All posts by Ruth Marie Oliver

Take the Ambien

Dear 2004 Ruth,

Please take the Ambien!  You need a good nights rest!  This is the biggest decision of your life.  I know you are restless and have many worries rumbling about your head.  Love is patient, love is kind! It does not keep track of wrong doing. Just sleep, you will thank me later.

You will go many places and see many things over the next ten years.  You will live, you will love, you will accomplish many goals!  There is a bale of cotton in your future, maybe a few tears and an adventure or two in Lynchburg, TN.  Just take the Ambien and sleep well tonight!

Ruth, you must go to sleep!  You need the rest!  You need to think clearly tomorrow morning! Many things will be said, many promises will be made – take the Ambien. Sleep.

A perfect spring morning may greet you with chatter by the orange desk with your father.  Your mother readies for a party.  There is a plane, a run way, and a future ahead.  Think clearly, make the right decision!  Look carefully at the path a head!  This choice you make is so important!  One love lost… one love needed.  Will this be bologna and love?

Take the Ambien!

Oh wait, it was never offered…

 

 

32.6 Mile Challenge

Heel and CrankThe multi-sport season officially started for me with the Heel and Crank Duathlon in Mooresville, Alabama.  It is hands down the best location for a spring race in all of North Alabama. The race is centered on the old Brick Church in Mooresville. The race started just after a young man played the National Anthem solo on his trumpet.  You could tell the young man was very nervous.  He squeezed out most of the anthem like a champ until the high section.  He just couldn’t make it because he was so nervous and tight. The crowd of runners and spectators cheered him on and then with encouraging voices sang the familiar words. It was a perfect start to a wonderful race and hopefully a great race season.

This wasn’t my first race of the year.  My last race of 2013 was the Huntsville Half Marathon just before I left for Baku, Azerbaijan and stopped training for a month or so. From then until this weekend, I ran two races.  The Scenic City Half Marathon in Chattanooga, TN, my favorite city in the south, and the CRS Run for the Son 10K last weekend at my favorite camp in the whole wide world.  So many ups and downs recently with work and training, it is good to finally make it to the start of the multi-sport and hopefully the start of a year that will be very memorable.  So far, the highlight will be Chief Margie cheering me on to my only first place age group finish ever!

I hate running! Therefore, why would I ever run, bike, run in a duathlon?  I guess because it gives me good practice transitioning sports and reminds me all the lessons I have learned over the last two years.  I fall on the hot mess spectrum often in life, work and while racing. The first run was strong.  The long line of runners and spectators around the Brick Church in Mooresville made me hopeful I could beat my 2013 time of 1:53:32.  This year, I didn’t leave the covers on my bike shoes.  This made for an easier transition and a successful start to the bike portion of the race.  2014 is looking good for me!  I took about five minutes off of my bike time from last year.  I think it was the change in bikes as I was riding my newer Quintana Roo tri bike!  I know the motor is not as good as it was last year.  I enjoyed the bike and the second run was so-so, the good thing, I did finish with a time of 1:50:13!

I did get to enjoy the wonderful setting of the race this year.  I did take just over three minutes off my 2013 Heel and Crank time and enjoyed the best post race snack ever: pancakes and beer at ten in the morning.  I enjoyed my treat while visiting with friends and listening to two dudes playing their acoustic guitars.  If I had only strung up my hammock on the nearby trees. It was a great morning.  I will finish off my 32.6 mile challenge to get my beer mug tomorrow morning with the Bridge Street Half Marathon.  This should be a long, fun and hopefully successful season!  I got a lot of shit to do…

Golf Dudes Suck

I haven’t written a good rant since I spewed anger towards Jeff Benton, but I am sure Jeff Benton will fall into the demographic of my current topic. So today, I am releasing the wolves on golf dudes.  Chris has told me many times, I am a bitch when I am in a golf store.  I get cranky and aggressive.  I demand service and respect from the golf store’s personnel.  Why?  Because of golf dudes. Golf dudes are the guys at the driving range with a pitcher of Miller Lite, who talk too loud, smoke too much and try to hit the cover off the ball with their expensive driver and oversized egos.  Yes, this may come across as a man hating blog post; however, not all male golfers are like this.  Yesterday, I met two or three dozen golf dudes, all of which suck.

I would describe golf dudes as men who think women can’t play golf.  Most golf dudes don’t care about anything except having the latest, greatest, and most expensive equipment. They don’t really care about the game. Golf dudes are the below average golfer who works for “fill-in-the-blank” chain golf store.  Most of which do not greet or service women golfers in their stores. Simply put, golf dudes dismiss women golfers and their money. I would rather be treated like Julia Roberts as the hooker in Pretty Woman when she shopped Rodeo Drive. They at least spoke to her.

I will be the first to admit that the skill and strength needed to be a professional male golfer can not be achieved by most female golfers, pro or amateur.  However, women can play golf and they can also spend money on golf equipment, green fees and golf outings.  Which is the current source of my frustration.  Yes, I am a strong willed, red-headed female.  I like to think I am an above average golfer.

Yesterday, I visited the Madison Golf Center’s demo days.  There was at least ten to twelve sales representatives from golf companies like Nike, Cleveland, Ping, TaylorMade, and Callaway.  I love the people at Madison Golf Center and would never complain about them.  And I know that the overwhelming majority of golf equipment sales comes from the male golfer. The sales representatives with tents pitched, in anticipation of making sales, or inciting consumers to pledge allegiance to their brand.  These golf dudes did not even speak to me and my friend.  It was the most awkward shopping and customer service experience of my life.  At the time that I walked through the demo booths at the driving range there was 40 to 50 men, some representing their company and some using the demo equipment.  I walked through twice, not even a word from the sales representatives who did make eye contact with me!  I was furious.

The point of this cranky post is to tell all the golf companies that yes their number one demographic is male golfers, but women can spend money too.  Sales is sales… it doesn’t matter if I wear a bra and my golf clubs are pink.  I still should get some respect! First as a human who is interested in their product, then as a customer who represents the female consumer who spends seven trillion dollars each year in the market place and finally as a golfer who wants to learn, grow and improve.  After this treatment, I guess I will stop spending my money on golf and just spend it on something else… maybe triathlon equipment!  You suck golf dudes, and you won’t get my money!

February 4, 2012

8MAR12“As much as I love Peyton Manning… I don’t want him to play next year if he is not a Colt!”  That was my Facebook status during the week leading up to Eli Manning’s second Super Bowl win in Peyton’s House.  Skip forward to today, less than 48 hours away from Super Bowl 48 (I am not Roman).  Peyton is trying to win his second Super Bowl as his Bronco’s get ready to play in Eli’s House!  At the time I couldn’t imagine Peyton being in any other uniform than Colt’s blue & white.  Today, I can’t imagine Peyton in any better position than he is now; leading his offense to the top of the NFL.

I am very loyal to Peyton Manning, my boyfriend.  I couldn’t imagine him outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.  There is a children’s hospital named for number eighteen in Indy.  But in all of my loyalty, how could the Colt’s think of saying goodbye to Archie’s second son.  Peyton won my heart when he chose the University of Tennessee over Ole Miss.  Many Ole Miss fan’s hated Peyton for his lack of loyalty.  I loved Peyton for his A-plus decision making ability. I spent weeks trying to wrap my mind around the fact that some pimpled faced kid called Andrew Luck could be more important to the Colt’s faithful than Peyton.  I guess the marketing campaign “Suck for Luck” didn’t win me over.

I was in a very difficult place in my life.  I had just started to swim. Swimming lead to running and running lead to cycling and eventually I became a triathlete.  I remember thinking up and down the pool the multiple options of Peyton in the rainbow of colors that possible would be his future NFL uniform.  I had convinced myself he would be an offensive coordinator or my pool boy.  I would even build a pool in my back yard to make the later a reality.  But I really didn’t care.  I was hoping to see the Indianapolis Colts do something completely unselfish and renegotiate Peyton’s contract to keep him a Colt for life.  Andrew Luck would be drafted as his heir apparent which would make the world a perfect place.

We know that didn’t happen.  Peyton had to recover from four neck surgeries.  Bill Polian described Peyton’s come back as possibly the greatest of all time.  Both Archie and Eli knew how far Peyton had to overcome as they played catch with Peyton at the beginning of his comeback.  I am a Duke football fan because David Cutcliffe, Peyton’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee helped in the comeback process. And during this whole process, he had to find a new home, a new team in a new city.  Peyton never saw himself as anything other than a Colt.  I didn’t see him as anything other than a Colt.  However the reality, was he would be a Bronco. He wouldn’t be just any Bronco, he would rival the great Bronco QB’s of old.

I could tell more stories, but the fact is he did come back! Peyton is in New York prepping for his third Super Bowl with his second team!  Peyton had the very best season any quarterback has had to this point in the NFL! And finally, Peyton Manning is one of the best people you will ever meet, not that I have. On Sunday, win or lose, I will cry at the national anthem and cheer the Bronco’s to victory.  The simple fact is I was wrong on February 4, 2012.  I did want him to play.  I wanted him to continue to be my hero.  Thank you Peyton for fighting back from your injury.  You have given this 37 year old athlete something to strive for and I will never be a pro athlete!  Thanks for making me cry at each step of your record breaking season.  Good Luck and God speed Peyton Manning!

Slacker in 2013…

So I am a lazy blogger.  I make many excuses, but the simple fact is I am lazy!  And now I missed my “year end blog” deadline.  Each year I write a top ten list of my favorite or most memorable events of 2013.  It is currently 2014 and I am just now sitting down to write.  Let’s see, where do I start.  It has been a tough year with many ups and downs.  There has been twists and turns as well as lots of change in my life.  But I have kept chugging through the days, weeks and months.  So lets look at some of my highlights!

Goals:  Early in 2013 my goal was to become a better runner!  I set the goal to run 500 miles during the 2013 calendar year.  I didn’t make that goal.  I hit 446 miles on November 9th.  Seems like I should have been able to run 54 miles in 8 weeks.  The running goal didn’t happen, but I had another goal for 2013 that did.  I wanted to get a stamp in my unused passport.  The week before my buddy left Space Camp in April I told her how envious I was of her adventurous spirit.  On November 16, I entered Baku, Azerbaijan and got my passport stamped.  I didn’t run while I was overseas and then I contracted the Baku Flu upon returning to the US.  I have 2014 to run 500 miles.  Plus, I did run a half Ironman triathlon, which was a goal.  It wasn’t terrible missing the mark!

Baku:  I spent a month in a crazy country with a made-up sounding name, Baku, Azerbaijan.  How could I turn down a chance to work with power tools in an all white building in a country whose language I had no clue how to speak. Seems like a win-win situation only if you throw in a bartender named Elvin! I loved working with the people of Azerbaijan and I miss them tremendously.  Forget the cow heads or bucket of hooves on the street curb or the fact that a restaurant told me my credit card was not accepted because it was black.  People should not judge someone’s credit based on color.  It was amazing, even if I missed a lot of great SEC football!

HTC:  In 2012, twelve of my favorite people, against our better judgement, decided to run Ragnar Relay from Chattanooga to Nashville, Tennessee.  Well by the grace of God and the sharp eyes of Sandy Henson, twelve more of my favorite people traveled to Oregon for the grandfather of all 200 mile relays, Hood to Coast.  We ran from Mount Hood to the Pacific coast near Seaside, Oregon in 29 hours.  It was an amazing with a wonderful storyline.   Shaggy had to go to the hospital. Jennifer Bell traded her shirt for a beer.  We had zero cellular coverage.  We slept in a van.   And I made some amazing memories.  It was an amazing adventure, one I would have never thought I would have been a part of just a year earlier.  My team mates were terrific and the scenery breath taking.

Grandpa:  This year we said good bye to a great man.  Most of the time you don’t recognize a death in a year in review, but I was lucky to know Grandpa!  I am lucky to know his family.  The DiCarlo and Hailey families are my Huntsville family.  They take care of me and make me feel at home.  Jerry Groff was their cornerstone for years.  Grandpa never met a stranger.  He was always concerned about other people, even if he had known you for 20 minutes he counted you as his friend.  I have a family here in Huntsville, because of Grandpa’s example to his daughters.  One of my favorite nights this fall was outside the Hailey house with Grandpa watching the Mississippi State and Auburn game. He was so concerned about each of his guests.  He told stories of life in Buffalo and Mel Tormé.  I hope when I am in the twilight of my life, I can be as gracious as Grandpa!

Homecoming:  I know a lot of my favorite things this year have been tied to my trip to Baku, but I can’t leave off the homecoming.  I missed so much while I was gone, Thanksgiving, birthday’s, football, Peyton Manning, and my mom even had surgery.  They didn’t have chicken biscuits or Diet Mountain Dews in Azerbaijan.  It seemed like being on the other side of the world makes you miss everything just a little bit more.  When I returned home, I had my best friend to pick me up.  However, little did I know a few more friends where their to greet me.  It was amazing.  To see friendly faces was so precious.  The hugs were priceless… but the puppy dog Santa graphic and alliteration of the welcome home signs was, I am sure, the work of a million dollar artist and wordsmith.  Thanks, little Snap, Hoot, Marcia and you too Kim & Tank!

HOF:  True, the Space Camp ditched their Hall of Fame event this year in a mysterious on again off again fashion.  Instead, I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my nephews in March and attended the National Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement in October.  Both adventures should have made my list separately but remember, I am a lazy blogger.  The adventure with my nephews was too cool.  They shared many toots and farts in the car ride with me.  We had fun in Louisville on the ride home.  I made them a promise to visit again when Peyton Manning is inducted.  The other trip was one I will remember for a life time because my high heel shoes killed my feet.  No really, I was truly honored to be in attendance when my astronaut hero Hoot Gibson was enshrined as a legend in aviation history!

70.3: I have always loved sports, but I haven’t participated at the level I should have.  I have always been a failure when it comes to sports.  I played basketball for a few years, quit.  I played golf and softball pretty consistently, but never as committed as I should be.  I even played college soccer for a year or so but sucked at it.  In 2012, I started running triathlons and in 2013 I completed a half Ironman.  I drove to Augusta, Georgia for the Ironman 70.3.  It was a great weekend.  I struggled on the run but smoked the bike.  It was a great accomplishment, but I do look forward to Raleigh 70.3 in June and Ironman Chattanooga in September.  I feel like I have given my all to the sport of triathlon.  We will see, I got a lot of shit to do to prepare.

Football:  Everyone knows that Peyton Manning is my boyfriend.  Well, Peyton may not know!  This has been a terrific year for MVP Peyton Manning and his Broncos.  More than just Peyton, this football season has been amazing and outstanding.  Much of the college and NFL season I spent overseas.  I spent many early mornings glued to my iPad or listening to ESPN Radio just to connect with SEC football and dear ole Peyton.  The nights I will remember for the rest of my life.  Bo Wallace coughing up the football in overtime during the Egg Bowl and my phone having an aneurism when Chris Davis ran a missed field goal back for a touchdown in the Iron Bowl.  I am lucky to have a boy friend like Peyton, to grow up a Bulldog, and to be adopted by my fellow War Eagle fans!  I love football!

Historically I have picked 10 things to write about.  However, I opted not to because I would dilute my memories.  I had a great year, but it has been a hard year.  I look to 2014 to be bigger and better.  I thought I would put my goals for the year as a conclusion.

Duh… Ironman Chattanooga:  I will have to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles.  I want to just finish, but I want to finish with a pace of no more than 14 minutes on the run.

Happy, Happy, Happy:  I want to find more happiness in my life.  I am sometimes described as grumpy or intimidating.  I want to be considered as friendly and giving.

Adventure:  I want to see more, do more and live more.  I want to travel and be adventurous.  Baku gave me a great start.  I just need to continue.  Let’s light this candle in 2014.

Last Day in Baku

Moon RockI am in my hotel listening to Amy Grant’s 1992 Home For Christmas CD.  I am about about 90% packed, however I still have some souvenir shopping and a few more memories to make and good byes to say.  I can’t help reflecting on this amazing journey I have been on the last month. Last night after an amazing dinner at Sumack, which serves a traditional Azerbaijan cuisine, I tried to tell Mel all about the first few days of the build.  It was hard to remember the smaller details. But here are a few things I will never forget!

The people of this country and that I have met here are truly amazing.  They are remarkably caring and very hard working.  From Jimmy who worked in the set up to Erkan my Turkish friend who I didn’t get to say good bye to, I have met some grand people.  Anar and Slim to Khagani have been incredible patient with use.  The boys who work the simulators are an outstanding unit.  They work well with each other and take care of each other.  They showed me kindness that I will never forget.  We gave them call signs, wings and even a challenge coin.  But those gifts are not as wonderful as the last impact they have made on me with their outstanding spirits and hospitality.

What I have been doing is not curing cancer or ending poverty but it has been wonderful to work with wonderful people doing really neat stuff.  I have enjoyed working with my hands however, I think I need a manicure.  Working with the people from camp I don’t get to work with on a daily bases was awesome.  I love Cowan! And Michael is a funny guy!  But I will look back and always be thankful for meeting Joel.  He taught me a lot.  I think the original plan was for him to stay only a few days, but he stayed over two weeks.  Without everyone pitching in an extraordinary amount the exhibit would not have open before Thanksgiving and many people would have not been home with their families.  Plus the stuff I got to work with.  I have held meteors and a moon rock.  I have build display cases and stripped a Russian mannequin… the Russian mannequin was one of the coolest things.

Being away from my family and friends has made me miss everyone so much more.  Put thousands of miles between me and my parents, all the crap they gave me as a kid to get me to eat green beans melts away.  I have tried a lot of different foods. I have talked more to my parents this last month than any month I spent in Alabama.  But also, my dad had back surgery a week or so before I left and my mom just had knees surgery last week.  I have been a bad daughter being in Baku.  Thanks to Facebook, Skype and Oliver Florist I am not a total loser. Even people who live a few states away from me and only see once or twice a year I miss more.  I guess you don’t truly appreciate something until you don’t have it.

This trip and work has taught me a great lesson.  I think I have spent too much time in my left completing task and I have failed to connect with the people around me.  I love connecting with people.  But I really suck at it at times.  I rush, rush, rush and I don’t truly connect.  Over here, I haven’t been able to communicate as effectively using language, but I have still connected with them.  Heck, language is not my strongest quality.  I am not so good with words, you know?  But I need to stop and connect with more people.  Stop talking so much!  Just listen and connect, even if I have to use Azerbaijan charades.

As the song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas comes on I will end this post! I need to finish my shopping and make just a few more memories. Elvin, here we come!

Thanksgiving in Baku

I am going to try for a light hearted blog post today, because if I start listing off all the truly wonderful people and things I have in my life back home in Mississippi and Alabama I may just walk into traffic.  This is the first time I have spent a major holiday away from my family.  And if you know me, family means an awful lot to me.

Last year my Thanksgiving blog post list thirty things I was thankful for.  Similar to what everyone has been doing on Facebook day by day.  I am going to list ten things I am thankful for associated with my trip to Baku!

Sim Trainers

Not Being Detained – For those who do not know, I aways carry a knife.  Most of the time it is in a bag or tucked inside a pocket.  The Sunday morning after arriving in Baku, I discovered I’d traveled on an airplane from Huntsville, Alabama to Baku Azerbaijan with my orange handled Spyderco rescue knife.  Since September 11th knives have been banned because of security measures by the TSA and FAA for airline flights.  I went through security checkpoints with x-ray scans of my carry on luggage in the United States and in Germany.  Obviously this was an oversight on my part by packing the knife and a security oversight by them for letting me keep the darn thing.

Red Bull is an International Drink – Two years ago I never drank energy drinks.  After making a few long distance trips in the same week I started drinking Red Bull.  Darryl, the meteor guy, bought me a Red Bull at the local market.  One Red Bull after another helped to keep me going after long days with limited sleep.  Red Bull’s country of origin is Thailand and is sold by an Austrian company.  Over 5 billion cans are sold world wide each year.  With Red Bull’s stake in media advertising and sponsorships of extreme sports, auto racing and air racing, I have heard comparisons made between Red Bull’s founder Dietrich Mateschitz and the Dos Equis brand character, “Most Interesting Man in the World”. .  I am simply happy I can find Red Bull almost anywhere in Baku.  And I wouldn’t trade the long hours of work… it has been a great experience.

Space Camp Family – Trish, Ed, Mike, Roger, Carolyn, Cowan, Michael, Nathan, Daniel and even Joel have made this trip wonderful.  So often when you work doing the same thing in an organization you forget about the other people working around you in other departments.  This project has been rewarding just for that reason.  However, each day Trish does something crazy to make me giggle, laugh or just fall on the floor in hysterics!  She is a great travel buddy especially to this region of the world.  She spent time in Georgia teaching last year.

The Underground Tunnel to Work – Since the hotel fired George, our most favorite driver, and the new driver doesn’t know how to drive, Trish and I have been walking to work.  We are staying in a hotel just across the street from the venue, however you dare not try crossing the street.  The drivers in Baku are on a mission from God to control the population in Azerbaijan.  They do not stop for anyone or anything. The traffic in general is chaotic at best!  They do not have traffic lights and you are twice as likely to being hit by a car if you cross the street in an area designated for pedestrian traffic.  This underground tunnel has saved our lives countless times!  It is somewhat out of the way, but it is tunnel or death by Mercedes-Benz.  We could take some time off our walk if we crossed the Kentucky Bluegrass which surrounds the venue, but we fear snipers would gun us down.  They are serious about turf management here!

Being a Farm Kid – There have been many things I have done while setting up the exhibit that I had limited experience doing.  But in the words of Story Musgrave, they picked me because I was a farm kid to fix it… He fixed the Hubble Space Telescope and peoples bodies.  I have fixed  electrical gear, used a table saw, constructed barriers around artifacts and undressed a Russian Cosmonaut mannequin.  Being a farm kid and seeing my mom and dad work with their hands taught me a lot. I love working with my hands.  I have loved building things and seeing this exhibit take shape.  I saw chaos turn to order in a few weeks time!

Overall, I have a lot to be thankful for! I thankful for being an American and the wonderful life I have.  I miss my family and friends, however, it is an adventure, and life is about adventures.  The thing I miss most about not being at home in Carroll County is the smell of the turkey coming out of the oven at 6am and the whole family standing around the chop block making the dressing.  I will have to wait a few weeks for that tradition!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Minions

First, I am having a ball in Baku! Sleeping in late and going to spa are some of my favorite things about my adventure to Azerbaijan.  Most mornings starts with room service and then I go sightseeing… Who am I kidding!  It has been hard work, but very rewarding.  I have made friends with people from Huntsville, Turkey and locals here in Baku.  For those who do not know, I am here with an exhibit from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  It is an amazing exhibition in a wonderful venue Heydar Aliyev Center.

I know I made a commitment to write twice a week.  Well, lets make that an average of twice a week.  Last week was very busy.  We worked twelve plus hour days and sleep was precious.  The only time we sacrificed sleep was to send off our Huntsville friends. When Trish and I arrived the project was already behind schedule.  Everyone was giving the extra effort to make sure things where ready.  The first to leave Baku was Daniel, Nathan and Michael.  Michael couldn’t stay very long in Baku, he was expecting his second child any day.  The next to leave was Carolyn, Cowan, and Joel.  Joel doesn’t work at the Rocket Center, but he sure has a special place in his heart for the USSRC.  He stayed ten extra days to help pull off the feat! Each day since he left, Trish and I have tried to find our inter Joel.  Then waiting until the last possible minute to finish things was Roger, Mike and Ed.  Ed left for Huntsville the day after his birthday.  He missed having the longest birthday every.

Everyone worked super hard. Early on before I arrived Michael rallied the local workers, while Nathan defied gravity by hoisting tons of equipment and displays from the ground floor to our second and third floor nest. It has to be an eagles nest, because we have the Apollo 11 astronauts hand cast on exhibition.  Roger worked on the sims, while Cowan built MIR and all the other giant displays.  I loved Roger before, but I now have a huge place in my heart for him and Cowan.  Carolyn did all things related to the artifacts and kept Ed happy.  Ed made sure everything was precisely placed and all the many items were on display. Mike had to be Mike, plus he had to help build, answer questions from everyone and make sure we behaved!

We were a happy family.  Now it is just Trish and me from Huntsville and Echo from Turkey.  He has a real name, but since I am writing commando, why bother trying to spell it.  Yesterday, we left work after the venue closed.  We walked back to the hotel and crashed for double digit hours of sleep. We walked because George, our shuttle driver, took vacation and the other driver had only been driving for fifteen minutes.  We got lost multiple times on the morning drive and had to teach the new driver how manual transmission works.  Closest to death I have been in a long time.  George will be back on Thursday, which will be perfect since it is Thanksgiving!!!

This will be only the second Thanksgiving I have not spend in Carroll County, Mississippi. The only other time was with my two aunts and grandmother in Indianapolis when I was senior in high school.  Trish and I have decided to have dinner with Echo on Thursday night after work.  Echo has been looking for us a Turkey with no luck!  However, we will have Turkish food on Thanksgiving.  Echo is from Turkey so it all makes sense.  I will miss my family and being in Carroll County.  But I still have a lot to be thankful for!  This experience is one of them.  It has been crazy, but very fruitful.

So much fun!

It took over three weeks to complete the set up of the exhibition.  While all those hours seemed difficult at the time, one of the things that made it so rewarding was working with the locals.  They have the biggest of hearts.  I mean this with no disrespect, but they are a lot like the Minions from Despicable Me.  They talk in a language I can not understand, they are the hardest working people ever, and all they want to do is make us happy.  The similarity was sealed for me when I realized the yellow vest they wore made them look like the Minions.  Jimmy is my favorite.  Oxran Cavadli is Jimmy’s real name but he really likes when we call him Jimmy.  He and I bonded over our iPhones.  He thought I had a 5S, which would have made me cooler than reindeer nuts. But nope, we both have iPhone 5’s.  Now, we both have translation apps on our phones.

Now matter what, we all worked together as one big family.  No, we are not trying to steal the moon.  Just inspire kids and adults to travel there someday soon.  We are all like minions trying to fulfill JFK’s vision again fifty years after his death.  It has been a good week and a half.  Hopefully there will be more blog post! Good night, good morning, or good afternoon whichever time zone you may be reading from.

Frankfurt

So here I am in Frankfurt, Germany! I am trying to type a quick post for two reasons! First, if I start out posting to my blog, I may post more than just one time while I am abroad.  And secondly, if I am typing, I am not falling asleep.  It is approximately four o’clock in the morning back home in Alabama and eleven o’clock in the morning in Germany.  I did have a Red Bull once I got off the plane from Chicago.  However, there is only so much taurine can do for a sleepy “Red Bull”.

I would like to set a few expectations for my blog posts while I am in Baku, Azerbaijan.  I am traveling for work, so work will need to be my number one priority.  Please do not expect spelling to be a priority.  Lets be honest, when is spelling a priory for me.  I will be posting commando!  Trish Brown is my travel buddy on this trip.  I do not want to torture her with my disability. Look at it this way, I can spell Azerbaijan. Please do not expect much more from me.

My goal is to post twice per week, if not more.  However, I am not sure I have a large enough vocabulary or the creativity to write a comprehensive blog post at this rate without inspiration from a twisted taco cup or my daily dose of ESPN.  I am sure the common Azerbaijani does not know who Peyton Manning is nor do they care about his ankle.  I will have Mike Flachbart in Baku to help me stay in touch with some sports.  He is a fan of all things Boston, including Tom Brady.

Today is overcast and a little gloomy in Germany.  I must be honest, leaving was tougher than I expected.  As the Boeing 777 climbed into the sky and the lights of Chicago were behind me I struggled a bit.  I am excited for this adventure, however it has been a long time since I have been away form home.  The world is a different place and I am becoming old and stuck in my ways.  This is my chance to be Indiana Jones.  No, I am not searching for lost religious relics with a bull whip and pistol nor am I expecting to eat monkey brains.  It is an adventure to a place that I never even conceived of visiting.  Didn’t know much about it until two months ago.

Once we get to Baku, Trish and I will have a good night’s rest.  Then we will join the Rocket Center team who are currently there to help stand up the Cradle to Cosmos exhibit at the Heydar Aliyev Center.  The opening date is December 2, at which time a few more Rocket Center diplomats will join the team.  I don’t know the exact date I will be home since I am helping to manage the exhibit until Mel Siroky joins Trish in Baku.  I hope to help out as much as I can, use my Aviation Challenge survival skills and learn a lot while I am gone.

For those back home, I love and miss you all.  To those in Baku, we are on our way with lots of SD cards, HD cables, a book, a few NASA backpacks and a few surprises in our bags!  We did pack our own personal gear too.  Here we come!

Definitely

Looking back over my blog history I have talked a lot about many things. One blog post that was really fun to write was my 100th post. I listed my 100 favorite words. If I wrote that post today, there may be a few words that I would add or change. But for the most part it is a good representation of some of my most favorite words. One word I am certain to add as my most favorite is definitely. I use it all the time. As a matter of fact, I use it so much and yet I struggle spelling it almost every time I need to type it. At work, I have posted a note with the spelling on my computer. I love this word so much that today I will give it its very own post.

Definitely used as an adverb means, “in a clear and definite manner; unambiguously or unequivocally; positively”. To be absolutely clear or certain is something I strive for on a daily basis. However, if you know me or have spoken to me, you will know that I am certainly not absolute in my word selection. I struggle with finding the right thing to say. I am possibly the biggest hot mess when speaking in an impromptu fashion. However, if I know the words to string together in sentence or phrase, I can be clear and absolute.

The 2008 romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe is one of my favorite movies. I love romantic comedies. The movie title is similar to my personality. I am definite… some of the times… well when I have my act together, I am absolute. I know that I can present myself in a manner reflecting that I don’t want to be questioned. However, when questioned I grow and most always learn something about why I believe and feel the way I feel. This could just be the stubborn mule gene of a hot tempered red-head. No matter how I may act in conversations or in debate, I always want clear, well defined, unambiguous borders, boundaries and rules. I like rules and I definitely need them.

I know that I am a dork, a goober, and possibly the biggest geek that works at Space Camp. However, I know who I am! Growing up I struggled with not being the cool kid or not making the best grades. Once I accepted geek-hood in the world, I definitely knew who I was. I struggled being the fish that swam upstream when all the others were swimming downstream. But I completely knew the direction I should go. The course was clearly planned out for me. I simply need to follow the breadcrumbs along the trail.

So, to summarize the positively off the wall rant on a word, a single word. I know what I want in life. I don’t say anything I truly don’t mean. I may regret those words five seconds after they vibrate off my vocal cords and enter the atmosphere. But I will learn from the regrets I have. I will leave my life with clearly defined boundaries, a loyalty to the people around me, and unquestionable love for life. Whether I am prepping for a race, helping a friend, completing a task, driving down the interstate, giving a speech about pencils or a spastic response to a question, I am definitely trying my best, even when spelling.

Crazy, huh?

Transition BagSunday, I completed an Ironman 70.3 in Augusta, Georgia.  Some would say it was crazy to swim, 1.2 miles, bike another 56 miles and after that run a half marathon (13.1 miles).  For me someone who hated the track in high school, yes it was a crazy idea.  But just crazy enough to do it.  It wasn’t some half brain, last minute idea I am known for concocting. It was an adventure started two or so years ago.

I arrived in Augusta, Georgia in the early afternoon Friday.  I passed a giant wall of green trees and bushes. Then I realized it was golfing holy ground, Augusta National Golf Club, home to the Masters.  Shortly after this golfing discovery I arrived at packet pick up.  This whole process was quite overwhelming.  My heart pounded as the volunteers walked me through the process of health forms, giving me a t-shirt, and putting on my wrist band. Strangely enough it seemed a lot like Space Camp.  Never-mind that, it was scary to think in less than 48 hours I would have to go for 70.3 miles.

After this process, I did what any good southern girl does.  I went to meet the locals!  I met Harvey and his wife at TGI Fridays. Harvey is a bonifided, card carrying space geek and his wife was a sports fanatic. Obviously, we hit it off.  The topics of Homer Hickam, Werner von Braun, Apollo 13, Norte Dame football and triathlons wove together in a way that would make ESPN Sport Center and NASA TV proud.  Ok… that is exaggerated.  Chatting with this couple put me at ease and reset my spirits.

Saturday flew by like Superman on speed! Sunday morning came. The crazy thought of doing a half Ironman was here!  I was one of the first runners in transition on Saturday morning.  Everything had been planned for and packed away in my transition bag.  It was dark and early morning, and seemingly crazy to think in less than three hours I would be in the water swimming in a half Ironman.

At 8:36am the horn sounded and we were off.  Swimming was something that came easy to me.  But swimming in a river, under bridges and around boat docks seemed extreme.   I swam stroke for stroke with two other participants for what seemed like a mile, but I was only at the half-way point when I passed them.  Out of the water I looked at my watch, 29 minutes.  Off to the bike, but first there were strippers at the race!  Yes, strippers! There were volunteers at T1 (Transition 1) to help participants take off their wet suits.

I started the bike very tentatively and unsure.  I had less than 50 miles of experience on my new Quintana Roo TT bike.  The day before, Karen Hall and I drove the course.  It seemed fun and it was fun!  The further into the ride I got, the more confident on the bike I became.  I was having FUN!  The climbs were not severe and the straight aways were fast!  I followed the plan I had in my head.  Things were going well as I dropped the hammer down on the bike.

70.3 Finish LineI ended the crazy 56 miles on the bike my butt seemed to be the only part of my body that was tired and fatigued.  I rolled into T2 with a great deal of confidence and pride.  I finished my bike in 3:07!  I thought, I can do this.  I gave myself a 7 hours goal. It was just at 3:40 race time when I started my run.  There I was running at less than a 9 minute pace.  I knew that wouldn’t last.  I slowed my pace at the 1.5 mile mark and tried to settle into the run ahead.  I was strong and felt good until a giant grizzly bear jumped on to my shoulders and started to wrestle me.  My confidence welted.  The bear was heavy.  I started to walk and frustration and doubt set in.  The bear was winning.  My first thought was Marcia would walk and run.  I can do this!  But the bear was still winning.  There were church steeples and bell towers along the route.  I thought of the verse in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”!  Just recover, fight the bear!  So I did! I walked though the aid stations and then got my legs back to finish this crazy race!

The first crazy idea I had was joining a master swim class at the YMCA in early January 2012. Later that week it seemed like a crazy idea when Amazon, Speedo, Snapper and myself decided to go camping on the coldest day in 2012.  However, on that camping trip in the freezing cold we agreed to go on a crazy adventure.  We made a pact to run Warrior Dash in Georgia May of 2012.  Swimming, running and obstacles made doing a triathlon seem tangible, and with my training buddy Snapper it was not crazy! Over the last two years, I have imagined doing lots of things.  Some have seemed crazy and some have seemed reasonable.  However the crazy ideas have been the ones that have pushed my limits and made me dare to dream new dreams for myself. Crazy or not, the last two, nah, the last three years have been remarkable.

Reminiscing

Yesterday, I picked up my dear friend Dan Oates from the airport.  He had been in Boston for the annual stockholders meeting of Sam Adams. Dan had to hurry back for the first day of teacher camp training. As we drove back from the airport we chatted about beer and the good old days.  See, Dan and I started working Space Camp’s educator program thirteen years ago this month. I was just a young twenty something school teacher from Mississippi and Dan was a wily veteran of SCI-VIS and a few teacher camp sessions as a guide.  Wow, if I could tell the young Red Bull a thing or two… Would I?  Probably nothing more than enjoy the ride, the Space & Rocket Center is going to change your life!

This morning while traveling into work, I got to thinking about this wonderful journey I have had at Space Camp.  So much of it is very serendipitous, the people I have met, the things that I have done, and the awesome tasks that have been given to me. I never would have thought I would meet the first man on the moon or have dinner with Homer Hickam or Christa McAuliffe’s mom.  Growing up if you would have told me that I would be responsible for training hundreds of Space Camp & Aviation Challenge Crew Trainers, I would have sneered at you and ran the other way! On a day like today, where I can be reminded of my Space Camp roots by welcoming back old friends like Jennifer & Wes Kennedy to camp and get to experience what I see is my lasting mark at Space Camp, Crew Trainer graduation.  I must thank God for this wonderful adventure.

On May 5th, I ran in a triathlon at Kennedy Space Center. There I ran past Paul’s Steakhouse which overlooks the Banana River on to the NASA launch facilities.  This restaurant was where Kat Balch and I reminisced about our favorite Space Camp moments with Alpha 19, the first group of Advanced Space Academy teachers.  This trip is where I made many dear friends, one was Rhonda Cox.  She deserves a little credit for my triathlon addiction.  Sitting on that screened in porch at Paul’s those many years ago was so precious.  That evening would have to be one of my favorite Space Camp moments. But I have too many to really pick just one.

There have been so many wonderful people come into my life because of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  I have met master teachers, young campers with dreams of flying jets or wearing a military uniform, notable authors and artists, ordinary people with passion for adventure and aspiring college students who want the experience of being a crew trainer. If I had to list the people who have impacted my life from camp, the list would be as long as the tax code.  The people are what give the Space & Rocket Center it’s magic. The greatest asset of Space Camp are the people, past and present, who call the rocket center home even if for a few days.

As Dan reminded me yesterday, always focus on the positive.  Space Camp, just like any other organization run by people, is flawed.  But if we spend all of our time focusing on the cracks in the mortar we won’t see the beauty which is the mosaic of Dr. von Braun’s vision.  He wanted to teach and groom the next generation of explorers.  I feel like I am doing that. And if I can be lucky enough to see another thirteen years on this earth I hope to dream bigger and better dreams for myself while encouraging others as well.  Whether or not it is at Space Camp or at Camp Red Bull, this is my hope. Thank you Dan… now I need to buy you a beer or two!