Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In The Shadow of Giants

My alarm is set for 4 am, and it is now after 10 pm and I've been awake since 4 am this morning, but I'm not able to sleep.

For one thing, I'm in a hotel room (extra-special nice suite, I might add) and not in my own bed.
For another, I'm mildly insomniac, so this 'not-sleeping thing' isn't all that unfamiliar. Add to that the sound of thunder rolling outside and that I had a very exciting and stimulating day and you'll end up with a wide awake Mollianne, sitting here with a laptop beside my gently snoring husband.

We are at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the Ares IX, which was scheduled to launch at 8 am this morning. My rocket engineer husband (whom I affectionately call Rocket Man) works for a NASA sub-contractor building Space Flight Hardware. We live in Huntsville, Alabama (Rocket City, USA) so this isn't a big deal to anyone in Huntsville. I don't know how many rocket engineer/scientists there are in Huntsville, but I know enough of them to know that there is surely a mathematical formula that would tell me exactly how many there are!

Anyway, Rocket Man and his trusty team of amazing engineers, machinists, Quality Control folks, software and hardware people helped design and build the Roll Control System for the Ares IX, which is probably more than you want to know. I cannot do the math (any of it) but I do know some things that I have learned mostly by osmosis about flight hardware and the Roll Control System. If you really want to know, leave a comment and I'll get you an answer. Sufficient here to say that when I heard him asking someone on the phone yesterday, "is it 1.3 x 10 to the eleventh or the fourteenth? We need to know!"...that is just all in a days' work for those guys.

So, today was the big day. Launch day. I cannot tell you how excited I have been about this. I remember watching launches on old black and white TVs in the classroom as a child in elementary school. I recall so vividly the first moon walk. I was SO doggone impressed when I moved to Huntsville and actually met people who worked for NASA. NASA, I tell ya! For several years, I kept season passes to the Space and Rocket Center and took my children there regularly to play among the exhibits and look at the rockets.

Rocket Man and I woke up at 4 am this morning and were in the car headed to Kennedy Space Center before 5. We had had packed a bag of things we thought we might need; binoculars, camera, cell phones, hats, sunscreen. badges and boarding passes for the bus. We went through security and found out seats on the bus. My heart was racing as we got closer and closer to the viewing stand. Ares IX was lit up and so splendid on the launch pad. We drove past the Vertical Assembly Building and finally pulled into the parking lot. We secured our seats in the stands with some of Rocket Man's co-workers and commenced to wait for the launch. I took pictures of the countdown clock. I took pictures of the rocket on the pad. I took pictures of the sunrise. People were mulling around and as the clock counted down from 1:45:24 when we arrived to 59:00:00, the excitement was electric. Less than an hour.

They had warned me that there would be a scheduled hold at 4 minutes, that would last for 20 minutes. As we neared the time that the clock would be reset, we listened so carefull to the loudspeaker as Mission Control asked each system for Go/No-Go. Green or Red? Each 'go' was met with a cheer. When they asked for the RoCS (Rocket Man's handiwork) and I heard the strong "Go" I had tears of joy. Then, we got the 'No Go'. Weather, wind, the probe cover and a cargo ship in the danger zone became the subjects of the morning.

In the end, he launch was scrubbed. We are going back tomorrow in hopes of seeing a launch. The thunder outside is not very encouraging right now. Maybe it will blow on out to sea before morning.

I have to say, I feel today like I was standing in the shadow of giants. In my lifetime, the very first rocket was launched. John Glen orbited the earth. We have taken one small step for man and giant leaps for mankind. I felt the shadow of those giants as I sat in the stands and sang our National Anthem. All those guys from the film clips with black horn rimmed glasses, white shirts, crew cuts and skinny ties who used slide rules to figure out things that computers calculate today in an instant seemed to be there with us. I know some fine men who are now retired, but whose careers included helping to put an American man on the moon! The moon! Can you imagine? The men and women who worked so diligently on the Shuttle program since I was in Junior High School were surely there, cheering alongside us with each "Go" that rang out.

We honor those who were pioneers in Space Flight, but I also honor those who worked on the vehicle that is standing strong and true on the pad right now. Men and women who took the challenge and did something we haven't done as a nation in 30 years...built a new launch vehicle and rolled it out for test flight. I was not in their shadow, I was sitting among them. '1.3 x10 to the eleventh' is recognizable to me only as a mathematical formula, but to the man sitting next to me, it was a difference between "Go and No Go" on a paint sample.

I am in awe of what my husband is capable of doing and what he seems to do with such ease and capability. And he is but one of many. The giants of the early space pioneers, both engineers and astronauts cast a long shadow, but my Rocket Man and countless others have taken up the torch and kept the space program alive and are holding that torch toward the future.

I stand in the shadow of the giants who have gone before and I am gazing with love at the one beside me, sleeping the deep sleep of a man who knows he has done the best he can do and who is confident that what he has done is up to the test.

He always says to me that he is just an average guy who tries hard. I say that he is one of the giants. His children and grandchildren will be able to look back on this launch and proudly say that he was part of the team. The shadow he casts will be long indeed. The excellence he holds himself to sets a high standard for the rest of us.

I am so thankful that he has brought me along and is allowing me to share this amazing, awesome, exciting and at times emotional experience with him.

Godspeed, Ares IX. Fly true. Punch a hole in the sky and gather the data we need to continue our journey in space! For you are in the shadow of the giants that have gone before you and you pass the torch to future generations.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Almost as Good as Christmas

I think I must be about the luckiest girl around. I'm married to such a dear man. Oh, he can be frustrating (can't we all?) and some of the things that I admire most about him are the very things that drive me up a wall (which I think is probably true in most relationships), but all in all...I think he is the most wonderful creature God ever created.

He's a rocket engineer. He's an athelete. He is passionate about University of Georgia football and University of Memphis basketball. He loves cars and working on them. He does that remote control thing that lots of men do. He leaves the toilet lid up, but he always puts his clothes in the hamper. He was a single dad with custody of his two daughters for 6 years before we got married, so he can be fairly self sufficient. He laughs and says that the only time he is in touch with his feminine side is when he is touching me. That is a true statement. He's a man's man! He has lots and lots of golf clubs, but thinks I have too many dishes. He also thinks I have too many shoes, and I counter with the number of tools he has. Oh, and tools brings me to the point of this post.

A dear co-worker of mine brought me some banana pudding while I was recovering from my recent surgery. As she walked through the garage, she asked Ed if he liked tools. He said yes. Then, she asked him if he would like to have some tools she had in storage. They were her father's tools, and he had been a Mac Tool distributer. She had been hoping to find someone who would take them and appreciate them. Ed was astonished and said that he would love to help her out.

He called our 'friend with a truck' who lives up the street from us, and who also works on cars and has a big, big garage full of tools. Larry was as excited as Ed and agreed to help pick up the tools and bring them home. They were both absolutely giddy.

Now, for you ladies who are like me and probably don't know all that much about tools...Mac tools are the smack daddy of automotive tools, I think. On top of that, these tools are sort of vintage. It would be like someone telling me that they had a kitchen remodel to give away, would I like to have it. This is a big, stinking deal!

So, Sunday evening, we took the truck and met my co-worker at her storage facility to get said tools. They are in a large rolling toolbox with all these neat drawers. The box has a nice, new home in our garage. Only there's a catch. The drawers are locked and the keys have been misplaced. So its like Christmas anticipation at our house right now. There are new toys to play with and we can't get to them.

Ed called his mother to see if she could help. Seems that she once took a Locksmithing class with Ed's dad and she was pretty good at picking locks. Who knew? Since she was out of town last week on her birthday, I fixed dinner to celebrate and Ed picked her up on his way home. She brought her lock-picking kit and went right to work on that lock after we ate. She poked and jimmied. She held her mouth this way and that way. She really tried hard. She couldn't get that lock unlocked.

Not only does Mac make good tools, but they also put good locks on the drawers of the toolboxes. Larry called this evening to see what was in the box, and came by to watch the picking process (and helped us eat some of the food that was leftover from dinner!). She gave it one more try and had to give in.

From here, I guess we'll contact Mac and give them the serial number on the toolbox and see if they can get us a key. If not, maybe we'll call a professional locksmith to come and take a look at it.

Until it gets opened, I have a husband who is like a child sneaking down to shake boxes under the Christmas tree. He has a treasure but can't get to it. At least not yet. But in the battle of Ed vs. the toolbox, my money is on Ed!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Boss of Me

Remember my 'that ain't right' back? How about my big girl panties? This turns out to be a trilogy ending with 'The Boss of Me.' Seems that the MRI that made the big girl panties necessary showed that my 'that ain't right' back is a big mess. Among other things, I had a cyst on my spine. According to the doc, I wasn't going to get any relief until that dadburn thing was removed.

Surgery was in my future. Turned out, the doc had an opening 40 hours hence and I took it. In just about 40 hours, I made arrangements to be away from work for 2 entire weeks, got my house in order, got my affairs (last will and testament, living will, durable power of attorney-not to be morbid, but something I'd put off long enough) in order, did some laundry, straightened my house, packed my bag and was processed into the hospital with an orange bracelet on my wrist that proclaimed me to be a 'fall risk'.

My parents were in the middle of a trip and due to be back at my house in a few days and they cut their trip early and came back right away. Everything fell into place in a most amazing way. I felt at peace about it all and quite frankly, I was looking forward to relief from the pain that I've lived with for nearly 5 years.

You want to know the hard part of all of this? The moment I realized that I was going to have to ask for help. Lots of help. For more than a day or two. Before we went to bed the night before the surgery, I looked at my precious Rocket Man and said, "For the next week and even longer, if the situation calls for it, I'm agreeing that You are the Boss of Me." Very seldom have I said words with more gravity, or meant them more. Hard words, those that surrendered my independence into his safekeeping.

I think that my Prince, in his infinite wisdom, knew how hard that was. His is the last face I recall seeing before I went into surgery. When they woke me up in the recovery room, I asked for him. When they took me to my room, he walked in behind me. He took up residence at my bedside and only left me a few times, and then only when someone else was by my bed. He called for the nurse when I needed her. My parents and daughter and a bunch of preachers were there, too, and it took a village to take care of me.

He brought me home and helped me get settled. He helped me shower, get to the toilet, and has changed my dressing. He has overseen my medications, entertained me and held my hand when it hurt me too much to have him hold me. And you know what? The surrender has not been difficult. How could I be anything other than grateful to one who cares so for me? With purpose, I gave up my sassy self and allowed not only the dear man of my dreams, but also my wonderful parents and my precious daughter do for me the things I am so used to doing for myself.

And, isn't that just how things ought to be? Isn't that what the marraige of hearts, minds ,souls and bodies works in a perfect world? The sweet surrender of my independence ushered in the tender and careful care of my person that I will hold dear in my heart forever. Much of what happened is a haze. Drugs really were my friends. But a week out, I am feeling so much better than I felt 2 weeks ago. The surgery has relieved a great deal of pain...pain I had become so used to that I'm amazed off and on every day at how easy it is to simply walk across the room.

I'm being a very good girl. I am not picking up things that weigh more than 5 pounds. I am asking for help, even if I think I can do it myself. I'm learning a lesson that I seem to require on occasion. That is the lesson of gratitude. For all the mercies, prayers, food, phone calls, emails, facebook posts and love that I have received from my friends and family, I am very grateful. I fear it will become harder to adhere to the rules and honor the bestowing of bossness upon my Prince as I feel better. I am afraid that when the pain and stiffness subside, I'll want to be the Boss of me before it is really a good idea. I'm not sure, but I have a hunch. I've known myself for a long, long time.

The boss of me? Absolutely! I couldn't have found a better person to be the boss of me than my Prince. He is wise, he is the funniest human I have ever known, he is gentle yet he can be firm. He loves me in ways that take my breath away. He's cute to boot. He can be the Boss of me... because after all, we really are happily ever aftering here in Camelot!