History lessons….


Life is in a constant state of flux, whether we want to believe this or not. My son hates change. His sister doesn’t like it much either but understands and doesn’t resist much. But he fights hard against anything that could potentially mess up his routine; the little world he’s made for himself. He perceives change as taking away from who he’s meant to be and his willingness to fight against change, can be infuriating to me at times. Why can’t he see “change” is inevitable whether we like it or not?  Going with the flow is so much easier than offering resistance.


To be fair, I can pinpoint the exact place, day, and time, when my life took a dramatic turn and everything, changed for me (even though I was unaware of that at the time). Long before I was married and had children, I was struggling with my identity. I didn’t know if I was moving forward or backward. My long term goals for my life were skewed. I found myself not planning for a career or life, but rather floating along without much care in my future world. My only true goal was to find a good man to marry, settle down and raise kids. That was the world I painted for myself. All this schooling was just me biding my time until that happened.

When I began college, my original plan was to become a teacher. I loved history and thought I could become a great high school History teacher. After one-quarter of history in college, I wondered if history really was all that interesting, considering I slept through much of the class. After participating in three student-teaching exercises at area schools, I came to the conclusion, teaching just wasn’t for me. I did not have the discipline to make a teaching plan day in and day out. I was lazy and didn’t really want to work all that hard. By the time January of 1986 arrived, I had burned out on school. The man I was in love with was unaware–because again, being lazy covered all aspects of my life and I needed a break from school, a break from me and a dose of reality. So I dropped out of school for winter quarter and began working full time at Best Products; an area department store.


On the morning of Tuesday January 28, the space shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after take-off, killing every passenger on board. I don’t remember if I saw original broadcast, when this happened. But that didn’t really matter. Almost every television channel we had kept replaying that sad event over and over again so they could analyze, scrutinize and try to determine what possibly went wrong.


I was still living with my parents then and had to be to work at 3 pm. My dad and sister Ann Marie would be coming home for lunch around noon, and decided I would make them some grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. My mom had a shopping list and was preparing to go to the grocery store. “Marsha, your Aunt Nonie is still upstairs. Could you make sure she eats some lunch before you leave?” My mom had asked. Two weeks earlier, my 86 yr old much-beloved aunt had moved in with us, after displaying signs of dementia. “Sure, we have enough cheese” I replied.

About 1 pm,  I stuck my head inside her room and asked if she was hungry for lunch. Making her way downstairs to the kitchen and sitting down at the table, I slid a plate containing the sandwich and some chips in front of her, along with some hot tea and then continued getting ready for work. “What is going on here?” She asked as the kitchen television replayed the events of the day. “Oh, yeah, the space shuttle Challenger blew up this morning, killing all their passengers,” I replied. She immediately began to cry and began praying for the poor souls on board. I turned off the TV.

An hour later, my aunt had moved into the family room, where instead of her daily stories shimmering off the television screen, the Challenger tragedy continued to play ad nauseam. I was talking to a friend on the phone when my aunt called out my name and changed my life. Entering the room, she complained she was going to be sick. Dear God, I poisoned her with the grilled cheese sandwich, I thought. Running off to find her something to vomit into, I made one mistake after another. When I finally returned (a few short minutes later) she had already vomited and was now complaining of pain running down her arm from her chest.

A classic signal for a heart attack. I was screwed!

Well, not really. While running around for that something she could vomit into, I had called my dad. He called a rescue squad to the house and my sister Ann called our oldest sister Terri to come and assist. But I felt so all alone in that moment and I wondered if I was going to end up hating my Aunt Nonie for putting me through all this. I knew this was not her intention, but the irrational mind at times doesn’t care where the blame is placed. Instead, I blamed my God for putting me in this position, turned my back and basically walked away from Him–for years.


Today when I look back on this horrible anniversary, I wonder why this was the day that changed my life so critically? Besides the obvious pain of losing someone (Aunt Nonie passed away 3 days later on Feb. 1) or turning my back on my God (I eventually reconciled my anger and came back to Him); what makes this day so much more important than all the days prior or since?

Because January 28, 1986 marked the first day of the journey to finding ME.

After taking that winter quarter off from school, I enrolled for Spring classes, ready and motivated to finish my degree. I took a good hard look at myself and put in the effort to find my love and work things out with him (and did). I got myself back on track. Even though, I wandered around for years wondering who I wanted to be when I grew up, I never stopped searching or turned down opportunities to find the answer (at 50, I’m still wondering).

Our history lessons show us that Tuesday, January 28, 1986 was a game-changing kind of day for our nation and our NASA space program. A day filled with our nation’s tears and sorrows. But also a day filled with promise, for my future to be grabbed.

Change ever present.


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