A fictionalized look at the life of an astronaut wife in the days of Apollo

Author’s Bio

I married my high school sweetheart, Jerry Carr, from Santa Ana High School.  After we both graduated from college, USC for him and Cal State at Long Beach for me, we spent the next twelve years moving from Marine base to Marine base.  My oldest daughter, Jennifer, was born in Pensacola, Florida where my husband was undergoingbasic flight training.  My second pregnancy resulted in a baby boy who died at two days.  I had been exposed to measles while I was running the kindergarten at my church.  A year later I gave birth to twins – a girl and a boy– both healthy and hearty, Jamee and Jeffrey.  We spent almost three years at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, in a fighter squadron.  John arrived while we lived in Pennsylvania where Jerry was attending Princeton obtaining his masters in aeronautical engineering.  We moved back to Orange County, where my family lived to wait out his thirteen month tour of duty in Japan.  I gave birth to my second set of twins – a girl and a boy, Jessica and Joshua – and Dad returned home when they were eleven months old. I had told him not to feel bad if they cried when they saw him as they did not care for strangers.  Just their brothers and sisters.  The moment he walked in to their room they both stood up in their cribs and smiled at him.  Traitors!  Ain’t genetics grand?

2nd Three Kids

2nd Three Kids

1st Three Kids

1st Three Kids

I knew there was a group called Mothers of Twins (now Mothers of Multiples) but honestly I never had time to go.  Having twins was not common in those days so I was something of a freak having two sets a la natural, not to mention the two singles.  I used to say that I was just being efficient.  I had saved all the cute twin outfits from the first set.  Jennifer was eight and she, Jamee and Jeffrey, almost five, thought it was a big treat to help feed the babies.  It was a big treat for me that’s for sure.  One morning I woke up with the flu.  I managed to get the babies bottles warmed and then fell on to Jennifer’s bed to tell her she needed to feed the babies and the other kids and to call Grandma and my sister to come over to help out and to do the seven to eight loads of laundry I did every day.  No disposable diapers that really worked were available then.  And diaper service for two did not fit into a Marine pilot’s budget.  So if I could get all loads done and dried, folded and put away and the dinner dishes loaded in the dishwasher before it was time for baths and bed, that was a highly successful day.  A much deserved glass of wine while listening to Nat King Cole was my reward.

When the little twins were two years old Jerry applied for the fifth group of astronauts.   In addition to the rigorous testing, poking and prodding that he had to undergo we were required to fill out a fairly intrusive questionnaire about our personal life.  Someone came out to question our neighbors and do an interview with me.  Jerry broke the news to me that he had been selected as I was stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce.  We underwent a flurry of media attention marred by the fact that I had taken my oldest son to the dentist that morning and so had one kid with one side of his face paralyzed.  Not good planning, Mom.  I was sure anyone who saw the pictures in the paper figured that one out of six wasn’t bad.

Grown and Almost Grown children

Grown and Almost Grown children

Twins on Twins

Twins on Twins

Jerry left for Houston two months before the rest of us in his ’53 MG TD, after teaching me how to change a tire.  School wasn’t out yet so I stayed behind in Santa Ana to get packed up and ready for our odyssey from California to Texas with the kids and the high school graduate who lived next door to us.  Our first stop was Gila Bend, Arizona.  We’d had an air conditioning system installed in our station wagon but it really didn’t reach to the far back seat of the wagon in the Arizona heat in June.  We couldn’t wait to get in the pool at the motel where I had made reservations. The first crib I put a baby in collapsed and we soon found out that the tap water came out hot – no cold water!  I packed us all up and checked into a place that was a little more accommodating.  About three-fourths of the way to Texas I developed a profound respect for the women who had brought their families over the desert in covered wagons.  At one point in the middle of the Texas desert I yanked one kid (who shall remain nameless) out of the car and spanked him.  No doubt today I would be arrested for child abuse.  Need I say that there were five very happy faces pressed to the window watching.  The crowning moment occurred when I got off the freeway to go on farm roads in the general direction of the Space Center to avoid a major thunder storm hovering over Houston.  I was only aware of the general direction, so I stopped at a four corners type of intersection and asked for more specific directions.  I was politely told “You can’t get there from here.”  Going on gut instinct, it was quite a relief when we finally spied the famous vista of the Manned Space Center.

Lawyer Days

Lawyer Days

The NASA years, 1966 to 1976 were a whirlwind of activity.  Read the book to get the flavor.  When the flight was over I had decided that since my kids were ultimately going to be leaving me, I needed to do something for myself.  Several people had suggested law school. I didn’t think I could undertake such a lofty goal.  After going to a meeting of the National Organization of Women where Karen DeCrowe, the president, spoke, I took her comments to heart.  She said not to say we were “just” housewives but to own the fact that we had been managing a household and family.  She convinced me I might be able to do it.  So I took the LSAT and put in my application to the University of Houston, Bates College of Law.  To my surprise I was accepted.  About a third of the class were women.  I always thought I should be able to park in the handicapped slots because I was twenty years older than my classmates.  They were so young they thought they knew everything and so I did too.  I was glaringly out of place in my polyester pantsuits among the torn Led Zeppelin T-shirts and mismatched socks.  I quickly changed to wearing jeans and a T-shirt.  I didn’t tell anyone I was married to an astronaut as I was already too conspicuous being the age of everyone’s mother.  I waited until my last year to confess to my best friends.  They liked me anyway.  A year from graduation I got divorced and began a whole new life.

Grandkids in Cancun

Grandkids in Cancun

During my working years, with my children all out of the house, I made sure that we had family vacations as much as possible.  For years we vacationed in Cancun. Having grown up in Southern California I was pretty much a beach rat and tried hard to enlist all of the kids.  If I can lay out on the beach all day with an occasional dip in the turquoise blue sea, have a margarita, a late dinner and then sleep late the next morning, that is my idea of a perfect vacation.  And after my time share ended I rented a house in Galveston and we’d spend a week at the beach.

Lake District in England

Lake District in England

I had two favorite vacations that I went on by myself.  One was with New England Hiking Holidays.  It was a perfect mix of beautiful challenging hikes and wonderful country inns at night and interesting people.  I hiked the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Another favorite hike was to the Lake District in England.  Such a beautiful area!

The other vacations that I loved were with Global Volunteers.  They have trips all over the world where you can volunteer at a designated place for two weeks.  You meet great people and experience the country by living and working with the people who live there.  There was one in Lima, Peru where we worked at an orphanage.  I focused on infants and toddlers and had a great time.  I stayed an extra week and visited Nazca and Machu Pichu.  I celebrated my 72d birthday by jumping off the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and parasailing along the coastline.  It was a tandem jump but fun and exciting just the same.  A few of us went rafting down the Urubamba River which was also exciting

Peru Orphanage

Peru Orphanage

I also spent two weeks at the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin.  It is a facility built in the very early 1800’s as a British military barracks. Now it is a center dedicated to peace making and social justice in Ireland and other parts of the world.  We were there to help renovate one of the barracks buildings.  Highlights included a trip into Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day for the parade and Celtic football, a foray into Belfast to interact with the leaders of the many political parties in Northern Ireland and a visit to the mosh pit at a Shane MacGowan (think Ozzie Osbourne) concert.

Paragliding

Paragliding

The last few years included a move to Sedona, Arizona where I enjoyed a six year extended retreat and immersed myself in some of the more mystical New Age classes and activities and hiking amongst the fabulous red rocks.  Then I knuckled down to finish the novel I had started many years before and to get it published.

I have moved back to the old stomping grounds in the Clear Lake area in Texas where four of my children and four of my grandchildren live. One granchild is off serving  his country in the Navy. I have two adopted yorkies.  Belonging to several groups at Webster Presbyterian Church, mentoring  at an elementary school, yoga and tai chi keeps me busy.  While in Sedona I found Tom Bird and subscribed to his Publish Now services which has been guiding me through the rigorous process of getting the book published and marketed.  I would recommend it to any aspiring author.