Sorry for the long silence: I’ve been in Houston, Texas writing about astronaut Mark Kelly as he prepares to launch space shuttle Endeavour on Friday. I’ve also been learning about the progress of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. On Sunday, my stories appeared in The Arizona Republic. The first was an exclusive report inside Rep. Giffords’ recovery — the first intimate picture of how she’s really doing since the Jan. 8 shooting. A series of interviews with her doctors, nurse, staff and husband painted a clear snapshot of the congresswoman during week 15 of her rehabilitation. She is left-handed now, walking slowly, hoping to “walk a mountain,”her nurse told me. Her speech is labored as she works to pull the words she wants to say from her mind, her doctors said. And I heard about the day she found out about the deaths of Jan. 8, and the sad phrase she kept repeating. Read the story here. The story got the attention of many national news outlets. I appeared on NPR,  the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and our partners 12 News, of course, to discuss. (You can watch/listen if you click the links above.)

In Texas, I also had an exclusive interview with Commander Kelly.  I told him we were going to talk about feelings. He laughed, but what a story he had to tell  — about being bound for space and yet feeling this tug for home toward Gabby. (Katie Couric had the TV exclusive, but we had the print opportunity.) Republic reporter extraordinaire Shaun McKinnon paired with me to write it for the paper, and I owe him a trip to the moon or something like it. Read the story here. I’m proud to have my name next to Shaun’s.

I hope you all got to see the paper on Sunday — it looked spectacular. Cheryl Evans worked hard to get the photos, and the design by Keri Hegre, Keira Nothaft and Jen Cieslak was really special. I loved the headlines, too — by Josh Susong. They were among my favorite things about it. Thanks to Josh and editor Diane Porter afor shepherding patiently and wisely, making sure each sentence was its best, and so  many others stayed late and put in extra thought and work to make it great. (Also: here’s to the awesome intern Samantha Bush who joined Diane and I in a Cherry Coke Zero spree one night to help transcribe some of the interviews — and Kiali Wong and Karen Schmidt, too.)

**Next up: a report about my ride in the space shuttle simulator at NASA with the astronauts.