There is a Dr. Seuss book by the title of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Early on, I thought it was a threat by my parents alluding to jail time. But that isn’t the case. For me the phrase has come to describe my life to this point. I have been to some amazing places and met some amazing people. I can’t help but wake up each morning excited about the possibilities of the day ahead. No, I have never been in space or seen the Pyramids or been to Rome, but I have lived an outstanding life so far. I don’t think I will ever have to be convinced by Clarence Odbody that my life is indeed a wonderful life. Yes, I have had a few regrets and dreams not chanced, but I am not crying about that.
I remember when I was in kindergarten worrying about first grade. I wondered if I would not be up to the challenge and fail. At the time, I didn’t know that failure was part of the process of life. None the less, I worried about not making the grade. Through high school I looked at college in much the same way. I even had a back up plan if I didn’t make it out of college. I would become a bank robber! Yes, I had goals in life. It was either a bank robber or an F-16 pilot. Then I learned I need a degree to be an F-16 pilot. So I opted for the bank robber plan. I didn’t have to resort to wearing a ski mask to make my living. I graduated from the school with the Okra, Delta State University, with an elementary education degree.
I didn’t know how important picking a college could be until my student teaching semester. Most colleges have a local radius to confine their student teacher into. Not Delta State, I could pick any school in the state to student teach, and if they accepted me, I was set. So the spring of ’99 I packed my bags and moved to Jackson, Miss to teach at Madison Avenue Elementary School. The students did not know that I was so over my head in many ways. Since my plan was to be a bank robber, I didn’t have the wardrobe to fit a classroom teacher, I looked like a college kid. It was a rocky semester, but I think God looked down on me and was happy I didn’t opt for plan B. My fifth grade class got to be a part of a program which took kids to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. The program was called 5C.
So off I went to Space Camp for a week. I had been at camp there in 1990 but had not returned since. The place had changed a little. They were constructing a new rocket; a replica Saturn V and so many more kids. I remember when I came as a camper the place looked much different. I firmly believe that my time at Space Camp helped to make me an outgoing individual. It even helped me in my class work. My math and science grades went up after my first trip to Space Camp. My second trip would also have a huge impact on my future. Come to find out one of Madison Avenue’s second grade teachers was planning to become the Director of Education at Space Camp. I would later get a summer job working for Julie Ferris, but I am not really at that point yet in my story.
Choosing teaching seemed to payoff so far in my career. I was accepted to a job at St. Paul Presbyterian School in Jackson later that fall. I loved working at St. Paul. The school was small and the people were extraordinary! Living in my little garage apartment on Belmont street was much better than living in a hide out for me and my gang of bank robbers. With a few years of teaching under my belt, I spent a summer teaching teachers at Space Camp. For time sake I will leave the gory details out, but working in Jackson, Mississippi during the school year and being a space geek in the summer paid off in the love category too. I meet my husband through a friend who worked at Space Camp. I did not meet Chris at Space Camp! This fact is often mixed up by Ralph Bryson.
About four years into teaching I got bored with St. Paul and loaded up the car and moved to Huntsville, well Madison actually. No, I did not become a bank robber, but did start coaching softball a little. I thought teaching math at Discovery Middle School and coaching girls softball was the job for me. I couldn’t find anything more suited to my strengths than that job. I was wrong! I was really wrong!!!! My time as Space Camp was not done. In the summer of 2003 I took a full time job with Space Camp, exit classroom and enter pencil fetish. I was working in Education at camp and kept myself busy with NASA Stars, a program that would send kids who couldn’t afford coming to camp to Space Camp for a week. WOW!!!! You would think this is the coolest job in the whole world? But there were days that I thought about going to plan B, being a bank robber.
I would move eventually to Aviation Challenge and be forced to learn the difference in an F-14 and an F-16. Since one of my optional career paths was to be an F-16 pilot, this seemed to work for me. Plus, I was allowed to marry the AC manager’s best friend. And here I sit today. I am the manager of Aviation Challenge, not Aviation Easy!
I have met moon walkers, shuttle commanders, best selling authors, and really cool teachers. I have visited the Grand Canyon, Fenway, all three remaining Saturn Vs, and built a shuttle out of PVC pipe and plastic on trips for work. I have visited with Congressmen in Washington DC to discuss funding for camp programs and drank beer with my favorite astronauts. I met my husband vicariously through Space Camp and made many dear friends who live here in Huntsville and scattered around the world. Everyday, I am thankful I was an Okra for four years and chose not to became a bank robber!