thoughts and memories of Christa will always be fresh and comforting.” Her is a link to the article: New York Times – Remembering the Challenger

Now, the space program barely gets a mention in the media. When Howard Wolowitz on the Big Bang Theory went into space he had to go to the space station via a Russian Rocket. SpaceX deploys satellites now, and NASA has not come up with an alternative to the shuttle program. Does it feel like we are regressing? People apply to go to the first Mars colony, but allegedly we can’t even get back to the moon now. See this article on whether we can get back. Can we go to the moon?

A little bit of all of us changed that day, and I’m not sure we will ever have the optimism about space that we once had. I’m starting to write in the science fiction romance genre, and I’ve been reading more about space travel. In my imaginary world, space travel is routine, but I’m not sure we will reach routine space travel in my lifetime. Thirty years ago I would have said we would.

Where were you when the Challenger went down? I’d love to hear your stories.

Tiny Houses — Boom or Bust?

I was in the other room last night and I heard my husband’s voice across the house. “What a nightmare!” I was expecting him to have news from a friend in Virginia or DC who got over two feet of snow, or some bizarre Internet video. No, he was watching Tiny House Hunters on HGTV.

Now keep in mind that we are not a small family. I am short, but I’m not small by any definition. My husband is 6’4″ and also is not small. Our kids are not small. At 14 my son is already over 5’9″. We could not even imagine. My daughter at almost-13 is 5’3″ and still getting taller.

I don’t get the tiny house phenomenon. Yes, I understand downsizing if you’ve retired, and I even understand the high cost of living in Manhattan where people pay a premium for ridiculously small apartments. There is something to be said for decluttering and not keeping things that you are no longer attached to. These shows go far beyond that. They are insane.

Why would you want to permanently live somewhere that you have to roll the bed under another section of the room when you get up because you literally have nowhere to walk? Why would you want to cram two adults and a small toddler in a living space no bigger than 300 feet? When you already have a house and you are established? grown-ups need their privacy, especially if they have small kids. There need to be boundaries in any healthy relationship.

We got sucked in and watched three different shows, and we couldn’t look away. It was like getting trapped in a Hoarders marathon. Why would these people voluntarily do this? In each one I saw, the wives were pushing it, and the husbands looked like they had been caught in a trap and couldn’t figure out how to extricate themselves.

On the road near where I live, I found a tiny house. The owner should put it up for sale and make a bundle. Any takers? I guess it could also be considered a fixer-upper.

What do you think? Are tiny houses a gimmick, or are they here to stay?

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Virginia Woolf – Trending on Twitter?

Yesterday I noticed that Virginia Woolf (d. 1941), one of the foremost modernists in English literature, was trending on twitter. What on earth? I was surprised, since I had not heard of a new movie or book coming out about her. It turns out a new audio recording was found of her voice, which kicked off an avalanche of twitter love. Yesterday was also her birthday.

Here is a link to the recording on the BBC: BBC Audio Recording by Virginia Woolf. I love British accents, but other than that, it doesn’t do much for me.

The Indigo Girls wrote a song, “Virginia Woolf” in 1992, as part of the album Rites of Passage. I love this album. 1992 was prime music time for me. I was 24, single, and had all the time in the world to become a writer. Unfortunately, after a disastrous year in the Purdue MFA program in Creative Writing, I was mentally blocked.

Even then, this song spoke to me. Part of the words are below:

They published your diary
And that’s how I got to know you
The key to the room of your own
And a mind without end

And here’s a young girl
On a kind of a telephone line through time
And the voice at the other end
Comes like a long lost friend

So I know I’m alright
Life will come and life will go
Still I feel it’s alright
‘Cause I just got a letter to my soul

And when my whole life is on the tip of my tongue
Empty pages for the no longer young
The apathy of time laughs in my face
You say “Each life has it’s place”

The hatches were battened
The thunder clouds rolled and the critics stormed
The battle surrounded the white flag of your youth
If you need to know that you weathered the storm
Of cruel mortality
A hundred years later I’m sittin’ here living proof

Read more: Indigo Girls – Virginia Woolf Lyrics | MetroLyrics

If you want to watch the video, here is the link:


On one of the Indigo Girls’ live albums, Emily Saliers talks about how her mother sent her a copy of Virginia Woolf’s diary, and that’s how she wrote the song. Emily is a prolific songwriter, and I can imagine that connection. I’ve felt it before from writers who are long gone.

There are so many books published now: ebooks ranging in length from short stories to long tomes, traditionally published books with small print runs giving service to what the New York editors deem is literature these days, and then the blockbuster novels that basically fund the big New York houses. Books can go viral in a heartbeat if they trigger emotion in enough people. Am I that good? I’d like to be. I’m not there yet, but with every book I refine my craft.

Now, Virginia Woolf is not only reaching out to people through her diaries, she is also trending on Twitter. Her story is sad in so many ways, especially considering her battle with mental illness and eventual suicide. She has been an inspiration to many, and yesterday Twitter stood up and paid attention. You go, Virginia.

And how am I doing? Editing the final book in City Lights, Winner Takes All, in a frenzy. Soon, baby soon. This will wind everything up. By the time I get edits back from the editor, I’m thinking early March. Hopefully I will have a pre-order link up soon.