Today is my third day away from home. I left early Tuesday morning to fly to Houston for work. As most of you know my job invovles a trip to Houston every time there's a space shuttle mission. Believe me, it sounds WAY more glamorous than it actually is. My Mom jokes that she looks for me on NASA TV in Mission Control. And although I AM in Mission Control - I'm not in the FCR (flight control room) that folks see on TV. Instead I sit in the MER (mission evaluation room) with the rest of the engineers watching data stream down to our computers and listening to the conversations on "the big loop" (air to ground) and the GNC (guidance, navigation and control) channels. (Ugh - could aerospace talk have MORE acronyms? I think not). Anyway, to give you an idea of how thrilling my flight support time is - I spent Tuesday afternoon sitting there with my headset on watching the CMG (control moment gyro) saturation numbers and getting excited everytime it crept up past 50%. Sounds a little like a 24-episode now, doesn't it? (lots of gratuitous dial shots and target disaster levels) In our case, our flight control designs are only utilized if the space station's CMGs can't handle the disturbance torque and saturate. So the whole shift consists of me and my co-worker Ed watching those saturation numbers and making sure the astronatus have the right data entered in the DAP (digital autopilot) just in case. The ONE time in recent past that we did saturate and switch to shuttle control I was home on maternity leave! This time was nice and boring, the CMGs handled everything fine and Ed and I had ample time to reserach and discuss the fall TV line up. I'm back in the MER tomorrow for the relocation of the JLP (this one's an acronym within an acronym and just isn't worth it). After that I get to race to the airport and GO HOME!
Phew - still awake? So while I'm living my exciting Houston life, Gordon and Lily are getting on at home without me. Of course, they do just fine - but I miss them both terribly. I have to admit I miss Lily a bit more, but I think that's because I still get to talk to Gordon every night. In contrast, I feel so disconnected from my little girl. Every night I quiz Gordon to see if she's "noticed I'm gone." I'm not sure if I do this to torture myself or to fulfill some narcissistic drive for validation that I'm needed at home. Anyway apparently at dinner last night Lily looked over at my empty spot, turned her palms up in her questioning gesture and said: "Becky?". Yup folks, "Becky", not "Mommy" or "Mama" or any of those easy to say monikers usually reserved for the woman who gave birth to you. Although tonight he tells me that she said "Mommy" during dinner. Maybe he's just telling me what I want to hear though! I guess she associates me with eating - like "wow, if that Becky woman's not here when the food is served there really must be soemthing up!"
In order to keep myself busy and assuage my sadness/guilt at not being home I like to engage in some retail therapy when here. My favorite hotel is conveniently located across the street from a Jamba Juice (YAY) and down the street form a REALLY BIG MALL. Actually the whole NASA/Clear Lake area is a big strip mall as far as I can tell - so it's an excellent place for some shopping. Last night I hit Carters and bought a large number of really cute summer PJs. Tonight was Gap Kids (I should really figure out a way to stop myself from ever walking into that store). It really is fun to stroll through a mall totally by your lonesome and take as long as you want to decide on purchases. I often watch other people with children with a satisfied smile on my face thinking "yes, your toddler is cute, but wow I'm really glad they're with you and I'm ALL ALONE". So although I do miss Lily and can't wait to get home tomorrow, give her a huge hug, stroke her hair and hear her say "Hi Becky, glad you're back" there ARE some perks to being on my own for a little bit too.