Happy 5-year Anniversary to Dan’s Kidney!

Five years ago on the 25th of February, an anonymous organ donor (deceased) gave the priceless gift of her kidney to Dan. We are so very grateful to her family, who allowed her wishes to be carried out on what must have been an extremely difficult and emotional day. The difference in Dan’s quality of life now, compared with how he felt a little more than five years ago, is incredible — in fact, he started feeling more like himself almost immediately after the surgery, and sometimes it’s easy to forget how sick he really was.So first, sincere thanks to the donor and her family, and to the transplant team at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and to all of the nurses and doctors who cared for him during his recovery. And thanks to the people who sent prayers and good thoughts, visited us in the hospital and helped us with meals, childcare, and transportation during that time.

Second, please consider becoming an organ donor yourself. Make your wishes known to your family. Find out more at http://donatelife.net/organ-donation/ andhttp://www.organdonor.gov/index.html.

Third, happy (re)birthday to Dan’s kidney! The photo below was taken three months after the transplant, right after we completed a 5K walk for the American Heart Association.

2010 Heart Walk 

To see what all of this was like for us five years ago, you can read my blog posts that describe the phone call (“we have a kidney for you”), the hospital stay, and the recovery (posts from the bottom of the page are the earliest):http://sitewinder.com/2010/02/

We love you, Dan!


Read More

Space Club Highlighted at the Arizona STEM Expo

The space club that I mentor for the Sonoran Science Academy was invited to participate in the Arizona STEM Expo in early May. The kids and I were excited to share our enthusiasm for space, so we built an exhibit that reflected many of the activities that we’ve done over the semester.

Our fantastic exhibit!
Of course there were Stormtroopers
The expo included robots and gadgets and demos












Our fantastic exhibit featured our past activities, papercraft models, Lego models, NASA posters, science and Star Wars books, and lots of space-related brochures from NASA and Orbital Sciences.

Many expo attendees were intrigued by the Lego model of the Mars Curiosity Rover, built by one of our 7th graders, and I lost count of the people who borrowed my solar viewing glasses for a quick observation of the sun! In fact, those glasses were so popular that I need to order a bunch more to share next time we have an event.

The solar viewing glasses were very popular!
The solar viewing glasses were very popular!
A close-up of our models
Our window on the Earth, as seen LIVE from the International Space Station!











Thanks to Mr. Akpinar from Sonoran Science Academy for inviting us to the expo. It was great to share our love of space and science with others!

Read More

What is a NASA Social, anyways?


iphone dec 2012 1328
The Radiation Belt Storm Probes NASA Social, Aug 2012

If you want to connect with NASA and other space enthusiasts, consider registering for a NASA Social. These are events organized by NASA, sometimes including a launch opportunity, where space-loving folks can get together, geek out, and most importantly, share their experiences via social media.

If you want to give this a try yourself, NASA just announced a new social event for June 30-July 1 at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California!

This new NASA Social is organized around the launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), and you can register here: http://www.nasa.gov/oco-2-nasa-social/

I’ve registered for this one already, and they’ll announce the 70 lucky participants as the date gets closer — maybe I’ll see you there!

Flashback: I was lucky enough to be selected for one in August of 2012, an opportunity to view the launch of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission to study the Earth’s Van Allen belts. (Blog post to come soon!) It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, even if the launch was scrubbed twice and I didn’t get to stay for the eventually successful attempt.

iphone dec 2012 1324
2 Days to Launch!



Read More

Imagine. You are an astronaut looking down on the Earth. You see this…

NASA has a new window on the world in the form of a live video feed from the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth. I could seriously watch this all day.









If you see a black screen, it’s because the ISS is in darkness, over the night side of Earth.

If you see a grey screen, it means that they are switching camera views or the feed from the ISS is temporarily not available.

Want to be notified when the ISS is overhead your location at night, so you can observe it tracking across the sky? Check out http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ and give the astronauts the #ISSWave as they pass by.

Read More

My Favorite Space-related resources (for now…)

I’d like to share a list of my favorite space and science links at the AZ STEM Expo this Saturday, so I will post them here for ease of reference. I’m sure I’ve missed some of your favorites, so let me know what they are and I’ll add a reader-suggested section!

Contact me here or via Twitter at @nwkmom. Looking forward to revisiting some of these very soon!

Explore more! Check out our favorite space-related links


Fizzy / Pop Rockets http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/pop-rocket/en/
Build a Stomp Rocket Launcher http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/
Build Paper Rockets to use with your Rocket Launcher http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/
Pop Can “Hero Engine” http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/


Papercraft models:

JPL Paper Models: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/scalemodels/
NASA paper models: http://science.nasa.gov/kids/the-universe/universe-spacecraft-paper-models/
We built a simple scale model of the Cassini spacecraft: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/education/buildasimplepapermodel/


Live, realtime, and incredibly awesome!

Live video from the ISS! See the earth from the space station! http://www.ustream.tv/channel/iss-hdev-payload
NASA Deep Space Network real-time dashboard – see the Voyager Probes communicating with scientists! http://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html
Simulation app! NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System, a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data that you control! http://eyes.nasa.gov/index.html
Education & Launch coverage! Watch live streaming of launches and educational programs at NASA TV! http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
Spot the International Space Station as it appears over your city! http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
How many people are in space RIGHT NOW? See who they are and what countries they represent! http://www.howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com/


Get Social and Connect with NASA

Some of my favorite space-related Twitter accounts & hashtags:
#spacetweeps, #NASASocial, #launchfever, #STEM
@MarsCuriosity – on the planet Mars right now!@NASAVoyager – headed out of the solar system!@Astro_Clay – Clayton Anderson, NASA astronaut@Astro_Cady – Catherine “Cady” Coleman, NASA astronaut

@Astro_Flow – Leland Melvin, NASA astronaut

@StationCDRKelly – Scott Kelly, NASA astronaut preparing for his next mission

@NASA – the main NASA Twitter account

@NASAJPL – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

@carolynporco – Carolyn Porco, planetary scientist and Cassini expert

Photos on Pinterest from NASA astronaut and mom Karen Nyberg http://www.pinterest.com/knyberg/
Ambient Space Station Sounds and Music from Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield https://soundcloud.com/colchrishadfield
Multiple NASA YouTube accounts offer outstanding video, news, astronaut Q&A https://www.youtube.com/user/NASAtelevision
Goddard Space Flight Center is just one of many NASA Flickr accounts sharing images from real missions https://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/
Facebook is an excellent way to connect to NASA https://www.facebook.com/NASA
NASA Apps, ringtones, ebooks, blogs, and chats http://www.nasa.gov/connect/index.html
Be an explorer! Register for a NASA Social http://www.nasa.gov/connect/social/index.html
Past NASA Socials documented by the community http://www.nasatweet.com


Citizen Science – your participation is requested!

Cosmoquest: Planet Mappers, Moon Mappers, Asteroid Mappers http://cosmoquest.org/x/citizen-science/
NASA Citizen Science http://science.nasa.gov/citizen-scientists/
Zooinverse: Take part in Science Projects: https://www.zooniverse.org/
Planetary Society’s collection of citizen science opportunities: http://www.planetary.org/explore/space-topics/citizen-science/



What good is space exploration? http://ridingwithrobots.org/earth/
Worldwide launch calendar http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/
NASA resources for students http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents
See the gorgeous images of Saturn and its rings coming from the Cassini mission http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/
NASA Kids’ Club http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forkids/kidsclub
How does space exploration improve your daily life? http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/nasacity
SpacePlace: Cool Stuff For Parents and Educators http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/menu/parents-and-educators/
Rockets Educator Guide http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators
NASA resources for teachers http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/





Read More

Thank You Mr. Miller

(Originally posted on Facebook on 5/6/2014)

It’s ‘Thank a Teacher’ Day and I wanted to let Len Miller know how much I appreciate him and all he’s done for me and lots of others like me. He was my junior high math teacher, my chess coach, and he certainly started me on a path that helped shape the skills that I use today in my career.

Mr. Miller made math fun, and his classes were the building blocks that equipped me to take advanced math in high school (Thanks Mr. Tingle!) and gave me confidence.

More importantly, I think, are all of the experiences that I was able to be a part of while on the chess team…and the foundation of logic and critical thinking that resulted.

I was able to attend two national chess tournaments: one in junior high and one in high school, and countless others in and around the local (Tucson) area. I learned many things about chess, about teamwork, about friendship, about being underestimated by other teams because I was a girl, about enjoying the heck out of playing touch football with the boys between chess matches and devastated about not being allowed by the school to play on the junior high football team, about managing the clock while playing timed games, about studying chess openings and defending against the four-move checkmate and a never-ending endgame with only a king and a rook. I learned about Minneapolis and St. Louis even though my family didn’t have a lot of money to travel, and I saw the sights, made memories, and expanded my horizons during those trips to the nationals.

To make a long story short (too late!), chess and some early access to Apple computers in the classroom influenced me to be an early computer owner and internet user, which exposed me to massive multiplayer online gaming, which led to a job with an online gaming company as a community manager and game master, which introduced me to a computer scripting language,which gave me a little programming experience and some confidence to apply for a programming internship at a bank, which led to a full time application programming job, which eventually led to the job I have today.

So, Mr. Miller, thank you. You cared about us kids, gave us knowledge, opportunity, and encouraged us. And I know it must have taken a lot of your time, effort, and energy. I’m sure we were a handful and no doubt we took you for granted at the time. We did appreciate it. I appreciate it. I think about it often. What you did mattered, and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to tell you. 


Read More

Space Club at the Sonoran Science Academy

We built paper rockets, taped a penny inside for stability, and the kids enjoyed stomping the air out of empty 2-liter soda bottles to launch their creations. We discussed why some rockets seemed to fly better than others.
We built paper rockets, taped a penny inside for stability, and the kids enjoyed stomping the air out of empty 2-liter soda bottles to launch their creations. We discussed why some rockets seemed to fly better than others.

Earlier this year I started up a Space Club for the students at the Sonoran Science Academy in Peoria, Arizona. Mentoring these kids has been a blast: they are curious, intelligent, enthusiastic, and silly — everything you want to see in a club that meets weekly on Friday afternoons (yes, Fridays!).

We only have one more club meeting before the end of the school year, and we’ve been invited to participate in the AZ STEM Expo this Saturday, May 10th, so we get to share our love of space with all of the attendees!

Some of our space club activities have included:


Looking back at that list, we accomplished quite a lot in a few months!

I have to include a major “thank you” to Jennifer Cheesman, a local elementary school teacher and fellow “spacetweep”. She shared her supplies with us, enabling us to launch stomp rockets and fizzy rockets. We had a lot of fun!

Read More

Quick Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Let's Pretend This Never HappenedLet’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this book! Parts of it reminded me of my own childhood (I know!), and I laughed out loud all the way through it (unsuccessfully trying to explain the funny parts to my husband, who really had no chance because I would have had to explain entirely too much detail in order for him to get why it made me laugh, so basically he just needs to read it himself). Funny not just because it’s humorous, but because it’s so true.

View all my Goodreads.com reviews

Who should read this book? This book is for mature/adult readers who are not easily offended. Not appropriate for children.

Bottom Line: Made me laugh. Highly recommended.

Read More

Using my voice for a change…

This past year has been a kind of political awakening for me. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a registered voter and have voted in every election for years — Oregon’s vote-by-mail system makes it ever so easy — but I’ve found myself less than enthused with the choice (really, lack thereof) of candidates and the feeling that my votes really don’t count for much. Other than voting and grumbling, I’ve been a passive observer to this thing we call government, but recent events like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street*, and the recession have changed my outlook and have ignited a need to participate and raise my voice in the call for change — not just regular change, but disruptive, innovative change that can only come when you reinvent the rules and the playing field, and kick out the ones who are just punting back and forth while nothing ever really gets accomplished.

I’ve been formulating my own “platform” of sorts, that lists the general principles that I think this country needs to focus on, and joking to my husband Dan that I want to run for President but only if I could be the one to make all of the decisions and strategy, while my Vice President would take care of the public appearances and state dinners and figurehead-type duties. So, in keeping with my goal (see the About Me page) of not being afraid to state my actual true feelings in public, I want to start writing about how I think things could change for the better in this country.

Recently I’ve come across a website that I’ve been exploring, called Americans Elect, that seems to reflect a bunch of other people who think similarly to me (what a relief that there are others who have issues with the status quo. It would be even more awful if no one saw a problem!). I encourage you to check it out, if only to see how your views compare with the presidential candidates and with other Americans. You’ll answer a series of questions about topics from energy to immigration, from campaign finance to health care. Hey, it’s technology actually doing something to improve our government – what a concept! (I like online gaming as much as the next person, but when there are more of us playing Farmville than trying to be active in government and try to improve our situation, there is a real problem)

The Guardian of Forever from Star Trek

I’ll start sharing some of my views here, but for now suffice it to say that I’m for compassion, kindness, respect, responsibility, and doing the right thing.

Each one of us has a responsibility to become educated on the facts of the issues facing this country and to get active so our voices are heard by our elected officials. I’d really like to see some civil, informed debate on the issues than to hear sound bites and speeches that are phrased to appeal to the emotions of voters (and re-election). We need honest dialogue and the ability to be open-minded to ideas that may be different. Our issues are too complex to be wasting time playing games instead of solving problems and moving onto the next challenge.

Now I know what my dad meant when he said he would only be president if he could be a benevolent dictator. Get out of my way and let me make the decisions so we can get through our stack of problems — then we can move on and focus on building the next great generation.

*About Occupy Wall Street: I love the energy and determination of these folks, and they are indeed an inspiration. But I think we need to take action beyond just occupying places. We need to gather together, decide what we are in favor of, and get organized to elect like-minded people to office that we can trust to be honest, objective, and open-minded. My hat’s off to all of you OWSers, but we need to take it further.


Read More

To all the jobs I’ve loved, before

Tonight I was updating the “About Me” page on this site, listing the various jobs that I’ve had over the years, and was reciting the list to my surprised son who had never heard of most of them. It was an interesting trip down memory lane, because I haven’t thought about some of these jobs in a very long time. It made me proud of the variety of things I’ve been able to try out, and reminded me that each of these experiences helped make me the person I am today.

Yes, I drove a forklift at a pecan packing plant as a teenager. Yes, I drove the forklift right into a stack of boxes before I got the hang of it. That was a great summer job, especially since I basically created my own job opening. You see, my dad was the farm manager back then and had arranged for me to work on the conveyor belt picking branches and leaves out of the pecans that had been picked and were ready for processing.  I was supposed to see “Oscar” on my first day, and what I didn’t know (or didn’t hear my dad tell me) was that I needed to go behind the plant where the pecans were delivered, and that was where I would find my new boss.

So instead, I appeared in the plant office on my first day asking for Oscar, who was very puzzled because he had no idea what job I was talking about. Little did I know there were TWO OSCARS, and the one out back was expecting me (and probably wonders to this day why I never showed up) while the one inside the plant just must have figured “Oh, this is the boss’ daughter and I  had better find her something to do.” Thanks to Oscar, I learned to drive a forklift, got to pack pecans in boxes for distribution, and ended up with a more interesting job that summer than my dad had originally planned.


Dad's pecan farm - 2006
Dad's pecan farm - 2006

Read More