Unplanned Detours

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| This is the 170th story of Our Life Logs |


It wasn’t until NASA’s 45th Anniversary Gala of Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon that I reflected on the journey I took to working at NASA. I dealt with a lot of trauma and disappointment along the way; yet, I also had what I like to call my ‘Kodak moments.’ These are the moments that take my breath away, and I am able to bring myself to life again just by remembering them. With these, I am able to venture into any pit of chaos life serves, and come out with bright eyes.

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I was born in Texas 1951 as the eldest of two. Our family wasn’t wealthy (my father didn’t make much from ranching) which made us different from the other kids, but both my parents loved us with all they had.

Two years after I was born, my parents had my brother, and home seemed almost happy…at least for a while.  Turns out, my brother, Henry, just couldn’t keep up with me or even friends of his own age. He was so quiet and took so long to talk that my mom and dad took him to a doctor to be tested. But in the 1950s, there was no test for what Henry had, Asperger’s syndrome.

I think that’s when I remember the fights beginning. At first, I remember my parents fought about money. Then, they fought about Henry. They blamed each other for him, and I always found that so sad because I know Henry heard them. He never said anything, but he looked so lost that I would take his hand and we would go outside to play. The only way to get my brother to talk was to keep asking him questions, so my favorite thing to do with him was to pretend I was a reporter on the street and he was my interviewee. He might have only answered one question out of ten, but I got him talking. It was then that I longed to become a real journalist someday.

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In high school, I was shy, but my friends always brought me out to parties. At a certain Fourth of July party, I (a sheltered Catholic school girl) met and instantly fell in love with Chris (a handsome football player). We might have been more explosive than the fireworks that evening.

When I was just 17 years old, Chris and I got married when we found out I was pregnant. With no money and a baby on the way, we both lost our dreams of going to college, and Chris decided to enlist in the Army. We were so young, so in love, and so sure that we were capable of making a marriage work.

I had my daughter, Sara, in 1970. With her curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, she had me wrapped around her little fingers from the moment she was born. While Sara was the light of my life, I had been worried out of my mind as I raised a baby alone when I was little more than a child myself. I was so eager for Chris to return home from the Vietnam War, because then life wouldn’t be so chaotic. Wishful thinking, right?

After two years, Chris did come home, but I think his soul had been broken, and I wasn’t able to repair it. Our marriage ended, and I became a twenty-one-year-old single mother.

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It wasn’t all bad. I had my beautiful daughter, and in the closing of my first marriage, I dusted off all my old dreams. Life began anew in my early 20s. I found a job in a financial firm as a secretary, where I could work, make some money, support my daughter, go to college, and get a degree in Journalism. Not only did I want the stories of people like my brother Henry, but I wanted to find inspiring stories from all over the world.

Yet, we often regret the choices we make when we think we know the outcome, and I was guilty-as-charged when I started dating one of my bosses. Robert was strong, smart, outgoing, and everything I thought I admired in a man. We dated for a couple of years while I was still in college, and got married in my late 20s. Sara was the flower girl.  How did something that started with such love and hope end up almost 20 years later full of abuse and fear?

To this day, I don’t know the answer to that, but I do remember having my first doubts about who Robert really was after the birth of our two sons—well, to be honest, things had not been a picnic before then. He began to restrict my access to our joint checking account, but he always reasoned with me that he was giving me plenty of money in my weekly allowance. He would criticize my outfits, my speaking voice, my lack of an advanced education, and began to call me a loser as a wife and as a mother. In fact, it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about Robert’s mental and emotional abuse getting so bad that my rainbow-making daughter Sara moved in with a friend her last year of high school.

I feel such remorse and guilt about those years until I remember that despite all Robert’s constant derogatory remarks, I not only finished college, but finished it with outstanding grades. And when Robert told that I would never, and could never, get a job, I not only got job, but I got one at NASA with my long-desired degree in Journalism. There was nothing Robert—or anyone else—could say to take away the thrill of meeting people and sharing stories for an international agency.

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I finally had enough after my third son, Jeremy, was born. Anything would be better for me and the kids than the constant turmoil that lived in the family home. As I left with my three boys (Sara was already in college), Robert told them that I would end up homeless or begging him to take me back.

Well, I bought a house on my own at 50 (I didn’t even have to beg). I immediately found the one and married again (yup—after swearing I never ever would marry after what I had endured). What can I say? I started laughing with him, and haven’t stopped in the 20 years we have been married. We are truly a blended family with his two kids and my four. There have been rough patches, but every moment has been the foundation for the relationships we share as a family.

My job at NASA continues to grow, expand, and bring me countless of hours of joy and sheer exhaustion—especially after nights like the one at the 45-year anniversary celebration of the moon landing, a culmination of hours spent coordinating and configuring the press release. After all, I am past retirement age. But, I love what I do, so I will continue for a couple of more years and then dedicate myself to my kids, grandkids, and my husband.

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I have learned from all my experiences that it doesn’t matter what other people think of what you’ve been through. It only matters what you think about yourself. No matter the trial, tribulation, loss, or regret, I have found that love always has a way of healing our wounds, and life always has a way of moving forward—sometimes, in the most unexpected directions.

 

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This is the story of Lisa Turnpike

Lisa currently lives and works at NASA in the United States. After two failed marriages, Lisa was forced to take a look at her life and make a change to love herself more. After 20 years in a verbally abusive marriage, she was able to get out and be independent for the first time in her life. Lisa loves to crochet and knit anything and everything.  The more someone says it cannot be done, the more Lisa is determined to make the yarn come to life.  Lisa loves to travel and finds something in every country to bring home and adapt into her life.

Through all the losses, turmoil and tragedies Lisa endured, she kept walking forward.  Her ability to offer unconditional love and devotion she hopes allows people to be who they are, not who other people want them to be. Through her job at NASA, she has received opportunities to meet the movers and shakers of Hollywood such as a few who acted or directed, Armageddon, In the Shadow of The Moon, Apollo 13, Hidden Figures, and the new upcoming movie, First Man.  She met all the astronauts, even Neil Armstrong but her favorite was Jim Lovell.  After retirement, Lisa plans to dedicate herself to her kids, grandkids and husband.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on September 18, 2018.

| Writer: Samantha Seconds | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |

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