Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse

I don't know if you heard, but there was a total solar eclipse yesterday. ;-) My mom and I first heard about the total solar eclipse sometime last year, and my mom promptly put it on our calendar. It's seriously been on our radar for quite a while. I lucked out and live smack dab in the middle of the 70 mile-wide band that would experience totality that stretched across the country from Oregon to South Carolina.
I planned on getting up into my wheelchair and going out, so that I could experience the eclipse first-hand. As the eclipse grew closer, I started hearing about all sorts of public viewing places where people could gather together to watch the eclipse. I don't like crowds and I hate feeling like I'm in the way, so I wanted to find a place to watch the eclipse where there wouldn't be a lot of people. A month or two ago I got the bright idea to go to the cemetery where my dad is buried. It's only five minutes from my house, it's up on a hill where we would have a great view, and it's quiet and peaceful. Perfect! I just hoped that no one else would think to congregate there. (There were only a couple other people there.) Another thing I wanted to add is that all of the local schools were off, which probably makes the eclipse all the more memorable for the young school-aged kids that watched the eclipse.

My sister Sharon thought about bringing her family up for the eclipse. They were just here three weeks ago for my mom's wedding, and Sharon wasn't sure if she wanted to take her kids out of school and drive up from Mississippi, but she decided that it would be worth it for this nearly once in a lifetime opportunity. Sharon would've had 89% coverage of the sun where she lives in Mississippi, but if you had the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse instead of just a partial, it would be that much more amazing. Sharon's family came up on Saturday and stayed through Monday. On the way up, Sharon asked my mom if she minded if her friend, Angie (who used to live near Sharon in Mississippi) drove down from Michigan with her family and camped in our backyard. My mom said that that would be fine, but that it would be too hot to camp outside, so we made room for them to sleep in the house. Sharon's husband's brother, Clifton, and his husband, Chris (who goes by his last name "Beland") also came into town from Massachusetts for the eclipse. They stayed in St. Louis, but came down on Monday to watch the eclipse with us.

Chandra, and her husband, Joe, and Christian (who is almost 2) also came to the cemetery with us. I wondered if Christian would do okay, since I knew he wouldn't keep eclipse glasses on, and I didn't want his eyes to get damaged. However, he was completely oblivious to what was going on in the sky, and he just had fun running around with his cousin, Matt. I had been stressing about the eclipse glasses, and I didn't know if they would stay on my face since they were kind of floppy, and I couldn't use my hands to hold the glasses up. It worked out just fine, though, and I used a small hair clip to keep them secured to my head on one side. I also wondered if I would be able to see anything else above or below the glasses. I couldn't take them on and off, but I knew that I wanted to see how dim things were getting, and wanted to be able to look around and keep an eye on how things were progressing. I was able to recline my wheelchair back really far and stare up at the sun, which worked really well, and I was also able to look down and see how things looked where the glasses weren't covering my eyes. It worked perfectly!

It was really cool to hear the insects start chirping and buzzing as it got darker and darker. There were probably about five minutes of insect noises, just as the experts predicted. It was so fun and exciting to watch the moon eclipse more and more of the sun, and to know that totality was just minutes away. The temperature definitely cooled down a lot, too, as the sun got more covered. I was surprised that things weren't darker when the sun was about 90% eclipsed. I expected it to be much less light than it was. Something else that surprised me was how light it was when totality hit. I expected it to basically be black as night, but it was more like twilight. It was awesome, though! Seeing the corona was truly magical, and what made it better was experiencing it with wonderful family and friends. As soon as totality hit, people in the distance started setting off fireworks and firecrackers. I thought that was pretty funny. I think four planets were supposed to be visible during totality. I wasn't able to look around as much as I would have liked, but I did see a bright star-looking thing, which I believe was Venus. Totality lasted for 2 minutes and 25 seconds where we were, and it went by so quickly! As soon as the sun started peeking out, it got light almost immediately.

We documented by taking some pictures. Here are a couple group shots of our crew of 20:
I liked these pictures of Sharon's family looking at the sun right by my dad's grave:
Here are Sharon's two oldest girls, Elizabeth and Kate, with their friends and Hannah and Abby. Below that are my mom and Sharon's friend, Angie, with mom's new husband, David, and Angie's husband, Brian. (Mom and Angie are both newlyweds who married much taller men.)
Here I am with Beland. It was fun talking with him while we watched the sun slowly being eclipsed:
Here are Chandra and Joe:
I liked the picture above of the crowd lying in the grass looking up at the sun. And then below is Spencer who was in his element watching the eclipse (being a scientist, and all).
Above are Chan and Emi. Then, me in my eclipse shades, and below that is David when it was getting close to totality.
Here is Christian by his grandpa's grave (he wouldn't look at the camera), and then a picture of him and Matt. They had fun running around together. Matt just adores Christian, which I think is precious.
Here we were, finally at the moment of totality. Obviously, pictures do not do justice to the natural beauty of this phenomenon. The next picture is of the corona (although, I think it just looks like a big, bright full moon). On the following picture, you can see something that looks like a bright star on the edge of the picture on the right side, and that is Venus (I think).
Well, the great American eclipse of August 21, 2017 is now over. It was awesome, though, and it was definitely something I will always remember. Not just because of what I saw, but because of the circumstances of being with family and friends. And I'm so glad the weather was so good for viewing the eclipse! Sure, it was hot (about 93°), but we had clear skies with minimal cloud coverage. I'd been praying every day for at least a week that God would help the skies to be clear so that we could see the eclipse (and He didn't let me down!). God is good!

I wish I could take credit for these awesome photos of the eclipse, but I got them off of the Internet.
Here are a few facts that I learned about the eclipse:
  • For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse crossed the entire continental United States.
  • The last total solar eclipse in the greater St. Louis area was in 1442, and the next one won't happen again until 2505! 
  • The moon's shadow moved across the United States at an average speed of 1800 mph.
  • The totality started in Oregon at 10:16 am PT and ended in South Carolina at 2:49 pm ET. That’s 1 hour and 33 minutes to go from coast-to-coast.
  • The sun is 400x larger than the moon, but is 400x farther away, which is why the moon (which is much smaller) appears the same size as the sun (which is much larger).
  • The moon sometimes appears larger than at other times. This is because the moon's orbit around the earth is elliptical. Fortunately, the moon was closer to the earth and at perigee when this eclipse happened, so it's shadow covered the entire sun, resulting in a total solar eclipse. (If the moon would've been at apogee and farther away, we would've had an annular eclipse, since the moon's shadow wouldn't have covered the entire disk of the sun.)
With all of the terrible things that go on in the world, it was great to have this amazing natural phenomenon draw people all over the world together. It made me realize how small we are in the universe, and how majestic God's creations are.

Even though it's been 38 years since the last total solar eclipse (in the United States), we only have to wait seven short years for another total solar eclipse. There will be another one on April 8, 2024. I'm lucky that if I want to see it in totality, I will only have to travel one hour south, and this time totality will last about four minutes. I'm so lucky to live in such a great location to be able to behold two of these celestial events!
Path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mom Gets Hitched

Well, my mom got married a few weeks ago on July 29. My mom has been widowed since the age of 46, when my dad died of pancreatic cancer in 1999. My mom's new husband, David, is a widower, as well. We actually lived in the same subdivision and went to church together when David's family lived in Missouri from 1994-2006. We knew their family well, and my parents were good friends with David and his wife, Linda. I never thought my mom would get married again, since it's been so long that she's been single and no one has snatched her up (not to mention the fact that she has me to care for), so this whole thing has taken me by surprise. 
The best part about the wedding was being with my sisters. My sister, Kristin, couldn't make it and we really missed her (and she missed us, too). I hope one of these days all seven of us Johnson girls can all be together again at the same time. (Especially since it's been 12 long years since the last time all seven of us were together.) David has five sons, and they were all able to make it for the wedding.
I was so happy that my mom's family could be there. My mom's parents are 95 and 88. Grandpa had colon cancer earlier this year, and I was afraid that it might prevent him and my grandma from coming, but they made it! 
My mom's brothers, Rick and Steve also made it. Mom's other brother, Scott, died in 1994, but I'm sure he was there in spirit.
Our bishop from church, Mark Bradley, performed the ceremony. He did a nice job, and I'm sure my dad and David's wife, Linda were both there and very happy for my mom and David. After the short ceremony, we had a small lunch reception. Party planning is definitely not my mom's strong suit, but fortunately our good friend Linda is good at that sort of thing. Linda volunteered to take charge of everything, and she did a great job.
Above is Linda (on the left) as well as a couple of our friends that offered to help. I think four or five of our friends helped Linda. My mom told Linda not to go overboard on the decorations, since she didn't really care about having the entire gym at the church all decked out. I think Linda did a beautiful job without it being too much.
We had various kinds of meat and cheese sandwiches on different kinds of rolls (my favorite were the pretzel buns), and then there were different things to put on the sandwiches. There was also pasta salad, chips, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of one big wedding cake, my mom opted to make layer cakes herself. She made carrot cake, chocolate, red velvet, and yellow. My favorite was the chocolate. Really, how can you get any better than chocolate?!
Now that Mom and David are married, he is all moved in to our house. I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this. Of course, I want my mom to be happy, since she deserves this more than anyone, but going from a duo to a trio is still difficult for me. I mean, I know David from back in the day, but I didn't know him know him, if that makes sense, so having to live in the same house with someone that I don't know all that well or feel super comfortable with is just weird! I'm sure I will adjust to it, like I have adjusted and adapted to everything else that has come my way… especially if the Lord is on my side (and I know He is). 
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