Eclipse 2017: Visiting with Astronaut Linda Godwin

Please join me in offering a warm welcome to Dr. Linda Godwin, who served as an astronaut and currently teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by space, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat with her. If you want to hear more about Linda, check out the Ted Talk at the bottom of the interview.

I understand you majored in math and physics in college. What influenced you to follow the STEM path?

I always like Math and Science in high school and I give a lot of credit for that to my teachers.  My parents were also encouraging.

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a lab technician, because I wanted to do research in a lab. Obviously, I didn’t follow that path. I know you grew up in a small town in Missouri, likely not surrounded by astronauts. What did you dream of being when you grew up?

I never did have a big plan.  I was very  interested in NASA when I was growing up as we followed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights.  NASA seemed a very long way from where I lived however.

Who encouraged you to follow your dreams?

Somehow I just went through life selecting the next thing to do, which had me getting my BS in Physics and Math at Southeast Missouri State and then on to Mizzou for my PhD in physics – I guess I didn’t feel like I was done.  During that time I had no thought of being an astronaut until near the end of my graduate school time at MU.

You joined NASA in 1980. What made you decide to join the program? How did you end up on that path?

While I was in grad school at Mizzou, NASA announced they were going to hire astronauts for the space shuttle program and for the first time they intended to include women in this astronaut class.   The educational background requirement specified some field of science, engineering, or medicine, so I was eligible.  I did apply then but was not interviewed that year.  It turned out I needed another two years to finish my PhD anyway, and during that time I managed to scrape together some money by doing tutoring to take flying lessons.  When there was another change two years later, I applied again and made it to an interview week with NASA.  I did not get the astronaut job, but was offered a job with Flight Operations supporting missions in Mission Control which I accepted.  That work was good experience and I was accepted into a later astronaut class.

What was the culture in NASA like in 1980 for women? Did you have mentors? Have you served as a mentor to younger women coming into the program?

I cannot identify a mentor.   The culture was ok, probably better than many other places.  Women were also just started to work in mission control, but I had many female colleagues.

I’ve visited Johnson Space Center a couple of times, and am always awed by the campus and, in particular, Mission Control. Can you give us an idea of what it feels like to be in Mission Control during an active mission? (i.e., do you live on caffeine? what are the hours like? do you experience depression when it’s over?)

I began to develop my coffee habit in grad school and I would say that it carried over to the shifts in mission control.  Mission Control has many positions, but I only worked in the area that supported the payloads on the missions – the unique part that changed every time.  We would be assigned to work specific shuttle missions, and that include getting familiar with the payloads/experiments, arranging and scheduling operation working groups, plus other meetings -so lots of meetings, and were the interface to work on the crew procedures and get them published prior to missions.  We participated in the many hours of simulations from either a front room position in mission control or from a back room support room.  The actual mission support was always very busy and it was great to be a a part of the team.  I enjoyed the fact that there was a conclusion to these individual missions and there was always another one coming up.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were going to be an astronaut on the Space Shuttle? How did your family take the news? Did you ever have any doubts or second thoughts?

I was in a meeting at NASA when I got a call I was selected to be in an astronaut class.   I’m sure my parents were a little worried about it but they supported me.  I did not ever have any second thoughts.

I’ve seen video of you on the Space Shuttle and I can’t even imagine what that would feel like. Can you give us mere mortals a glimpse into that life? Is there a particular memory that stands out?

A shuttle flight was very busy.  Each day was carefully planned.  Obviously the primary difference in working in a free-fall orbit around the Earth, where the space shuttles went and where space station is, is that everything seems weightless and floats which means tasks are a little more challenging and its as easy to lose items as they floated away.  Floating was awesome and there was a learning curve to moving around gracefully.  Looking at the Earth is one of the best memories.  Orbits were about 90 minutes so in that time, if there was a chance to look out a window, one would see a lot of water along with land masses and a sunrise and sunset every time around.  Often we were too busy to look out, but it was the best thing if there was time.

Some people are savers (me, included). I have souvenirs from every vacation I’ve ever been on, I think. Do you have any souvenirs from your astronaut days that are particularly meaningful?

There are many photos and video from all the missions – that is the best way to recapture those moments.

Ahem, that brings me to my next question – I understand your husband is also an astronaut? Were your dual demanding careers ever an issue? Any competitiveness between you?

It was very special that Steve and I both shared these NASA experiences together.  by the time we married he was finished flying on the shuttle and finished his NASA career continuing to fly as a research pilot in the Aircraft Operations Division in T-38’s and Gulfstreams.  I had two more missions on the shuttle after we married.  We each had 4 flights.   I lost him 3 years ago to cancer.

You participated in many experiments during your missions. Are there any that stand out in particular, perhaps that you think might have the biggest impact on the scientific community (or humanity, for that matter)?

I can’t pick just one.  Each was different and special.  STS-37 had Gamma Ray Observatory which we deployed on orbit and remained in orbit around the Earth for 9 years collecting gamma ray data, the more energetic wavelengths of light, providing information about intense astrophysical phenomenon in the universe.  STS-59 was a mission to learn about our own planet, STS76 went to the Russian Space Station which was extremely interesting and my last flight STS-108 docked with the International Space Station which I’m very glad I got to experience.

Now that you’ve retired from NASA, I understand you are a professor of physics. What do you think we can do, at the college level and beyond, to encourage women who want to work, research and teach in STEM fields?

I hope to encourage everyone to see that science is very interesting, even if it is not going to be their career, and we all need to understand the physics of our world.  I want young women to know they are equally capable to compete in these fields.  I use many of my NASA experiences to make this as interesting as possible.

There is talk about us returning to the moon, or preparing for a trip to Mars. What do you think the future holds, in terms of the space program?

This is very difficult to predict.  We can solve the technical problems, but budget and political issues are much more challenging.  I hope we go to Mars some day.  It will be very expensive and the Moon is much more achievable.

The eclipse is just around the corner and is being talked about everywhere. I’ve heard that NASA will be in Jeff City for the event. Do you keep in touch with folks at NASA, or ever go back for a visit?

I keep in touch with some and there are periodic reunions which I try to attend.

Last, but not least – Was it difficult returning to Earth, both literally and figuratively, after being an astronaut?

Literally, with missions of about a week, readapting is not too bad upon return.  It is, I am sure, more difficult for the astronauts returning from a 6-month stay on the space station.  I miss some of the experience of participating in the astronaut program, but life moves on and I like what I am doing now.

A lot of my readers are women, many who are struggling, clawing and digging to make their dreams come true (whatever those might be). Do you have any advice for a reader who may be gazing into the distance at that dream that calls to them?

Just keep going and take a step at a time.  As you can see from my story I had to apply several times before I became an astronaut.

Why do you write?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Of course, there’s the simple answer – I write because I must. It’s who I am.

But there’s more to it than that. I write because I want to create a lifestyle. My day job is awesome. I love what I do, love the people I work with, and am fortunate to work in a supportive, energetic environment where I am challenged every day. My salary is enough to almost make ends meet (note the “almost” – right now our dryer and dishwasher are limping along, threatening to quit). The benefits are decent.

Rich Mountain RoadBut I am never going to have freedom with my day job. I will always work Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. I will always schedule vacation time around others’ schedules. My paycheck goes into the bank and bill payments come out. Frankly, I want more than that out of life. I want to be able to make enough to pay our debt down. I want to be able to travel every now and then (yeah, we travel some, but rarely and are always budget conscious – like our trip to Gatlinburg last year – on the right). I want to be able to pay for the vet bills for a stray Beagle hit by a car. I want to be able to donate money to a friend who is rescuing horses from a kill yard.

All of those things take money. And in order to make more money, I need to do something beyond the day job. It seems natural to honor the talent I have been blessed with, and write. Hopefully, I can make enough money off of that talent by entertaining people, letting them escape into another world for a bit, so that I can do some of those things that I want to do.

If you want to help me do some of those things, and you like to be entertained by a well-written book with twists and turns, consider buying one of my books.

Thanks for listening. And comment below about what YOU want out of life.

Social Media: The Art of Listening

Social media is overwhelming right now. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when I look at Facebook and Twitter. Here is the problem: Everyone is talking and no one is listening. We have one mouth and two ears, but social media is nothing but spewing out. We’ve forgotten how to listen. We’re dismissive of other views or, even worse, hateful.

So, the next time you’re faced with a viewpoint that you do not agree with, do not dismiss. Do not hate. Listen. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it costs you nothing to listen. (just remember to breathe!) (oh, and remember, you don’t have to respond to everyone who disagrees with you – it’s okay to keep scrolling.)

If you need me, I’ll be over here breathing. 🙂

Fall Forward

sdrandco-37As I drove to work yesterday, I noticed one of the trees along the drive was turning a brilliant orange. Such a beautiful, striking bit of nature . . .

CRAP!!

Summer is over. And that sucks. Gone are the days of floating in the pool while reading a book all afternoon long. Gone are the long days of sunlight. Vacation is over (Gatlinburg . . . Pigeon Forge . . . Margaritaville . . . Sugarlands moonshine . . . ). The Star Trek convention is over (wowzers, that was a fun, fun, fun weekend!). Penned Con is a memory.
So, what is there to look forward to now?

Fall. Painting pumpkins. Scarecrows. Ravens. Roaring (electric) fire. Hot cocoa. And reading. Though I love reading during the summer, there’s something about it getting dark earlier that makes me want to curl up in a comfy chair with a warm throw, a cup of tea and a good book.

And that’s what I think I’m going to do right now . . . any suggestions for what to read next?

Setting Priorities and Finding Balance

Copy of Lorilrobinett.comI am in the midst of edits on The Danger Within. I’m working on scene 15. (BTW – Scrivener ROCKS. If you haven’t tried it yet and you want to write a novel, I highly recommend it.) As most of you know, I work full-time, so I write on evenings and weekends. Though I really felt like I needed to write yesterday, I took the day off and went to a car show with my hubs – I needed that balance. We went with our friends, Hattie & Jeff (who own a gorgeous blue Cougar). Our daughter and her boyfriend decided to go too – and our daughter showed her ’05 Mustang for the first time.JR-Vette-Macon2016

It was an awesome day (though it didn’t start off well – we lost a t-top out of our Corvette, which, of course, shattered on impact). My hubs won his class (Corvette) and my daughter won runner up in her class (all cars 2005 and up). They were up against really tough competition, so that made it even more exciting (and satisfying). We returned home happy and tired.

Katelyn-Mustang-Macon2016There was another show today that they kind of wanted to go to, but I held firm. Though I enjoy the shows, I really need to spend a day on my writing. I WANT to spend a day writing. My needs/wants are just as important as everyone else’s. Life is all about balance. Every day, you make choices that affect the balance of your life – and you have to include YOUR needs in that equation. Every decision you make adds a weight to the scales. Though success at writing is important to me (oh, how I would LOVE to make a bestseller list some day!), my family is THE most important to me.

Here are my tips for maintaining balance through planning:

Schedule planning time at the end of each month.

Look at the coming month and Identify:

  • Family obligations (I hate to use the word obligations, but you know what I mean. Birthdays. Games. Events. Things that are important to those who are close to you.)
  • Work obligations
  • Appointments
  • Blocks of time to focus on your goals

Schedule planning time at the end of each week.

Review your monthly plan, then look at the coming week and block off time for:

  • Planning – at least 10 minutes every day
  • Meditation – at least 10 minutes a day to be still
  • Appointments – includes appointments with yourself to get things done
  • Work (hey, you have to be there – put it on your calendar so you can clearly see what time you have left)
  • Block out family time (date night, family night, car shows, games, classes, etc.)
  • Look at your monthly goals, break them down into tasks and calendar time to work on those tasks. There should be something on your to-do list every single day that furthers your big goal(s).

A goal is a dream with a deadline. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR and make your dreams a reality, so make a promise to yourself right now to start allowing yourself time to do that.

(pssst . . . the first step to putting yourself on the scales of life is to identify what you want to do. Reply to this post and let me know what your dream is.)

Save

How to Get the Most Out of Your Day

How to GET the most oUT Of your dayI know I’m not the only one who needs help with that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, right? Every morning, the alarm goes off and I start my day with a big list of to-dos. Thanks to my Happy Planner and my Your Best Year Planner, I do get a lot of things done, but there’s always more to do at the end of the day. I collapse into bed at 9:30 or so and my mind races with all the things I still want to get done.

Everyone has the same number of hours in the day.

Lisa Jacobs, Joanna Penn and Tawna Fenske have the same as me, yet I haven’t even come close to tapping their level of success. And don’t even get me started on Oprah and Ellen. Not to mention the President.

It’s what we do with those hours that counts.

It’s pretty clear that the problem isn’t the number of hours, but what we do with them. Here’s my list of things I want to try that I think might help me reach the level of success I want to reach:

Don’t hit the snooze. Self-explanatory.

Start with a plan. I’m going to compare my 2 planners and decide on a plan of action for the day, focusing on the must-do things. And I don’t mean the boring, mundane things I have to do to exist, I mean the things I need to do to meet MY goals.

Schedule. Just like this post. I work, so I write my posts ahead of time and schedule them to release at a certain day/time. I need to check into automating other social media like that, too.

Visualize. I’m going to put reminders everywhere. A chart on my closet door showing what I need to do & how far I’ve come & how far I’ve got to go.

Be selfish. My time is valuable. It’s time to put myself first.

Less TV. Yikes. Hands down, this will be the hardest for me. Good thing Lost isn’t on the air anymore. And Castle. And Desperate Housewives. And The Mentalist.

Be brave. I will try things. I may fail, but I will fail forward (hat tip to my bestie, Lynn).

OK, now it’s your turn. Tips? Suggestions? Hacks?

(BTW – if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, do it now. It’s in the sidebar. Quick and easy, lemon squeezy.)

Save

Finding my Zen: Suffering

As I’ve mentioned before, I began exploring Buddhism after my therapist suggested I look into Mindfulness as a way to deal with the stress of the Empty Nest. To my surprise, I found a philosophy of life that resonated with me.

The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.

Lost . . .

Lost . . .

Personally, simply noting that fact was a huge step in the right direction. I made this Truth my own by recognizing that suffering is a natural part of existence. We come into the world screaming (being born can’t be that pleasant – good thing we don’t remember it!) and it ends in death. All around us there is sickness, injury, poverty and depression. Instead of wallowing in that and focusing on the negative, I recognize that it is. Instead of fretting and worrying about the existence of suffering, I see life with a realistic view and can then focus on action and do something about it. Though my goal is happiness, I know that there is suffering. It is not something to dread. When I have a bad night, when the tears just won’t stop, I accept that suffering without judgment and move forward, ready to tackle the day without trying to analyze the feelings of the night before.

Acceptance is the first step. Then we can move forward.

 

 

 

Finding my Zen: Breathe

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while know that the past year and a half has been extremely trying for me. At one of my lowest points last summer, I visited a therapist on the advice of my family doctor. The therapist encouraged me to explore Mindfulness, and to consider taking a class.

Although I didn’t take a class, I did explore. Several quotes over the years from my sister-in-law about Buddhism resonated with me, so I began reading. Two sites were especially helpful, Zen Habits and Tiny Buddha. There were days I did not know how I could possibly continue, and that’s when I turned to Zen Habits and started with the basics: a simple post called “Breathe.” That staple helped me get through the rough points. When tears threatened or when I felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders, I could breathe. Couldn’t do much else, sometimes.

I know the holidays are often very difficult for people. There are times it seems that happiness is all around you, and you feel like an island of pain and suffering and doubt. Even in those moments, you can breathe. If you are having a difficult time, take a moment to read that simple blog post and DO it.

Trust me. You are stronger than you think.

 

Merry Christmas, damn it!

Christian Nativity Set

Christian Nativity Set

Though Christmas is over, the holiday hubbub has irritated me so much, I decided to write about it. I’ve seen so many comments on Facebook about “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!” – and they make me cringe.

Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people. When schools renamed their winter programs “Holiday” instead of “Christmas,” it ruffled my feathers. When the focus was on Santa instead of Jesus, I puffed up.

Menorah

Menorah

Then, one day, I passed along an email to a woman who was my Lupus mentor (introduced through the Lupus Foundation after I was diagnosed) about Jesus being the “Reason for the Season” and Christians were right and how everyone else could kiss my ass. Yeah, yeah, that wasn’t exactly what the email said, but let’s face it – that’s how it came across. Diane replied politely, something to the effect of, “While I appreciate your views and your beliefs, I am Jewish and do not believe in Jesus the same way you do. I do, however, celebrate Hanukkah in December and often greet both my Jewish and Christian friends with “Happy Holidays” to include both religions. Please do not include me on future emails like the one below. Thank you for respecting my wishes. Happy Holidays.”

Wow. That set me back on my heels.

I had been so self-absorbed, I hadn’t considered the fact that other people – good people – might not feel the same way I do. Up until I got that email, I know I said things like ‘Such-and-such is a good Christian person’ or ‘That’s the Christian thing to do’. After that email from Diane, I realized that there are people I think of as “good Christians” who are NOT Christians. Suddenly, the world blossomed before my eyes as I became aware of other religions.

Reindeer . . . or Stag?

Reindeer . . . or Stag?

After being called out by my Jewish friend, I became more cognizant of my behavior and the behavior of others, and how it appears to those who are not Christians. When Christians bluster about the Reason for the Season, it seems to belittle or discount other religions. Insisting that everyone greet friends and family with “Merry Christmas” is ridiculous. Personally, I don’t feel that it is my place to force my beliefs on anyone else. Many of the nastiest, most hateful posts I have seen on Facebook posts and comments on articles are written by people claiming to be Christians. It’s appalling. On the other hand, one of those most spiritual, giving people I know follows a Pagan religion.

And I have to share a little story that made me write a comment, delete it, write it again, delete it again . . . you get the idea. It was a Facebook post covered with red, white and blue and a cross. It said something about being a proud American, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and then something about “Just like Israel” or something like that. I fought the urge to say, “You know most Israelis are Jewish, right?” (I kept scrolling, afraid my words might not be taken as the lighthearted poke I intended).

Please, before words leave your mouth (or your fingers), give some thought to how they will be heard by others. Consider the elderly woman down the street who may be lighting her Menorah, or the boy who mows your lawn who might be celebrating Yule with his family. How will they hear your words?

Joy . . . Do I need to say more?

Joy . . . Do I need to say more?

What I’m trying to say is, I’m OK with any greeting you choose to use. Just be polite. And thank you for thinking of me enough to greet me pleasantly.

#Introvert

Decorations

Decorations

Yesterday we hosted a BBQ to celebrate my step-daughter’s graduation from college. I’m so proud of her, and was thrilled to host a party so that everyone could let her know what a big deal this is and how much we all want to support and encourage her. It was wonderful, and I had a good time.

But here’s the funny thing. I dreaded it. The idea of having lots of people here. Wondering if everyone would have a good time. Trying to figure out how much food for how many people. Thinking about drinks. What about alcohol? Good idea? Bad? I didn’t get all the decorations done. It was hot. Would people get too hot? Were there enough chairs? How much tea did I need to make? The house was a mess. I couldn’t clean fast enough. I hauled 2 boxes of stuff to the Salvation Army.

The Grad

The Grad

And now that it’s over, I’m exhausted. Totally and completely exhausted. Drained.

I think it’s because I am an introvert. I’m happiest when I’m alone. Would be perfectly happy as a hermit, most of the time. Some people freak out being alone, wondering what they’ll do, how they’ll survive. I’m the opposite. I need time alone to recharge. And, I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of my stepdaughter, who is such a happy, delightful person – someone that everyone enjoys being around. She just makes you smile. Proof is in the pic. ;o)

How about you? Introvert? Extrovert? Whichever – how to do you recharge?