Every news station, radio station, sports show, magazine or newspaper has a special year in review episode or issue. This will be my year in review blog. So just in case you missed the highlights of my life this year, you can catch up and relive the excitement. That is an over dramatization but I am home on New Years Eve, there is comedy in that somewhere.
2008 is a year where I visited ten states, hung out with astronauts, trained more than a hundred camp counselors, recruited counselors, watched a Yankees game, celebrated my fruit and flowers anniversary with my hubby, and much more. There were good times and bad times, but for the most it was good times. It was a great year for Aviation Challenge and learning new things. Here are my top ten moments of 2008!!!
10. Be Ready Camp Part 3: For those who do not know what Be Ready Camp is really like, please join me next September for your training and bear with me right now. Be Ready Camp is one of my proudest accomplishments. My dream since I was a teenager is to start my own camp. I didn’t dream of creating a preparedness camp, but BRC is the closest thing I have done to achieving my dream. BRC was not my brain child and I can not take credit for its greatness, but I was there when it all started. I can take credit for nurturing something that was conceived by Rusty Russell, Director of Huntsville-Madison County EMA, guarded by James Mullins, better know as Bow Tie of GFBCI, energized by Chris Johnson of GTAC at the USSRC, and hosted at Space Camp. I learned more about leadership and managing people during BRC than any other activity I do. To make the deal even sweeter, BRC is a lot of fun!!!!
9. Trips to Lynchburg, Tennessee: Jack Daniel’s Distillery is a fascinating place to me. They produce millions of gallons of whiskey in this town with a published population of 361. It is still just as simple and real as it was many years ago. I believe that it is a company with integrity and direction, but isn’t too large to forget the people at their door step. I love visiting the hollow and love taking first time visitors. My favorite trip this year was with Tank and Divot. Coming in a close second would be when I visited with my friend Veronique. It is a fun place where I will visit often again in 2009.
8. The Stowaway: In August Chris traveled to Walt Disney World for training. He makes a trip like this each year. Former camp staff member, Kim Dickerson was working at the Polynesian. With a little encouragement from Kim, I snuck into my husband’s suit case for the trip. While he learned how to be a better consultant, I wandered around the many theme parks with my tour guide Chef Kim! I had fun and even got lost at Epcot!
7. PathroFinder: Stop scratching your head and read about Space Camp training last winter. PathroFinder is the word I used to describe a shortened training schedule where we only taught Pathfinder and AstroTrek curriculum. We trained and trained some more last spring. We worked our tails off producing a great team of counselors. We trained 107 staff as counselors between the first of January and the first week of March. Marcia Lindstrom gave us the direction to freshen up training and introduce core values and service standards. I loved working with the mentors and other staff. Most of all, I had a ton of fun. I worked long hours and kept up a demanding pace. However, all I remember is the fun I had at work training and off site making new friends.
6. Winning Space Bowl: In Feburary of 2008 I attended Parent/Child Space Camp with my nephew Rhett where my team crushed our opponents in a space trivia competition known as Space Bowl. The competition is set up very similar to the classic game show Jeopardy. Being a space geek and being heavily involved with training I knew almost every answer (I mean question). The disadvantage for my team was, we never had control of the board when my turn came around. I only answered questions with small values to them. We did well, but one parent thought he was being smart and chose a 1000 point question. I was on easy street, the answer was THERMOSTABILIZED! No other team member but me knew that it was common for food onboard the ISS. We didn’t look back. We were on a roll. I didn’t cheat or give an answer unless my team needed me to do so. It was an epic victory for me and space geeks everywhere!!!
5. The Year of the Challenge Coin: It all started with an idea a few years back that, if Aviation Challenge was a realistic military aviation experience it need a challenge coin. After the 50th Anniversary of American space exploration we received coins as a thank you. The coins where given out at the black tie event marking the opening of the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. I had a renewed motivation to create an AC challenge coin. In May of 2008, I received the first shipment of AC coins. Brennan Scott used the coins to sweet talk Blue Angel pilots for one of their coins. He made out like a bandit! The year came to a close when I received a Dixon Ticonderoga coin for Christmas. I am so proud of the coin, one of my proudest moments as an AC manager!
4. Prescott and the Best Dang Sandwich Ever: In 2007, Snapper and I visited Arizona for recruiting. At that time, I had a sprained ankle and we had to travel back and forth from Phoenix. We visited Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Prescott Brewing Company. In 2008, Snapper and I revisited Prescott and our first stop was PBC to enjoy the best dang sandwich ever! It is a club sandwich with the twist of being on focaccia bread with chipotle sauce. It is so good. I enjoy traveling for recruitment, but my favorite trip is to Arizona with Snapper. It is more than the food and more than just the scenery. Snapper and I will eat great food, sit around talking and find really intersting places to visit. Sometimes she will let me talk politics. This year’s trip we even made our way to Las Vegas to super size the trip. We visited with Safety and Eco, but that is another story for another day!
3. Safety Made it Home: Summer of 2004 I met Joshua Whitfield or Safety as a camper at Aviation Challenge. He visited camp a few summers after our first meeting. The next summer Safety enlisted in the United States Army. He would eventually be stationed in Iraq. Many Sunday afternoons while he was in Iraq he would call to talk about camp. I could tell he loved and missed being around during the summers. The day after Easter of 2008, I received word that Safety had been injured in a gun fight in the streets of Bagdad. I was worried I wouldn’t see Safety again. During his time recovering, he called me a few times and I nominated him to be in the Space Camp Hall of Fame. He would be voted into the HOF and visit during the summer. The week of the HOF event he visited camp, relived old times and made new friendships. The three weeks he visited camp was most likely the best three weeks of the summer. Safety is currently still healing from his injuries but he is planning to work as a counselor this summer, a promise he made each time we talked while on his deployment in Iraq. I am so happy he made it home, and when I say home, I mean Aviation Challenge.
2. Yankee Stadium Trip: The last baseball game held at Yankee Stadium was September 30th, 2008. Chris and I attended the September 13th game. We drove up on Saturday after BRC graduation and back to Alabama on Monday morning. You may think this would be rushed, but it was perfect. It was a day game in which Derek Jeter tied a Lou Gehrig record, A-Rod hit a grand-slam, and we enjoyed the perfect stadium dog. It was so much fun. Spending time in New York was a great break from our routine day to day life. I still think it is sad that there will be a new Yankee Stadium next year, but I am happy that I got to enjoy a baseball game in the House that Ruth Built.
1. Weekend at Blackberry Farms: It was the greatest trip that will be remembered for the wedding that never was. A fictitious wedding was my cover story to lead Chris to Blackberry Farms just outside the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Chris and I have given traditional anniversary gifts each year. The fourth anniversary gift is fruit or flowers. So my twist on this strange gift idea was to go to Blackberry Farms which is more than just a bed and breakfast, it is a camp for grown ups. We were able to get away from the world and enjoy nature and really good food. It was a wonderful surprise even for me, who planned it for many months!
All in all, it was a wonderful year with many wonderful memories! I am looking forward to 2009 and making more memories. Best wishes to all, Happy New Year!