Looking Back and Gazing at the Future

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During the summer of 2012, a group of friends met all by coincidence at a magical place called Space Camp. We came from many different states plus Canada, Australia, and India. We met as strangers and left as a family.

During the 8 days we were together, we journeyed via charter bus from Huntsville, Alabama to Port Canaveral, Florida.  14 hours of napping, bathroom stops, stories,  laughter, One epic bus ride. One of our stops while we were in Florida was a tour of Kennedy Space Center where we were given a special behind the scenes tour of the center.

Looking back to that moment 3 years ago, these four friends were all in different spots in their lives and some on the verge of making huge life changes. I remember one friend who said, “Let’s take our picture looking out at the old launch system and dream of what the future will hold.”

Not only were these ladies thinking of the space launch system but their own lives too. Decisions had to be made. Hearts were heavy. Dreams had been crushed. Where is my life headed?

None of us would have any idea how different our lives would be three years later.

Hearts were broken.

Marriages were destroyed.

Moves had been made both personally and professionally.

Changes made for both the good and bad.

Frustrations galore.

Tears.

Blood.

Sweat.

Mental anguish.

As I stood in the same spot, alone this time, three years later, I paused to reflect on the future not just for myself but my friends as well.

Hope for love

Hope for guidance and healing

Prayers for those who are making difficult life decisions.

Peace

Healing for those who need it.

One thing is for certain, these four ladies are STRONG to go through the things that they have gone through and continue to push through whatever obstacles come their way. I am in awe of them every single day.

I am ready for the future and whatever it might hold. Who knows maybe man will walk on Mars in the future.

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The Rest of the Story

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At the end of June, my friend Jenny and I decided to do a road trip from Alabama, where I was working back to where she lives in Oklahoma. The route was decided; Plans were made. The teasing began. Props were bought. Excitement began to build for both of us. 2 days in a car together. Oh boy!

Ten days later, I received a call saying that my grandmother had passed away during the night. Instantly, I was saddened even though I knew this day would happen. But, no one can prepare you for the day you get the call.

My grandmother loved Elvis. She sang his songs, watched the movies and even had a blue velvet Elvis painting hanging in her bedroom after my grandfather passed away. I am not sure if she loved Elvis more than grandpa but it was probably close.

About a week after the call, I woke up in the middle of the night with a strange thought. We were driving to Oklahoma and I wondered how far away Graceland was from our pit stop was for the night. So, here it is at 3am, I am googling to see where Graceland is and how far away it is. 3 hours was the answer. That’s doable, I thought. I sent a text to Jenny the next morning; “Hey, how do you feel about stopping at Graceland on our way to Little Rock?” Her reply, “Sounds like fun.”

That was the only thing I told her. A month later we start out on our road trip with dodging a parking ticket, tears by both of us and some laughter not to mention a very full car. Off we go. Siri directs us to Graceland and we get in line and purchase tickets. We decided on just the mansion tour because it was so expensive. Our tour number is called and we get into line. Selfie stick and all.

A little over two hours later, we are sitting in an ice cream shop (because IF you know Jenny then you know how much she loves ice cream) and chatting…..and I tell her the rest of the story.

I wanted to stop at Graceland to do something my grandma never got to do-we even verified this with a quick call to my dad who asked, “where are you?” When I told him we stopped at Graceland in tribute to grandma, he got very quiet and said, “she always wanted to go and it would mean a lot to her to know you went in her place.”  All this because of waking up at 3 am with an idea the week after grandma passed to honor her.

That is the rest of the story of how and why we stopped at Graceland.

A Tribute to Grandma’s

grandmaIn the past few months 4 friends including myself all lost their grandma’s.  When I think about my Grandma I think about the word STRENGTH. Grandma was 94 years old when she passed and thinking about the things she lived through is remarkable. Our Grandmas lived through at least one World War, the Great Depression, and leading lives that we will never know or understand.

For me, that call came in as I was driving back from Florida early on July 4th. Not what I expected to hear at 9:30 in the morning. I felt like my heart was ripped out of my body. For another friend, it came in the form of a phone call across many miles. Another friend had his grandma pass away at home just feet away from his own room. Another friend, was there as her grandma took her last breath surrounded by those who loved her most-her children and grandchildren. But, all of these remarkable women, were loved deeply and are missed in so many ways that it hurts thinking about it.

There were 11 kids in my grandma’;s family and she had no choice but to go to work in the sixth grade. She walked over a mile each way to clean her teacher’s house for $1 a week. She gave her mom 75 cents out of that dollar to help support the family and she was allowed to keep the remaining 25 cents. Today that one dollar can buy very little. A drink at the corner store or perhaps a cheap bite to eat that will later cause indigestion. But, for grandma that dollar represented a week’s worth of hard cleaning and helping to start dinner for her teacher then the mile home. All by herself at age 12. There were no toys or dolls to play with. Everyone was expected to pitch in, work and help support the family of 13. A $5 dress represented 5 months or work. In some cases, they had to share a bed as they slept in shifts. Today, our kids, don’t know the value of a dollar or even what it means to work. Kids get upset if they have to share a room and its unthinkable to share a bed.

My grandma used to tell the story of when she was a young girl and being given up for adoption because there were too many mouths to feed during the Depression. Her mom had a found her a home way out on Long Island with people who were well off and could afford to give her a better life. My great grandma dressed my grandma up in her finest dress and took her to the house and left her there. However, my grandma was miserable and sad. She was old enough to miss her mom and her siblings. In the end, things did not work out and my grandma returned home. I can’t imagine what her life would have been like if she had stayed with the other family. Would she still  have met my grandfather and waited through World War 2 for him? Or would she have married someone from high society? Her life would have been so different than the way it turned out.  I do know it took a lot of strength to endure things that I will never know or understand.

For three generations, I was the only girl on my Dad’s side of the family-a total anomaly because no one knew how to handle me. I was a tomboy and then some since I had an older brother and mostly boy cousins. My mom told me one day to take a walk so I did….put my tricycle in the bed of my wagon, hopped the fence then took a stroll down the highway until the Highway Patrol brought me home. But, at that young age, I had asked my grandma for one gift. “Grandma when you go to heaven can I have your dishes?” Of course, she said yes and I forgot about this conversation until about ten years ago. On a trip to visit her in New York, she looked at me in the eye, and said “are you going to take the dishes with you?” I was stunned. I didn’t expect to get them until she passed but she wanted me to have them at that moment. Of course, I said yes and spent the next two days wrapping each piece in newspaper and bubble wrap. Then shipped three large boxes to myself in Arizona. As we carefully wrapped each piece, I asked my grandma for the story behind them. They were bought in the 1950’s on “coupons” from the store. Each week a new piece was offered for a certain amount of coupons. Each week she walked to the store to do the grocery store then home. Now, we can order dishes on Amazon, Target or Wal-Mart. Instant gratification. Grandma’s dishes are probably one of the most precious things that I own. I look forward to the day that they come out of storage and grace my table again. Then, I will know grandma is with me.

One of the habits I inherited from my grandma was the love of sending snail mail. My grandma sent us cards for Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter or the first day of school. She never missed a holiday or an important event. She was always fair in sending us each our own cards addressed to “Master Scott” or “Mistress Jennifer”. Always our full names too. Each card normally held a few crisp dollar bills encouraging us to buy an ice cream on her. Now, I send plenty of snail mail of my own to my own grandchildren, addressed to each of them individually, as well as to friends on holidays or just as a thinking of you. Grandma’s spirit lives on although I don’t have a little girl of my own to pass this on to I hope one day it encourages other to send mail and know how much that postcard or letter means to someone. At times, we are going through struggles that we don’t want to share about but with the opening of an envelope can change someone’s day immediately. I always knew that I was loved by my grandma when I got her letters or cards and I hope the friends who receive mail from me know how much they mean to me.

Certain things evoke powerful memories of grandma such as my grandma making “sauce” or asking what you would like to drink immediately after entering her house or the tins of butter cookies that were always present. For my friends, their memories include their grandma’s making the best fried potatoes ever, or a bottle of Clamato juice. In fact, my mouth is watering for some fried potatoes because I had heard this friend describe them in so much detail that I can smell them even though I live in another state and the friend has moved on with his life.  For others, it was spending free time sitting next to their grandma in the days, weeks and months leading to their passing. It is something we know is coming but the moment the phone rings,it changes our lives forever.

One thing is for certain these four women who helped shaped our lives had more strength, humor, life than any other person we will ever know.

Tonight I ask you to light a candle, raise a glass of your favorite beverage or close your eyes in a moment of gratitude and prayer for these women who recently passed.

I love you Grandma now and forever and miss you more than you will ever know. Thank you for helping to shape the woman I am today.

Real Life Science

It is my goal to give my students good, hands on science labs and projects. I don’t just want them reading science out of a textbook and doing a worksheet. That is NOT science.

Science is:

doing

thinking

creating

experimenting

mixing

trying

Sometimes there are days when science does not happen. Last week was one of those days. I had spent months planning, shopping then prepping for a solar bbq with 100 students plus a handful of parents and teachers. Everyone was good to go except for one thing. The weather did not want to cooperate. I mean you need the SUN for a SOLAR cookout right?! No, instead the morning of the event it dawned cold, cloudy, rainy and at lunchtime when we were supposed to start cooking hot dogs in our solar ovens it was 65 degrees and raining. COME ON, I thought to myself. Our cafeteria ladies stepped in and cooked up our hot dogs instead. But it did not have the same effect.

We saved the best for last though—sometime during the last week of school the students will make their smores in solar ovens and enjoy the benefits of using solar energy.

Science is real life. You can’t predict what is going to happen next.

Sounds of Learning

This week my students are outside learning how  to be young engineers by designing, building, and testing solar cars.

These are the sounds of learning taking place today:

“You are awesome Ms. Cheesman”

“We need to move the gears so they align.”

“We need to test it out.”

“Hold ON!!!”

“AWESOME”

“It’s working!!!”

“Why did it slow down?”

“NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

“We need to make some aerodynamics”

No wonder it didn’t work-it’s on backwards.”

“It does but we took it apart”

Tap

Tap

Tap

Hammering

Screaming

Jumping up and down

Laughing

Who said that learning takes place inside the classroom.

My Bead of Courage

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This summer I am fulfilling a dream I have had for the past six years, I will be an education crew trainer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I will train teachers from not just the United States but all around the world in the areas of S.T.E.M. and space science. To say, it is a dream job, is an understatement.

However, I am very honored to be participating in the Carry A Bead program for Beads of Courage. This organization provides arts in medicine for children with serious illnesses. Throughout the summer, I will document special people I may encounter as well wear it on my flight suit. At the end of the summer, one of the special beads will be returned to Beads of Courage headquarters.

The bead that is returned will then in turn be sent to a child with a serious illness.along with pictures of where the bead went and who it met throughout the summer. I hope that whatever child receives my bead loves space as much as I do. It’s adventure is going to be out of this world.

If you are doing something special this summer, I encourage you to carry a bead and share your adventure with a special child. You can sign up for your own bead at http://www.beadsofcourage.org

Precious Moments

We take life for granted.

When we wake up in the morning our loved ones will be happy, healthy, alive and well.

Recently, my family had a scare. A loved one stopped breathing and was resuscitated. He was put on a ventilator for a week and eventually he woke up on his own but couldn’t talk or remember why he was there or what happened.

As I sat next to his bed, listening to him breathe, I was reminded of how precious life really is. I sat in a hard chair holding his hand, praying and listening to the in and out of his breath. Praying hard for strength, guidance and healing.

With tears in my eyes, I sent a message to a friend—-listening to him breathe is one of the most precious sounds in the world. Hug the ones you love the most tonight and tell them how much you love them.

Every breathe is precious don’t waste it. Hugs the ones you love. Text or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Don’t take life for granted.

You can’t get precious moments back.