• shawnmariespry

Rocket Science

Small steps, GIANT leaps


(Immense thanks to my wonderful husband of 28 years, who happily agreed to be a guest writer this week. You rock Scott Spry! He dislikes writing as much as I dislike doing anything remotely related to math, so this tells you how much he loves me. We WILL go to the moon one day, I promise.)


It was January of 1991. Shawn and I started planning our wedding just days after she said “YES!” when I proposed to her at Torch Lake on a frigid day in late December. We sat with her parents and started to consider dates. We thought we should wait until after Shawn graduated from Wayne State University in the spring of 1992. Shawn’s parents had a different idea.


“Why wait?” her father asked. “Just do it this summer.”


“Can we plan a wedding in six months?” we hedged.


“You can if you really want to! Long engagements are a bad idea,” said Bennie.


Well then, let’s do it, we all agreed. We took their sage advice and made it a short engagement.

Thankful for our short engagement, we posed for a getaway photo at the end of the reception, July 20, 1991

Finding a venue was a bit tricky, as many had been booked for months already. After many calls and visits we found one we agreed would be great. Pine Knob Mansion in Clarkston was available. It is an English Tudor style manor located on one of the highest points in Oakland County with expansive tree-filled views, a beautiful locale for my beautiful bride.


They offered us one of the only remaining dates available: July 20th. “Perfect,” I said with a quiet chuckle.


A word to the wise for all you bachelors out there: when you do decide to tie the knot, if you never, ever want to forget your anniversary (and what intelligent man does) choose a day that already has some astronomically great significance, so you can’t easily forget either!

They offered us one of the only remaining dates available: July 20th. “Perfect,” I said with a quiet chuckle.

Even though I was only three-years-old at the time, July 20, 1969, is a date I shall never forget. This is the day that the United States put men on the moon! With an incredible NASA team on and above the firmament, the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Earth’s only permanent natural satellite. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon!

Scott Spry, in the late 60s, anticipating the moon landing

Woot woot, I will never forget the moon landing OR my wedding anniversary. Kachow!


Those who know me best, especially my students, know I’m a total space geek. I give extra credit for knowing all manner of space trivia. I am appalled when, each year, multiple students answer that Tom Hanks (yes, the actor) was the first man to walk on the moon. I even applied for the Teacher Cadet Space Program. I guess NASA didn’t think my bachelor’s in electrical engineering with 10 years of experience AND a master’s in education with five years experience was enough. I’m not sore anymore. Well, maybe a little.

Scott in his classroom, where students "figure things out", his mantra, and also love to decorate

The space race of the 1960’s propelled technological advances, many of which we take for granted: cell phones, tiny cameras, cushioned sneakers, solar blankets, firefighting equipment and, yes, even the famed Dustbuster mini-vacuum.


Since Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, his name became forever etched into our national memory. When you dig deeper into his story, you find an ordinary man struggling with some very deep wounds.


To get a glimpse of this, watch the 2018 film First Man, a first-person account of his life, exploring the sacrifices and the cost of one of the most dangerous missions in history. Prior to being named to the Apollo program, while Armstrong was a test pilot, he and his wife lost their young daughter to brain cancer.


The movie depicts this hurting father doing everything in his power to save his little girl. Armstrong was brilliant but, in the end, lost a precious gift from God. He struggled with this grief his entire life: he was able to walk on the moon but he couldn’t save his daughter.


As fathers, we know the struggle. Some may have buried a child. Some may be estranged. Some may not have a good relationship because of personality conflicts. How we deal with adversity, large and small, defines us.


I saw an interview with Neil Armstrong’s sons, two men that loved their father. They recalled his candor with them as young boys before leaving on the Apollo 11 mission: “We asked him, ‘Is there a possibility you won’t be coming home?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, very straightforward.”


He didn’t sugarcoat it. They were aware this round-trip mission could become one-way.


Do we do that enough with our own kids? Are we honest and forthright? Gentle? Do we tell them hard things, to help them anticipate the bumps, bruises and impermanence of life? Are we preparing them for adversity? For eternity? Do we walk alongside them? Do we proclaim The Overcomer?


“In this world you will have trouble,” promises Jesus, in Matthew 16:33, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


Adversity will come. I see it with our youth on a weekly basis: substance abuse being ignored, a porn addiction being dismissed, a young woman walking into an abortion clinic, angry, disappointed, hopeless; a child living only for the temporal, not the eternal.

“In this world you will have trouble,” promises Jesus, in Matthew 16:33, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The root of these troubles is clearly the result of sin in a fallen world, but too often these troubles are exacerbated because of the absence of a loving father, who will listen well and teach the child how to handle adversity wisely. Many wayward individuals can trace their issues back to an absent father, or maybe an angry, abusive one. Some don't have any good reason, but simply choose a selfish pathway.

My first experience teaching one of our children to drive, Bailey at the wheel, 2009

When our kids were young, “Can I?” was a frequently asked question. Sometimes it was greeted with a “Yes”, which generally elicited excited responses, "Yahoo, lets go!” And, of course, many times, the answer was “No,” with their immediate follow-up question of “Why?”

Teaching our sons to hunt has been one of my greatest joys. The girls tried but weren't interested.

As tempting as it is to retort, “Because I said so,” I try to slow down and take the time to explain the why not. I never considered this rocket science, just fathering intentionally.


I am far from perfect and am sure there were times my impatience got the best of me and my kid got “das boot”, as our boys like to jokingly say, as in “forget about it and get outta here.”


Men, we need to wake up to the opportunities all around us. Kids need loving direction (a.k.a. discipline) and wise counsel, especially in our culture of anything goes. They need teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, “village members" setting examples and guiding them. Most of all they need a loving dad, one who recognizes and teaches that none of us should go it alone.


“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” ~ John 14:15-21

Saying goodbye to my baby as we dropped her off at a 10-day fine arts camp last week

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