Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 3)

I know this has been a tiny bit of torture for many of my regular Peakers out there—this being the third installment of Hopefully Not a Waste in Space, a series about my eighteen-year old daughter’s balloon launch (Project SkyHAB) where she was determined to make it rain in space. (She denies this, but it’s what I deduced after looking at the hieroglyphics wallpaper—she calls them “equations”—tacked to every square inch of vertical surface space in her bedroom. Or she is attempting to reach ancient Egyptian astronauts.) I implore any newcomers to catch up with Episode One and Episode Two. If you don’t, it’ll be a little like watching the Star Wars series and starting right in the middle with Episode IV.

Wait …

Okay, maybe not so much like that because I’m no George Lucas—no matter how many times folks tell me we have almost identical facial hair styles.

270714hair (772x800)

So, as we last left off, I was staring dumbfounded at a computer screen, watching GPS coordinates flash at me, insisting that my daughter’s balloon–the expensive contraption that underwent two week’s worth of heavy soldering, gluing, duct taping and volatile gas testing–was still contentedly sitting at her feet somewhere in the middle of the bucolic state of Virginia. In reality, my daughter was curled up in the fetal position and her space balloon was quite possibly rapidly making its way to Bermuda.

I wanted to be there with it.

The phone line that connected us went dead after I announced that we’d lost contact with the mothership, and so did our dreams of being cataloged in The Journal of Great Space Exploration From Some Folks Who Know What They’re Doing But Are Underfunded & One Person Who is Better Off Suited Up as the Team Mascot. (It’s not a widely read journal.)

I quickly emailed the rest of my team, desperate to see if either one of them had logged movement. Both reported the same screen. The balloon was stationary.

For the next hour I tried every computer in the house—all hand held devices as well as those whose monitors rivaled a Drive-In movie screen. Nada. I was in despair. I held a small council session with my headquarter’s fur-faced team, bouncing ideas off them as quickly as they came to me. Does anyone have a reliable contact at Langley? Should we call Neil DeGrasse Tyson on his private cell and ask for advice—even though we’d been ordered by a court of law to cease and desist? Should we alert the Coast Guard and demand to see our tax dollars in action?

All I got was blank faces and blinking vacant eyes. Plus a glance toward the treat jar on the kitchen counter. My command center team sucked.

It had been an hour and a half since we’d lost contact. I phoned my daughter to see if she’d scraped herself off the ground yet and what the plan was from the head scientist’s perspective. Her dulled voice murmured over the phone, “I’m on my way back. There’s nothing we can do.”


The mission was over.

I started preparing my motherly speech about how It’s not the destination, but the journey–any maybe not even the journey per se as the preparation for the journey. I was going to have to bring out the big guns. Cadbury, Toblerone, and Ben & Jerry’s.

The next three hours were a hazy collection of work assignments. And emotional eating. The Center of Operations was fully immersed in testing food sources to see what might bring the lead scientist out of her funk and then have it ready for when she made it back to base camp. We exhausted ourselves with effort.

And then …

There was a ping.

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The kind of sound that happens when a patient who’s been declared “unalive” proves to all the “time of death” doctors that he is now one of the “undead.” It’s usually accompanied by several people mumbling, “But this is impossible.”

“But this is impossible!” I shouted to my slumbering, sacked out team. I stared at the screen—the very screen that hours ago made me believe that someone at NASA had accidentally tripped over and unplugged our satellite from the wall socket–and gawked at just how fickle the winds can be at 100,000 feet off the Earth’s surface. There was a series of crazy, streaking lines through the center of Virginia that now confirmed that my daughter’s high altitude balloon, with all of its precious cargo, had landed safely in the welcoming bosom of the Central Baptist church parking lot.


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I quickly called my daughter. I did some screaming into the phone. She did some screaming back into the phone. Half of the team at home bounced and barked and the other half looked at me while quietly cleaning her paw. The phone went dead. More heart palpitations—did she drive off the road? Would she ever make it home to claim her research project? Had I killed the mission a second time?

Five minutes later a car blaring its horn whizzed up the driveway. Into the house bounded one very happy engineer.

We hugged, we sprung about one another like tightly bound human coils with tears of joy and laughter. This was a great day indeed.

“Where is it? Where is it? Show me!” my daughter said.

I brought the screen to life.


The Central Baptist church was not SkyHAB’s final destination. It had taken another jiggy turn southeast for one last great push and landed …

In the Sandy River Reservoir.

SkyHAB was in the drink.

270714drink (469x800)

So I reached for one too.

What happened next? It involves a sizable amount of hard liquor and a therapist on speed dial. No, wait. That’s just how I plan to deal with all the hate mail in the comment section this week. Come back and find out about the fate of SkyHAB on Episode Four of Hopefully Not a Waste in Space.


July Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. See the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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95 thoughts on “Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 3)

  1. Well I’m glad I didn’t pop any corn. You sure know how to milk a story, er… I mean weave a tale of suspense and mystery. Church or reservoir. Black top or water flop. Or maybe the whole thing is an illusion. A result of a space alien intervention. Maybe the entire Skyhab was abducted by those space guys and they just want you to believe everything is normal. I must say the illustrations, while always good are exceptionally appropriate for this episode. I thought the similarity of you and Lucas was uncanny. I think your hair is lighter though. Instead of cake I think I need a bit of Tullamore Dew with the next tale. Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!

      • I know She certainly has a gift for story telling. I look forward to her posts as much as Kerby’s. I am glad you appreciate my remarks. Have the time even I don’t understand them.

    • Benson, your mind is ticking at a thousand miles an hour! I’m going with space alien intervention. That’s got to be the most sound explanation at this point.
      And Tullamore Dew to go with my tale?? Oomph. I’m injured. Not only is it a blend, but it’s Irish as well. Can’t you see I’m trying to cultivate an historical drama only fit for a single malt?
      I will forgive you for that, but only if you come back next week.
      (And now I must hunt down the remake of 2008!) 😛

      • I will definitely be back. I have too much time invested. As a body ages time becomes magnified,like dog years. At 20 1 minute is 60 seconds. At 40 it becomes 225 seconds. At 64 it’s 6 years and 3 weeks;precisely. Do forgive my faux pas about the liquor. I am afraid I have become sort of a heathen lately. The joints I frequent hardly ever have single malts. Irish blends are easier to procure. I will keep that in mind. Until next week.Peace out.

        • Well, in truth, Benson, it’s a two-sided glib remark I made. Everyone who knows me accuses me of being a single malt snob–that part is true–and probably unfair to some very fine blends available. The second bit is that I have a Neanderthal tongue and the Irish make some lovely whiskies that only the most sophisticated of palettes can enjoy. My loss, I assure.
          And thank you for the return next week. I hope it will be worthy. 🙂

          • I will be back. I don’t think I would consider you a snob. You are a lady that enjoys a single malt beverage. It’ a case of preference. Lord knows the Scotch and the Irish have been arguing over that for centuries. Bushmill makes a single malt as well. I just think a Jameson mates well with certain draft beers. Oops. I do go on. Bye.

  2. I got so jazzed I forgot to comment on the drawings.
    Damn fine, “Rob’s are like that; yeah they are…”
    (Sorry: esoteric ref to an ancient TV commercial)

  3. The suspense is killing me!!! Who knew the story of a balloon could become so entertaining? Can’t wait to read the next one. I feel for your daughter, I do. I would be in the fetal position too if something I’d put so much work into “disappeared”. That would…. (oh wait, it has happened. I lost my first MS for a novel three, count’m, THREE times due to hard drive failure.)

    • Oh, Alex! That’s dreadful. I can only imagine the wretchedness of having that happen–THREE TIMES?? 😥
      It’s a little like the film The Words with Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons. Only of course, someone else recovering and profiting from your lost data.
      Did you ever get it back?

      • No, I didn’t. This was back in the days of floppy disks, and floppy discs were for my parents, not me, so I lost it all three times. Luckily, I made about a gazillion printed versions (all out of order)… it got so out of hand that last year I had to pull out the box and weed through all the rubbish for the gems two years ago. NaNoWriMo helped motivate me to recover 50k of it, but I’ve been afraid to look at the document since then, haha.

  4. There will be no hate mail. We’ve all been there in one form or another. I’m glad to hear that SkyHab showed up on the radar. To blip, or not to blip: you answered the question.

    As I told my son years ago when experimenting for his science project: Everything is a result, even if it’s not the result you were after.

    Your words and Rob’s cartoons are as good as brie with crackers. Yum.

    I’ll be back for the next installment

    …drumming fingers, drum, drum, drum…

    • That, Alys, is an answer I’d expect from a Buddha. And maybe one that has spent a few good hours interning in a science lab or two.
      And thank you for the lovely reference to food–as I’m beginning to panic a little that the only way folks can get through the post is with a stiff drink or two.
      I can hardly blame them, but I love the idea of not drinking on an empty stomach. 🙄

      • I felt just like Buddha this morning when I got on the scale. It shouldn’t have been surprised, but nothing like cold, hard confirmation on a Sunday morning to help you plan for the week. The brie and crackers will have to wait, and alas my fresh-frozen strawberries will be mixed with protein powder and not rum this week.

        Folks are enjoying your posts, with or without a drink. I’m at the front of the line, sober and waiting for the next installment.

    • so far, very little, *hic*, nil responses-of-malevolent-tendencies. but N!kwire-ring mineds want to know: were there any bonafide “scientific” results?

  5. Hoping the balloon was/is recovered or you will end up in ReHAB from all the booze it has caused you to scoff. Yours in Slightlylesscheeryandatadnonplussedatwaitingsolongforresolution anticipation. 🙂

    • Ha! ReHAB! That is perfect. You clever so ‘n so.
      And thank you for hanging on this far for this long. As a show of gratitude, I shall bake a few gluten-free goodies from your awesome collection of heavenly manna and blow a big kiss toward your side of the earth. 🙄

  6. It’s Alive!
    Shelley, I’m not sure whether to be relieved that the tracking finally woke up (I really couldn’t believe how ridiculously happy that made me feel) or cross that there’s yet another cliffhanger.
    Oh well, Rob’s cartoons helped, as ever, to be resigned to yet more waiting. Is Ping and Pong something that translates across the pond, or does it tickle Brit humour particularly?

    • Happy and cross. Ping and Pong. It’s true, this saga has been a series of zigs and zags and ups and downs. Enough to drive you over a cliff with all the cliffhangers. My apologies, Laura. The unfolding of this tale is an exercise in saintly patience. I hope you can hang in there.
      And I would guess that only once scientists have Rob’s brain submerged in a glass jar filled with formaldehyde will there be any answers as to what goes on within its mass. That is a mystery that will be long awaited. 😛

  7. OMG anymore of this suspense and i shall be on the slab with the time of death doctors!!! Oh well drinks all round while we wait for next installment (not that an excuse is needed,hic) 🙂

    • No, NO, Janice! Don’t give in just yet!
      Most science. at the best of times, moves at the pace of a snail with a limp.
      Do hang on. I’m rooting for you.
      And science. I’m always rooting for science.
      I have cheerleader pom poms shaped like atoms.

    • Toblerone refuses to sit idle on a shelf in my house. It is a foodstuff with magical aptitude and will leap into my hands even without my bidding.
      That is true friendship and devotion and I must respect its efforts, Linnet.

  8. Let me guess….now that the balloon is “in the drink” it becomes an underwater experiment? (This is so much fun to have an ongoing saga on here to look forward to. I’m quite a fan of this little quest….am thinking perhaps we should have a party for all the readers to attend with all Skyhab team members there for a meet-and-greet type thing once it’s done)

    • I am passing on your idea to the chief scientist–who is still lying prone from yesterday’s exhausting schedule (or from simply being a teenager whose internal time clock is attuned to that of a hemisphere other than the one she resides in).
      And thank you for being a devoted fan. We adore devoted fans.
      I can only envision what a cast and reader party would look like. There’d be a section of angry mob, those who are totally sauced, and a few who would simply request we never embark on another quest such as this one. And of course the cat–who may very well lead the angry mob. 🐱
      But I bet it’d give us all something to write about!

      • Hah! Have one of those otherworldly-tuned teens myself here! I bet that party would be a source of great material. Perhaps that could be the next experiment for your scientist….a study in sociology!

        • I do believe that will be a study she will embark upon herself during the next few months (off to University shortly) and will keep the results under wraps from me. Most of me does not want to know.

          • Agree on that one…my oldest already did those years….it’s best if I don’t know anymore than I already do……

  9. Gaaa! The anticipation! Glad it’s not MIA. Can’t wait to read the next installment and the 5 more you have scheduled. … 😉

  10. Hi, Shelley, absolutely love the new look for your blog! And biting my fingernails as I wait for the next installment. Hang on, maybe some chocolate would taste better… 😉

    • Thanks, Sue. It’s been one of those activities I’ve doing in between editing manuscripts and waiting for a GPS “ping.”
      And leave a few nails leftover. Surely they help with typing all your great grammar lessons! Although if you’re eating milk chocolate, the dairy may help with nail growth. So go for it.

  11. Hello Hal, do you read me Hal?

    Esoterkios, a true definition from the Greek word completely defines Cleo’s mental or cranial status. Brilliant, most near original and enveloped or perhaps solely developed from a set of genes of which one never thought could have come from deep within her parents (no offense mind you as you both have given more positive genetic structure than I could ever have offered). That, of which has been hidden for generations and has finally been brought forth.

    I think Cleo was actually at the beginning of Star Trek and its creation. If she was only given credit for it. I digress, again.

    You know, she is from another planet, right? Be that planet Mok, or Z-92x or even was possibly created from a space alien; you have admitted she has a language all of her own. Might she be a mix of Rainman and John Forbes Nash Jr.?

    Oh the suspense, keep tracking the balloon. Just make sure it doesn’t fly over unsafe territory as some yuts might want to shoot it down.

    God speed Balloon Cleo… may your space dreams come true.

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Opps… meant to spell it “Esoterikos”. My bad. Guess my Greek isn’t up to par. Funny how not many locals speak Greek in our hick of the north woods, although there are those who I cannot understand regardless.

      I love all the responses you receive from your blog followers Shelley, they are so intriguing. What a day on the beach would be with all of you. Bliss, creativity, humbleness, BS, and so much more to delve into. Keep writing.

      Stoshu 🙂

    • Oh, how I wish we had a Hal.
      And yes, the theories of where she has sprung from are rife around here. Tis a mystery unsolved.
      We shall proceed with caution, but obviously, you’ve visited this area enough to have become acquainted with some of our finer yuts. o_O
      Thanks for your the well wishes, budley. We send them back to you. xx

  12. Oh Shelley! You are so cruel to your poor readers especially those of us who don’t have a few bars of Toblerone in stock to relieve the tension – (do you run a sweet shop on the side by the way? ) – I can see this one running longer than Star Trek – but think of the movie spin-offs as well as the merchandising possibilities – party balloons, car safety airbags, lingerie deals for the larger woman (I assume the balloon is made of silk?) Will keep biting my nails until next week’s episode…….Cheers! Jane 🙂

    • Longer than Star Trek? Oh, good heavens NO! Remember, I’m actually LIVING this, Jane. And I fear by the time it’s all finished I will soon be a building with feet–and a dangerously potted one at that.
      I hope those beautiful nails make it through to next week. I’m sure they’re needed for capturing strikingly splendid photos. Do take care! 😛

  13. Ok,

    I’m willing to take on the task of developing the party balloons, airbags but I’ll even, yes, bow to the humble task of creating a lingerie line for your fund-raising needs.

    Oh, the trials I must pursue, yet for the good of human kind, and just to help make it rain in space. I’ll take one for the team. Guess I should probably call my friends down at Vicky’s Secret. Aug, the pressure.

    Stoshu 🙂

  14. I just have to say, “Aaaaaarrrrggghhh!” When I saw your new post, I thought, “Finally! The wait is over!” And then I read the beginning of the post, and my heart sank, and I thought, “SkyHAB, we hardly knew ye.” I was resigned to go eat some vegan dark chocolate (excellent comfort food, by the way), and then, as I kept reading, I wanted to let out a resounding cheer when SkyHAB reestablished contact with home base. I had to Google the location of the Sandy River Reservoir. Looks like SkyHAB was following a direct path south. Now the best ending for this story would be that SkyHAB veers a sharp left and drifts my way, landing peacefully in my backyard, where I will guard it with my life until it can be rescued by Some Folks Who Know What They’re Doing But Are Underfunded & One Person Who is Better Off Suited Up as the Team Mascot. Let me know if I should be on the lookout for it! And don’t keep us in suspense for too much longer, Shelley. Don’t play with our emotions, my friend. Tell us where SkyHAB is. We can handle the truth!!!!

    • Now, Miranda, don’t tell me you’re the kind of reader who dashes to the last page of a book because she cannot stand the angst of not knowing the ending, right? If it’s only the matter that I’m a poor storyteller, then this is totally understood and I don’t blame you one bit. In either case, I’d give my left lung to spill the beans–especially to you as you sit on the board of financial directors for SkyHAB–UGH, the pressure!
      And just like a fine storyteller, you’ve come up with a terrific ending for SkyHAB’s journey. What a lovely outing that would be, to traverse my way to your backyard and find you’ve stowed away this mammoth piece of science under your bed or in an unused guest bath, we have a cup of tea, talk about writing, pick some peaches and then I head back to headquarters.
      But it is not meant to be.
      That is all I can say for now.
      Apart from I’m sorry.
      And please, please, please come back at the end of the week.
      And buy some more chocolate. 😀

      • While I do tend to skip ahead a little at times, I NEVER read the ending before I’ve finished reading the rest of the book. (I have a friend who cannot start a book until she reads the very end and knows how it will turn out.) And you and I, as well as a gazillion other readers, know you are an excellent storyteller. That’s why we want to know! You’ve made us all care deeply about what happens to SkyHAB. Hmm, you seem admirably resistant to bribery. But the furry critters in your house, who have inside information as to SkyHAB’s whereabouts, are often described as being obsessed with the treat jar. Perhaps some gourmet dog and cat treats would guarantee that I’m not kept in suspense all week. 😛 Seriously, you know I’ll be back at the end of the week. And what’s this about more chocolate? Please tell me I’m not going to need more comfort food for your next post. Okay, now I’m worried.

  15. I’m exhausted. The story and the comments have taxed my poor brain to its limits. Need…chocolate…now… Okay, that’s better. Congrats on the new format for the blog! Can’t wait for episode 4. xx

    • Oh, you and me both, Ardys. I am sooo glad this senior year is done–and have vowed NEVER EVER EVER to volunteer for a position like this again. Next time I’m determined to be paid.
      Thank you for noticing the makeover. I’ve actually gotten a couple of complaints over the change, but those were all from my mother. And she is a tricky one to please. *sigh*

  16. I don’t mind reading about the balloon experiment; my son in law’s doctoral dissertation involved a complicated balloon project and a trip to Australia. Your daughter is way ahead of the curve. Have a glass of wine!

    • Ooh, a trip to Australia? An excellent country to launch a balloon in. I’ll make the suggestion should there be a next time.
      And they have wine.
      Yes, the idea is slowly taking shape … 🙄

  17. I feel like I am watching 24 once again. You get sucked in, you reach the climax, and then you are left hanging until next week while you scream at the television set. 🙂 I did very much enjoy all the laughs throughout though–I never did laugh while viewing 24.

    • Oh thank heavens for the laughs, Sasha, I’d feel awful if you were simply whirling an angry fist at your computer’s monitor.
      I wonder how much angry viewer mail Kiefer Sutherland receives? I’d imagine he might have sent some angry mail to his folks for “twinning” him with a fermented milk drink. Yeah, there might be some therapy there.
      I’m glad you’re hanging on. 🙂

    • Really, Susan? Are you referring to the fur-faced duo who walk around with a sign slung around their necks that says, “Will work for food,” but with giant Xs over the words ‘Will work for’? Clearly there were slim pickings in the pool of applicants. My hands were tied. We needed minorities on the team. I did my best. They did … no, there is no measurement for the quality of their work. o_O

    • Boy, are they ever! Thanks, Lee-Anne. It was a true treat to read a little bit more about you, and of course to be introduced to some very savvy writers. A lovely way to while away the hours. Cheers to you!

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