So I’ve been having a crazy life as of late. What else is new? I am as human as the next person in the room. Of course, as I look around, I realize the only other living creature in the room is the dog. 

So, the Really Big Thing(s)? Yeah, I decided to leave the Smithsonian. I have put in applications to a few positions and I am aware they have called at least one of my referrances. My supervisors and a few friends are aware. The official spin is that Dr. Jay and I need diversification. Our telescope is starting the 13th year of its 5 year mission. The hope is that this will last for 20-25 years. The reality is that I am burnt out.

We are lower on funds since NASA and science in general is losing money. The team that had 6 people on rotation when I started is down to 3-4. In a 7 week rotation we have 4 people covering 7 weeks. Our supervisor can’t take once every 4 weeks since he travels so much. That means I am on call at least once a month for a week and sometimes, twice. That’s a lot of overhead. I am tethered to my phone and computer those weeks. I have 9 am calls during the weekdays, at least 1 command load review, any instrument configuration assignments and checking the real time spacecraft information 3X a day for 7 days. In addition to this, any other projects must be covered. To be perfectly honest, I am fried. I can’t handle this anymore.

Add to this that my children are getting older. Luna is going to start skating more and more. Soleil wants to have someone home after school to assist her with the homework and just to give her time to relax alone with her thoughts instead of with the noise of other kids. I want to be there for them. Currently, we drive 20-60 minutes to work (depending on traffic) and the same back home. We have activities, sports, etc. What is the point if you can’t be there with your kids. Soleil is 9! That gives me 9 more years before she leaves the nest. That’s not a ton of time.

So,I’ve applied to jobs at a place near my house. I can’t go into what it is, but I can tell you it is an 8 minute drive from my house. I can take the bike path there. I could probably bike there in 15 minutes, maybe 20.

While following this path, I also thought, Damn, I wish I could just be a freelance astronomer. That got me thinking why I couldn’t. It actually has to do with the rules of Federally funded grants, but I found a way to do it. And suddenly, I realized that I wasn’t the only person who was in this situation. I was not the only person who wanted to do more astronomy, but couldn’t. I started a conversation with a West Coast institution (who will be knows as WCI until I can say more) and we are starting to work out a plan where I would match astronomers with small projects with freelance workers to do the projects. I would be running a mini-astro-temp agency. Of course, I would not be taking as large of a salary, but I could possibly be working at home on my own projects. Maybe I could even get some grants for myself. 

So these are the two really big things in my life right now. The new temp-astro thing has/will take a lot of leg work that I still need to do. I have a ton of social networking to do, BUT I have a few big names out there who are interested! The other, well, if I can get a position from 7am-3pm, I can be mostly home in time for my girls.  I can hope!

This is why I have been so quiet lately. I’ve been overwelmed, burnt out and trying to move forward on three fronts.

But I am 40 and now is the time to start living. 

Teeth, Ligaments, and Lice. Much more fun than Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Well, hi there! Did you miss me? I have!

I haven’t written in a while because I have been outrageously busy. With teeth, ligaments and lice.

Teeth: The girls were getting ready for sleep away Girl Scout camp. This was Luna’s first time, Soleil’s second. On the Thursday before the camp, Luna was in a particularly difficult mood. She was refusing to listen and being, 7. She was nervous about going to sleep away camp and her general reaction when nervous is to be a totally pissy person! Yea us!

I was out taking the dog for a walk and she wanted to join me on her scooter. Being in a pissy mood, she refused to either put on shoes or put on a helmet. To be honest, I wasn’t worried about it and I didn’t see why I should force it when she was already grumpy. Fine. Come along. She was in a cheerful mood, on her scooter, running one naked foot along the road and the other foot on the scooter. When I asked her if it hurt, she said no. She was in a positively Great Mood. And I started to think "See! Sometimes, giving in a little is okay!"

Then we got to the top of the hill. We happen to live on a street that has a big Mother of a hill. It’s one of those hills you have to get off the seat of your bike to climb and REALLY fun going down fast. In fact, I often put my car in neutral and we let gravity take the car down the hill. This day, however, the fates were not so much fun and gravity decided to school Luna. Actually, I think it was physics that decided to school her. She was 1/3 of the way down when she realized she was going too fast. No problem, she started pressing on the brake. And this is where it all went wrong. The friction of the brake on the wheel warmed the brake to the point it was hurting her naked foot. She decided to jump off the scooter. She almost did it, but she forgot one of Newton’s Laws. "A body in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force". She jumped and her momentum propelled her forward. She continued this way until her face was acted upon by the road. I saw all of this in slow motion. I knew she would cry, but when she got up and turned toward me, I RAN. Her face was covered in fresh blood. Her entire face. And blood was dripping from her lips. One of her front top teeth was missing and the other was hanging on by a thread. Fortunately, they were both baby teeth, but still. I picked her up, ran towards home while calling. Soleil answered the phone and I told her to tell Dad to meet me at the door with TOWELS.

Turns out she mostly did a road rash and most of the blunt force trauma was on her teeth. Within a day, the second tooth fell out. She is a little difficult to understand and we are trying to keep scar cream on at night and sunscreen on during the day. One of the most frustrating parts of this little adventure was that the day camp refused to take her the next day for fear of infection. We were seeing the doctor that day anyway, so I just kept her with me at work. The doctors were amazed she didn’t break her nose or orbit. She had bruising around her left orbit and the bridge of her nose suffered lacerations, as did her front gums.

2 weeks later, it was only her teeth that look funny. She knows DAMN WELL that she should have worn shoes and a helmet and even told me that she should have and she was sorry that she didn’t listen to me!

Here is a photo of the day she injured herself. We got most of the blood cleaned up:

 (sorry- just turn you head sideways)


After the kids returned from camp, we enjoyed swimming at the pool. It was very nice and Luna could put her head under water now that the injuries had healed. We decided to head home for lunch with Soleil and I going first. Luna was finishing her slushy so we rode our bikes home. Two houses away from our house, Soleil’s wet swimsuit caused her to slip off her bike seat. She slammed her feet down to stop her bike. Unfortunately, she also learned about momentum as the bike kept moving forward and hyper-extended her right foot backwards after it got caught under a pedal. She crumpled to the ground and I was able to calm her, get her home and get ice on her. 

Within 10 minutes, it was clear I needed to get her x-rays. Her ankle was very swollen and she was getting nauseated. We got her a small lunch, I ate, and we drove off to the second closest hospital. After my bee sting experience where they left me in a hallway and let me pass out in the waiting area, I was NOT going to the closest. She allowed me to wheel her in and we waited. There was another girl in the waiting room and after a few minutes they were talking. Turns out this girl was also from Spaceford. And this girl was also in Soleil’s upper elementary in Spaceford. Then we discovered they were in the same grade AND the same class for the fall! She was there with an earache.

It was a quick 2 hours to get Soleil x-rayed, splinted and up on crutches. We had to follow up with our doctor, but she didn’t think there was a break.

The pediatrician checked her out Monday and declared it a torn deltoid ligament based on the motions that caused the most pain. Sigh. It would take 2-3 weeks to fully heal and she will be more likely to injure this again in the future.


yeah yeah, just tilt 90 degrees. Too tired to fix it.


Now that it was Tuesday and Soleil had been injured for 4 days, and Luna’s face was mostly cleared, I noticed something in Luna’s hair. It looked like a nit. Shit. Sure enough, it was. I spent 2 hours combing her hair and removing about 100 lice and nits. Soleil had nothing. Whew!

I was a good kid and called day camp to say that I combed her out. They called me back the next morning saying she still had them and come pick her up. Turns out that most of the kids in her group had them. Why is it that this is the ONLY place my kids have gotten lice? I did a frantic web search and found a professional nit-picker. $300 and 3 hours later, Luna was mostly lice free. I watched her techniques in case I need to do it again (please no!).( okay, just by writing this, my head is itchy)

We used our traditional Listerine treatment afterwords and I found 5-6 bodies. Then we did the olive oil overnight treatment. I did head checks every day for a while. She is fine.


So this is the major reason I haven’t been writing. I have been swamped. Totally swamped. I cannot keep up with my life anymore.

But I will try!


Wow, the code I am testing is taking much longer than I expected to do the work. Hmmmm This frees up a few minutes to type, but my brain is trying to figure out what I am going to do to optimize it (maybe compile in optimized form?)

I’ve been thinking about life and death lately. Soleil is getting older. She is now 9 and looks it! IT is amazing watching both Luna and Soleil grow and learn about life, living and how things work in our society.

I’ve also been thinking about WhyMommy. When I first started following her blog, she was writing about her son and son to be. Young, happy toddler and mom working in planetary sciences; she was a great read. She chose the moniker WhyMommy hoping her children would constantly ask that. This is something that geeks really hope for: children who share the curiosity of the universe. After her second son was born, she discovered a problem with breast feeding. That problem quickly turned into IBC, a fairly dangerous form of breast cancer that doesn’t involve lumps in the breast. She went through the mastectomies and through the treatments with what some people call courage.

I have continued to follow her. I know one woman who refused to read anymore because it made her too sad. I still follow because WhyMommy has some great thoughts to share with the world. I like reading her words. Unfortunately, the cancer has made several returns, the latest last week. She made a comment about her new chemo port which makes the chemo treatment easier. She said (paraphrasing) "for the chemo I will have for the rest of my life". That gave me pause.

When I think "rest of my life", there is a long horizon and somewhere, sometime, I will intersect that horizon and move onto death. Every day we are dying. For WhyMommy, the horizon is closer to her current spot. She knows this, we all do, and she is living her life with that knowledge. Yet, she doesn’t hold it in the negatives. I am sure she has down days and days when she looks at her kids and wishes that horizon was unknown. I simply cannot even start to imagine not seeing my children grow. I know that must be so painful for her.

I see others say how courageous and strong she acts. I want to scream when I see that and say "She is just living her life the best she can. No, it’s not fair, but what other choice does she have?" I see a woman who is human and living with dignity. She loves her family and she seeks to keep life as normal as possible for them. She continues on her work for women in planetary sciences. She advocates for cancer treatments. She is a remarkable person.

While she undergoes this latest treatment round, I want to put a shout out for WhyMommy. This is the type of person I aspire to be. She is kind, friendly, intelligent, generous and continues to spread her words across the internet. She has recently become Catholic and found a faith that I know I could never have and I sincerely hope that helps bring peace to her.

We are all hurtling towards our horizon. We might see it moving closer. We might never see it coming, like my friend Corey who died in a blink of an eye. So take the time today to look around. See the people around you. Enjoy them for who they are. And take life as it comes. Because that’s what WhyMommy is doing. She moves forward and just takes life as it comes.