Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

FlashForward: LOS, please?

A funny thing happened to me in the NASA Headquarters lobby this week. I encountered a colleague I haven’t seen in a while. She posed this question:

What have you been doing with your life?

Innocent question on her part. My reaction: TILT!

My brain: Tilt!

My brain: Tilt!

The connections in my brain overloaded, then broke down. Total Loss of Signal — like when Mission Control can’t talk with the astronauts. When I snapped back, I realized I’d experienced a flash forward moment — a time in my life when I have absolutely NOTHING to do.

No deadlines, no distractions, nothing on my list. Utter bliss!

But to answer her question, one word escaped my lips, “Work.”

Atlantis crossing over Africa

Atlantis crossing over Africa

In my mind, strobe-light images from the last few weeks danced in my head:

  • STS-129 Tweet-up down at KSC,
  • STS-129 launch, mission, landing,
  • NASA Facebook updates in the wee hours,
  • Twitter space talk 24/7
  • SpaceSmart metrics and design project,
  • LAUNCH:Water sustainability forum, and
  • Space Operations budget review…

Oh… just a sampling of the things that keep me awake at night.

She gave me a horrified look, and said,

“But what are you doing for yourSELF?”

Once again, my mind kicked into overdrive. For the month of November alone, I pictured:

  • over 50,000 words typed over 30 days of literary abandon in November’s National Novel Writers Month NaNoWriMo,
  • 11 blogposts on this site,
  • several guest blogposts on OpenNASA and GovLoop,
  • reading and responding to hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter updates,
  • Thanksgiving preparations and  time with my daughters, and
  • time with God every single day — the very BEST thing I do for myself.
  • Oh, and the dreaded Black Friday!
Black Friday Madness

Black Friday Madness

But, who wants to hear any of that? Really.

So, I responded, “Nothing.”

Seeing that she found my answer inconceivable, I asked what she’d been doing lately. After all, that was the real question, now wasn’t it? She listed Kennedy Center performances, trips with friends, volunteering for worthy organizations, and much much more. I listened to all the wonderful things she was doing and thought to myself,

I really, really want a day of nothing. Just plain nothing.

I think I even said that to her. It’s all a blur. I don’t recall her validating my desire for nothingness.

I get that I choose this frenetic life of mine.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, I can still dream about a simple time – my own personal Flash Forward Loss of Signal. A time when my internal Mission Control goes silent. No more things to do. All is quiet. Peace at last.

After a moment or two in this alternative universe, boredom would come for a visit, most likely. I would find myself daydreaming of new missions to accomplish.

Hmmm. We’ll probably never know, will we? But, for now, I  better get busy. My list is long. This IS the Christmas season after all. No time to rest. ;)

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Filed under NASA, OpenNASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers

How Twitter is like Mission Control

I’m on the other side of my Door Jam Saga. Whew! Thank goodness. My Twitter buds, or Tweeps as we like to call ourselves, lived through the drama with me–offering tips and moral support. Now you too can relive the experience with me, and see how they helped.

Come to think of it, Twitter became my own personal Mission Control!

I mean really. That’s how it works during missions. Astronauts up in space have a problem. They signal Mission Control down on Earth. Teams come together to provide options to resolve the issue. Think Apollo 13…or the STS-12o mission when Astronaut Scott Parazynski repaired the Space Station solar array with an onorbit hand-crafted “cuff link.”

Yep. That’s pretty much how it happened for me with my Door Jam Saga.

Here’s the tweet that called TWission Control to action:


Door Jam Tweet

Door Jam Tweet

Let me set the stage for you. I came home from work to find the door to my study closed. How odd. It was open when I left. I tried the door, but it wouldn’t budge — as if a body was leaning against it, holding it closed.

Believe it or not, I actually called out to ask if someone was there.

You know, like the creepy horror movies I refuse to watch. That spooky scene where the woman hears a noise and goes to check it out. If I were watching the movie, I would yell at the screen and tell her to run for her life — in the other direction. But  no, here I am in my own house, asking if someone is behind the very door I’m trying to open.

Not smart! (Readers, don’t try this at home.)

At that point, I realize how silly, and reckless, I am. I head back to the front door and perform a series of escape maneuvers:

  • Open the door (in preparation for a speedy egress — NASA term).
  • Change from heels to running shoes (conveniently by the door). Also prepping for a speedy egress down the front steps.
  • Call my daughter. Think help-line live.

With my daughter on the phone ready to call 911, I approach the closed study door again. I’m wondering, upon reflection, why I didn’t pick up a baseball bat or something. But, I was wise, really. I’m faster on my feet in flight, than I am strong — for hand-to-hand combat, I mean.

Back to the story: With iPhone in hand, I announce to the person behind the door that I’m on the phone with the police (BIG LIE). I demand he come out.

Silence. Thankfully!

Next, my very wise daughter suggests I go out side and look in the window to see what’s blocking the door. I follow her advice. Luckily I’d opened the blinds before I left. Otherwise, I’d be driving blind, so to speak.

Ah ha! The culprit? Two VERY heavy Ikea frames had fallen against the door to wedge it shut.

Culprit: Ikea Frames

Culprit: Ikea Frames

I thank her, hang up the phone, and try to figure out how to dislodge the frames. Oh, and I also tweeted about it. (The screengrab at the top.)

Now here was my problem. After going down for the STS-129 launch and Tweet-up, I was almost a week behind in the race to complete 50,000 words in the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. The clock was ticking.

NaNoWriMo Deadline

NaNoWriMo Deadline

Now what to do? I found a heavy medal ruler and tried to un-wedge the frames from under the door. Nope. Frames wedged too tight. I tried pushing the door apart at the top and slipping a wire hanger over the crack in the top for a frame-fishing adventure. Nope. I considered breaking the window, but decided against it. It’s cold…and I don’t like broken glass. I preferred a hole in the study door (which can survive the winter unfixed, should I so choose to ignore it).

The Twittersphere came to the rescue. Tweeps offered numerous Tw-ideas on how to resolve my crisis.

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

@Brobof's suggestion

@Brobof's suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

@dschwartz2DoorJam

@dschwartz2 DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

Interesting that male tweeps told me how to fix the problem. Female tweeps offered emotional support and well-wishes. …Says SO much, don’t you think?

So Crazy It Might Work

@Elross offers suggestion

I decided to try to take the door handle off and use the hole from the door knob to fish from — like the hole ice-fishers use in winter. Mind you, the screws to the door knob were INside the room. I was OUTside the room. I needed to saw the knob off. I naively thought the lock-works would simply fall out.

I made a trip to Home Depot, planning to buy an electric saw to chop this baby off in seconds. The little man at the store didn’t want me to pay so much money for the electric version. He kept taking me back to the manual-labor wall. He insisted I could take down a measly little door knob in a matter of a few minutes — 15 tops.

I didn’t believe him. In my gut, I knew. But I let him talk me into a hand saw.

Bringing out the Big Gun

Bringing out the Big Gun

TWO HOURS I sawed.

“Saw” little progress–pun intended. I got really frustrated. My knuckles were raw from rubbing against the door. I posted this:

Home Depot Man

Not happy with Mr. Home Depot

@apacheman Power Tool Danger

@apacheman offers insight

At this point, I’m having visions of astronaut Mike Massimino on the STS-125 Hubble repair mission. If you don’t know the story, I’ll summarize for you. During a tricky spacewalk, he couldn’t unbolt one of the handles in an panel he needed to remove. That one handle stood between success and failure. During one of the periods with Mission Control loses video with the crew, @Astro_Mike broke off the handle. He knew Mission Control wouldn’t approve, so he took action while they weren’t looking. One of those “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission” moments. Hey it worked! The mission was a great success.

So about now, I’m wishing @Astro_Mike could brut-force my door handle. He’s a pretty big guy after all.

Where is @Astro_Mike?

I need @Astro_Mike to break off the knob!

I wasn’t the only one who thought @Astro_Mike could get the job done:

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

Thinking of how @Astro_Mike would take care of an obstacle, I finally got a hammer and broke off the knob. Yes, indeed. I credit my inspiration to the STS-125 Hubble Repair mission. The knob broke off! Yay!!! …or so I thought.

DoorKnob: Fail

DoorKnob: Fail

But, guess what? The lock-works didn’t fall out…like my grand plan. Now I just had a door-knob-less wedged-closed door with my computer inside. Fail. I decided to take the rest of the night off and travel to Lowes in the morning. I really didn’t want to meet with little Home Depot man again.

My next trick: cut a hole around what was left of the door knob, then put a larger door knob over it. So, I bought this cool gadget (below), but I encountered another problem — the door lock was in the way of where the drill bit needed to be. Fail.

To draw this very long blog to an end, I drilled a hole in the middle of the door. I snagged the frames with a coat-hanger through my fishing hole, pulled them up enough for me to squeeze into the gap in the door. I’m really thankful I cut off the door knob. Otherwise, I would have a door-knob-sized hole in my belly where the door knob once was. Yes, it was that tight of a squeeze.

Coco inspecting open door.

Coco inspecting open door.

All is well in the TWorld.

The Twittersphere is restored to order. TWission Controllers can rest now. Job well done!

Successful ending: DoorJamSaga

Successful ending: Door Jam Saga

Oh, and one more thing. I’m no closer to my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo’s November 30th deadline. But I can STILL blame the Door Jam Saga…since I’ve spent time away from NaNoWriMo to share my saga with you.

Wait. Maybe it’s YOUR fault, readers! ;)

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Filed under culture, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers

How to Win Friends/Make Enemies

My buddy Mike Boon encouraged me to write a “real and significant” book, as opposed to fiction. (BTW, I’m ready to break 25K words — halfway point — in this year’s NaNoWriMo. WooHoo!)

As I explained to him, government ethics rules prohibit civil servants from earning a second income stream from the job we’re paid to do by the tax-payer — which takes these topics off the table: space, communications, or public service.

Then it hit me what I could write about — human nature.

That’s broad enough not to sic NASA’s ethics lawyers on me, don’t you think? After all, I started learning these lessons way back in high school when I locked horns with our band director. (Yes, that’s me with the whistle in my mouth out front. I still have those white boots and purple baton! I may even have the whistle….)

San Marcos High School band 1974

1973 Parade march: San Marcos High School Band

My book concept: short and not so sweet.

Here’s the deal. I’m envisioning a tiny board book, the kind you can buy at the counter in Barnes and Noble. I’m serious. Really. Think the itsy-est bitsy-est book you’ll ever imagine – the CliffsNotes version of my life experiences both inside and outside my career in the federal government (back off lawyers.)

Would you pay for my Top Ten Rules on how to stay in constant trouble?

Name your price. $5.00? $10.00…if I throw in Rule #11? Anyone? Ok. Fine. I’ll share them with you here. No purchase necessary.

Let’s be honest: I doubt you would choose to pay for trouble-in-book-form, no matter how small the book or price at the check-out counter.

Feel free, though, to correct my assumptions. I’m happy to take your money. (‘Kidding, ethics lawyers! KIDDing.)

So, what to do about the title? Since my grandmother always told me I’d be the first female President of the United States, I’m thinking about a book title that goes something like this:

Why I’ll NEVER be Elected President of the United States.

Or, if that doesn’t work for you, how ’bout this:

How to Win a few Friends and Make MANY Enemies.

Now that you’re on pins and needles, here ya’ go. My rules for a life worth living:

  1. Make a decision.
  2. Don’t waver from the decision (from principle, not stubborness).
  3. Take a stand.
  4. Stand tall, head high (eyes open and ever ready to duck flying objects).
  5. Pick a side.
  6. Stay on that side (but, not the slippery, slimy side. Please!)
  7. Speak out against injustice.
  8. Keep voice steady and clear (even in deafening silence).
  9. Stick up for the little guy.
  10. Give him hope for tomorrow. (Please don’t rob him of tomorrow. I didn’t say ‘stick up’ the little guy.)

Yep, that about says it all. Unless I come up with Rule #11. I’ll let you know if I do. (Ok, Mike, are you happy now? There. I’ve written my book. I’ll let you judge whether it’s real or significant enough.) ;)

movie poster for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

And, sorry Grandma. I don’t see national-scale politics in my future. I’ve barely survived office politics through the years.

My hat’s off to you, fictional Mr. Smith. They made a movie about you. I don’t think my little book will garner the same attention — except from the few friends I win and many enemies I rile up.

But just in case someone rushes in with a movie deal, do you think I can request Angelina Jolie to play the part of me? (No resemblance, I assure you. But what the heck? I’m the creator. Don’t I have a say?)

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Filed under Africa, culture, federal government, leadership, NASA, writers

NaNoWriMo=1 Month+50k Words

This is my second year participating in National Novel Writing Month. It’s not too late for you, too.

Why participate? After 2000 words or less per day, you can have a manuscript in your hands. It may not be pretty, but it’s an accomplishment, none-the-less.

The coolest part for me about writing furiously for 30 days? Giving my internal editor a holiday!

What freedom to abandon logic and rationale and let the characters’ lives unfold day after day. Yes, I know some of you start with elaborate outlines and character plots. Not me. I go rogue. Like James Bond, but with a laptop…. Ok, not even close. ;)

Here’s a teaser. My first 300 NaNoWriMo words:

Emma Forrester Takes No Prisoners

Wafts of fresh paint assaulted Emma as she followed her new school principal through the door. Army green? Who picks army green with all the other colors in the rainbow? Foreboding embraced her like the doorframe she passed through. Before her, 30 students arranged in neat rows, all staring. All dressed in uniforms, army green skirts and pants, white shirts. Ties for the boys.

Emma glanced down at her frayed jeans, so lovingly painted in patterns and swirls, paisleys and petals, during the night – just for this special occasion, her first day in her new life at Hippie Hollow. She looked back up, catching the many exchanged glances, knowing looks. The boys sat a tad taller in their desks. The girls’ eyebrows arched in bridges of disapproval.

Did I step into a time machine? Who wears school uniforms anymore? And in a place called Hippie Hollow?

“Uh hem,” the principal cleared her throat. “Ladies and gentleman, I’d like you to give a warm Hippie Hollow welcome to our newest,” the principal let her eyes sweep Emma from ponytail to painted toenails “student.”

Chairs scraped the floor in screeching protest as the students snapped to attention, standing straight, saluting Emma in crisp unison. They sat again. Still staring. The air pregnant with anticipation, but of what?

Emma felt her veins pump liquid iron as she stiffened for battle. How could she have been so foolish as NOT to know about the dress code? Hippie Hollow High might as well be a military camp. She’d weathered this battle before. Boys: eager to accept her. Girls: the instant rejection.

She walked to her chair, tactical strategy forming in her head. Armor up, weapons loaded. Emma Forrester never loses at anything, ever.

Emma Forrester takes no prisoners. Girls at Hippie Hollow High, watch your step!


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