The “Astro Academy” Debriefing

Mission Name: Astro Academy, Summer 2013
Mission Status: Complete
Security Clearance: Declassified
Reporting Officer: Captain Tori, CO of Astro Academy
: 45219.67

When the children’s librarian asked me to do another astronomy program for kids again, I thought, “Sure, I can do that.” Last October’s hands-on program about backyard astronomy basics was small, but fairly successful; the only caveat was the staggering amount of light pollution in our area, which made stargazing near impossible.

So, I’d gone back to the drawing board and designed a completely different program from scratch— one that did not involve stargazing, at that. In the seven weeks or so after the May the Fourth Star Wars Party, I devoted pretty much every hour I could to working on the new program. It would involve every role-playing skill I had, deftly honed from years of playing WoW and other RPG video games, as well as pen-and-paper RPGs. The more I let it form and take shape, the more fun I knew I— as well as the kids— would have during the program.

My job lets me draw upon and combine my greatest passions, and turn them into something for many to enjoy. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to becoming a game developer. That very thought kept me going whenever I got frustrated or stumped.

But it didn’t keep me from being a complete neurotic, anxious mess on “Launch Day.”

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not one for the spotlight. I’m also my worst critic and a perfectionist to boot. There’s still a part of me that remembers the awkward little girl who was smart, enthusiastic, brimming with ideas… and mercilessly bullied by the other kids. That aside, I was just a quasi-librarian with a great interest in astronomy. I didn’t think I was even knowledgeable enough to call myself an amateur astronomer— with an emphasis on “amateur.” The children’s librarian who worked with me on the program, Anna, had probably lost count of how many times I asked, “What if they think this is stupid and utter BS?”

The piece of advice that she— and many others on the staff— gave to me was this:
“However much fun you’re having is the same amount they’ll have. If they sense even the slightest bit of hesitation or uncertainty in you about yourself, the program, or anything, you’ll lose them.”

And what sort of captain would I be if I didn’t have the confidence to go with the rank? Jean-Luc Picard never faltered. Commander Shepard never backed down. I wasn’t about to be the first to break that tradition.

My husband, bless his heart, took half the day off so I could get to the library and not worry about a thing. The setup was going fine until I rounded a corner in the back room and my pant leg caught on the wire of a delivery bin we use for transporting materials to other branches.


The seam running down the side of my leg split about two inches. My first words were, “Bad omen, bad omen, BAD OMEN!!” My teammates were there to rescue me. No less than three people offered safety pins, while another jumped in with a sewing kit. I grabbed the sewing kit and was forced to stand in the bathroom, sewing my pant leg back up.

[Achievement Unlocked! “A Stitch in Time”: Repair a sudden split seam and get dressed again in fifteen minutes or less.]

Afterwards, I was back in “uniform”: a modified tank top with the iconic red-on-white stripe from Commander Shepard’s armor in Mass Effect with a name tag sticker that said, “Hello! My rank is N7”; the button with my logo and “Captain Estee” across the bottom; plus black slacks to complete the look. And I had my boots.

My wonderful second-in-command Amanda and a lone teen volunteer completed the scenery setup in my absence. Anna had arranged the room in no seconds flat— she’s that much of a pro.

My husband and daughter were nowhere to be seen once it was showtime, but I had to keep the worries from my mind.

When I stepped out of the meeting-room-turned-spaceship, I was floored by the amount of eager kids and their families waiting to come in, ready to become cadets. The final count was 72 people, kids and adults combined. Thassalottapeeps!

As we went through the pre-event skit, I could feel the excitement and anticipation growing from kids and parents alike. That’s when I finally settled in and thought to myself, This is going to be awesome. And it was. They loved making grand gestures while saying, “Make it so!” a la Captain Picard. Their other favorite action was doing “evasive measures,” which was pretty much old-school Star Trek ship rocking. Oh, and apparently nothing gets a room of kids more amped up than asking, “Can we do it?” and have them respond with, “Yes, ma’am! Yes we can!”

I was genuinely impressed by the amount of knowledge and enthusiasm some of the kids had during the whole program. They asked questions like “How old is Mars?” and I had to do a simplified (and quick) version of the current theory on how the solar system was formed. One kid had the gall to ask why we were skipping Uranus, to which I answered, completely in-character, “That’s not on today’s itinerary or curriculum. Sensors tell me we’ve reached the jump point for a wide-view of the galaxy, actually,” and quickly moved on from there.

In turn, when I asked if anyone knew what the states of matter were, one kid replied with all four, including plasma. I was thoroughly impressed.

By the time the program was over, the kids almost looked disappointed, like they wanted more. That was encouraging. I ended the program with a hearty salute and “DISMISSED!”; I was greeted with applause and cheers immediately after.

As my “crew” and I took down the scenery, I checked my phone. My husband had left a message explaining the car had broken down on the freeway. After half an hour of waiting for the tow truck, he had to call his mom to get our daughter and take her somewhere safe and cool. It was midafternoon on one of the hottest, muggiest days of the year so far. Turns out AAA and whatever tow service they had contacted took over three hours to finally get my husband and his car to the car service place.

What a day. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure my husband’s car broke down right around when my pants got ripped by the delivery bin. Bad omen, indeed.

Stay tuned! I’ll be writing up the process and method to the madness of my program in the coming week or so, now that I actually have free time. Just in case any other librarians or quasi-librarians (like me) want an idea for their library… Or perhaps someone wants to suggest it to their library!


About Toriah the Mom

Mom, quasi-librarian, gamer, writer
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3 Responses to The “Astro Academy” Debriefing

  1. It sounds like it was a lot of fun, wish I could have been there! Poor husband, three hours? Oh no.

    • I think you and probably a good chunk of the WoW community I’ve met through blogging and Twitter would have loved it, if for no other reason than to be huge, nerdy dorks!

      When I got home at 9:30, poor hubby was still red and warm to the touch. It’s really lucky his parents live in the area and could shuttle away our daughter. Apparently during the half hour she was stuck there, though, a lot of people stopped and offered assistance and even a bottle of water. After? Not a single person stopped for my poor husband!

  2. Pingback: Stranger than Fiction: My Life as a Quasi-Librarian | Mommy Jenkins!!

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