Posts tagged work
I hosted book club last Friday night, and I picked Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. As expected, the choice led to good discussion and a lot of introspection. I may post more in-depth thoughts when I have time to actually put them in writing, but it also got me thinking about all the different things I have wanted to do with my career over the years. Here’s a list of jobs I have wanted, starting at age 5 (or so) through today.
GNC systems engineer
Education program coordinator
Social media manager
Public affairs/communications rep
It’s interesting that the job I currently have is not the final item on the list — not even close. It does happen to be the job I wanted when I was picking a college and a major and a co-op job, and it is therefore the job I am most qualified to do. But I’ve wanted more jobs AFTER becoming an aerospace engineer than I did before!
Fortunately, I am very happy in my current job; in fact, as I told my friends at book club, I’m happier in my job right now than I have been at any other point in my almost 15 years at NASA. Working in the world of Safety & Mission Assurance is not something that I anticipated doing and not something that I thought I wanted — so my satisfaction here has been a HUGE and pleasant surprise.
It’s nice when things work out that way.
I gotta admit that I was skeptical when I heard the JSC co-ops were making a parody video of Gangnam Style. (Mental note to add that song to Emma’s baby book as something that was popular when she was born, so she can look it up in 20 years and be appropriately confused.)
But I also gotta admit that the result is pretty awesome. It’s even got cameos from 3 astronauts, my directorate head, and both the retiring and incoming JSC Center Directors. Way to go co-ops!
The first week of both Jose and I at work plus Emma in daycare kind of kicked all our butts. Although overall she took the adjustment really well, Emma came home pretty much exhausted each day. Jose and I weren’t in much better shape after juggling getting her ready in the mornings, full days of work (including a couple early telecons), cooking dinner, trying to spend precious time with Emma and with each other, and then getting ready to do it all over again the next day.
This gets easier, right? Right??
p.s. Photos, clockwise from top left: fog/smoke over JSC at 6:30 am, exhausted baby, Wright Brothers dolls at the library where we voted, and geek offspring.
I know — I went back to work and promptly disappeared for a week, right? Sorry about that. Getting used to a new schedule that doesn’t involve me being at home all day is going to take some getting used to…
Being back in the office on Thursday and Friday was all well and good. I didn’t get much done — other than stare at the 1000+ unread messages that remained in my inbox even AFTER deleting all the obviously unneeded items — but I expected that. The weekend arrived, and I patted myself on the back for two successful days. And then? On Sunday night I realized I had to go back on Monday…and Tuesday…and every day from now on. Which means life just changed in another big way.
Things that have changed at work in the last 3 months:
- Due to budget cuts, we now get to take out our own trash, our bathrooms only get cleaned once a week, and the floors get cleaned once a year.
- Due to budget cuts, they permanently closed one of the four entrance gates into JSC, which means I now get to spend an extra 5 minutes sitting on the road in a line of cars waiting to get in the main gate.
- One manager left and a new one arrived. Not in my direct line of management, but one that I work with and present to on a regular basis. I haven’t met the new guy yet.
- One group member who was on extended telework is now moving back to Houston. It’ll be nice to have her around again!
- We found out that my division is moving to a new building in December. It was supposed to be a temporary move while the renovated our current building, but somehow it’s now a permanent move. There are many pros and cons to this. The new building is not just new-to-us — it is literally new, built in 2010 I think. On the plus side, this means it doesn’t have the nasty beige walls, poor lighting and decrepit office furniture. But we’ve already heard complaints from the building’s most recent occupants that the building is loud and lacks privacy (both due to the fact that it’s all cubicles) and that the climate control system sucks.
- My desk is still a mess. No need to worry about that anymore since I’ll be packing it all up in a couple months for the move anyway!
- The wifi network is still so restricted that if there are more than about 10 people trying to use the same hotspot, someone gets booted. I made the mistake this morning of being one of the last people to arrive to a meeting in a large conference room. Yep, no wifi!
- My coworkers are still awesome! And that’s really the most important thing of all.
Today is my last day of maternity leave. I go back to work tomorrow — two days earlier than I’m technically due back, but this way I can work 5-6 hours per day for a bit instead of having to jump right back into a full week. Emma gets to stay home with either Jose or her Grandma R for another week and a half since our choice of daycare wasn’t available until November 5, and I suspect I’ll be more anxious about that milestone than I am about returning to work. Still, the million dollar question, of course, is whether I’m ready.
So. Am I? Ready?
And also yes.
And no again.
The first 3 weeks of Emma’s life were a blur that I don’t remember very well. The next several weeks were hard, and I have to admit that I was not/am not a huge fan of the tiny baby stage. Emma was so needy, and gave nothing in return! But things have started to change in the last few weeks, and things have gotten pretty darn good. She coos! She smiles! She shows her curiosity! And when she cries, I usually know why. I feel like I’m finally starting to understand this little person!
There’s a saying that goes something like: the days are long, but the years are short. For me, that’s the perfect way to sum up maternity leave. There were days, especially at the beginning, where the idea of 12 weeks alone with an infant felt very long and rather overwhelming. But now that the end is here, I wonder where the time went and wish I had just a little bit more. It feels like just yesterday that we were bringing Emma home for the first time.
I often think about my own childhood when I imagine what Emma’s life will be like over the coming years, and I am struck by the realization of how her childhood will differ from mine. My mom left her teaching career for many years to stay at home with me and my siblings. On top of that, at some point my dad moved into a job where his hours were about 3 a.m. to noon, which meant he was home when we got home from school. Even when my mom went back to teaching, she had the same days and weeks off that we did. I went to pre-school and the occasional summer church camp, but I never went to daycare or after-school programs. Mom and Dad were always there.
On one hand, I’m sad that Emma won’t have the same kind of childhood that was made possible by my mom staying home, and by my dad’s weird work hours. On the other hand, I know that I’m doing what’s right for our family. I do want to have a career; I don’t want to stay at home indefinitely. I may be interested in pursuing part-time work in the future, but that’s a very nebulous “what if” thought for now.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.
Still, I’m so thankful that I was able to have these 12 weeks with Emma. It was a wild and unforgettable ride.
Yesterday space shuttle Endeavour stopped in Houston for the night on its final journey. It’s being transported from Florida to California to take its place as a museum piece at the California Science Center. We decided to forego fighting the traffic to get to Ellington for an up close and personal view, but there was no way I was missing out on seeing Endeavour as it did several flybys.
Emma, Jose’s mom and I piled into the car and met Jose at Rocket Park, right at the entrance to JSC. It was a great vantage point. We were pretty early, but after a half hour of waiting, we finally spotted Endeavour heading towards us on the back of its 747 carrier. It came by once, twice, and then we thought it was heading for a landing — until we saw it rise in the distance again and make one last slow turn towards JSC for a third and final pass.
I’ve always thought of Endeavour as “my” shuttle. I saw her on the launch pad the first time I went to KSC as a high school freshman in 1993. I saw her up close and even touched her nose in the OPF during a coop trip to KSC in 1997. Ironically, the two missions I worked as lead Rendezvous Officer were Atlantis and Discovery, but I saw Endeavour fly by JSC in 2008 and launch on the STS-130 mission in 2010. She has a special place in my heart.
Emma had fallen asleep, and of course she wouldn’t have remembered the experience anyway. It’s so strange to me to think that for Emma, the space shuttle will just be “that old thing Mom and Dad worked on before I was born.” Still, I will be able to show her these photos when she’s older, and tell her about how we took her to see the space shuttle when she was only 6 weeks old. But who knows, maybe it’s a sign — like my “spaceship that lands on Earth” shirt from so many years ago that eerily foreshadowed my future career.
That’d be pretty cool.
Emma turned 6 weeks old yesterday, which means I’m now officially halfway through my maternity leave. Sometimes it feels like Emma has been here forever, but it also seems like the time has flown past.
I like being home with her and am happy to have another 6 weeks, but I have to admit that I do look forward to going back to work as well. Right now, the days all run together in a haze of feeding and burping and diaper changing and naps — I’m finding that I miss the structure and stability of the work week, along with the satisfaction of contributing to my organization and the daily interaction with my awesome coworkers.
I always knew I would go back to work, but it’s been a little surprising to find myself missing it. I’m not in a rush, and I know it will be hard to leave Emma at daycare when the time comes, but there will be positives too. My job isn’t perfect, but I’ll take it.
As if she can sense that her idyllic home life won’t last forever, Emma has been quite the pill today. She’s adorable with her little smile in the photo above taken around 7 a.m., but she’s naked (except for a diaper) in her swaddle because at 4 a.m. she peed all over the changing table — AND her clothes.
Then we went to the mom’s group at the hospital as we’ve done every Tuesday of her life so far. Emma was hungry, but was just not interested in nursing. She was interested in exercising her lungs — aka screaming. I’m suspicious that nursing doesn’t really interest her anymore now that she’s so used to bottles, from which she can drink easily and quickly.
(I haven’t posted much about breastfeeding lately, but the short story is that her diet consists of about 70% formula and 30% breast milk that I get from 6-7 pumping sessions per day. I’ve tried to nurse her at least once a day so that she doesn’t “forget” what it’s like, in hopes that if/when my supply increased enough, we could do away with some of the bottles. But I’ve had to accept that at 6 weeks postpartum, it’s highly unlikely that my supply is going to increase above the 10-12 ounces per day that I produce right now. So I’m at a turning point and need to decide how much longer to keep up the pumping routine, and when to say enough is enough.)
Anyway, since she wanted to scream instead of nurse at mom’s group, I pulled out the supplemental formula I’d brought — and promptly spilled half of the powder into my lap as I tried to pour it into the bottle with one arm while holding a crying baby in the other. The mom’s group is really the NURSING mom’s group, so spilling formula everywhere in front of a bunch of women with happily nursing babies and boobs that produce copious amounts of milk was really fun.
Emma didn’t seem to want to eat the now-dilute (since, yeah, I spilled half the powder) formula. We quickly departed and headed home, since I knew she’d be hungry really soon — and to top things off, I got pulled over by the League City police on Bay Area Blvd for going 39 in a 30. I knew as soon as I passed him on at the intersection of a side street that he was going to pull me over. I’m well aware of the speed limit for that section of road, but my brain was on cruise control, just trying to get my baby home before she went ballistic from hunger.
I slumped in my seat, tired, frustrated, and just hoping really hard that Emma didn’t start screaming bloody murder from the back seat. Perhaps the officer could sense my dejection, because he let me go with a warning. I wonder if he could tell that I just needed to catch a break?
Jose’s mom fed her when I got home, while I pumped since she didn’t nurse long enough to really get even the small amount of milk that I produce. And when she was done eating? Emma spit up on both herself and her Grandma. SIGH.
Now, of course, she is happily snoozing on the couch. And despite all the trouble she’s been today, I still want to smooch those chubby cheeks.
This is what sunrise looked like yesterday morning as I drove to work. It’s been an unexpectedly hectic week after a Russian Progress vehicle had to abort its planned re-rendezvous and docking with the space station on Monday night.
The vehicle originally docked back in April with no issues, but while it was at ISS, the crew took out the old rendezvous radar and replaced it with a new, upgraded version. It undocked on Saturday and planned to re-rendezvous and dock again on Monday night to test out the new hardware. This is how the Russians do a lot of their upgrades — they test things on the Progress since it’s unmanned, and then eventually put the new hardware on the manned Soyuz vehicle too.
Anyway, all the tests they’d done ahead of time looked fine — and then on Monday night as they started back towards the ISS, the new system failed! Fortunately, both Russia and NASA plan for these sorts of things, and the vehicle was able to simply shut down its control system and glide past the ISS. Still, there is a lot of pressure on the Russians to now 1) figure out what’s wrong, 2) figure out what to do about it, and 3) reattempt the re-rendezvous. Sounds simple enough, but of course nothing in space is ever really that simple, and it’s kept me busy this week for sure!
Thank goodness I get to relax at book club tonight…
My parents are here! Hooray! And after only one night, the layout of the work-in-progress guest room I posted about on Wednesday has already changed, since one side of the bed was too close to the wall. We knew that, but the room is so small that it seemed to be the only layout that would work. We had tried putting the headboard against the wall next to the window, and it just seemed like it filled up the whole room. But my dad and Jose turned it so that the headboard is now against the same wall as the door. I didn’t think it would work, but it actually does. Don’t worry — I still teased my parents heavily about how they came into my house and started moving furniture around like they owned the place. (The nerve!)
It was kind of a strange week at work. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I spent the week getting mixed messages about what I’ve done in the past versus what I will and/or want to be doing in the future. It makes me a little confused about where I stand at the moment. The good news is that I am picking up some new work in an area that should be 1) interesting, 2) active and 3) visible both inside and outside my organization. There may or may not be bad news…I just have to wait and see.
The mosquitos have gone CRAZY in the last three days. I don’t know where they came from, but all of a sudden there are clouds of them. On top of that, they seem to love congregating around our front door, which makes it impossible to enter or leave the house without taking a swarm of bloodsuckers with you. Oh, and did I mention we had several days in a row of 100+ degree weather? Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.
This has been a weird, discombobulated week.
First of all, it was a 4-day week thanks to President’s Day — definitely NOT a complaint, but you know how it is with short weeks, right? I’m never quite sure what day it is. I almost forgot about our dinner plans with friends last night, because I didn’t realize it was Thursday.
And I’ve been participating in the first week of a two-week TIM — Technical Interchange Meeting — with some Russians. For some reason, they never get badged to come onsite at JSC, so the meetings are held in an off-site conference facility. I’ve spent a total of about 5 hours in my office in 4 days, and that always makes me feel out of sorts. (Which is totally strange, since I’m not a fan of the weeks where I’m ONLY in my office. I guess some sort of mix of time at my desk and time in other locations would be the ideal.) The meetings have been VERY useful though and I have gotten a ton of good information.
Then, Jose was sick and stayed home on Tuesday. Despite his best efforts, he gave the bug to me and although I don’t seem to have gotten it to the same degree, I ended up staying home yesterday morning just to get some extra sleep.
On top of that, our dryer, which has been producing heat intermittently since December, finally stopped producing heat for good, meaning we finally had to call a repairman. We had one guy look at it in December, but 1) the repairman seemed unfamiliar with the brand of machine, 2) his company tried to charge us a ~125% markup on the cost of the part it needed, and 3) it mysteriously started working again after he looked at it. I tried a different company this time around which turned out to be the right call. The guy was more familiar with the machine and they charged us a reasonable amount for a replacement gas valve. The downside is that he ended up coming to the house 3 times (in 4 days) before the fix was complete, which meant a lot of tradeoff between me working from home and Jose working from home so that somebody could let the repairman in.
Jose ended up bearing the brunt of it because I needed to be at the afore-mentioned meetings and he was flexible this week. He is awesome like that.
Hooray for the weekend!