Meme: 15 years in a nutshell

Sometimes we get stuck in a particular way of thinking.  We obsess about one circumstance, one thing that might happen to us at work, at school, at the playgroup, or in our personal lives and relationships.  It’s hard to pull ourselves out of that rut.  In an attempt to talk about anything but cancer, I’m trying this meme that Canape proposed last night.  It’s called 15 years in a nutshell, and the goal is to sum up your life in 10 easy bullet points that you would send to a friend you hadn’t seen in that long.  So let’s see … 15 years ago, I was a child of 20.  (OMG, am I 35 already?  How did that happen?)

Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last 15 years:

1. Left my fancy pants small liberal arts college in search of the wider world.  Didn’t tell anyone, just packed up my car with what I could and left the rest behind.

2. Transferred to a major research institution eight hours away, greedily overloaded my schedule with science classes, began doing research with one of my heroes I had only read about in a popular science book and then the journals, joined a sorority, made many many girlfriends who also loved math, science, and engineering, felt truly at home, and then met the man I would marry.  We knew instantly, but waited 5 years to finish various degrees, learn how to cook (oops), and basically live on our own for a while.

3. Went to graduate school across the country in a different direction.  Was challenged, dismissed, harassed, and ultimately respected.  After some soul-searching, joined a different research group that was a better fit, only because it had other women graduate students and it didn’t seem to be as much of an issue.  Found my niche among the graduate students and postdocs.  Fell in love with spacecraft mission work.  Married my college sweetheart, who by then was working in the department across campus.  We spent our days in the labs and nights working on or talking about our space science research.  We were young and in love with each other, science, space, and life.

4. Adopted a second dog, a beagle puppy who had been abandoned at the shelter where we volunteered.  Found out soon that a) he was not a beagle, but a giant coonhound mix, and b) he was abandoned because he had separation anxiety and he was LOUD.  Moved out of our beloved townhouse by the lake and into a run-down 1920’s era bungalow, where we were all much quieter and happier.  Learned to garden, which brings me peace to this day.

5. Determined to finish our Ph.D.s within weeks of each other, we moved again into a tiny apartment with two tables for desks, and packed our house to be ready for the move.  This worked. Free of distractions, we buckled down and spent six months writing and revising, and we successfully defended our dissertations two weeks apart.

6. Moved to Washington, D.C. to chase our dreams.  I had my dream job, working as a scientist at NASA Headquarters, and WonderDaddy went to industry to gain experience there.  After a few years, he joined me at NASA, and we had several golden years of working together side by side, an experience that was invigorating and rejuvinating for both of us.  We did some of the best work of our lives then, reinforcing each other.

7. Had our first baby, Widget.  Continued to work some and mother a lot, and Widget was incredibly cooperative.  He quickly became the light of our lives, and we would do anything for him.

8. Second baby, Little Bear.  Adorable, amazing, quirky, this little one completed our family and we are so blessed to have them.  He’s walking now, and he is an incredible little person.

9. On June 16, 2007, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a disease that I’d never even heard of but was trying to kill me anyway.  A year of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and isolation from all but the healthiest friends and their kids ensued.  It was a terrible year, but we survived.

10. Now, right now, I am reviewing proposals for NASA again, writing a book about the history of space science, also for NASA, enjoying my time with the children, helping them grow into independent kids, organizing playdates, worrying about whether to send them to preschool, and all the mundane things that come with a life in the suburbs.  It’s absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier.

So … what have you been up to the past 15 years?

– WhyMommy


14 Responses to Meme: 15 years in a nutshell

  1. NoRegrets says:

    Wow… very impressive, all of it! I’ll see if I can do this…

  2. Heather says:

    Wow! What a great career path! I’m also so jealous that you found a bunch of women that love science and math???? That’s so unheard of. I got a BS in electrical engineering from Drexel University and my graduating class was 100 men and 7 women. It was extremely frustrating. I still work with mostly men doing statistical analysis.

  3. Robin says:

    You have a PhD?!? Wow!

  4. Wow– what a decade-and-a-half!! It’s always fascinating to hear more about the amazing Woman Behind The Blog!!

    May I ask you a question about the history of space science? Child Number One and I are currently beginning a major school project (YES, in MID-JUNE… growl) on the Apollo 13 space mission. There is just WAY too much out there about the Hollywood movie… and not enough accurate information on the REAL mission, that would be appropriate for a 12 year old to understand. Do you have any recommendations for websites or books that we should be looking at?

    Sorry, WM… I hope you don’t mind me asking. I know you’re busy!! But, interestingly, when my daughter came home with the assignment, she mentioned to me that she remembered you work for NASA!!

    Lots of love to you– CGF xo

  5. Susan says:

    I was just about to let you know that I tagged you for this meme, but you beat me to it! A pretty full decade and a half, isn’t it?

  6. Karen says:

    Wow – you’ve been busy! I must have a go at this one.
    I have a math and science mad 16yo girl who is planning on going to uni and doing her PhD.

  7. canape says:

    Hooray 🙂

    A taggee had tagged you, and you have already done it.

    I love this blogosphere some days.

  8. NYfriend says:

    Whew! It’s been a busy 15 years, as it should be. Bullet #1 was a damn gutsy move that kicked off an incredible journey. Very cool, very inspiring. 🙂

  9. Isn’t it amazing what a year brings…

  10. Beth says:

    Cool and smart! Wow!

    You have been a very busy bee.

    I’m glad you got through this year.

  11. mo-wo says:

    “from all but the healthiest friends” that one really sticks out.

    I must admit WM, I pigeon hole you. I look to this veneer of your life and think (among other things) you live to ‘cut the crap’ after all of this.

    I have put — perhaps extra(neaous) — gravity into the line “from all but the healthiest friends” … What does she mean? She’s cut the crap with unhealthy people?? Of course, she has. She’s WM. She’s lean vitality incarnate.

    Just thought I’d say that out loud.

    1. Mo-Wo thinks you cut the crap all the time
    2. Your writing is compelling, like you haven’t been told that like 500 times already.

    I know you probably just really mean the virus thing, but still. You know how it is. Friends. We had 50 people here last night for my husbands, 40th (shouldn’t he have 10 points to write?).. I should be kinda tired after that spread and the 50 people so many of them around 3 feet tall or a little under… But I’m not. You know how it is with friends. It seems at times to defy logic but being with good friends (doing for them) can actually create energy rather than drawing it.

    It’s like science… weird… eh

  12. whymommy says:

    Interesting. . . I really did mean physically healthy when I wrote that, Mo-Wo. It was a challenge, seeing aNYONE last year when I was so susceptible to infection, since nearly all my friends have at least one kid in preschool. And I think we all know what that means. (Cough, cough, drip, wipe.) We went months without seeing some friends, simply because of colds and viruses. Sad, but true. Luckily, now I’m all better(!) and Widget himself is in preschool (cough, cough, drip, wipe) and we’re all happily sharing germs again.

    The thing I liked most about this meme was that it helped me focus on all the OTHER parts of my life. Look — cancer was only one little bullet out of 10. That was awesome.

    No regrets & Karen — would love to read your memes — very cool.

    Heather — it’s not exactly linear, but it worked for me. Oh, and the funniest thing about that finding a group of women who loved science — I went to a big research university focused on science and engineering and joined a sorority. I never thought I would be happy in a sorority, but this one was incredible, and it was great just getting to know other women who were so passionate about science and engineering. (Right, SuzyQ?)

    CGF, in general, is the official nasa site; any searches that point you to a site are likely to be factual. Check out for the facts on the mission, archived at Kennedy Space Center ( Good luck and have fun!

    I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s responses to the meme — it’s a good one!

  13. Yvie says:

    This is an interesting Meme. Now, I need to remember what I have been up to the last 15 years, one by one. I would say I am 11 by that time. LOL!

    Thinking about it, time flies by.

    I’d like to answer this Meme too. I loved reading yours. 🙂

  14. motherofbun says:

    You’ve packed alot of learning into the past 15 years – not just academically but in life and love.

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