Monday, November 12, 2012

My Dream Phone Call!!

Monday, November 5, 2012 sure seemed like a typical day...  I came in a little earlier than normal to work at 8 am after my morning run and getting ready.  Sandee, my office mate, was already there to greet me.  On Mondays, a committee I work with for NSF Education and Human Resource's priority goal, meets regularly from 4 to 5 pm.  I left the meeting at 5 pm, came back to my office, and checked my email.  I only had a couple, but one was a voicemail from 4:11 pm and I did not recognize the area code.  I listened to it and I think my jaw must have hit the floor by the time the message was complete.  It was very brief, but the level of excitement took me back to when I received a phone call telling me I had won the Presidential Award back in April 2006.  Here is the message the voicemail shared, "Hi Cindy, this is ________ calling from the astronaut selection office here at NASA.  Would you please give me a call at your earliest convenience?  My phone number is ___________.  Thank you."  Well, to be honest, my "earliest convenience" didn't seem to happen fast enough!  My heart was racing, blood pumping, and I was wondering, "Did I make the next step?" 

I called back immediately and was by myself in my office.  The person asked me if I "was still interested" in coming down to Johnson Space Center for an interview!  Hmmmm, let me think about that one for a few minutes... 

I have long had a fascination with space.  When I was a little girl, my Dad told me that some men had put a flag on the moon a long time ago.  I remember straining my eyes frequently at night out in the driveway looking at the moon for that flag and not being able to see it.  The thought left me curious and I have looked at the moon frequently in the evenings ever since, often feeling like it is "teasing" me to come and visit.  My parents took my brother and I to Florida to visit my grandparents twice when we were younger.  At least once, we visited Kennedy Space Center, I even still have a Matchbox size toy space shuttle I purchased there.  A few years later, my family went to Cedarville University's Homecoming, the school that was my Mom's (and mine) alma matter.  While in the Cedarville bookstore, I saw a poster that I really liked and bought it.  It was a picture of U.S. astronaut, Ed White, performing the first spacewalk.  It also had a quote on it, "And those who dare to dream, dare to do."  That poster hung up in my bedroom while I was growing up, always in a location where I could see it from my bed.  It made me wonder what it would be like to float in the vastness of space, see the Earth in one complete view, and hear the quiet of space.  The poster later traveled to my dorm room at Cedarville University when I was a student there, and hung up in my classroom at Milan High School for 16 years.  Another pivotal experience when I was younger that inspired me towards space was being invited to participate in my middle school's Young Astronaut club.  In this afterschool group, we went to museums, conferences, and other special events to learn more about math and science.  I realized then that not everyone liked those subjects like I did and realized I was different than many other kids. 

Now, back to the phone call.  I did respond very quickly and excitedly that I would indeed STILL be interested in coming down to Johnson Space Center for an interview in early January.  As the lady told me about logistics of the trip, my officemate, Sandee, walked in to our office and could tell I was very excited about something.  I kept giving her a thumbs up and tried to shake my head to indicate I had an interview.  I think she figured out pretty quickly what was happening on the other end of the call.  As soon as I got off the phone, I ran down to the front office where one of my sponsors was.  I burst into Pam's closed office to tell her I had an interview.  She was extremely excited, got up and gave me a hug.  Those still left in the office seemed happy to be a part of the celebration.

I called many friends and family after work, but was a little stressed.  I still did have a Russian test that night and was very nervous about it.  It did end up going well and I found out later on Wednesday that I received an A!  One email I did make sure to send out Monday night was to Dr. Cora Marrett, the Deputy Director of NSF.  She has been extremely supportive of the Einstein Fellows, especially this year, and is a big fan of our program.  We have talked several times and emailed occasionally.  I wrote her to inform her that I had an astronaut candidate interview and first thing on Tuesday morning, I received an email back from her.  Dr. Marrett is one of the most thoughtful, warm hearted people I know and not only did she write me back a very supportive, encouraging email, she copied Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce (NOAA) and also first U.S. female astronaut to walk in space!  To my amazement, Kathy wrote me a wonderful, lengthy email full of encouragement and support.  I was also able to share my news with Barbara Morgan, the first educator astronaut to make it successfully to space and back in 2009.  We ran into each other at NSF a few months ago and I had sent her an email in the week before my phone call.  She just happened to respond soon after my phone call and right before I took my Russian test. 

It has been wonderful to share the joy of just being selected for an interview with so many friends and family.  My hometown community has been incredibly supportive of me in this process and I can't wait to go home for a visit and celebrate with them.  I know I am only partway through this process and there is no guarantee I will make it any further.  The next step would be a more in depth interview sometime in the spring, then the actual selection.  Truthfully, I am very grateful that the Lord has allowed me to experience this,  but also so many other blessings in my life.  This interview coming up in January is definitely something I have worked very hard towards for many years, but it would never have happened if it wasn't part of God's ultimate plan for me.  For this, I am very grateful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Orientation dates!

I found out recently that I will have 3 days of orientation starting Tuesday, August 30 through Thursday, September 1.  I am so excited about having an actual date of when I HAVE to be there because it seems more realistic now.  I am looking forward to going to DC to work on a Toyota International Teacher Program panel in a few weeks and hope to see my new apartment!
School is 4 days away from being finished for the year.  While grading last Sunday afternoon, I had a remarkable thought that it would be my last Sunday afternoon for grading papers for a very long time.  It still seems like a dream.  My kids have been wonderful helping me clean up my room, packing some things, and recycling.  They are just as eager as I am for summer. :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New adventure and apartment!

Hello!  This is my first post of my new "Adventures in DC" blog.  Many have asked me to share my experiences as an Albert Einstein Fellow and I have always enjoyed journaling on trips and experiences through life, so thought I would try blogging.  I did while on my trip to Costa Rica this summer and it seemed to be a great way to share.  I am sooo excited about this new adventure in my life!  I have been very concerned about two areas and they seem to be falling into place.  It is amazing and I am 100% confident that this is where God wants me at this point in my life.  I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire others to pursue their dreams and goals and aim higher than they ever thought possible.
Let me begin by saying I was selected to be an Albert Einstein Fellow on March 21, 2011.  I was in my third block B day FST class and at 12:11 pm, my cell phone rang.  I had already warned my students that if my cell phone rang, I would be answering it.  Normally, cell phones are "forbidden" during teaching time, so I wanted to warn my kids I was hoping to break my own rule.  When my phone DID ring, I think my kids were more excited than I was!!  I had just finished teaching for the block, and Keith Urban started "singing" in my pocket.  The kids stopped dead in their tracks.  Katheryn from DC was on the other end of the line and asked if I was available to talk for a few minutes.  I said yes and that I had 30 stone statues staring at me.  I don't remember a time when the kids were more focused on me than they were at that moment.  Katheryn proceeded to tell me I was being offered a position with the National Science Foundation, working with the Presidential Awards.  At first, I asked her if the other position I had interviewed with had already been taken.  She said yes so I said I would absolutely take it!  I couldn't believe it!  I wasn't sure I really had a chance.  The competition was very strong and I even interviewed for this position against one of my friends who I have a lot of respect for.  That moment in my classroom with my students will be a moment I will never forget.  Many of the kids I had in my room that day I have known for at least a few years.  They have been a special group and I will miss them when they graduate.  Since that day, there have been so many details of my life to think about.  One detail that has been weighing heavily on my mind was settled today as you can read below....
 I have been waiting to hear on an apartment that a good friend of mine, Josh, offered to check out for me.  Josh was amazing and two days after I asked him, he was in the apartment taking pictures for me.  I heard about the apartment through a list of soon to be vacated apartments by the current Einstein Fellows.  This particular one appealed to me because it is close to the National Science Foundation where I will be working in Arlington, Virginia.  The rent seemed more affordable than the others in that area, plus, parking is free, a rare thing!  It is small, has one bedroom, one bathroom, but a full washer and dryer in the apartment!  It has an open floor plan, so the kitchen looks out into the living room.  I am looking forward to the in ground pool on the roof as well, but probably won't have much time for it.  There is a bike path close by that I have already run on before.  The apartment is on the eighth floor and has a fireplace.  I am going to have to make sure I take stockings to hang on it at Christmas time. :-) 
I will try to post regularly once a week with updates.  Feel free to ask questions and I will try to do my best to answer them. :-)